Almost Dublin-based Ohio Home Dog Rescue Finds Forever Homes for Senior and Special Needs Dogs

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At almost 11 years old, Jiminy, a wire-haired collie, takes a little time to move.

But West Columbus’ Stacey Gallant has the love and patience for Jiminy, one of the many senior and special needs Collies she adopted in Dublin. Dog Rescue Almost Home From Ohio.

“These dogs are my everything,” said Gallant, 54, of Jiminy, Star, an 8-year-old collie she adopted from Almost Home, and Lark, a 13-year-old collie she adopted. of Union County Humanitarian Society.

As a veterinary technician at Ohio State University, Gallant said, she “has always been well equipped” to care for senior and special needs dogs and sought out such dogs for adoption.

They are often difficult to place by aid companies, pet shelters and dog adoption agencies, said Gallant, who, after more than 30 years as a veterinary technician, has obtained a pharmacy technician certification. and now work at SBH Medical, a Worthington-based compounding pharmacy and distributor of medical supplies for veterinarians.

And that’s why Almost Home exists.

In 2004, a year after the creation of the agency, Gallant discovered Almost Home but petfinder.com. Toby, a collie who had hip surgery, was her first adoption by the agency.

Since then, Gallant has adopted five collies through the nonprofit Almost Home, which operates as a network without a physical presence.

Cheryl Rakich is its founder and executive director.

“I’ve been saving dogs for 26 years,” said Rakich, who, along with two other women, laid the foundation for the founding of Almost Home after working with other dog adoption agencies and dog shelters and having experienced the frustration of finding homes for aging dogs and those needing special attention.

Since the agency was created in 2003, Rakich has developed a support network that includes a reception team, a group of foster families, “freedom handlers” and two clinics that check and treat dogs before they leave. adoption.

“Freedom Drivers” are volunteers who agree to drive, sometimes hundreds of miles one way, to pick up dogs and other animal shelters, humanitarian societies or other adoption places through Almost Home.

“We are fortunate to have two incredibly talented facilities that treat the dogs that we reinstate,” Rakich said of the Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital and MedVet.

Rakich said Almost Home is placing the dogs in new homes after being accepted by many other private and public animal shelters and humanitarian companies, including the Franklin County Dog Reception and Adoption Center but also agencies throughout Ohio and even out of state.

“We are in contact” with all the agencies to find out which ones have too many dogs at once or which have elderly or sick dogs, Rakich said.

“Our mission is to find a safe haven for these dogs where everyone can be fed and cared for,” she said.

Dogs are adopted by many families.

“We once placed a dog with a family in Arizona,” said Rakich.

A subsidiary of the Collie Club of America, Almost Home specializes in sheepdogs such as Collies and Shelties, but has placed dogs of many other breeds, she said.

The agency also places dogs of all ages, but is working to save elderly and sick dogs who would otherwise be euthanized at animal shelters or aid companies, Rakich said.

The dogs that the agency places have various origins.

Some are stray dogs picked up from the streets by dog ​​sitters, some are taken away from careless owners, and some are handed over voluntarily.

“But we find all of these houses,” Rakish said.

The path to a new home is always through a foster family, a network of people throughout Ohio and even neighboring states who agree to keep a dog for adoption until someone qualified to adopt a dog. completes the adoption process.

It is a labor of love, time and money.

Foster families bear no direct expense, although some choose to help care for a dog, Rakich said. But the adoption fee does not cover the expenses of Almost Home to place the dogs. Adoption fees are based on the dog’s age and range from $ 250 to $ 500, she said.

“The only thing our host families invest is their love and their time,” said Rakich.

Almost Home pays for the dog’s food, veterinary needs and grooming, and the organization even reimburses foster families for cleaning rugs and chewed furniture, if the opportunity arises, she said. .

However, in many cases, foster families will agree to provide food for a dog or make other in-kind gestures to cover certain expenses, or they will choose to make other investments for the benefit of the dogs, a declared Rakish.

Foster families also have the right of first refusal, an act Rakish calls “foster family failure”, which occurs when foster families choose to adopt the dog themselves.

Almost Home has approximately 35 to 40 foster families in Ohio and some contiguous states.

One of those families is Pat Steck and her husband, Jim, who live on a 5-acre farm in Darke County, western Ohio.

They adopted a collie named Copper from Almost Home in 2009.

Copper had run away from his Michigan home one too many times to suit his owner, who, after picking up the dog several times after it was picked up by an animal keeper, simply chose not to pick him up another time, Pat Steck said.

Five years later, the Stecks ​​became a foster family for Almost Home.

“We have such large dogs that come into our house (and) are happy that everyone has found their new home,” said Pat Steck. “(Being a foster family) is all about what’s best for our babies.”

Pat Steck is also a member of the adoption team for Almost Home, helping to select those qualified to adopt a dog.

Requirements include the ability to demonstrate, through records with a veterinary clinic or other measures, that the applicant’s previous dogs have undergone welfare checks, received vaccines and received preventative medication against the worm. from the heart, she said.

Many owners, like Gallant, have adopted multiple dogs from the agency.

Jiminy de Gallant suffered a pelvic injury for which corrective surgery was not recommended and therefore walks with a jump that lent him his name “because he jumps like Jiminy Cricket,” Gallant said, referring to the fictional character. wearing a 1940 Walt top hat. Disney animated film, “Pinocchio”.

Star was also a collie with special needs who had to be euthanized due to a brain tumor a week after Gallant spoke to Gallant. This week on his collie family.

Gallant was planning to add a new dog to his household after traveling 480 miles one-way on November 6 at a farm in Moscow, Pa., Near Scranton, to adopt the 6-year-old smooth-haired collie Kenai, named after a town in Alaska.

Gallant’s affinity for collies comes from his childhood in Findlay in northwestern Ohio.

“I grew up (with the collies),” said Gallant, who after graduating from high school moved to central Ohio and graduated from Columbus State Community College.

David Dixon, 40, of Worthington adopted four dogs from Almost Home, including Hope, a 5-year-old female, and Rocket, a 1-year-old male. Both are collies.

Rocket, a sand collie, looks like Lassie, the collie and namesake of the CBS television series that aired from 1954 to 1971, Dixon said.

“It’s a bundle of energy,” and was adopted as a companion to Hope, who was placed by Almost Home after being rescued due to a case of neglect, Dixon said.

When deciding to add a dog to the family, Dixon said he and his wife, Padmini, wanted to adopt a “rescue dog“.

“Almost Home had such great profiles of every dog,” Dixon said.

Like Gallant, he had collies as a child.

“I have such fond memories of the collie my grandparents had, and my first dog was Ellie,” said Dixon, a stray collie mix his family had taken in when he lived near Waverly in South Ohio.

The Dixons adopted two more dogs from Almost Home before adopting Hope in 2020 and Rocket in May.

Dogs for adoption at Almost Home can be viewed at almosthomeohio.org.

Since its creation in 2003, the agency has placed nearly 1,500 dogs.

Its mission is made possible through private donations, in-kind donations of goods and services, a pair of annual fundraising events and grants, like the one received earlier this year from the Bissell Pet Foundation to pay for spayed and neutered dogs placed by Almost Home, Rakich said.

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