Over my life, I have owned (or been owned by) four pugs, bought as puppies from local breeders. I am a sucker for a smushed-face puppy, and once we had one pug, we just stuck with the breed we knew and loved. So if you would have told me at the beginning of February that we would be adding a one-year-old Chihuahua-Shih Tzu mix to our household and that I would fall as hard for him as any of our pug pups, I would have said, “Impossible!” But it happened. My new love came into my life the day after Valentine’s Day. If you want proof of my total immersion in the experience, just ask my friends on social media who are getting full-on assault of my “Enzo” photos.
I don’t know why I waited so long to join the ranks of dog rescuer, but I don’t imagine getting a dog any other way in the future. I am not alone, if bumper stickers and dog park testimonials are any indication. And with all the animals awaiting adoption, I hope more people join the ranks. So many pets need homes, and caring for those rescued animals until they find a home is an expensive proposition. Ahead of Do More 24, Delaware’s Giving Day, I am excited to detail the work that Faithful Friends Animal Society is doing in our state. Faithful Friends is private, nonprofit animal welfare organization with a No Kill shelter. Yes, they rescue animals and find homes for them, but they also do so much more.
Faithful Friends was founded twenty years ago by a group of animal lovers who wanted an alternative to publicly funded shelters in which 80-90% of all animals were euthanized. They have a mission to make Delaware a No-Kill state. In practice, this means that they are working toward a day when all Delaware shelters will save all healthy, treatable, and trainable animals, resulting in a 90% or higher save rate. It is a lofty goal, and Faithful Friends is working toward it with a multi-pronged approach that encompasses more than just creating adoption situations.
I talked with Michelle Neef, development manager at Faithful Friends. She was busy preparing for the 20th Anniversary Gala that Faithful Friends is hosting in March, but she took time out to speak with me about the many programs they have going on within the Wilmington community and beyond. I asked her if there was anything about the work they do at Faithful Friends that she wanted me to highlight ahead of the Do More 24 event.
“One thing a lot of people don’t know about is our low-cost veterinary clinic,” Neef responded. “It’s for everyone. Anybody can make an appointment for their pets—no financial qualification needed. I take my own dogs there.”
The Veterinary Care Program offers pet owners a complete menu of wellness and non-urgent sick services including spay/neuter, complete physical exams, diagnostic tests, and dental work—all at affordable rates. Office visits are as low as $38 with vaccinations starting at $15. (All hours and pricing are listed clearly on their website.) Any profits from the clinic go back into the organization. The Veterinary Care Program supplements their appointment hours with no-appointment-needed vaccine clinics that provide vaccines, microchips, flea & tick treatment and deworming on a first-come first-serve basis. (Fees for treatments, as well as 2020 vaccine clinic dates, are also listed on their website.)
In additional to affordable veterinary services, Faithful Friends offers a free food and supply bank for pet owners who are struggling to make ends meet. “We have seen a lot of people surrender animals because they couldn’t afford their care. We are trying to alleviate some of that strain and keep animals in their homes.”
To do all that they do, Faithful Friends relies on private donations, grants, and fundraisers. But they also rely on volunteers. “We have over 500 volunteers of all ages,” Neef told me. “Kids as young as seven years old—with a parent—can volunteer with our cats. [Volunteers must be 18 to work with dogs.] And we have an ambassador program that offers a higher level of interaction with shelter animals who might need more one-on-one time. The ambassadors can even take a dog out for the day to somewhere like Rockford Park, for instance, and take photos and videos that we can then post on social media.”
[Pause blog article while blog writer gets on the Faithful Friends Facebook Page and scrolls through cute dog photos and watches too many cat videos.]
Engagement with animals and with the community is at the heart of an organization like Faithful Friends. Another example of how Faithful Friends creates community is with programs like Pet Therapy in which they train dogs who then go out and work with kids with special needs like Autism or adults struggling with illness like Alzheimer’s Disease. Pet Therapy has partnered with over 50 organizations all over the state of Delaware, and they are looking for more. Another community event and fundraiser is the annual 5K and Mutt Mile where the public can meet adoptable pets and learn more about services and opportunities that Faithful Friends provides. In 2020, the race will be held on Sunday, September 27 in Bellevue State Park.
I asked Neef what she was hoping to achieve with Do More 24. Her goals are about more than a simple dollar figure. “We want to gain new donors and raise more awareness for our programs.”
You can learn more about services and see adoptable pets (at this writing there were 36 dogs and 31 cats available for adoption) on Faithful Friends Animal Society’s website. To donate to Faithful Friends (PLEASE!) during the Do More 24 campaign (March 5th at 6PM until March 6th at 6PM), click on the Faithful Friends page on the Do More 24 website. No donation is too small. Faithful Friends 20th Anniversary Gala Celebration is on March 20th at Deerfield in Newark. The event will include dinner, open bar, auctions and special guest speaker Michael Mountain For more information on this event or to purchase tickets go to the event page.
Faithful Friends is located at 12 Germay Drive, Wilmington, and the veterinary clinic is located next door at 10-a Germay Dr. To make an appointment call 302-427-8514 x115.
Other Delaware Gives Day participating organizations are IN the Spotlight over on our blog! Get the full list here.