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Forming a Connection

Prouty picked up Erica from the pound -- just a day ahead of the executioner. "When I saw her it was difficult not to cry," Prouty says. "I knew her neck must be hurting. But she still had a glow about her, a liveliness." Erica was also surprisingly affectionate, as the post had promised, nuzzling close when her ears were scratched.

Thanks to the antibiotics and warm compresses Erica received at Middleburg Humane Foundation, her neck healed quickly, and she returned to a normal weight. During Prouty's weekly shifts at the facility she took photos of Erica and reported her progress on the Best Friends Network.

As the Lab recovered, the women involved in her rescue found that what they'd done for Erica had cemented their bonds with each other. "Saving Erica was empowering," says Prouty. She and Hook, who lived within a few hours of each other, met at a restaurant for dinner. Prouty, Fagerstrom, and Lombardi then formed a spin-off online group where they could chat not just about animals, but also jobs, family, and more. They connected off-line as well. When Lombardi's Australian cattle dog, Duke, died of cancer at age 8, Prouty picked up the telephone and cried with her.

The women continued to use the original forum to save animals. After reading a posting about Fred, a Lab-hound mix in a Tennessee shelter, Prouty drove eight hours to adopt him. When Fagerstrom fell in love with Corky, an elderly abandoned Lhasa apso described in the Animals in Need forum on the Best Friends site, a network member delivered him to her.

Finally they decided it was time that the whole group got together in person. In May 2007 Prouty, Lombardi, and Fagerstrom signed up for a volunteer vacation at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, in Kanab, Utah. (Hook wanted to join them, but had just given birth to twins, so she couldn't make it.) From the moment the three arrived at the facility, their connection deepened.

During the day they cared for animals awaiting adoption and attended workshops on such topics as rescuer burnout. Evenings were more like slumber parties. "There was no lull in the conversation -- ever," says Prouty with a smile.

While checking her e-mail one afternoon at the sanctuary Prouty got word that Erica was about to be adopted by a 14-year-old girl from Connecticut named Lindsay. "Everybody was ecstatic," she recalls.

Prouty logged on to the Best Friends Network to add the happy postscript to Erica's story. "This beautiful girl has finally found a 'forever home,'"Prouty typed. "What a blessing! She more than deserves it." She signed off with her motto: UNTIL THERE ARE NONE, RESCUE ONE.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, July 2008.


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