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More friends needed

Article Published: Sep. 7, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
More friends needed

Penny Muller, founder and president of Friends for Life, hopes for help in saving the lives of more dogs and cats in the High Country.

Photo by Mark Mitchell

The message is simple ... we need help. That message comes from Friends for Life president and founder Penny Muller. Over the past four years, Muller, and the many volunteers who donate their time to Friends for Life, have saved the lives of well more than 1,000 dogs and cats. Through their efforts, the euthanasia rate in Watauga County has dropped substantially.

But the problem of finding homes for dogs and cats is not one that takes a holiday, and Muller knows that the more help she receives, the more lives that will be saved.

"We are happy that we save up to 500 lives a year," said Muller, "but we want to save more because so many still die. Animal control is constantly filling up, and without adoptions, or foster families, eventually some of these animals will be euthanized. Animal control is wonderful to work with, and they don't want to kill animals, so we work together to try and avoid that. We need everyone to spay or neuter their pet, and we just need more help in general."

According to Muller, Friends for Life needs help on a few fronts. Families who are willing to adopt a dog or cat, foster families who will take in an animal for a week at a time until the animal is adopted, and just as importantly, someone who will help Friends for Life find a piece of land or a building for the animals to be placed while awaiting adoption.

"Winter is especially tough for adoptions and foster families because people do not visit our pet adoptions as often or as long," said Muller. "We have pet adoptions on Wednesdays at the Boone Mall from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and at Lowe's Home Improvement on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. If the weather is too cold on a Saturday, then we will come to the mall instead. In the summer, people will stop and look at the animals longer, but in the cold weather that's not the case. So especially now, we have too many animals at animal control."

Friends for Life takes animals from animal control each week and brings them to these pet adoptions. The goal is for an adoption, but if that is not possible, then someone willing to foster a dog or cat for a week is the next best thing.

"A foster family takes an animal home for a week and gives them good food and shelter," said Muller. "They then bring the animal back for the following pet adoption and we hope the animal is adopted. If not, the hope is the foster family will take them home for another week. It keeps the animal out of animal control, and that keeps more animals from being euthanized. We are in great need of foster families right now.

"The No. 1 excuse I hear from people as to why they don't foster animals is that they would become too attached and not want to give the animal back. But that's the wrong philosophy. It's not about you, it's about saving lives. Sure, you may get sad, but to know you saved a life is the best feeling."

Keeping animals from being euthanized has always been the goal of Muller and Friends for Life. In the four years since Friends for Life began their mission, the euthanasia rate has dropped from 90 percent to 26 percent. Muller said the decline is due to not only Friends for Life, but the humane society and animal control as well.

As mentioned, however, the first goal is adoption. Adoptions are available for a fee of $57. The adoption fee covers a variety of services that Friends for Life takes care of before adoption. These include multiple shots, a free veterinarian exam, spay/neuter, and for dogs, a free grooming at Samson and Delilah's.

"If you found an animal and did all of these things for them," said Muller, "it would cost more than $300. We just charge enough to operate Friends for Life."

The third need of Friends for Life, a piece of land or building to house animals in need of adoption, is one Muller said is imperative.

"Anyone who knows of a piece of property where we can put these animals would be welcome," said Muller. "We need someone who will help us get these animals out of animal control and into our own facilities."

Muller said she is very appreciative for all of the many people who have helped Friends for Life save lives for the past four years.

"We could not survive without the great help we have received," said Muller. "Lowe's and the Boone Mall have helped by giving us a place to hold pet adoptions. I thank all of our volunteers who give up their time seven days a week. I also thank the people who give us donations because that is how we can keep doing what we are doing. All of these people have helped us do a great thing by saving lives. We want to save more lives, however, and so we ask for more help."

Anyone interested in fostering an animal, or with assisting Friends for Life with a location for housing animals, should call Jackie Flood at (828) 295-0787 or Muller at (828) 297-6688.

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