Animal lover helps others rescue dogs

MIDDLEBURY — Beth Dow went from being a happy dog owner to a volunteer that plays a key role in helping others in the area adopt rescue dogs.
Four years ago, the Middlebury resident and husband Steve — animal lovers who now have two dogs, six cats and two horses at their Route 116 home — were looking to add a dog through petfinder.com, a web site at which many rescue organizations list animals available for adoption.
One of those organizations was Williston’s Golden Huggs Rescue Inc., and one of those animals, Dow said, was “a little black Lab named Emma.” At that time it was being fostered by a family in St. Albans, and is now a happy member of the Dow household after the adoption process.
“It worked very well,” said Dow, who is an administrative assistant for the town of Middlebury.
She said the adoption process went smoothly even though at the time Golden Huggs was a new organization that lacked a volunteer to do a key step in the process — a home visit to make sure a dog’s potential destination would be safe and the animal would be a good match for its new owners.
Golden Huggs founder Brigitte Ritchie agreed with the Dows on a phone interview and graphic evidence as a substitute.
“They didn’t have anyone to do a home visit,” Dow said. “Brigitte was happy with us taking photos of our home and yard.”
Dow didn’t immediately volunteer to fill that visitation void, but was impressed with the Golden Huggs operation and stayed in touch. About two years ago, she heard from Ritchie.
“They sent out a general email looking for someone to do a home visit in Middlebury, and I said I would do it,” Dow said.
Since then, she has done about a dozen visits for Golden Huggs and for Montpelier’s Good Karma Rescue, run by former Middlebury resident Teal Church.
Dow said it is an important piece of the adoption process.
“(I see) if it’s a safe environment for dogs. It’s really just kind of a feel for the people, talking to them, learning their experience with dogs,” Dow said. “I guess safety is No. 1, and the fact they appear to be responsible.”
All except one visit has resulted in a positive recommendation. Dow once suggested that a somewhat older couple might not be the best match for a lively puppy, and Golden Huggs’ other vital local volunteer, Jan Beayon-Phelps (who also fosters dogs), agreed.
“I just didn’t see them as a good fit,” Dow said. “They were older people, and just the whole setting, the proximity to the road. I just felt these folks would have been fine with an older dog.”
Far more often, there are happy endings. Golden Huggs rescue dogs are often trucked dozens at a time overnight from high-kill Southern shelters, and are greeted happily by waiting new owners at a White River Junction meeting site.
“Oh my gosh, that’s so exciting,” Dow said.
Dow advised those interested in adopting from Golden Huggs, Good Karma or other Vermont rescue operations (she also recommended Random Rescue and Save Our Strays) to go to petfinder.com. There, she said, a feature allows Vermont organizations to be sorted out.
Or, Dow said, people can search for the individual organizations on the web.
“They can go directly to the rescue sites, and they have all the pets listed,” she said.
Dow said adopters of rescue animals are rarely disappointed.
“To me it’s a win-win,” she said. “You’re saving a dog and you’re getting a good dog. It’s been a rewarding experience.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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