Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 12, 2013

Marta Hepler Drahos: Tiny dogs teach big lesson

Record-Eagle staff writer

— Linda Gottwald was out of town when her Pine Cone Farm rescue facility got a call asking for help with several Pomeranians from a backyard breeder who had more than 40 dogs.

The Pomeranians, ages 12 to 7 months, were dirty, matted and unsocialized, and some needed veterinary care.

Pine Cone volunteer Linette Rouzer and board member Sandy Taylor sprang into action, traveling to the home to retrieve 13 of the dogs and treating all of them for fleas. Then they brought their charges back to Pine Cone Farm just outside Traverse City, where their care would be all-consuming.

With so many dogs and puppies and not enough help, the pair planned a bath day event and sent out an SOS to fellow Hagerty Insurance employees. Word spread to family and friends, and before long there were so many volunteers Rouzer and Taylor didn’t recognize them all. They organized scrubbing, cuddling and walking teams. And in the kind of community spirit that at times overwhelmed their rescuers, the dogs were triple-washed, trimmed, de-matted, combed and fluffed.

But the giving didn’t stop there. Over the next few weeks, everyone got in on the act, from the Cherryland Humane Society and AC Paw, which donated towels, blankets and newspapers, to local vets, who offered discounted spay, neuter and other fees. Hagerty, which encourages employees to get involved in their communities by offering two paid volunteer days a year, chipped in with shampoo, clippers, food, beds, toys, collars and leashes.

When the dogs were finally ready, volunteers took them to an adoption day at PetSmart, where more people were waiting to adopt them. Even harder-to-place senior dogs found their forever homes.

On Tuesday the last Pomeranian was adopted, leaving Pine Cone Farm and its staff humbled and grateful.

Gottwald hopes people will heed the tiny dogs’ warning: not to buy pets over the Internet or from backyard breeders without seeing how and where they were raised. Putting puppy mills out of business will help put an end to inhumane treatment and help shelters with their aim of “getting to zero” the number of unwanted cats and dogs being put down.

Meanwhile, she and Taylor praise the caring staff at Hagerty and those who gave of themselves in so many ways.

“People were just bombarding us with stuff,” Taylor said.

Reach staff writer Marta Hepler Drahos at