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50-plus rescued dogs being nursed back to health in Nashua

NASHUA – Thanks to overwhelming support from the community, along with Humane Society for Greater Nashua staff members and volunteers, a large group of rescued golden retrievers and Labrador mixes should soon find loving homes.

Earlier this month, society President and CEO Doug Barry said local officials assisted the Bradford Police Department and New Hampshire State Veterinarian’s office with an ongoing animal cruelty investigation in Merrimack County. This resulted in the removal of 105 dogs, 52 adults and 53 puppies.

Roughly half the rescued dogs made their way to Nashua. Prior to arriving at the society, the dogs were checked for infectious diseases and vaccinated.

Society marketing director Laurie Dufault said 49 dogs arrived at their facility on June 12. Since then, two mothers have given birth, and another one will be giving birth soon, raising the number of dogs to approximately 60.

In preparing for such a large influx, Dufault said they had a “clear the shelter” type of event, during which they offered discounted pricing for adoptions. Officials also had to hold off on their transports that were coming up from the South.

And while they prepared to the best of their ability, it was no easy task once dogs and puppies arrived.

“The influx of that kind of volume, with the inventory that we had, definitely presented a problem,” Dufault said.

Many of the dogs were in bad condition, physically and mentally. Some dogs had underdeveloped muscle tone due to lack of movement.

“What we saw the most was ear infections and skin infections – a lot of the skin infections being caused by these animals just sitting and lying in their own feces and urine for extended periods of time,” Dufault said.

Chuck Mattia, assistant marketing director, added, “Many of them had never been walked; they had never seen a leash; none of them had a name.”

“If you think about it a little further, they’ve never seen any other breed than their own breed. To see a little Chihuahua or something is foreign to them,” Mattia said.

Mattia said the socialization aspect has been very challenging. It wasn’t going to be an easy process, but with help, things are getting a little more manageable.

Dufault said a huge help came from two of their long-standing relationships with Alvirne High School’s Veterinary Science Program, as well as Good Mojo Dog Center in Milford.

Veterinary Science Instructor Jenny Beaudry was able to corral 12 students, who spent a day essentially pampering the pups, grooming and shaving off matted hair.

Good Mojo Dog Center paid some of their staff members to go to the Humane Society to clean and care for the dogs as well, despite it being their busy season.

Then came help from the public. Mattia said after the word got out about the dogs staying at the shelter, the Humane Society received 840 calls from people offering to help, foster and/or adopt.

“The general population and community really rose to the challenge,” Mattia said. “We needed towels; we needed bedding; we needed food products,” he said. “They brought in all their old bed sheets. We have a 24/7 donation shed that people came and filled up every day. It was great.”

Dufault said there were even people who reached out to send pizzas and baked goods to the shelter.

“There’s been a lot of kindness shared with us and that’s been great,” Dufault said.

This influx had a large impact on the resources of the facility, Dufault acknowledged, but she expressed gratitude for the dedication of the staff and volunteers. She said the organization is fortunate to have a full-time trainer on staff to work with the dogs on their behavior. Mattia said another staff member has done research on the needs of dogs that come from such “squalid” conditions, as Bradford police the state of the kennel.

“It was all hands on deck and (our staff and volunteers) did a tremendous job,” Dufault said. “I can’t say enough about how much they’ve all stepped up to the plate and worked extra hours.”

Mattia said officials are making sure to educate adopters.

“This is a different dog. This is not just a beautiful golden retriever. This is a dog that has some special needs and will have special needs,” Mattia said.

“Socially, behaviorally (it’s) very challenging. We’ve worked hard at it,” he added.

Only 17 of the dogs were healthy enough for adoption this week, they said.

“Others are going to take a long time,” Dufault added. “They’ll be with us for a long time.”

Adoption opened on Thursday, allowing 12 dogs to find new homes. A handful of others were placed in foster care.

Hopeful adopters were very eager Thursday. Mattia said the Humane Society opened at noon and people were lining up at 10 a.m.

“People, for the most part, were very patient and very kind with us,” Mattia said. “Our priority is with the dogs. They’ve had a lot of emotional trauma. They haven’t lived in a normal home. They haven’t lived a normal life, so they’re not going to blend seamlessly into a home.”

He said officials wanted to be sure to find good homes for the dogs. Some will require more time, however.

“This may be a three or four-month process,” Dufault added.

In the meantime, the Humane Society plans on pampering the pups until they are ready for adoption.

To find out more information, visit http://www.hsfn.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/HumaneSocietyforGreaterNashua/.

Grace Pecci may be reached at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.