By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Grafton – The famous cartoonist Charles Schulz once wrote “Happiness is a warm puppy.” Bay State Dogs, a Grafton-based nonprofit, would almost certainly add that it’s also a warm dog – of any age – in need of a second chance. With its mission to rescue and find good homes for Massachusetts canines, it’s been busy spreading that happiness to people and their furry new companions. Martha Palermo, who founded Bay State Dogs in 2011, is a dog trainer who has been passionate about helping dogs for years.
“After working in rescue for about 10 years, I saw a need for a group that would focus on finding homes for local dogs in need. Owners needing to surrender their dogs for financial reasons are heartbroken and do not want to drop off their dog at a shelter,” Palermo said.
She added that another part of the problem is that “many local shelters are full or they charge a fee that is prohibitive for these owners in financial crisis.”
A dog lover whose family has two dogs of its own, Palermo sympathized with people facing such a difficult situation. For that reason, Bay State Dogs not only offers an option for people who need to surrender their dogs, but there’s also a fund to provide temporary assistance to those who are trying to keep their dogs.
Although the organization has helped many dogs – and it even became a member of PILOT for Pets, a Massachusetts organization that transports dogs from one animal rescue to another that has a better chance of finding them homes – running the nonprofit is still challenging.
“We are a foster-based rescue, so our biggest challenge is finding foster homes,” Palermo said. “Since we do not have a facility, we are not able to take a dog in need, unless we have a foster home available for that dog. There are so many rescue groups competing for a limited amount of foster homes.”
But despite the challenges, the rewards make it all worthwhile.
“Our favorite success story is a dog named Benny,” Palermo recalled. “He was found living in a car. Everyone who knew him loved him, but he wasn’t getting any interest. He was in a foster home for months – much longer than the average stay. He did not photograph well; he looked older than he was and a little scary. He finally found a great family, and they send us pictures of his new life, which includes hiking in the mountains and sleeping on the couch. They recently adopted another one of our dogs.”
The organization, which has also helped shelters find homes for dogs, has a particular fondness for helping those who are frequently overlooked by others.
“Our greatest accomplishment is the number of senior dogs that we have been able to place in forever homes,” Palermo noted. “We make taking in the older dogs a priority.”
For more information, visit www.baystatedogs.com,