Madison Dovell had no idea it was National Dog Day as she waited Tuesday afternoon at the Humane Society of York County. For her and Karma, the excited pooch at her side, it was the day they got to take home the newest member of their family.
“We’ve been so excited about this for a month,” Dovell said.
It’s been more than six months since Dovell and her husband brought Karma home from the Humane Society shelter. She instantly had fallen in love when she spotted her.
“I had her in my arms before my husband made it in the door,” she said.
When they decided that Karma needed a companion, they knew they wanted to return to the Humane Society. After a screening process, a new dog, Maggie, was ready to hop in the backseat alongside Karma to head back to Dovell’s home in Mint Hill.
That’s how it usually happens, said shelter manager Lori Criminger. It’s love at first sight – both for person and dog.
Criminger likes to tell the story of a dog at the shelter named Bootsie. She liked to jump and bark and make a fuss whenever anyone came near her cage. But when the couple who would eventually adopt Bootsie walked in, she was a different dog.
“She just sat there, looking at them, saying, ‘I’m right here, come get me,’ ” Criminger said.
On Tuesday, shelter employee Sherri Nemetz moved from cage to cage, cleaning them out and giving each dog some attention. She showered each one with kisses, belly rubs and compliments, as if they were her own.
When Nemetz goes home at night, she greets five dogs of her own – all rescues. She always picks the ugliest dogs to take home, because most people wouldn’t give them a second look.
“To me, it’s just heartwarming to give a dog a new home and a new life,” she said.
For Dovell, adopting rescued dogs helps her heal from a tumultuous childhood. Caring for her dogs is her way of healing the scars that life has given her over the years.
Maggie, her newest adoptee, was found on the side of the road with a belt around her neck. She’s battled worms and other doggie diseases, and the Dovells have waited patiently for her to be ready, to be healed.
“They’re my therapy,” Dovell said of her dogs.
While Dovell waited for her newest dog and Criminger and Nemetz cared for the shelter’s dogs and cats, another woman filled out an application for adoption. Susie Schaffer and her family just moved to Clover and are on the hunt for another dog.
The hope is to adopt one in time for her son’s eighth birthday.
“One of the things we like about having pets is it teaches our kids responsibility and compassion,” Schaffer said.
And you can’t beat the companionship element of having a dog, she said. The puppy that she was eying Tuesday “just looks like a dog for a little boy,” she said.
Each week at the Humane Society of York County, Nemetz said, eight to 10 dogs find new homes, and about the same number come in. Some take longer to find homes, while others only stay a few days.
The look of joy on Dovell’s and even Karma’s face when Maggie came out from behind the kennel door was infectious. Other would-be adopters and employees stopped to smile and “awwwww” as Maggie and Karma jumped up and down with excitement. They even seemed to hug each other a few times.
After a few minutes of final paperwork and excited tail-wagging, Dovell loaded the new sisters in the back of her car for the ride home. Maggie sat all the way against the door in the backseat, and Karma pushed right up against her.
“OK girls,” Dovell said, “let’s go home.”