07/19/2012 06:06 pm ET Updated Sep 18, 2012

Rescue Dogs: Their Stories Matter

"He's a rescue."

How many times have you heard it said? How many times have you said it? Having a rescue dog is a matter of pride, and those words are always followed by a story.

"His owner went into a nursing home."

"Her mom gave birth to her in a barn."

Sometimes we guess.

"He was a stray; I think he was abused."

"She was found in a house; we think her owners left her when they moved."

But each story is important, and each story touches us -- after all, that is why we love our rescue dogs. The stories matter.

Wags, a seven-year-old Lab mix, always had a family. He was loved. But Wags contracted Heartworm and Wags' family could not afford the treatment. Wags became a Peppertree dog and his family turned him in with tears in their eyes. He was named for his constantly wagging tail, but as his owners drove away, his tail stopped wagging.

Wags did not get a lot of attention at adoption events except when people commented on his large size. But one day a man, who was suffering from dementia, sat down while his wife met potential dogs to adopt. She was looking at smaller dogs, but Wags was looking at her husband. He sat next to him and the man started petting his head. Wags wagged his tail.

Wags brought a lot of joy to the wife, and became her comfort when her husband left for assisted living. She was working to get Wags his therapy dog certification so he could continue to see her husband, and bring joy to others who need it.

He's a rescue.

Effie was a young Lab mix from a local shelter. She was full of energy but needed manners. She loved life, but did not understand that life had rules. She needed a patient owner, and she needed surgery. The shelter staff questioned whether it would be wise to spend their limited funds on surgery for a dog who may never get adopted. They contacted us, and Effie became a Peppertree dog.

Effie was boisterous. Effie was a pain. But she was also a charmer. She got her surgery and while she gave her foster family some wild times, she found the perfect adopter who loves her energy. Effie has years of love to give.

She's a rescue.

Gabriel was from New York City. A Shepherd mix that was picked up as a stray, Gabriel was blind, he was skin and bones, and it seemed like he had given up. But there was something about him that made Peppertree decide his life should not end in a shelter. He became a Peppertree dog.

When he arrived, we questioned his health, we questioned our sanity - he would not lift his head, he would bump into walls, and he was marking every corner he could get to. But Gabriel had a guardian angel in his foster mom.

His foster mom gave him love, she gave him good food, and she gave him a home. Soon he remembered what it was like to be a dog. He put on weight, he had a growth on his eyelid removed, and he started to play. No longer were we worried about whether Gabriel would make it, but began worrying about who was special enough to have him.

Gabriel's special family was not remarkable - they were two people with a few dogs of their own. But their willingness to accept an old, blind dog, into their home was remarkable. Gabriel loves his new canine sisters, and his new family.

He's a rescue.

Booth was a German Shepherd picked up as a stray in Washington County, New York. He spent a lot of time in a kennel. Booth was handsome, he was smart, and we thought we would have no trouble placing him. Booth became a Peppertree dog.

Booth was adopted quickly. His family loved him but soon found out he had the true Shepherd drive and he made a job for himself. Booth began protecting the home, and bit a guest. We worried this was the end for Booth, who would adopt a dog with a bite record, and could we safely place him?

But Booth's foster mom was not ready to give up. She found a police officer looking for a K9 dog. Booth was perfect for the job and loves his work, and his new dad.

He's a rescue.

India was from New York City also. She was old, she was tired, and she was a stray. Too dignified to end her days unloved, we brought her to Peppertree. She was given a bed of her own, food, and love. She died in her sleep, hours after getting a name.

She's a rescue.

They are Peppertree.

You can help an animal in need by adopting, fostering, volunteering, or donating. Find out how at

Peppertree Rescues