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When local resident Alissa Linares was considering how she wanted to celebrate her birthday this year — instead of having a typical party with cake and presents — she opted to give back and throw a different kind of party.

“I thought, ‘This is perfect, it’s my birthday so let’s have a party with the dogs,’” she said.

The dogs she is referring to are rescues from Muddy Paws Second Chance Rescue based in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Linares has been volunteering for the organization for several years, and as a way to spread the word about the organization and potentially find homes for the more than 160 dogs and cats currently being fostered within the organization, she put together a party of sorts at Johnson Lake on Wednesday.

“There’s actually only two volunteers out of Fremont that foster. Everyone else is out of Omaha, Council Bluffs and Lincoln,” she said. “That’s why I wanted to do it here. All of our dogs and cats are in foster homes and we are maxed out. So I’m trying to broaden the reach and get our name out there so we can find these animals loving homes.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Linares, along with a number of other volunteers, fosters, and members of Muddy Paws brought out a variety of furry friends to Johnson Lake to have a run, or walk, around the park.

“Some are running, some are walking, and they are just here for people to come and pet and say ‘hi’ to,” she said. “A lot of other fosters and volunteers also came out to tell people what we are all about.”

Muddy Paws is a no-kill, non-profit rescue started in 2015 by a small group of animal lovers in the Council Bluffs/Omaha area.

According to Muddy Paws President Terri Larson, the organization works to offer supportive services to owners who are considering relinquishing their pets.

“We expanded on the definition of rescue, so there are things that we do that a lot of other rescue’s don’t do,” she said. “If someone is having troubles with a dog in their home and they want to surrender the dog, we will offer to send a trainer in for free or at a reduced rate to help with those situations and hopefully keep the dog in the home if possible.”

Muddy Paws also assists pet owners who may be having difficulty paying for veterinarian procedures in an effort to keep pets in loving homes.

“A lot of times the rescue will ask the owner to surrender the dog to them, and then they will find a home for it,” Larson said. “Well why? If they already have a home and just need a hand up.”

Muddy Paws also offers placement assistance to owners attempting to re-home their pets through social media sites and offers a food pantry for pets among other services.

The organization works with dogs of any breed, physical condition or age and its services are all volunteer based — with all of the rescue dogs living in the homes of volunteers.

Two longtime volunteers for the organization are married couple Rick and Phoung Olstad of Papillion.

During the event on Wednesday, Rick and Phoung brought along three dogs they are currently fostering for Muddy Paws.

“When we started, we were looking at getting a dog and thought that fostering would be a good way to start to see how we liked it,” Phuong Olstad said. “When we brought home our first foster dog, we fell in love and adopted him.”

Since that time, just over three years ago, the Olstad’s have fostered a total of 37 dogs for the organization.

Currently, the three dogs the Olstad’s are fostering are named Bandit, Monte and Brody, with Bandit currently in the process of courting a potential forever owner.

“We actually had an in-home visit with a potential adopter earlier this week,” Rick Olstad said. “It went well and hopefully they will continue the process because they’ll have one heck of a friend in Bandit.”

For Larson, Linares and the Olstads, it all comes down to finding pets forever homes.

“We will do what we can, whatever we can, to keep them in loving homes,” Larson said.

While Linares’ birthday wasn’t filled with cake, ice cream and presents — it was still pretty incredible, according to Larson.

“She gave up her birthday to do this for Muddy Paws, that to me is incredible,” she said.

For more information about Muddy Paws Second Chance Rescue, or to find out how to become involved as a volunteer, donor, foster, or adopter visit the website www.muddypawssecondchancerescue.com.

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