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Friday, May 18, 2012

Dogs XL needs volunteers to help foster large dogs

These Great Dane puppies were rescued by Dogs XL

When an extreme animal hoarding situation was discovered in Kentucky in April, many of the larger dogs were saved by a group called Dogs XL Rescue. There were more than 200 animals of all sorts, including many large dogs, such as St. Bernards and Mastiffs, living in overcrowded, filthy conditions.

Dogs XL, based in Maryland, specializes in dogs over 75 pounds, says Lincolnia resident Anne Wuhrer, who heads the group’s Virginia branch.

The founders of Dogs XL “saw a need to specialize in larger dogs because they are harder to adopt. They need more space and more food, so they are more expensive to keep. And that means they are more likely to be put down by shelters,” Wuhrer says.

The group, run by volunteers, rescues dogs from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, many of whom have been horribly mistreated.

In one recent case, the owner of a Great Dane, named Destiny, hit the dog with his car and dumped her at an animal shelter. The vets performed emergency surgery, but she didnt survive. They discovered she was pregnant and were able to save her six premature puppies.

Four of them were rescued by Dogs XL, and volunteers bottle fed them on the long drive from South Carolina to Virginia, where they ended up in Wuhrer’s care. Together, all four weighed just one pound.

Her bathroom was turned into a neonatal ward, with the temperature kept at 90 degrees, while they slept in her bathtub and she fed them every two or three hours around the clock. One of them, named Scrappy, became seriously ill and was placed on an in-home IV, and managed to pull through against all odds.

All four have now been adopted. Wuhrer wanted to keep them, but already has two rescue dogs, a pit bull named Petey and a “pit bullet,” a pit bull/Jack Russell mix, named Pixie, as well as three children and a husband who travels frequently for his job.

Dogs XL is always looking for more people who can be foster parents for rescued dogs. “You just need a home and a love for dogs,” Wuhrer says. “And you have to get them into a routine.”

Foster volunteers also need a lot of patience. For some dogs, it’s hard to adjust to a nonthreatening environment. Some have spent their whole lives in puppy mills, forced to have one litter after another, or had been chained outdoors and never given any affection, Wuhrer says. She has seen dogs that are “brain dead” because they’ve been treated so poorly, including one that had never been let out of its cage for seven years.
Dogs XL hold “adoption events” around the D.C. region just about every weekend. The next one in our area will be June 16 at the Annandale Petco.

The group is having a major fundraiser at Rockburn Park in Elkridge, Md., May 20, to support its rescue and foster operations. The event includes a 5K, silent auction, microchip implanting, and pet photography.

While the group charges $300 to adopt one of its rescue dogs ($350 for puppies), that doesn’t begin to cover its costs for transportation, medications, spay and neutering, and other needs. For example, Wuhrer  says, there is a black lab in the group’s care that needs knee surgery that cost $5,000.

“There’s a home for everyone, so far,” she says. Some of the dogs they rescue are adopted right away, others might stay with foster families for months.

Because many dog fosters decide to adopt their dogs, the group is constantly on the lookout for new people willing to take on this role. In addition to fosters, Dogs XL needs volunteers to help in other ways, such as making phone calls, updating the website, coordinating fosters, and transporting dogs.

People who want to adopt a dog are subject to home visits and interviews. People who want puppies must agree to spend enough time at home with them, and they can’t be living in a place that prohibits large dogs.

For more information, contact Anne Wuhrer.

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