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Former stray dog graduates to foster care while awaiting forever home

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Shebah ran the streets last fall scavenging for food, her ribs protruding against her skin. With support from Lawrence Humane Society, she is healthier now and making strides toward a forever family.

In November, Shebah’s dark eyes sunk into her head. Engorged and full of milk, her teets hung down, but the pups she’d apparently been separated from were nowhere in sight. Shebah looked underweight and had been seen digging through trash cans for food.

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Community members concerned about Shebah’s condition tracked her whereabouts on social media. They made pleas for Animal Control to intervene, and they voiced frustration at the city’s lack of around-the-clock staffing for the department.

Shebah was becoming known as “a frequent flier” — an animal on the run who had previously been brought to the shelter, released to their owner and returned again. After she was delivered to the shelter by a local family a second time on Nov. 27, Shebah was not reclaimed. Her ownership then transferred to Lawrence Humane Society, where her healing journey has continued for two and a half months.

Shannon Wells, executive director for the humane society, said medical staff examined Shebah at intake and placed her on a feeding plan that included an additional meal each day and puppy food for higher caloric intake.

“She was assessed by the behavior team, and although shy at first, Shebah has consistently been friendly with staff and volunteers who care for and spend time with her,” Wells said in an email.

Shannon Wells

Shebah was spayed at the shelter, ensuring she would never again become pregnant or separated from her puppies. Shelter staff never made contact with Shebah’s litter, according to Wells.

Shebah has enjoyed walks with shelter staff in the morning and evening and playtime with volunteers during the day. Wells said Shebah, like all dogs at the shelter, has also received daily in-kennel enrichment to occupy her down time. She loves her orange tennis ball. Wells described Shebah as “obsessed” with the toy, which the dog will drop at the feet of anyone who will toss it for her to fetch.

“Although it is no replacement for a home setting, the shelter has given her stability compared to what we know about her recent life circumstances,” Wells said. “She’s warm, clean, fed, and handled with loving hands every day.”

X-rays taken at the time of Shebah’s spay surgery showed arthritic changes in the spine known as spondylosis and moderate dysplasia in one of Shebah’s hips. Wells said those conditions have been managed with joint supplements and anti-inflammatory medications when Shebah showed signs of stiffness or discomfort.

“In the day-to-day she appears pain free and still enjoys play,” Wells said.

Most notably, Shebah’s ribs no longer protrude against her fur. Wells said Shebah had gained the ideal amount of weight and had returned to a normal feeding plan. On Friday, Shebah left the shelter with her beloved orange tennis ball and her new foster parent, Kinzie Gatzmeyer.

Wells said Gatzmeyer considered a handful of dogs who’ve been waiting for a home for sometime and felt a connection to Shebah.

“She liked her energy and her sweet nature,” Wells said.

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Sara Garlick, an animal advocate who voiced concerns about Shebah’s condition last fall, reacted to updated photos of the dog.

“She’s looking much healthier!” Garlick wrote in a message. “I’m so happy to hear that she found a Foster Family.”

Contributed Shebah

Ideally, Shebah’s new foster home will serve as a bridge between shelter life and a forever home. Wells said during the last two years, the humane society had seen dogs waiting increasingly longer to find homes.

Cats, however, have experienced shorter shelter stays. Experts attribute these national trends to a number of differences in cat ownership, including fewer housing restrictions and costs, both financially and timewise, according to a 2023 report by the Shelter Animals Count database.

“That means middle aged and older dogs like Shebah are more likely to wait for a home and we have to work to preserve their mental and physical health while they remain in our care awaiting their second chance at a loving, stable home,” Wells said. “One way we combat the long wait is by placing dogs in foster homes whenever possible.”

Wells said shelter staff felt “overjoyed” to witness Shebah’s match with her foster family.

“In the meantime the search for Shebah’s permanent home continues and we hope anyone who reads her update considers this deserving dog,” Wells said.

To learn more about pet fostering and adoption, visit Lawrence Humane Society’s website at lawrencehumane.org.

Contributed Shebah
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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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