EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 15, 2012

Second glances, second chances

Tough-to-adopt animals merit a closer look

By Jo-Anne MacKenzie

---- — SALEM — Sadie, a plump 6-year-old beagle, has lost 12 pounds since coming under the care of the Salem Animal Rescue League in June. What she hasn’t lost is the need for a permanent home.

But Sadie is often overlooked when people go to the shelter in search of a canine companion.

For starters, she doesn’t stay at SARL. Rather, she is in foster care with Patricia Mack, director of development and media relations.

Sadie has some issues, among them separation anxiety, a thyroid condition and she has had seizures in the past.

But she also has a lot to offer — she loves people, including children, thrives on walks, gets along well with other dogs and cats, and is ready to ride in the car at the drop off a leash. Oh, she’s fully house-trained and has been seizure-free for nearly a month.

Sometimes people can’t look past what issues an animal may have to see all that’s good they have to offer.

That’s the case with Sadie ... and 11-year-old Bella and 9-year-old Bailey.

Advanced age can turn prospective owners off before they take one look into a set of dark brown eyes or play ball with an active senior that has years left to give.

Bella’s a perfect example. The shepherd-husky mix has been at SARL for about six months. Not one prospective owner has given her a second glance, according to Joleen Malot, business and operations manager.

“It’s just her age,” Malot said. “But she’s in good health with no problems since she’s been here. She’s a very young 11 and has at least three or four years left.”

Indeed, on Wednesday, Bella was eager to romp in an outdoor run with a ball and canine care worker Jim Cheeseman.

“She loves to play ball,” he said. “She will play ball all day long.”

Bella’s not a barker, has never shown the slightest bit of aggression toward people while at SARL and is a great companion.

Age is an issue for Bailey, too. The 9-year-old puggle, surrendered by his owner, doesn’t realize some people consider him a senior citizen.

He loves to run, snuggle and socialize.

Mack took Bailey to visit students at Bruce School in Lawrence recently.

“When I say those kids swarmed him, I’m not kidding,” she said. “He was very patient. The day before, he was at Salemhaven with the older residents there. He was great there, too.”

The 25-pound pooch is “great in the car, great on a leash,” Mack said. “He’s a doll.”

So is Grace, a 3-year-old boxer-Lab mix, who came in July from a high-kill shelter in Alabama. She’s not a fan of cats and needs to be the only dog.

While Sept. 5, Grace’s arrival date, may not sound so long ago, 60 days is a long time for a dog to stay at SARL, Mack said.

The average stay for dogs is eight to 10 days.

But Grace remains, often found sitting on the roof of a doghouse in one of the outdoor pens. She would be OK with older children, Mack said.

Age isn’t always what leads to cats or dogs being overlooked, Mack and Malot said.

Take Bonita, a petite 2-year-old who has spent more than half her life in Judy’s Kitty City at SARL.

She’s described as a “diluted tortie,” mostly gray with some striking tortoiseshell markings.

Bonita came in as a stray and has stayed and stayed and stayed.

At first, Malot said, she had a tendency to bite or swipe at people. That habit has been broken, but somehow Bonita just doesn’t stand out enough to get people to give her a second look — or second chance.

“She’s not a lap cat, but she is affectionate on her terms,” Mack said. “She’s good with their cats and apparently not intimidated by dogs.”

Bonita doesn’t have any medical issues. What she has, SARL workers say, is a “shelter-worn” tag. If animals linger longer than usual — or are adopted out and returned — it can put prospective adopters off.

But that’s unfair, Mack said, because there are perfectly healthy, loving cats and dogs who would make great pets, if only someone would look a little closer.

Bonita likes most women, but is a little more discerning when it comes to men, Malot said.

Hope, a sweet black-and-white youngster, is in much the same boat.

The petite cat, now 1, was found in a Dumpster as a kitten. The man who found her knew he couldn’t keep her, so he brought her to SARL. She was scared and would press herself against the back of her cage for the first few months.

Kitty City volunteer John Jacklin worked to build her trust and affection. But that took two months and by then, Hope, too, got the “shelter-worn” label.

“Is she a lap cat? No,” Malot said. “Is she a good companion? Yes. She will require patience.”

Hope, Bonita, Sadie, Bella and Bailey all have been patient waiting for “forever” homes.

“Adopting an animal that is harder to adopt, which could mean it needs medication, has age issues, has some anxiety or behavioral issues, is very rewarding,” Mack said. “Personally, having done it, I would do it again. I believe most people who adopt these animals feel the same. It’s one of the most important things, as far as animal ownership goes, that people can do.”

Visit sarl-nh.org for adoption fees, hours, and available cats and dogs.