COLUMBIA — Armed with his handsome red collar and sense of curiosity, Rocket was ready for his first Pet Adoption Day on Saturday.
Upon crossing the threshold of the sliding doors, the 14-month-old beagle-and-cocker-spaniel mix took advantage of every opportunity to explore the local Petco. He immediately began running his nose along the gray-tiled floor, sniffing, wagging his tail and straining his leash.
On Saturday morning, Field of Dreams Rescue volunteers set up their space, bringing in black wire cages and a bucket full of leashes. The corporation, based in Kirksville was created in January 2007 and has been organizing Pet Adoption Days since. In the past three years, Field of Dreams Rescue has placed more than 600 cats and dogs in permanent homes, said Katy Fine, president of the organization. The organizers hoped to find permanent homes for 14 dogs and five kittens.
“We basically just formed because there was a need for rescue,” Fine said. Because of overpopulation in the Kirksville area, the city's animal shelter must kill a lot of animals, she said. The organization began to reduce the need to kill so many animals.
“We started the organization based upon the belief that all of our dogs would be in foster homes,” Fine said.
The organization currently has 12 foster homes that take in cats and dogs and keep them until they are adopted. In foster homes, the animals receive more personal attention, which makes house-training and socialization easier.
“We know their personalities a lot better so that we can place them into an appropriate home,” Fine said.
Although most of the organization’s animals are strays or "dumps," some, such as Rocket, are brought in by owners who can no longer care for their pet.
“He’s a doll,” Cassie Harlan, Rocket's foster mom of a month, said of him. Harlan has been with the organization since 2008.
“He loves to play fetch," Harlan said. "It’s his favorite thing in the entire world.”
“I throw the ball, and he’s already mid across my family room in the air trying to catch it.”
As volunteers adjusted Rocket’s cage, he remained still. Calmly, Rocket’s eyes looked down the tip of his white-and-black-spotted nose and followed the hands of those working around him. His eyebrows twitched with interest. After adjustments were complete, Rocket moved about the cage and eventually decided to sit. His left front paw turned out slightly while he planted his weight on his right hip and extended his legs in the opposite direction.
As if trying to point his toes, Rocket stretched his left leg out as far as it could go. His floppy ears perked up at the conversation taking place between the cashier and a customer 10 paces away.
In a nearby cage was Penelope, a sweet-mannered, 10-month-old border collie mix. Penelope was one of two dogs found on the side of a gravel road just more than a week ago, according to Fine, Penelope’s foster mom. Harlan picked up the two dogs and brought them to Field of Dreams Rescue.
Harlan recalled Penelope’s body being completely covered in large ticks. “She still had this shiny coat even though she was filthy,” she said.
Field of Dreams Rescue is able to provide vet treatment to all of its animals because of private donations. The organization also offers funds for neutering pets to people who cannot afford it.
In some ways, the animals also give back. Suzi Q, an 11-month-old terrier-and-border collie mix found running down a highway, serves as an example. Her foster mom, Cyndi Harcrow, works with developmentally disabled adults and often brings Suzi Q to work.
“It’s an undivided attention and love that they give to clients,” Harcrow said.
Suzi Q’s affectionate personality is apparent. As soon as anyone came near, her tongue darted out searching for the nearest cheek to kiss.
“She loves other dogs,” Harcrow, who has been looking after Suzi Q for about 4 months, said. “She loves cats. She just wants to lick them to death.”
Field of Dreams Rescue holds an adoption day every month, alternating between Quincy, Ill., and Columbia. The number of dogs adopted varies each time.
"It could be anywhere from no dogs to four dogs at the most," Fine said.
On Saturday, three dogs were adopted. Penelope found a potential family, as well, who is waiting to finalize the adoption after moving into a new apartment. Suzi Q's new parents, Alyssa Essers and Steven Patterson, came in looking for a betta fish but left with a puppy.
“It’s a happy-ever-after story,” Harcrow said. “From being a starving stray running the highway to finding a new home.”