LUMBERTON — Jack has 1,854 things to be thankful for this holiday season — one for every mile his new family drove to and from Woodstock, Ill., to give him a better life.
For Lisa Kucharski, 21, and her boyfriend Logan Kunzie, 20, the pet project was worth it. Jack, the Australia Shepherd, wagged his tail and burrowed his head into Kucharski’s lap when they met for the first time on Sunday.
“I think they know when their new owners are here for them,” said Jordan Ferry, a weekend staff member at the Robeson County Humane Society Friends for Life Animal Shelter.
As Kucharski snapped the leash onto Jack’s collar, Lynn Provosty, department head for Animal Rescues, credited the Internet with shrinking the world so that orphaned animals can find new owners from far away.
“We thank God for the Internet,” Provosty said. “People from all over the country can find out about the animals we have here.”
Kucharski, a Communications major at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., first learned of Jack after her mother posted his picture on her Facebook page. The Australia Shepherd, with a white coat punctuated with black spots, looked identical to Kucharski’s own pet who died two years ago. The two dogs had something else in common, a name — Jack.
Kucharski is excited to introduce Jack to the rest of her family, saying that Australia Shepherds can be friendly or hesitant and a “little territorial, but not mean.”
Kucharski, the self-described animal lover, also has an African Clawed Water Frog named Freddy at home. She has had him for 14 years.
“I got him in second grade from my teacher,” Kucharski said. “He was just a tadpole. I did some research and found out they can live until they’re about 30.”
The Humane Society doesn’t always allow adoptions to college students, as their homes are not always permanent. But Kucharski’s track record and recommendations convinced them that she could provide a good home for Jack.
“I’ve been training dogs since I was 8,” Kucharski said. “I started as a member of 4-H.”
Kucharski, who has taken classes on how to teach obedience and showmanship, says she will be patient with Jack in order to find what motivates him — whether it’s treats or lots of attention.
Aside from his breed, not much is known about the orphaned animal, who was rescued from the Robeson County Animal Shelter in October. Jack, whose clean teeth suggest he is just a puppy, was on his way to becoming a statistic — if not rescued, he would have been euthanized.
Provosty blames the epidemic of stray dogs and cats to a poor economy and families not being able to care for the animals, as well as to the lack of spaying and neutering.
To combat the problem, the animal shelter at 3180 W. Fifth St., which is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is offering a voucher redeemable at any veterinarian’s office in Robeson County for a free spay or neuter. A person making less than $33,510 a year is eligible. Two people making less than a combined income of $45,390 a year are also eligible.
All animals available for adoption at the shelter, which averages 300 adoptions a year, have either been spayed or neutered.
For those who are unsure if they can keep a pet, providing a foster home is an option. In that case, the Humane Society provides food and amenities at no cost to the foster family.
For now, there is one less dog to account for at the Humane Society, which has 36 dogs and cats looking for homes, including two litters of six puppies.
At his new home, both at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. and in Woodstock, Ill. Jack will have plenty of room to run.
“He will be part of a family for the rest of his life,” Kucharski said.
And if he’s anything like her frog Freddy, that will be a very long time.