Puppy love abounded Saturday as hundreds of local animal lovers flocked to a special event seeking homes for more than 50 rescued dogs.
At the fifth annual Saving Train pet adoption event at Southern Oregon Subaru, dog people had the opportunity to test walk a new, rescued, four-legged family member or support Southern Oregon Humane Society.
More than a dozen docile shelter dogs found loving homes in the first hour of the fundraiser and adoption event, according to SoHumane Executive Director Karen Evans. The shelter rotated a selection of about 70 pets ready to adopt at the tent event.
Among those taking a pet for a test walk were the Montgomery family of Central Point, drawn to a white, hypoallergenic poodle mix named Doodle. Dee Dee Montgomery wavered between giving her a new name of Snowball and firmly saying no to her daughters as they took her for a test walk outside the tent.
It was a day of big decisions. Dee Dee said she'd dropped by the dealership because she'd accidentally left behind her sunglasses in her old Subaru during a trade, but couldn't say no when her teen daughters wanted to take a look.
"Just don't fall in love," a volunteer joked as Dee Dee grabbed the leash.
Last year, 42 dogs were rescued from high-kill California animal shelters at the event, and days after the number jumped to more than 50, according to dealership General Manager Randy Nidalmia, keeping his Queensland blue heeler Bindi on a leash, allowing her to make new canine friends.
Those who don't have space in their homes for another dog could still help the no-kill shelter in other ways, Nidalmia said. The dealership donated $25 for every test drive, and through Subaru of America's "Share the Love" program any vehicle purchased or leased that day included a $250 donation to the shelter. The dealership donated $1,000 to the local humane society last year, with about $700 of that coming from test drives.
The Saving Train program has saved about 7,500 animals in 10 years, according to Evans. Among longtime proponents of the Humane Society program were Rene and Robert Galas, who considered a young, mixed-breed dog named Morton at the event.
They've adopted two dogs through the program, now ages 7 and 4, and Rene said she won't get a dog anywhere else. Robert said the pets are therapeutic to his wife, instinctively attending to Rene when her MS symptoms flare up.
As owners of Father & Son Jewelry in Medford, the couple try to support SoHumane with $50 gift certificates to new pet owners in the name of their adopted pet.
"It's from their adopted 'child,' " Robert Galas said.
SoHumane volunteer Matthew Torassa of Medford, who only recently joined his wife in volunteering, pulled Morton from his pen and let the dog rest on his lap. Volunteers attended to the pets, giving them "potty breaks" and attention.
"Sometimes it's just getting 'em out with a little bit of love," Torassa said.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.