Lab Rescue Group Needs Homes for Puppies
BY BRENDA BOUSER
Special to The Pilot
Debbie Letteney's nursing background comes in handy in her current role as founder and principal foster mom for the Moore Labs canine rescue operation.
The former nursing instructor at Sandhills Community College frequently finds herself giving medicines, starting IVs, and coaxing food into puppies with parvo and undernourished mama dogs.
This Moore County mother of four has a pragmatic approach to her passion for pooches.
"We're empty nesters," she says. "These are our kids now."
In early August, Letteney drove two hours to Wingate, where she meet a Shelby rescue volunteer and picked up six Lab-mix puppies that had been abandoned at a high-kill public shelter. Letteney had engaged a volunteer pilot to airlift the pups to Moore County, but decided instead to leave a day earlier and get them herself.
It was a wise decision. Puppies are especially vulnerable to all of the many woes of underfunded public shelters, and these little chaps - three males and three females - were no exceptions. Of the nine originally left at the public shelter, one died within a few days, the victim of early weaning - Letteney estimates they were no more than 4 weeks old when left motherless at the shelter - and rampant parasite infestation.
"It's costly, and the people who work there don't have what they need to do their job," Letteney says about public shelter care. "They do the best they can, but there's not much they can do."
An exception, Letteney says, is the shelter operated by Moore County Animal Control.
"The one here is fantastic," she says.
Letteney heard about the plight of the Shelby puppies from a Moore County resident who had read about them online. Her on-the-ground Shelby contact was Marguerite Mebane, president of the Cleveland County Humane Society. Mebane herself had been alerted to the situation by a woman who was adopting a cat from the public shelter.
"Our relatively small no-kill shelter was full," Mebane says. "Turning away 10 to 20 dogs and cats a day is the harsh reality we face in our rural community. We thought we had homes for two of (the original nine) puppies locally, so Debbie agreed to take the other six."
Letteney and Mebane arranged to meet halfway, in Wingate.
"We both hit the road running and found each other in the McDonald's parking lot," Mebane says. "We transferred the puppies from one set of crates in one car to another set in the other car, and off we went on our separate ways. It could not have gone better or been easier from a rescue standpoint.
"Although we had never met before, I felt as though Debbie and I had known each other for years. That's the bond that is created through animal rescue."
The two "Shelby puppies" still with Moore Labs - males Letteney calls Wizard and Liam - are with a foster family awaiting "forever homes." The national Petfinder website currently lists 20 Moore Lab rescues, including the four Letteney has in her own finished basement. With the exception of foxhound Hooter, all are full Labs or Lab mixes, the breed Letteney and her family trained as guide dogs in their former home of Rochester, N.Y.
"They're really good family dogs, which makes them easy to place," Letteney says. "And they're my personal favorites."
Letteney, who says she is "always" in need of two- to three-week foster homes for her rescues, volunteered with N.C. Lab Rescue after moving to Moore County nearly six years ago. Her current operation is a North Carolina nonprofit, and she has applied for tax-exempt status.
Since organizing Moore Labs, she has worked with rescue groups from Atlanta to New Hampshire, insisting on one particular "must" for every dog she places - that it be allowed to sleep in the house at night.
"These dogs need to be part of the family," she says.
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