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Dog€s Best Friend Open Arms for Adoption

Valencia Mohammed | 7/8/2009, 8:08 p.m.

Yvonne Coclough, a retired government worker, purchased a dog from the Washington Animal Rescue League shelter in Northwest six months ago. Last month, she and her husband filled out an application to adopt Florence, Wawa, Delores and Alina €" all mixed poodles.

€I hope I€ll be lucky enough to get one of these dogs to give it a second chance at life,€ said Coclough, who lives in Southeast.
The Cocloughs were among the dozens of curious animal lovers who rushed to the aid of 100 small and large dogs seized from a Lehigh County, Pa. puppy mill in June. The Humane Society of the United States executed the seizure of Almost Heaven Kennels with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture€s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement after the owner failed to correct license violations.
The bureau contacted the Washington Animal Rescue League in the District, which provided refuge for a third of the dogs seized. The shelter is the oldest animal shelter in the metropolitan region, and underwent a $4 million renovation in 2006 intent on making it a facility that €best promotes the physical, mental and social wellbeing of animals in transition.€

€We are thrilled to be able to help the victims of puppy mills,€ said Dr. Gary Weitzman, the League€s director. €It€s what we€re here for, even if it takes all of our resources to turn these dogs€ lives around.€

€These dogs are invariably the victims of prolonged, gross neglect, and they are among the neediest animals a shelter will ever be called upon to help. But we feel we are well qualified and prepared to assist these animals and ultimately, we find it extremely rewarding,€ Weitzman said.

In the medical center, the dogs received medical services prior to their possible adoptions. The animals received shots, had their ears and teeth cleaned, and some were spayed or neutered. People were also allowed to pet, talk to, and walk the dogs.

€These dogs are not for everyone,€ said Mary Jarvis, director of animal welfare at the league.

€Some are afraid of people and not one has ever been around small children.€

Jarvis also warned that housekeeping could be a challenge, since the dogs had never been outside or in a home.

€But if someone has the time and patience to deal with their special issues, it can be very satisfying to give one of these dogs their first-ever home,€ Jarvis said.

Lolita Royal of Silver Spring, Md. a registered school nurse, cuddled a blond-colored mixed poodle named Kippy. €I wanted a dog that was calm and relaxed. This puppy is perfect,€ she said.

Some dogs got several applications for adoption. Vince Thomy fell in love with a friendly Portuguese water dog that was closed for adoption applications. He settled for another Portuguese beauty.

€I€m addicted to these dogs. I had one that died almost two years ago. I guess you can say I like to get my heart broken,€ Thomy said.

Prior to adoption, all of the dogs received a full veterinary evaluation at the League€s medical center. The dogs are bathed, groomed, helped with socialization issues and temperament assessments are conducted to ensure the dogs€ compatibility with the adoptive homes. Finally, the adopters will be counseled about the needs of the animals and offered training with any special needs. Many of the League€s workers said the dogs had good temperaments.

€Whoever raised these dogs did have some decency. They were not terrorized by our presence and did not give us much of a fuss when we first took over,€ said Ryan Watson, an animal caretaker at the league.

In addition to waterdogs and poodles there were terriers, Chihuahuas, Pyrenees, Shih tzus, hounddogs and spaniels.

Beth Spencer of Northwest was looking for a standard poodle to serve as a companion to her poodle at home.

€I saw several mixed poodles but I€m coming back when the standard poodles are finished with their medical evaluation and become available,€ Spencer said.