Cheryl Wicks: Gifts from Sammie’s Friends | TheUnion.com

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Cheryl Wicks: Gifts from Sammie’s Friends

Many times, I take my dog, Chula — a Sammie's Friends adoptee — to the dog park to chase her ball and play with other dogs. As a fairly recognizable person in our community, people often come up to me and tell me that they got their dog at Sammie's Friends and that it is the best dog they have ever had. One day, there were about 15 dogs in the park and I believe every one of them was from Sammie's Friends. What a delight to see that these uncared for and abandoned dogs that had once come to Sammie's Friends are now living in homes with people that love them and take them to the dog park to play.

HEALING at SAMMIE'S FRIENDS

Many of our dogs would not be capable of going to the dog park when they first arrive at Sammie's Friends. The majority of dogs we receive as strays (80 percent of the animals we receive are strays) are approximately 1 year old, unneutered, large breed male dogs. Since they are strays, we don't know their history, but after 16 years of rescuing animals I see patterns.

My assumption is that these dogs were taken in by someone as a puppy and the many things that they did as puppies (i.e. poop and pee in the house, chew things up, jump on people, cry and bark and basically have no manners) were tolerated and even cute, and became intolerable and not so cute when they are 60 pound dogs. The owner has taught them nothing so they know nothing. The next thing the dog is dumped and picked up as a stray by a member of the public and brought to Sammie's Friends.

These dogs have often not been properly socialized and often don't know how to play nice with other dogs and are afraid of people. Our doggie behaviorist, along with staff and volunteers, began the process of teaching these dogs to play with other dogs and to enjoy a relationship with people. By the time they are adopted, they behave much better than when they arrive.

REWARDING THE HEART

The scene at the dog park warms my heart. I have been doing this for 16 years and my reward is to see our animals go to loving homes where they are well cared for and loved.

Although I don't see the cats at the dog park we do get a lot of feedback from our cat adopters. They often tell us how much they love their new kitty and how happy (s)he has made the family. We often hear, "This is the best cat I've ever had."

Our volunteers play with our cats to make them more social and even take them home to further socialize and acclimate them into family life. Literally thousands of people in this community have helped Sammie's Friends through volunteer hours and monetary donations to restore these wonderful creatures to a good condition and make them adoptable. A total of 24,150 lives have been saved, going back to our humble beginnings in 2001. This is something our community can feel good about. We sure do.

THE ORIGINAL SAMMIE

All of this work was inspired by a Shar-Pei puppy, named Sammie, who came to live with me when he was 7 weeks old. I was not looking for a pet, he just kind of moved in. I had no idea how this small, but extraordinary creature was going to change my life forever, and the lives of so many animals. His dog trainer said, "I have trained 7,000 dogs, and Sammie is the most interesting dog I have ever met." I thought so too. I thank him for his inspiration and honor him for his amazing life.

Pay close attention to your pets and you too will receive interesting gifts, such as inspiration, wisdom, compassion, loyalty and so much more.

Cheryl Wicks is the co-founder and president of Sammie's Friends.