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    Last-chance Rescue | Winter 2012 Out Here Magazine

    Group focuses compassion on old, ill, and special-needs dogs

    Renee Habart snuggles with Faith, a rescue dog who is about 10 years old
    Renee Habart snuggles with Faith, a rescue who is between 9 and 10 years old. Older dogs like Faith are usually passed over by adopters and therefore never make it out of shelters.

    By Noble Sprayberry

    Photography by Martin Lerman

    Too weak to walk, too old for hope. Admiral, an Australian shepherd, was going to die, put down unloved and alone in an Ohio shelter. Then, Renee Habart opened her heart and home by adopting Admiral.

    "He was very old, 40 pounds underweight, and he had mange," she says. "I just had to save him and bring him home with me. He was in bad shape, and I had to lift him into the car."

    Nursed back to health, growing to nearly 80 pounds, he was a member of her family for the next 2½ years. Time finally caught up to Admiral and he was put to sleep at about age 16. But, he ended his life surrounded by love. For Renee, helping Admiral and dogs like him means she receives more than she gives.

    "It's just to know you saved that life," she says. "When they look at you with those eyes, like they're saying, 'Thank you,' it's so worth it." Giving aging, special needs, or unwanted dogs a home is a way of life for Renee.

    A resident of Parma, Ohio, she is among the volunteers with "For the Dogs" animal rescue. The group does not operate a shelter. Instead, they bring dogs into their homes, fostering them until they find the animals permanent homes, or until nature takes its course.

    The For the Dogs team believes older dogs also deserve champions in a world where puppies are often adopted quickly but mature dogs languish.

    "Most people think these dogs are unadoptable," Renee says. "No one even wants to look at them, and they're the first ones to get put down."

    Renee, however, is committed to the animals, often caring for multiple dogs at once. At times, she might give short-term help, such as post-surgery care. She also often provides canine hospice, making an animal's last days as comfortable as possible.

    "A lot of it is just day-by-day, and you enjoy them while you have them," she says.

    Old dogs, though, are worth the effort, because they offer so much. For example, For the Dogs manages a "Seniors for Seniors" program, which pairs senior dogs with senior citizens.

    "A retired person might just be looking for a companion; just someone they can watch TV with," Renee says. "Some of these senior dogs don't require a great deal of care, and they can still give that companionship."

    And though some of the senior or disabled dogs might be more challenging to place, For the Dogs does not rush pet adoptions. Each would-be dog adopter faces scrutiny, including an in-home visit. "We won't place a dog unless we're sure it will be totally safe," she says. The nonprofit operation survives on donations, because the volunteers pay to feed the animals they foster, an expense that can add up fast.

    Renee, though, is happy to invest her time and money in these pets that once were left behind. "These dogs are just so thankful for so little," she says. "It's worth it."

    Georgia writer Noble Sprayberry is a frequent contributor to Out Here.


    Renee Habart tells about more For the Dogs rescues here.


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