By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
---- — PENDLETON — They’re three friends bonded by a cause, and the cause is, well, paws. It all started with a pit bull named Ninja.
In October 2011, the pregnant pit bull was found abandoned in Pendleton. Angie Webster and Kellie Riley-Borgman, both of Pendleton, rallied to rescue the dog. Jenny Hooker, a Knightstown resident, learned of the dog’s plight through Facebook and also became involved.
“She was really scared. We kind of had to earn her trust,” Hooker recalled. It took days, but eventually the dog was saved by the trio of friends and taken to a no-kill shelter. All of the puppies were adopted, and Ninja was, too. “We see her all the time,” said Riley-Borgman. The effort became the launch of the trio's not-for-profit Friends for Paws. Today, the group is Pendleton’s go-to organization to help out with lost or stray dogs. The three friends are on a mission to get pets spayed or neutered, and they also offer microchipping so lost pets can find their way home quickly.
“It really got really big really fast. It just all kind of worked out,” said Riley-Borgman. “One little pitbull being dumped has changed a lot for a lot of animals.”
“Half the time the dogs have just gotten loose,” said Hooker of calls that come in about strays in Pendleton. She said that Facebook has worked very well to get the word out. “It gets shared, and shared, and shared.”
Sometimes the dog will have a microchip, and that makes it easy to get strays with their owners. Other times, Friends for Paws needs to find a foster situation until either the owner is found or a dog is placed. Once in their care, the Friends for Paws folks make sure the dog has everything it needs before it is adopted.
“We are always begging for foster homes,” said Hooker, who’d like to see a whole “roster of fosters.”
The group has plenty of success stories. Since October 2011, the group estimates it has adopted out about 25-30 dogs, and many more have been returned to their owners.
Now at a healthy weight
Brother is a border collie mix about five-and-a-half years old, who came in as a stray in February 2012. Although Brother is a happily rambunctious fellow now, at a healthy 59 pounds, he didn’t come to Friends for Paws that way.
“He was very thin,” said Webster.
“He was so little and scared,” agreed Webster’s daughter Allegra Waymire.
Webster fostered the dog and took him to the vet for much-needed care. Brother has gained an astonishing 24 pounds to get to his current healthy weight. Webster wound up very attached to Brother, and she ended up adopting him.
Jesse was picked up New Year’s Day.
“It was unbelievable the shape she was in — full of mange, infection, almost starved to death, almost frozen to death,” said Riley-Borgman. She took the dog in as a foster and got Jesse the necessary care. Today, Riley-Borgman reports, “She’s doing great.”
She continues to foster Jesse while she waits for adoption.
Hooker is fostering a Lab mix named Jasmine right now. Found dumped at a truck stop, Jasmine was successfully adopted through Friends for Paws in January 2012, but a month ago, Jasmine came back because her owner died of breast cancer.
Friends for Paws will be spotted at various events this summer, where they will be offering microchipping at a cost of only $20.
“It’s quick and easy,” said Hooker. She noted that although the chip is about the size of a grain of rice, “It’s priceless.”
Friends for Paws is supported through donations and T-shirt sales. “The community’s really good about backing us,” said Hooker.
Friends for Paws will be offering microchipping at Saturday’s Lions Club Pet Parade starting at the Falls Park Pendleton Avenue gazebo at 4 p.m. Look for them on the second Saturday each month at the Pendleton Farmers Market and at Markleville’s Farmers Market on the third Saturdays.
Find the friends at their website www.friendsforpaws.com or on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like Nancy Elliott on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @NancyElliott_HB, or call 640-4805.