Sarah Welch says she’s always loved dogs. The Austin book editor and writing coach put her literary skills to work in collecting stories of rescue dogs in the new book “Austin Brown Dogs: The Shelter Dogs Who Rescue Us” ($34.95, Weeva).
The idea for the book started with her first dog, Hank, a black lab who was 9 when she and husband Matt found him at the Austin Animal Shelter.
“He was in one of those runs in the Austin Animal Center with excited dogs. He was looking up at me,” she says. “That’s what caught my eye.”
Even though he only lived with the couple for less than two years before he died, Welch writes in the book, “He made a permanent pawprint on my heart.”
After Hank, they were given a lab puppy named Oliver. “I did feel better,” she says. “We were so in love with Oliver.”
Yet her experience with Hank spurred a desire to help other older dogs.
“Senior babies have my heart,” she says.
She thought she would become a foster mom. Then in walked Bo, who was almost 10 and had a host of health problems. Welch learned that her attempt to be a foster mom for dogs would be a failure because, of course, she adopted him.
Instead, she turned to her professional skills and reached out to dog owners through Instagram to share their rescue dog stories. The book benefits Classic Canines and Friends of Austin Animal Center.
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“One thing I loved is how much these dog owners have in common,” she says. “We feel like we are alone.”
Many dogs were like Bo, whose past was a mystery but probably didn’t involve a loving owner.
Then there’s the story of Buford, who was in and out of the shelter for 14 months before he was found in the middle of Slaughter Lane covered in maggots and with bite wounds on his head and neck.
Now-owner Lori Rohre writes, “For a dog with no reason to trust humans, Buford gives us cuddles and love freely.”
And there’s Rebel, who was discovered by Courtney and Bart Emken in the middle of the road minutes after his previous owner had dumped him. “He was skinny and scared, and he had numerous lash marks on his face,” Bart Emken writes.
While Welch no longer fosters, she does volunteer to walk dogs at Austin Animal Center. “Every time I see a good dog who has been owner-surrendered, it shocks me over and over that so many people see their pets as disposable.”
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The owners in “Austin Brown Dogs” write about their rescue dogs with honesty. Things like, “My dog has severe social anxiety.” Or, “I didn’t know what to do.” Or, “I thought I was a bad dog mom.”
There’s the story of Clarice, whom owner Jessica Powers calls a “lap shark.” Powers starts with these words: “She’s not affectionate, cuddly or even particularly smart. She bites and barks and guards her food.”
And then Powers goes on: “But she’s taught me how to accept someone even when they aren’t perfect.”
Laura Lee Franks writes about her dog, Maverick, who was blind. “When I made him mine, I loved him, but still didn’t like him much. He was a very challenging puppy, which had nothing to do with the blindness and everything to do with being a puppy!”
She goes on to write: “Maverick was the hardest experience I’ve ever had with an animal but also the most rewarding.”
Some of the stories start out heartbreaking but end with joy.
Genevieve Sneed tells the story of rescuing her two dogs, Ariel and Charlotte, who were both pregnant at the time she was fostering them. Ariel, she writes, “was timid and scared and all ribs. Except for bathroom breaks she stayed in her crate, staring at the wall. I tried to let her know she was safe, our relationship was on her terms. ...”
Sneed goes on to write, “Both girls came to us neglected and fragile, but we are giving them a different view on life, and they are giving us joy and love in return.”