Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of Ithaca Week, a weekly magazine produced by the students of the Advanced Multimedia Journalism class at the Roy H. Park School of Communications, Ithaca College.


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Sidney sits on the blue carpet of his home, chewing on his antler treat. For the first eight months of his life, he and his brother, Noodles lived with a chain around their neck outside a home in Kentucky. At first so emaciated that he could barely be transported up north, Sidney has recently grown to be a strong, happy, dog with a safe home in Ithaca, New York.

Sidney lives with his new owner, Elizabeth Newbury, who is currently working towards her doctorate in communications at Cornell University. She has worked on the social media side, training staff at other non-profit organizations and now volunteers, both fostering and managing the Facebook page for the Cayuga Dog Rescue, after her dog died.

Sidney is one of 502 dogs that have been rescued through the Cayuga Rescue Program since 2005.

“I realized after this experience that I had a lot of medical expertise from helping her and I wanted to give that back to a dog in need,” Newbury said.

Courtesy of the Cayuga Dog Rescue’s Facebook page
Courtesy of the Cayuga Dog Rescue’s Facebook page

The Tompkins County SPCA started rescuing dogs in 1902. Currently it is estimated by the ASPCA that 28% of dogs are purchased from breeders, but 29% of cats and dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues.

There are about 13,600 community animal shelters nationwide and six local rescue programs that are putting dogs up for adoption and have successful in finding dogs new homes.

Locally, There’s Hope Dog Rescue, started by Diana Niemi, has helped over 80 dogs since March 2014, and continues to find dogs forever homes.

“When you match the dog with the adopter you can just see a glow in their eyes, how happy they are and how excited the pet is. Even though you’ve invested so much time and care with the animal and they became attached to you, we see how easily they are ready to go with the adopter,” Niemi said.

A dog’s rescue process can take between two weeks to two months, including traveling to the rescue center, training and finding the correct family. The non-profit shelters around the Ithaca area all go through meticulous steps to make sure the dog goes home to the correct family for it.

“Because we ask for an application, a phone screen and a home visit before meeting the dog, it ensures the people know about the dog and how it will fit into their lifestyle,” Newbury said. “The last thing we want is for someone to adopt a dog and for it to end up in a shelter again.”

The Humane Society estimates that the number of households with animals has more than doubled over the last 40 years. But with these growing numbers, the application has become more extensive to ensure dogs find the best home.

Nancy Given, executive director of Pet the Pet Program in Trumansburg N.Y. said, “so many of the dogs that come to us have had horrific experiences–starvation, gun shots, knife wounds…yet once they arrive here, their strife is over and a new life full of love and goodness awaits them.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.