If they could talk, 15 dogs might thank Bradley Dodge for a second chance at life.
The dogs, which came from Louisiana, were saved in memory of the former Fremonter who died on Jan. 15, 2019.
FurEver Home, Inc., in Fremont was a busy place on Wednesday afternoon as folks worked to get the canines situated in kennels. A miniature pinscher named, Lucy, wiggled excitedly, while a terrier-mix called, James, wore a more timid look.
Fremonters Donna and Len Dodge tenderly held a black and brown terrier mix, named Dodger.
Their son, Brad, had been a dog lover, too. He’d grown up with the family’s dogs.
Gunner was a Rottweiler.
“They did everything together,” his mom said.
And although he didn’t have sheep to herd, a border collie named, Dirty, seemed to like herding Brad and his brother, Tim, when they were outside playing.
Brad was in sixth grade when his family moved from North Bend to Fremont. He graduated from Fremont Senior High School in 2005 and Midland University in 2012. He’d been employed with a construction company for the last several years.
His mom described him as a caring person, who loved spending time with his now 7-year-old son, Parker.
“He had a kind heart,” his mom said. “He was a great father. His son misses him a lot.”
Last year, Brad was in a construction accident on Jan. 14 and was pronounced dead the next day. As an organ donor, the 32-year-old man helped five other individuals.
The idea of rescuing 15 dogs on Jan. 15 — the date of Brad’s death — began with a conversation, said Deb Newill, founder and president of FurEver Home, Inc.
Donna Dodge is one of Newill’s friends and fellow founders of FurEver Home, and serves as the board’s vice president.
At first, Newill offered to help the Dodges by going to the grocery store, shoveling their sidewalks or making a meal.
“I left it at that because I can only imagine how much grief is associated with the loss of a child,” Newill said.
But as the months passed, Newill wondered what more she should be doing to help.
She wanted to acknowledge the anniversary of Brad’s death, but wasn’t certain of how to do that.
“I just was brainstorming what nice gesture I could do or if there was a way to put into words that we were still there for Donna and Len — and then I got to remembering that Brad was an organ donor,” she said.
Newill thought about the families whose loved ones had benefited from Brad’s gift and how children can do things that make their parents proud.
“I thought this was something they should be proud of as to how many lives he’s impacted — not just the recipients, but the families that did not have to say ‘goodbye’ like Donna and Len,” Newill said.
In turn, Newill began thinking about what FurEver Home does by saving the lives of dogs and sheltering them.
Thus came the idea of saving 15 lives on the 15th of January to celebrate the gift of life that Brad gave.
Newill wasn’t sure how the Dodges were prepared to recognize the day, but hoped the dogs’ arrival and second chance at life could provide at least a little renewed hope for that day.
So around last Thanksgiving, Newill brought up the idea to Fremonter Martha Bang, FurEver Home’s executive director. They reached out to Brittany Hebert, who’s involved in animal rescue in the Crowley, Louisiana area, and with three shelters there.
Bang and Sara Munson of Phoenix Remix Animal Rescue in Lincoln set out on Monday morning for what would be a more than a 1,950-mile round trip.
On Tuesday, they met shelter networkers who’d found the dogs and families to foster them, got the animals vaccinated so they could cross state lines and who were involved in coordinating efforts in Louisiana.
Bang and Munson toured city and county shelters.
“When we toured the shelters there, I don’t think even I understood how financially challenged of an area that is,” Bang said.
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But in an economically stressed area, if a stray dog isn’t claimed it’s put up for adoption.
“If all of their kennels (at the city shelter) are full and an animal comes in, they take the one that’s been in the shelter the longest and euthanize it so the one that just came in the door can have the kennel space,” she said.
The shelter isn’t unique in this practice.
“It happens everywhere,” Bang said.
The Nebraskans picked up 11 dogs in Crowley on Tuesday evening and four more in Lafayette, Louisiana — and drove back to Nebraska.
They reached Fremont before 2 p.m. Wednesday.
On her Facebook page, the Louisiana woman praised the work of FurEver Home.
“Today, I witnessed the beauty of compassion,” Hebert wrote. “We loaded up 15 precious lives to head out to Nebraska to find forever homes. This special group of dogs varied in many ways, from dogs on euthanasia lists to full, long-term shelter residents.”
Bang said of the 15, a few had been in shelters for four to six months.
“Their time was long up,” Bang said.
In the meantime, Bang saw other dogs there as well.
“It was really hard for me to walk out of that county shelter and not be able to take the ones I saw there with me,” she said.
Hebert commended the FurEver Home endeavor.
“I want to graciously thank you for your tremendous work and for choosing our Southern shelter dogs,” she wrote. “Without you, their futures would be unknown … my life will be forever changed, and so will theirs.”
The rescued dogs are: Joey, Daisy, James and Taylor, all terrier mixes; Magnus, a basset-dachshund mix; Dodger, a Yorkie-terrier mix; Stella and Leo, pit bull-terrier mixes; Darci, a Shar Pei-shepherd mix; Yoshi, a bull terrier; Lucy, a miniature pincher-mix; Frankie, a female Doberman-mix; Jewel, a Labrador-greyhound mix; and Mork and Mindy, two terrier pups.
All dogs come vaccinated, spayed or neutered and microchipped, Newill said.
Standard adoption fees are: puppies, $235; dogs ages 1-7, $185; and dogs older than 7 years old are $85.
The dogs will be available in 14 to 21 days, said Peg Gaudreau, event and pantry coordinator.
“We take assessments to get to know them (the dogs) — what their likes and dislikes are,” Newill said. “We take pride in knowing as much about the dogs as possible.”
After that, the organization will post photos and bios of the dogs on its Facebook page and website, which is www.fetchingfureverhomes.org, and would be adopters can read and decide if they’re a match.
“We feel it’s important that potential adopters know as much about the dog as we can find out for them so all personalities in the home match the best,” Newill said.
Plans are to get basic biographies of the dogs by next Wednesday, Gaudreau said.
Some photos of the dogs already are on Facebook.
Those wishing to adopt a dog may go through the nonprofit organization’s website and complete an application. The adoption team then can contact them to arrange a “meet and greet” with the dog for which they’re applying.
“We’ll go from there to see if it’s a match,” Newill said.
Adoption forms also are available in the organization’s office at 236 W. Sixth St., in downtown Fremont. Potential adopters also can call 402-979-8800 and leave a voice mail.
The organization’s office hours are: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and by appointment on Saturdays and Sundays.
“We absolutely love watching their personalities come out and getting to know them and just seeing how well they fit when they finally choose the family that’s right for them,” Newill said of the dogs.