Dozens of dogs in need — old, ill, or just unwanted — have found a home over the years at Renee Habart's house in Parma, Ohio. Each animal represents a unique story, but a few will always have an extra-special place in the heart of the dedicated volunteer with "For the Dogs" animal rescue.
"Tanya was my favorite," Renee says. No one knew why the wire-haired terrier lost the use of her back legs, but she was fated to be put down until For the Dogs stepped in to help. The group is devoted to rescuing dogs — particularly those that are aging or have special needs — from shelters that euthanize unwanted animals.
Tanya came home with Renee, and, unlike many of the other dogs saved by the rescue, Tanya stood little chance of adoption.
A fundraiser pulled together enough cash for a $300 canine wheelchair, and then Renee realized another problem: Tanya was deaf.
But the discovery daunted neither Renee nor Tanya.
"I taught her some sign language, and she'd just go around in her wheel chair. It was kind of cool, and she did really well with it," she says.
Tanya, who was an older dog, lived for more than two years after going home with Renee.
"Other than heart worms, she was in good health, and she was around for quite a while," says Renee, who explains it was easy for the terrier to express her thanks. "She was always kissing you."
Some rescues, however, are tougher than others.
Three beagles — Linda, Hellen, and Butterscotch — were a day away from being euthanized when Renee saw their photos online.
"They were puppy mill dogs, where they breed them," she says. "And when they can't have any more puppies, they kill them, or in this case they were kind enough to put them in the pound. They were just the sweetest little girls."
But after a hard life, the dogs were sick. Despite their rescue, two lived less than three years, a third just a bit longer.
For someone committed to rescuing dogs in the greatest of needs, Renee accepts she must at times humanely put down an animal. But in her home, they leave surrounded by love.
Successful adoptions, however, ease the burden.
Socrates, a German shepherd, faced no physical disabilities but repeated beatings left him mentally fragile.
"He had been so abused that he couldn't form a trusting relationship. He was very nervous," she says. "He wouldn't leave the corner of the bedroom for five months, and then later he'd jump my fence every chance he could."
Socrates also had trouble functioning with other dogs around.
Nothing — not even the aid of trainers — helped. Then, a man who had no other dogs offered to take Socrates. As with all would-be adoptive owners, For the Dogs did a careful evaluation, including visiting the new home.
It turned out to be a perfect fit.
"I now get pictures of Socrates in the park, off the leash, and running through the creek," Renee says. "He's doing so well. He's in a quiet environment, and he has someone willing to spend time with him. He knows he's safe and won't be hit or punched again."
Georgia writer Noble Sprayberry is a frequent contributor to Out Here.