IMMOKALEE — When Penny DeClerico heard about the 48 dogs surrendered by a local breeder last week, her heart broke.
“They’re the best dogs in the world,” DeClerico, 58, said.
As news reports showed faces of the dogs being turned over to Collier County Domestic Animal Services, Sammy, a rust-colored 5-year-old female, tugged at DeClerico’s heartstrings so powerfully, she drove from Punta Gorda to Immokalee for the adoption.
It was held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Immokalee Shelter, hosted by Domestic Animal Services.
Though there were 48 dogs, only 11 were able to be adopted. But, with one sick with diarrhea, only 10 found new homes. Four remained with the breeder, Arthur Perkins.
The remaining 33 dogs — four nursing mothers and 29 puppies — remained at the Naples Humane Society. Some puppies have been weaned, but others are as young as six weeks old and cannot yet be adopted.
Since DeClerico’s family golden retriever died nearly two years ago and she has been wanting to get another one. Sammy was her one pick.
But, DeClerico wasn’t the only one.
Nearly 30 people flocked from all over the state to rescue one of the dogs. Calls came in from as far as Ohio, Kathy Drew of the shelter said. When reviewing applications, 80 people were pre-approved.
“I think this is terrific, the way the community rallied around these pups that need a home,” Drew said.
But with so much interest, DAS opted to hold a lottery.
DeClerico had one shot. She asked to see Sammy when she arrived at the shelter. Despite the nagging fleas creating a haze around the long rust colored hair, DeClerico was in love.
“Are you shy?” DeClerico asked Sammy, who stood next to her calmly and watched the other dogs. “Are you worried about the others?’
Kathleen Dammert was standing with DeClerico when she was bonding and said the teats hung so low on Sammy that she may have been bred every six months since she was 1.
“I’ve been trying to get the dogs away,” Dammert, 49 said about the breeder, Perkins. “The thing that scares me is that they let him keep four. He’ll just start again.”
Dammert had adopted a dog from Perkins before and said the conditions were deplorable. She came today to see if she too could take home a dog.
Sammy was part of the first round of tickets drawn at 11:45 a.m. DeClerico was anxious.
Silence befell the eager crowd and Drew finally read the first winner. Mark Dahlberg won Sammy. DeClerico sighed.
“I’m sad, but I know all these will go to good homes,” DeClerico said.
While DeClerico didn’t get to take home Sammy, she still was given the opportunity to rescue another golden retriever. Other dog rescue groups attended the event today reminding dog-lovers that there are still plenty of dogs who need a loving home.
“So, even if you don’t win the lottery, you have another option,” DeClerico said.
She filled out an application with Gulf Coast Golden Retriever rescue in Port Charlotte.
As for Sammy, Dahlberg was thrilled to have her join his family in Fort Myers in a week.
“I have two other goldens, 10 and four,” Dahlberg said. “I thought Sammy would be a great addition to the family. This is a perfect way to give a dog a home.”