An urgent pet post on a local social networking site stood out from the constant stream of other urgent pet postings. It was a photo of a little brown terrier and her eight newborn puppies huddled in a corner at a high-kill shelter — soon to be “redlined” if no one adopted them.
What caught my attention were her soulful eyes. But with her puppies too young to be separated, all nine of them would have to be adopted together or face certain death.
The photographer and author of the recent post was Sandy Springs resident Lisa Zambacca, a founding board member of Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, which focuses on high-kill shelters throughout Georgia.
Angels Among Us saves the most vulnerable and least adoptable — often the elderly or injured. Lacking a shelter of its own, the group relies on its approved fosters who take rescues into their own homes. Angels can’t remove a pet from a shelter without a ready foster. Since its founding in 2009, the group has saved more than 16,000 lives and keeps them in private homes until they are adopted.
“For every foster who steps up, we save a life,” said Zambacca, who acknowledges that many high-kill shelters are overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded, but run by decent people who notify Angels when an animal’s time is up.
With adoption unlikely for the little mom and her pups, Zambacca also posted the photo on the Angels Among Us website and Facebook page, hoping to find a foster.
Several days later, she posted that an Angels foster had come forward to save them. Who would take a stray with eight un-housebroken puppies into their home? And how do you take a dog into your home, care for it, train it, love it, bond with it and then let it go?
I called Zambacca and learned that quite a few other kind souls are willing to do it. I ended up connecting with several of them, including Karen Marques, the foster who had rescued the little brown dog and her pups. She too had noticed the soulful eyes.
“Angels couldn’t take her till a foster stepped forward. That’s when I volunteered,” she said. “There was something about her eyes. They were very soulful and spoke to me.”
No one knows how Little Missy, as she’s now called, ended up in a high-kill shelter. But she was probably someone’s pet.
“She’s very sweet and smart,” said Marques. “She knows commands, opens doors and gates and moves chairs.”
Every foster I spoke with, including Marques, had other pets in the home. Most had become fosters after adopting a rescue of their own. All were committed to the cause. All had stories that could break the hardest heart.
Retired teacher Sally Angevine says her favorite rescue was Emersen, a “little poodle-y mix” who was deaf, old and partially paralyzed. She fostered him for nine months until his death from cancer.
“He was such a good boy,” she said.
Another elderly dog she fostered was adopted by an elderly couple, who “traveled the world” with him.
“He only lived another year,” she said, “but I bet it was the best year of his life.”
Angevine has fostered 62 rescues for Angels Among Us, mostly elderly or disabled. All but two who passed away from illness were adopted — including the one she adopted. But saying goodbye is bittersweet.
“They take a little piece of your heart with them,” she said, “but a wise person told me I’m the bridge from their past to their future.”
Jill Feibus is an Angels foster who prefers puppies, especially since she and her husband work from home and have the time and patience. She’s fostering one of Little Missy’s remaining puppies.
Like Angevine, she’s also had memorable rescues, including a little chihuahua mix with severe anxiety.
“She barked every time my husband or boys entered the room, but eventually got used to us,” she said. After 14 months, the right family came along.
“Now she’s wearing sweaters and going on outings to Home Depot,” she said.
But fairytale endings don’t happen overnight. At press time, five of Little Missy’s puppies have been adopted. Three are still with fosters awaiting their forever homes, as is Little Missy, who has been spayed and is also awaiting surgery on a torn ligament, for which Angels is covering the cost.
For information on Little Missy or her remaining puppies, please email email@example.com or go to angelsrescue.org/adopt.
Clarification: An earlier version of this column identified Lisa Zambacca as a founder of the organization rather than as one of its founding members who joined the original board.