I am a dog lover. Big dogs.

I will be forever grateful that the powers that be at the Finger Lakes Times have allowed me, for nearly two decades, to bring a dog to work each day.

First Dudley and now Grover, who is an 80-something-pound Labradoodle.

With that said, never did I imagine the way my heartstrings would be pulled by attending the “Naples 85” lottery to disperse the dogs rescued from an abusive and neglectful environment. After all, they mostly were Cairn and Yorkshire Terrier mixes. Very small, active and curious dogs. Not my cup of tea.

But I — and the over 150 others there — could almost sense the relief, joy and maybe gratitude these pooches felt being away from their previous, horrid situation.

The Happy Tails Animal Shelter (the Ontario County Humane Society) has been caring for the 85 dogs that were seized from a home in Naples on July 31 in one of the largest animal cruelty cases ever seen in the area.

The dogs stretched the resources of the shelter, but through donations and volunteers, those rescued, ranging from 6 months to about 10 years old, are looking good.

They seem healthy and have been groomed, vaccinated, vet inspected, spayed and neutered. Sunday they were ready to be turned over to 75 people among the 300 or so who submitted applications. Deadline for applications was Aug. 23. The original owner is fighting in court to keep five of them, and five others were not healthy enough yet for adoption.

It should be noted that Happy Tails, with new leadership, did a remarkable job organizing the care and effort to save these canines. The facility has gone through a couple of years of controversies, but that appears to be behind them now.

Diane Faas is the current shelter manager. She explained that employees carefully interviewed all the applicants to ensure the homes would be suitable. Many of the dogs were held temporarily in foster homes. Through that experience, it was felt that some of the dogs might not be best served in homes with very small children.

As cute as many of these pooches are, it may be a long road ahead as far as house training and getting them acclimated to yet another new environment. Some had been in rough shape and are recovering from health issues, parasites and flea infestation.

The potential owners on Sunday looked like they were ready for any challenge. Because of considerable publicity about the confiscation of the dogs, people showed up from as far as TV, radio and newspaper area coverage reached.

A ticket was assigned to each applicant who wanted to adopt a dog, and the tickets were pulled randomly one by one — 75 times out of a jar. If, say, the first ticketed person was not present, then that person would go behind the last in attendance who had been selected and could choose a dog later.

The first applicant to pick a dog was Martha Shields of Ovid. Unlike most who had a favorite in mind and hoped it would still be available when selecting, Martha went in totally undecided.

She looked around a bit, in no rush, carefully peeking in several of the pens, and then she seemed honed in on one particular dog. She would later tell me, “I think he picked me.”

A shelter volunteer handed Martha her pick. She quickly held it tight, brought him to her face and immediately received the first of several licks.

When asked if she was sure he was the one, Martha simply answered, “He kissed me.” She then headed out as person number two made their way in for their dog.

I called Martha to followup yesterday. Though not sure of his age, Martha thinks he is closer to a puppy than an adult. His name is Jack and he is one fortunate dog. Why? Because comfort and care are what Martha is all about. She is executive director of Pathway Homes, a comfort care home in Seneca Falls. Jack accompanied her to work yesterday and has fit in well, she says. One resident was thrilled, musing, “I am so glad he is here, I miss my dog so much.”

Martha told me, “I think I got lucky.” I’m quite sure the luckiest is Jack.


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