After a long journey from eastern Kentucky, Charlie's tail wagged excitedly as he greeted new friends at Happy Pet Parlor in Elk Grove Village.
The miniature pinscher mix was scheduled to be euthanized Friday, but thanks to a new organization called Rescue Warriors Corp, the little black dog with brown paws and a furry white behind is now safe in a suburban home.
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Charlie was among 34 abandoned dogs brought to Elk Grove Village on Thursday, where they were scrubbed and groomed, and made ready for their new lives -- first in foster homes, and eventually adopted to area families.
Rescue Warriors Corp was started by Jessica DiNella of Elgin, Bonnie Barrington of Lake Zurich and Debra Mallers of Marengo. The three women met through volunteering and discovered they had something in common: they are all wives of veterans.
"We have our own clique because of it, because of things that we've had to support one another through," said DiNella, who was sporting a camouflage shirt along with the other Rescue Warriors founders. "We have different things we always used to chat about personally and different things we've seen and endured."
They also share a love for helping animals, which shows in their effort to rescue cats and dogs from kill shelters throughout the Midwest. They've saved about 150 animals from euthanization since November.
"We just really wanted to be able to pay it forward, because we've all been lucky," DiNella said. "All of our spouses have come home from wars, and we want to be able to help serve animals.
She said the group eventually wants to provide companion dogs to wounded veterans.
Barrington, who is also a veteran, said fostering puppies has been helpful for her husband, who has post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Afghanistan, where he had a traumatic brain injury.
"It keeps him busy," she said, adding that wounded veterans "seem to do very well with companion dogs."
Happy Pet Parlor owner Jolie McGrath said she opened the store about a year ago with the idea of helping rescues. She started working with Rescue Warriors about six months ago and now grooms one or two dogs a week from the organization.
"It's been great because they're so appreciative and they're so personable," McGrath said of Rescue Warriors Corp. "You can just see how much this group cares."
McGrath and the volunteers at the pet parlor had their hands full Thursday night when the van packed with crates of puppies arrived. Little yelps could be heard from the dogs, which included breeds from shelties and Jack Russells to German shepherds and rat terriers. While their foster families looked on, the dogs were brought into a back room where they were bathed and groomed.
Local veteran Mark Evans, who started the Pizza 4 Patriots campaign that sends frozen pizzas to troops serving overseas, has been a foster dad for some of the Rescue Warriors Corp dogs. "It's so rewarding," he said. "We love these dogs just like our own children."
Evans said the women are "typical veteran wives that are just making this world a better place."
Allison Ptak of Geneva was at the parlor to pick up a 12-week-old collie mix named Lily. She knew she wanted a rescue dog, but decided fostering might be a better route than owning right away.
"We've never had a dog before so this is our first run," she said, adding that if things work out with Lily maybe she can stay permanently.
Rescue Warriors Corp is always looking for foster families. The organization covers all expenses, including food, vet care, training and supplies. The families just need to provide a loving home, usually for less than two weeks.
They also bring the animals to adoption events on Saturdays in hopes that they will find a "forever home."
The next adoption event will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Pampered Pet Services Resort and Spa, 1050 Dundee Ave. in East Dundee.