WHEELING – The dogs are excited. A muffled âwoofâ quickly turns into a frenzied chorus. But Jodi Hunt is by no means distracted from her telephone interview with the Sunday News-Register.
“The goats are playing in the sun and they just made a thud,” she calmly explained what caused the rash.
That day, only the three dogs of the family are concerned. Other days things could get a lot more serious. The Hunts have, in fact, passed 20 dogs through their home in the past year while accommodating pets.
âIt’s a lot of work, especially when you have small puppies,â she admitted of managing a brood that also includes three children, two goats, two cats and two turtles. “But it’s fun. It was really fun playing with them, especially in my forties.”
A long way home
âSometimes I look at them and I’m like, ‘How did you get here?’ Hunt said of the dogs she welcomed for The Road Home Animal project based in St. Clairsville.
A black laboratory particularly made him think.
That would be Clyde – an “absolute idiot” who likes to lounge on the couch, sometimes sitting upright like a human. She knows that, to all her joy, he was rescued from a rural Kentucky shelter that was suddenly abandoned, leaving a kennel full of dogs without food or care for two weeks. And, before that, he had lived in Louisiana.
“I have a feeling it might have belonged to a homeless man who sat and rubbed his stomach all day,” she said with a laugh. “He could live happily like this. “
Other dogs have a more precise origin, such as the litter of Saint Bernard-like puppies that was rescued when someone heard whining coming from an abandoned house.
Hunt said foster dogs sometimes arrive scared and a little scruffy – although given her full-time remote job and family life, she doesn’t accept dogs that need a level of care. extreme care.
âI like to stroke them and say, ‘It wasn’t your fault,’â she explained of one element of her full family exposure technique. “They settle in very quickly and accept your love.”
The next step
Clyde appeared to move into their northern Ohio County home earlier than the others.
“Before he got here I thought, ‘Oh boy, we’re in trouble,'” she said of her photo reminding her and her husband Jay Hunt, a beloved laboratory since the start of their marriage. âWe felt drawn to him. He just got here and he was home.
Clyde ended up being their only “foster failure,” Hunt joked, saying he remained as a permanent member of the family. But, the other 20 dogs have moved elsewhere forever.
This is one of the most difficult parts of the hospitality experience, she noted. Even though many of their internships are with them for less than three weeks, Hunt said she and a girl tend to bond with them quickly.
âWe had tears with almost all of the dogs, but they were tears of joy. You must be happy for this dog and this family.
On the bright side, Hunts tend to get updates and even visiting privileges from many Eternal Families. A family living in the Woodsdale neighborhood of Wheeling donated such for Edge – a silky black dog that her daughter Kaylee Hunt was particularly fond of.
A Cleveland couple who recently adopted another foster family, Sasha, recently uploaded happy images of this dog’s first trip to Lake Erie.
And, two other dogs – including one of the Saint Bernard-looking puppies – are even easier to access. Hunt’s brother adopted them and they now live in West Liberty.
âMy sister-in-law even did DNA tests on them to determine what breed mix might be involved,â Hunt said with a laugh.
Even though the dogs are placed as far away as New England – and some are – Hunt said the operation of the nonprofit makes it easy to let go when the time comes.
âThese ladies are incredible matchmakers,â Hunt said of the project’s board. âThey have an awesome screening process that finds the most perfect adopters.
âI am constantly amazed at how well the puppies fit into their new family. I never hesitate to hand over our host families, despite a few tears.
Mandae Lewis of St. Clairsville, vice chairman of the association’s board of directors, said the match was how it all started. In 2014, a group of women discovered that more than 30 horses and several dogs in the area were in need of “rescue, rehabilitation and relocation,” according to the project’s website.
With that accomplished, six women, including Lewis, decided to make a longer and bigger commitment.
âWe wanted to offer an alternative to sheltersâ¦ another option, especially when they are overflowing,â she said of what she thinks is the project’s niche – taking care of the dogs in real homes where their personality can be fully exposed and potentially good or bad matches can be made more obvious.
The method seems to work. The Road Home Animal Project now places around 400 dogs per year, Lewis said. This is done without paid employees and no other facility other than a few transport vans that can carry up to 15 dogs at a time.
âWe are completely based out of the homes,â Lewis said. There are, in fact, nearly 30 homes in the Ohio Valley that welcome project dogs – typically for placements of one to three weeks. Some foster families also welcome dogs with long-term medical needs, she noted.
This mix of investment opportunities has been a blessing during the pandemic.
‘COVID has been a double-edged sword,’ Lewis said of having more families willing to take in but more dogs coming to them due to job loss, relocations and even death among their humans. “Our host families are quite amazing.”
And dogs too, of course.
âWe like the underdogs,â Lewis said. âThe three legs, the senior dogs. We just have a lot of compassion.
The mother of foster dog Hunt agreed.
âThere’s just a really nice feeling about it when you get to know the animals and their personalities – where they’ve been and where they’re going to go,â Hunt said. “It’s like fate has definitely stepped in.”
Readers interested in fostering, adopting, or donating can learn more by visiting the 501 (c) 3 organization’s website at theroadhomeanimalproject.org or by following the group on Facebook or Instagram.