DERRY — Penny was on her best behavior.
The small terrier mix dog was a guest of honor last week at Birch Heights retirement facility, part of a Greater Derry Humane Society program on pet care and adoption.
Humane Society volunteers spent a morning sharing stories about pet adoption. They also offered residents other ways to support pets, including pet therapy and fostering an animal waiting for adoption.
Residents gave the dogs treats and learned all about pet care and the joys of having a pet. Birch Heights residents are allowed to have small pets.
Penny is a poster pup for success, according to her owner Paula Dunlavey. She, along with her husband Martin, have been involved for many years in the Humane Society, fostering animals and adopting a few along the way.
Penny was first fostered by the Dunlaveys several years ago. They already had a larger dog, Willow, who was also adopted. The couple knew they couldn’t resist the tiny dog. After a few months, they were hooked.
“It was her personality,” Paula Dunlavey said. “She was just exceptional.”
Right now, there are several dogs listed on the Humane Society website waiting for homes. The list of cats is much longer, with about 60 now in foster care around the region.
“That’s just too many,” Dunlavey said.
The Derry Humane Society works in tandem with Salem-based Feline Friends to help find homes for cats. Neither organization has a shelter and depends on an all-volunteer network.
Sometimes there are cold spells, Dunlavey said, when there are fewer dogs needing a home. Any stray found in Derry is taken to the pound and kept for 14 days before the Humane Society is called to evaluate the dog and find a foster home. There is always a need for more foster families.
“We’re always desperate for help,” Dunlavey said. “It’s really important since we don’t have a shelter.”
Angel, a well-known dog in the community, also visited Birch Heights. The fluffy chow is also a success story.
Her owners, Henry and Elinor Camirand, are stalwart Humane Society volunteers and often walk with their dogs in the annual Derry holiday parade. The couple was also an original force behind the Derry Dog Park. Angel was also adopted through the local Humane Society.
Elinor Camirand said Angel works hard these days doing pet therapy visits to nursing homes.
Birch Heights resident Elaine Patnaude said seeing Penny and Angel made her remember her own pet, Sasha, who is now living with one of her children and regularly comes to visit.
“She is such a wonderful dog,” Patnaude said. “God put all these parts in a basket (when he made her).”
There is always a big need for foster homes for dogs and cats, Dunlavey said. Volunteers are also needed to handle other tasks like community outreach projects and pet therapy.
Birch Heights residents collected a donation to support the Humane Society as part of the series on animals. Other visitors recently included Handel With Care veterinary associates, who offered information on pet care.
To learn more about the Greater Derry Humane Society, visit derryhumanesociety.com.