Old shoes could help save a Lab’s life

Jack, a rescued Lab with one of his front legs amputated, became a therapy dog at the Mount Pleasant library where young children would read to him.

As a family, the only dog we really owned was Princess, a Springer Spaniel born during Hurricane Hugo on Johns Island. Princess was the family pet, and when she died, I buried her in the backyard. There were a few other strays brought home by various children during college, but no pet ever replaced Princess, because no other pet could.

People and their pets create bonds that often allow people to treat their pets like, well, people. And some people become specifically attached to a particular breed.

In the Lowcountry, there are groups that seek to save and rescue greyhounds, Great Danes, golden retrievers, coon hounds and a few others. That’s a regular Heinz 57 variety of pet pooches in all shapes and sizes.

Do you know the most popular breed of dog in the United States, which has been No. 1 for 25 consecutive years? It’s not the poodle, bulldog or beagle. It’s the Labrador retriever. We’re not the only ones who like this dog. The Lab also is popular in the United Kingdom and Canada.

The dog’s reputation for being family-friendly, easygoing and loyal is noteworthy. Most of us would appreciate a couple of humans in our lives exhibiting those qualities.

Here’s the rub, though. Why would a dog so popular also need a group trying to save it?

Lowcountry Lab Rescue was founded in the late 1990s. When Gail Golightly moved to Charleston in 2000, she was asked to serve as a foster parent for a Lab until a permanent adoption home could be located. The dog is bred to please people. As she likes to tell the story, after a weekend as a foster parent, “the dog owned us.”

Golightly is now a volunteer with this group and they have managed to save 100 Labs in each of the past 10 years. Not every dog makes it to adoption. Some are too sick or undernourished. Makes you wonder how humans could ignore such a kind, gentle animal that often seeks nothing but attention and affection.

Let me tell you about Jack, a yellow Lab (they come in three colors). He was rescued at the age of 3 after being hit by a car. Jack couldn’t shake hands; one of his front legs was amputated. Instead, he won over people with his personality.

After staying with one family for seven years, he found another home and claimed another job. Jack became a therapy dog at the Mount Pleasant library. Young children would read to Jack. He’d just listen and didn’t seem to mind if a young reader messed up a word or two. After all, he more than most, knew about stumbling.

In an effort to raise some money for the Lowcountry Lab Rescue, the group is asking the community to donate its gently used shoes. These shoes will be sent to micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries that will clean, repair and resell whatever’s collected. The goal is to collect 2,500 pairs of shoes. The deadline for donating is May 15.

There are eight collection sites and those are identified on the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Lowcountry-Lab-Rescue-22205519508/.

Once the shoes are collected, the group will be paid by the pound. How perfect.

I’ve never really thought of a Lab being in need of rescue, rehabilitation or rehoming. The chocolate, black and yellow Labs I see throughout the Lowcountry seem quite secure in who and where they are. When that loyal and trusting nature is abused or neglected, it’s nice to know there’s a group around to ride to the rescue.

By the way, after a distinguished career serving others, Jack the therapy dog died a few months ago. I wonder if there’s a chance he might bump into my Princess? I would like that.

Reach Warren Peper at peperwarren@gmail.com.