By Sean Barron
Johnna Blystone may be reluctant to concede that the world is going to the dogs, though she hoped that a dog would be going to her.
“I love animals; I like every single kind,” the 9-year-old Austintown girl said as she held and stroked a mostly-white Jack Russell terrier.
Johnna was among those who came to Saturday’s first Adopt-a-Thon event at the Mahoning County Dog Pound and Adoption Center, 589 Industrial Road on the city’s West Side.
Johnna and her parents, Brian and Rosalyn Blystone, were looking for a second dog to accompany Ooga, the family’s 8-year-old hound-mutt mix, Rosalyn explained.
A steady stream of people flowed into the facility to walk and interact with the estimated 60 dogs up for adoption during the three-hour event, the goal of which was to get as many animals as possible from the pound to compassionate and loving homes, organizers said.
Rosalyn called her daughter “an animal junkie,” saying that Johnna learned to train Ooga largely by watching Animal Planet. One of Johnna’s heroes is Victoria Stilwell, a well-known dog trainer, author and TV personality who has a dog-training show on that cable channel. “It was about the biggest day of her life,” Brian said, referring to when Johnna received a reply to a letter she had written to Stilwell.
So, what career does Johnna someday hope to pursue?
“I want to grow up to be an animal-behavior specialist,” she said.
Providing assistance during the gathering were numerous volunteers including Lisa Zarconi of Niles, who started at the dog pound about a month ago and spends several hours of most weekends there.
Zarconi was on hand to talk to people about one of the pound’s newest arrivals: a beagle with no name that had been recently dropped off.
“I had a beagle growing up, so I know a lot about the breed,” she said.
Zarconi, whose 10-year-old son, Zachary Badyna, also is an animal lover, explained the dogs’ personalities to people wishing to adopt so they could decide if a good fit was in the making, she noted.
Several area animal-rescue organizations were represented at the event, including Close to Home Animal Rescue, Angels for Animals Inc. and Northeast Ohio Lab Rescue.
Close to Home, which started in December 2009 and has around 25 volunteers, runs local foster homes as well as some in the Cleveland area, noted Amy Quinlan, co-founder. A primary goal is to pair dogs and cats of all ages and breeds to suitable companions, she explained.
“We’re the match.com for dogs,” Quinlan added.
Close to Home also runs a Senior to Senior program, in which dogs age 8 or older are matched with those 65 and up, she continued. The $50 fee from participants includes heart-worm testing, a vaccine to prevent kennel cough, a rabies shot and spaying and neutering, she noted.
Since its inception, Close to Home has saved about 476 dogs and cats, Quinlan said.
Many dog-pound volunteers also post information about dogs in the facility on www.petfinder.com , an online database of adoptable pets in the U.S., Canada and beyond, noted Paulina McCallum, founder of Canine Crusaders Inc. and a pound volunteer.
Anyone who adopted an animal at Saturday’s Adopt-a-Thon paid $50, which included a dog license and shots for diseases such as distemper and parvo, a highly contagious and often fatal viral disease. An additional $80 was required for spaying and neutering, McCallum continued.
The pound is filled largely because some people drop off their pets after deciding they no longer can afford to take care of the animals, noted Matt Ditchey, county dog warden. A contributor is the difficult economy, he said.
“These are nice dogs that deserve a second chance,” Ditchey continued, adding that he also works with rescue groups to get animals into loving, caring hands and vastly reduce the number of animals to be euthanized.
The dog pound’s adoption hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays.