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K-9 Stray Rescue celebrates 20 years

Carole Powell (right), founder of K-9 Stray Rescue, sits with Polar, a dog that was found tied to a tree in the woods in Atlanta, MI. Lake Orion resident Rachel Krause (left) is fostering Polar’s mate, Willow, and the seven puppies she just gave birth to. (click for larger version)
November 10, 2010 - It all started with one woman rescuing one dog at a time and finding it a loving home.

Two decades later, thousands of dogs have been saved while hundreds more continue to be adopted every year.

This is the legacy of Dryden resident Carole Powell and the group she founded in 1990, the Oxford-based K-9 Stray Rescue League.

"I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I didn't do what I could to help the situation," Powell said.

Over the weekend, the K-9 Stray Rescue League, located at 2120 Metamora Rd., celebrated its 20th anniversary with a two-day open house.

"I've been to a lot of different rescues and seen all kinds of situations, but this is the most honest, ethical rescue that I believe is out there," said Goodrich resident Chris Carlson, who's been volunteering with the group for nine years. "It's all done by volunteers. No one is paid here. We all do it for the love of the dogs."

Powell was on hand at the open house to celebrate the group's accomplishments, help find new homes for the current crop of dogs and reflect on the organization's history.

"If you live to be 100, you'll never meet a person like Carole Powell," Carlson noted. "There is not another person in the world like her. She's in it totally for the animals."

Humble beginnings

Sara Ault, of Ortonville, enjoys some quality time with a little dog named Groucho. (click for larger version)
The year was 1989 and Powell had lost her own little dog.

She visited the Oakland County Animal Control facility to see if her pooch had been found.

What she saw greatly disturbed her.

"I had never been to an animal control facility before," Powell said. "I was just shocked at the number of strays there and nobody (was) coming to pick them up."

Her dog wasn't there, so she picked out another little dog and took it home.

A few days later someone found her dog and now she had two. But Powell wasn't content to rescue just one dog.

She now had a mission.

"I would stop every day after work at the Oakland County Animal Control facility, see which dogs were on the list to be euthanized the next day, and pick one dog at a time," she said. "I couldn't stand the thought of the dogs being put to sleep."

Powell would rescue the dog, get it whatever veterinary care it needed, then find a home for it by standing outside area businesses.

"I tried to quit doing it, but I just couldn't. I just kept having nightmares (about the dogs being put to sleep)," she said.

If you look up ‘loyal’ in the dictionary, there’s a photo this big black German Shepherd, right next to the word. His name is Thor and he’s looking for a good home. (click for larger version)
Powell soon realized that rescuing one dog at a time simply wasn't enough. She found a facility in Attica called Arbee Kennels that would house dogs for her at a good rate.

In 1990, Powell's mission officially became the K-9 Stray Rescue League. Two years later, she purchased the house at 2120 Metamora Rd. that would become the group's headquarters and kennel facility.

Her dedication to the cause was so great that Powell put up $20,000 of her own money to buy the house, plus $50,000 from her retirement fund to renovate it and bring it up to code.

K-9 Stray Rescue today

Today, the state-licensed rescue facility can house a maximum of 55 dogs, who live in comfort until they can find a permanent home.

"We're a no-kill shelter," Carlson said. "They stay here until they're adopted. It doesn't matter if they're here for a year or two years. There's no time limit."

In addition to the kennel facility, the group also has many volunteers who open their homes – and their hearts – to dogs as foster parents. "We need foster homes because some dogs don't do as well in the kennel environment," Carlson explained. "They do better in a home."

Over the years, K-9 Stray Rescue has provided dogs for U.S. Customs and Leader Dogs for the Blind.

These days the rescue's all about family dogs.

"Our main focus now is to try to provide family dogs that are suitable for homes with kids or adults that want a running partner, things like that," Powell said.

At its high point, the rescue was adopting out more than 900 canines per year.

"With the economy the last three years, that's gone down," Powell explained. "We're lucky to do 500 now at this point."

Unfortunately, many folks simply cannot afford to adopt a dog right now.

By the same token, many people also cannot afford to keep the dogs they have, so there's an increase in homeless pooches.

"Now the need is almost as bad as it was when I started doing this because of the economy," Powell said.

They don't have to be perfect

When it comes to who gets saved, K-9 Stray Rescue follows Powell's lead and does not discriminate.

"(Powell) doesn't take the most pretty dogs, that are all groomed up or look their best," Carlson said. "It doesn't matter if they need an amputation, if they have heart worm, if they have an eye problem, diabetic dogs, dogs that 16-17 years old, broken bones, ear infections – she takes anything and everything."

K-9 Stray Rescue gets them the medical care they need, then finds a loving home for them. Before they're adopted, all the dogs are updated on their shots, tested for heartworm and either spayed or neutered so they don't contribute to the canine overpopulation problem.

If a dog cannot be placed in a home for one reason or another, then Powell takes them in herself.

"I usually end up taking the rejects – dogs that have come from such a bad situation that you can't really trust them to go into a family situation," she said.

Right now, she owns and cares for 15 dogs.

A temporary home

Even though dogs are welcome to live as long as they need to at K-9 Stray Rescue, the group does its best to ensure it's the shortest stay possible.

"My objective is to try to have this be a very temporary situation for them," Powell said. "I want to get them into the right homes as quickly as I possibly can, so I can go out and save more."

Even though they're constantly being cared for at K-9 Stray Rescue's facility, Powell admitted she can't bear seeing all those dogs in their kennels

"I hate seeing caged animals. I don't like seeing them in the cages even to this day," she said. "I like to see them out here with people, enjoying themselves."

Good stories

Right now, K-9 Stray Rescue has a black German Shepherd named Thor, who's looking for a good home.

Thor's greatest quality is his loyalty.

He was found in Tuscola County by the side of a highway.

Everyday for about three days, a man driving to work would see Thor by the road and the dog would start following his vehicle. He'd stop and try to convince the dog to get in his vehicle, but Thor would always run into a nearby ditch.

On the fourth day, the man called animal control, who sent out an employee to investigate. The employee gave Thor a biscuit and followed him into the ditch.

There a dead female rottweiler was found. She apparently had been hit by a car.

"(Thor) was trying to get somebody's attention to help his mate," Powell said.

But Thor isn't the only dog at K-9 Stray Rescue to exhibit heroic qualities.

Powell said one of their adopted dogs saved an entire family by alerting them that their house was on fire.

Another adopted dog prevented a baby, who had gotten loose from his crib, from heading down the stairs. He did it by holding onto the baby while getting the parents' attention.

"We've got a lot of good stories," Powell said.

A family of dogs in need right now

Right now, K-9 Stray Rescue has a whole family of dogs in need of good homes.

Some hunters in Atlanta, Michigan found two dogs tied to a tree in the woods. The dogs appear to be a mix of Husky and some thinner, fine-boned breed such as a Whippet or Greyhound.

The male's been named Polar, while the female's called Willow. Willow was pregnant when she was found and has since given birth to a litter of puppies containing six females and one male.

A third dog, same mixed breed, was later found in Atlanta under the same circumstances. This female, now named Snowcap, is believed to be Polar and Willow's daughter from a previous litter. All 10 dogs are currently in need of good homes.

Volunteers make the difference

Powell proudly admitted that K-9 Stray Rescue couldn't do all the good work it does or have helped as many dogs as it has over the last 20 years without the countless volunteers who have given their time, money and labor to the cause.

"We have a really good board of directors and everybody plays an active role," she said.

Carlson became a volunteer nine years ago after adopting a dog from the rescue group.

"When I saw what K-9 Stray Rescue was all about, I was in 100 percent, both feet," she said. "That's how many other volunteers started. You can't help but get involved."

"We're always in need of volunteers and foster homes," Carlson noted.

Looking toward the future

The day K-9 Stray Rescue goes out of business due to a lack of abandoned, unwanted and abused dogs will be the happiest day of Powell's life.

"I would like to see the day when there's no need for us to do this," she said. "I would like to see people be more responsible when it comes to their animals. I would like to see everybody spay and neuter their pets, so there aren't so many dogs in need."

To learn more about the K-9 Stray Rescue League, please visit or call (248) 628-0435.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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