CHELSEA — Murphy, a brown-and-white terrier mix, enjoys his new home. Back from the pet groomer’s, where he had his hair cut short, the friendly little pup climbs up on a couch and snuggles.
Though he’s lived at Stephanie and Travis Towle’s house in Chelsea for only four days, Murphy seems right at home and has struck up a friendship with Sophia Loren, the female house Pomeranian. Both dogs are 3 years old. They sleep at opposite ends of a couch.
Stephanie Towle adopted Murphy from Puppy Love Inc., a dog-rescue organization based at Bailey Island that brings dogs affected by disasters and dogs in “high-kill shelters” to new adoptive homes in Maine.
Puppy Love, run by Ed and Laurie Blaine, has placed more than 500 dogs in new homes over the last three years. Louisiana alone still has an animal death rate of more than 100,000 per year while nationally, 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year. Sterilization of pets is not done as routinely in the South as it is in the Northeast, leading to pet overpopulation.
“He was a Death Row dog. He was literally at death’s door,” Stephanie Towle said of Murphy. “I saw his picture on the Internet. He looked like a sweet dog.
He looked like he was saying, ‘Help me! Take me home with you.'”
Towle filled out an application to adopt Murphy that included a background check of references and a talk with her veterinarian.
“I had to wait a good month for Murphy,” she said. “They ship them all up in a van at the end of the month. This month they had 12 dogs. Last month they had 15 dogs.”
The fee to adopt a dog from Puppy Love is $375. This covers the cost of spaying and neutering the animal, transportation from Louisiana to Maine, wellness exams, vaccinations, heartworm testing and care for the dogs before they leave Louisiana and two days after they arrive in Maine.
Towle picked up Murphy on Labor Day.
“He acted like he was glad to be here,” she said. “He’s not a barker. I would say he’s the perfect dog. He’s friendly and loving and well-behaved. He just wants to please you. He wants to be loved.”
Towle started looking for a second dog on the Internet in May. She used Petfinder.com and typed in her zip code to see only dogs living within a radius of 150 miles of her home.
“I came across all these rescue groups, a lot of them in the Northeast,” Towle said. “I started reading about their mission. I found out about ‘high-kill shelters.’ There are also ‘low-kill shelters’ and ‘no-kill shelters.'”
She said high-kill shelters will only hold an animal for a week before it’s euthanized, if it’s not claimed by a rescue group or an individual. “Our society has become a throwaway society and that includes your animals,” Towle said.
Towle said Ed and Laurie Blaine run Puppy Love Inc. out of their home rather than from a centralized shelter. They work with a group of people who run foster homes to temporarily shelter dogs before and after they are adopted. And in Louisiana, they have 78-year-old Rita Bingham, who runs a humane society and helps select the dogs for transport to Maine.
Towle works as a dental hygienist while her husband is a car dealer.
“I’ve had dogs for 15 years,” she said. “I had my first Pomeranian 15 years ago. I love the breed.”