Pure and Utter Joy


Jack Houvouras

Jack Houvouras

This is one of my favorite photographs. The quality isn’t great and it won’t win any awards, but it’s special to me for two reasons. First, it’s a reminder of my tenure as president of Little Victories Animal Rescue Shelter, one of only two no-kill animal shelters in West Virginia. And second, it captures a moment of pure and utter joy when a frightened and homeless dog is finally adopted. This image is what Little Victories is all about.

The name of the dog in this photo is Baxter. He was one of five puppies brought to the Little Victories farm in the back of a pickup truck on July 22, 2016. That day was particularly hot and the puppies were near death from heatstroke. Our staff immediately took them inside and laid them in a bathtub to cool them off and get them water. Their gums were white, and they were infested with fleas. What’s more, it became obvious that these animals had never been held and were terrified of people.

After they were stabilized, the pups were transported to a veterinarian for medical attention. Following several weeks of special care at our facility, the puppies were in good health and all were eventually adopted … except for Baxter. He was still very scared of people and would urinate whenever he was picked up. As such, the staff had a difficult time finding him a home. But, one day, a patient young woman came in and fell in love with Baxter, despite his nervous habit. That day Baxter found a loving home, and his life was forever changed. Today, he is happy, healthy and no longer scared of people.

I became involved with Little Victories in 2012 when the charity’s founder, Sue Brown, asked me to join the Board of Directors. I liked Sue immediately, and, more importantly, I respected her. She was a gentle, caring and compassionate individual who was a champion for the many homeless and abused animals in our community. When my own dog died unexpectedly later that year, no one was more understanding and empathetic than Sue. She checked on me regularly to see how I was dealing with the loss and was always available to talk.

In 2013, Sue was diagnosed with cancer and died a few months later. Before she passed away she asked me to take over as president of the board and do my best to keep the charity she founded alive. While it wasn’t a challenge I was prepared to take on, I couldn’t say no to my dear friend. I soon realized I was in over my head and unsure what the future held for the organization. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but with the help of a strong board, a dedicated staff and tireless volunteers, Little Victories is still standing today. Last year Little Victories found loving homes for 151 dogs and 118 cats.

Unfortunately, there are more dogs and cats out there, just like Baxter, who need homes. And so the challenges continue for Little Victories. It costs $1,000 a day to run our organization, which currently houses 75 dogs and 30 cats. Today, I ask you to consider helping us find loving homes for the homeless and abused animals in our region. Please consider adopting a dog or cat, becoming a foster, volunteering or making a donation. You can learn more at www.littlevictories.org. As Sue would say, every life we save is a little victory.

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