EAST COUNTY — As Lexi, a 2-year-old smooth collie mix, lies on her back and gnaws at her rawhide bone, her new family, the DePews, watches her contently from the couch across the living room in their Mill Creek home.
The Christmas tree is still up, but it appears ornament-less and bare near the bottom. Lexi had a fascination with tree decorations, the family explains, laughing; the tree had to be un-decorated near the Lexi-can-reach zone.
“It was almost as if she chose us,” Christina DePew says. “She had only been at the rescue for a few days when we found her.”
On Dec. 28, the DePews adopted Lexi from the Ranch Adoption Center at Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue, making her the 1,000th animal adopted in 2013. Formerly named Jasmine, the DePews renamed their new pet after Gene Witt Elementary School fifth-grader and Honor volunteer Lexi Brown, who was murdered last year.
Christina DePew, her husband, Doug, and their 15-year-old son, Derek, met a variety of dogs the evening before they adopted Lexi. But, they were looking for something special.
Besides having a fun personality, being friendly and requiring minimal training, the newest DePew would need to be comfortable with cats, as well. The family already owned seven, who weren’t going anywhere.
The DePews, also Honor volunteers, walked the prospective dogs one by one into the cat cottages — brightly painted cabins with a few cats and their toys inside — at the rescue.
Lexi, the only one intrigued by the cats, could not wait to get a closer sniff. Wagging her tail, she pulled Christina DePew forward and tried to get closer to play with the cats.
The shelter volunteers were preparing to close for the day, and they needed one more adoption to fulfill their goal of 1,000 for the year. Despite wanting to help the rescue accomplish its goal and wanting a new dog, the DePews decided to go home and think things over first.
The DePews returned for Lexi the following day. Upon arriving at the rescue, balloons and signs greeted the family, celebrating that Lexi’s adoption brought Honor to its goal.
Now, Lexi slowly is being introduced to the other furry occupants at her new home as her new family brings out a new cat for her to meet and get used to, one at a time.
The family, like many of Honor’s adoptive families, have adopted there before. The DePews fostered a cat, Sutton, in 2012, and ended up adopting him shortly after.
“They were foster failures,” Honor Executive Director Dari Ogelsby says, laughing.
Honor volunteers knew they wanted to dream big for 2013, at which time they readied their forces to secure 1,000 adoptions.
Honor volunteers spread the word through social media outlets — one of the keys to obtaining so many adoptions, Ogelsby says. When new dogs were brought in, they were listed on websites such as Facebook.
Volunteers remember putting up posts recently about three available shih tzus. Within 15 minutes, all three found new homes.
The shelter’s guidelines for which animals it accepts also helped put it in line to secure more adoptions in 2013 than in any other year since it opened in 2011.
By June, when the rescue was closing in on about 500 adoptions, Ogelsby and her team realized they had a chance at meeting their goal. Total adoptions in 2012 (dogs and cats) reached 680, and in 2013, adoptions reached 680 just for dogs, plus the adoption of 320 cats.
“It took time for us to make a name for ourselves,” Ogelsby says. “Everyone said, ‘No one will come, it’s too far,’ and that really isn’t true.”
Although Honor does not have an adoption goal for 2014 yet, the East County rescue has adopted out 22 animals so far this year.
Volunteers also have their eyes on something bigger.
In the spring, Honor will open the doors of the two-story home on its property to patrons for birthday parties. Interested individuals will have access to the kitchen to bake treats for the animals, which patrons can feed to the rescue animals later, along with pool and hot tub access. Over the next few months, volunteers will work to dust off the shelves and tidy up the home to make it party-ready for children and adults.
Setting up a community food bank to which Honor and participating companies can donate supplies such as toys, beds and food for pet owners in need is one of Honor’s future, down-the-road goals, as well.
“When an animal dies, oftentimes the owner will give us unused medication, toys, food — all kinds of stuff,” Ogelsby says. “We want to be able to share that with everyone.”
The director also hopes to offer boarding and help a veterinarian open an office on the premises, to avoid the extra cost and hassle of transporting animals to vet appointments.
With plans for the future in mind, Honor volunteers continue to focus on providing a clean, safe environment for their animals.
“We’re taking baby steps, for now,” Ogelsby says.
The DePews are happy they’ve helped Honor save more animals, and are enjoying their new family member.
As Lexi stared through the sliding-glass doors in the DePews’ living room last week, fixated on one of her new roommates — a multicolored cat who stared back at her — the family laughed.
“She’ll do just fine here,” Christina DePew says.
For more information on how to donate or volunteer, visit nateshonoranimalrescue.org.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].