When Sandy Boston first moved to Naperville, her search for a canine companion eventually focused on Holly, the mom of a litter of puppies.
Then there was Molly. And Drew. And Smokey. Since 1990, Boston has adopted 11 dogs from Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment, or ADOPT, a nonprofit no-kill shelter in Naperville.
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If you goWhat: ADOPT's Makin' Strides for Strays Walk-a-Thon
When: Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, May 6; 5K walk begins at 8:30 a.m.
Where: Fifth Avenue Station, 200 E. Fifth Ave., Naperville
Info:(630) 355-2299 or adoptpetshelter.org
Many were senior dogs with medical problems. Maybe missing an eye. Spinal arthritis. Deaf.
But Boston, the shelter's president, was convinced each animal deserved a home.
"They're so resilient," Boston said. "They're very smart. A lot of times when people let you down, dogs just don't."
She currently has six pooches, and several of them will be strolling in the shelter's largest annual fundraiser, the Makin' Strides for Strays Walk-a-Thon, stepping off at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, May 6, at Fifth Avenue Station, 200 E. 5th Ave., Naperville. Registration for the 5K walk begins at 7:30 a.m.
Registration is free, but participants are expected to solicit pledges. Proceeds fund the shelter's operating costs and Boston is hoping to raise $50,000.
The event typically attracts 500 people and 350 dogs, from Great Danes to picture-perfect poodles.
"It's not overwhelming barking," Boston said. "The dogs always walk together."
There will be canine contests like the All-American Male and Best Dog-Owner Look-Alikes, vendors selling pet products, face painting (for the kids) and a van filled with cages of cats and kittens ready for adoption.
A beagle named Cal will be showing off his recent makeover, shedding more than 12 pounds after Lou Ann Forbes adopted him last Christmas. Forbes is a volunteer at the shelter and already had four dogs.
But, she said, she felt she could do something for him when the 4-year-old "wobbled" by her at ADOPT.
Forbes said she fed him a strict raw diet, and within four months Cal had lost eight inches around the waist.
Now, "he is the happiest dog I've ever seen," Forbes said. "He's the only dog that gets up in the morning and kisses the other dogs."
She encourages potential owners concerned about adopting a dog with medical problems to research diet and health needs. A team of ADOPT's counselors will interview candidates who complete an application with questions ranging from allergies to backyard space.
"Be realistic," Forbes said. "Be sure you're ready to face those issues. If you are, go for it. It's really rewarding. It makes me happy every day looking at him. There he is, living his life."
Boston estimates the shelter averages between 900 and 1,000 adoptions of cats and dogs annually. It receives animals from Naperville, Aurora, DuPage and Chicago animal control shelters. ADOPT also takes dogs from high-kill areas downstate and in Kentucky.
An on-site clinic at ADOPT does spaying and neutering for other rescue groups and low-income families with pets.
Besides monetary donations, ADOPT accepts donations of dog and cat food, paper towels, bleach and laundry detergent, Boston said.
As for her deaf dog, Smokey, Boston immediately enrolled the 6-year-old Great Dane-lab mix in obedience training after she adopted him.
"His behavior was sort of escalating," Boston recalled. "He liked to tear people's clothes. I was getting really concerned that he would end up biting someone."
She learned a special kind of sign language, a series of gestures that can command the dog to stop and sit. Now, he's the mellow pooch in her pack at home.
Boston said she's learned that age is just a number when it comes to senior dogs and the animals readily adapt to new environments.
But ultimately it's their unconditional loyalty that motivates her to find homeless dogs a place of their own.
"They don't hold grudges," she said. "They brighten up a lot of people's lives."