New Canaan teen spends more than a year saving dogs' lives
But Charlie and Valentino, a Great Pyrenees/Labrador retriever mix and a husky/cattle dog mix, respectively, didn't stay in Curtin's New Canaan home for long. Curtin, 18, created the organization's Connecticut branch in March 2011 to find families for these dogs and many others.
On Saturday, June 30, she held a bake sale to benefit the organization.
"We actually did extremely well," Curtin said. "Better than I thought we would do."
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But people didn't just buy a cupcake or lemonade at the bake sale. Both Charlie and Valentino found new families that day.
"The good thing is, they got adopted (that day)," Curtin said. "Those were my last two dogs, just because school is coming up."
In the fall, Curtin will be a freshman at Suffolk University in Boston. It will be an adjustment for Curtin, who said she had temporarily housed and fostered 70 dogs throughout the 15 months she ran Save A Dog A Day Connecticut.
"Basically, I saw an ad last March for a foster home," she said. "They were looking for a temporary foster home for a dog. So I emailed the lady and said, `This is my number, just call me whenever.' I didn't think she was actually going to call me like 15 minutes later."
Since then, Curtin said, she received between two and six dogs every three weeks from the organization, which is based in East Hampton, N.Y.
"It just took off from there," she said.
Curtin's history of rescuing dogs goes back to when she was 12 years old, when she found a small terrier outside her home in Stamford.
"Someone had obviously dumped (the dog), because they had shaved off all her hair," Curtin said.
Her family didn't believe there was a dog outside their home at first. Curtin said she fed the dog steak until it showed up regularly and Curtin's parents decided to adopt the dog.
When Curtin started Save A Dog A Day Connecticut, she said, her parents were supportive.
"My mother was totally open to it," she said, adding that her father seemed indifferent, but showed his support when he adopted Geo, a Great Dane/Pit Bull mix.
"He was severely abused," Curtin said of Geo, who was used as a fight dog.
"He had canine teeth marks all over his body," she said, adding that he was noticeably traumatized by this experience.
"That's probably one of the top five worst cases I've seen and we could not place him with anyone," she said.
Curtin tests every dog that comes to her through the organization.
"I evaluate them," she said. "I do a temperament test to make sure they're not going to bite your hand off."
Fortunately, she said, that's never happened.
"What you see are dogs who have been severely abused," she said.
Most of the dogs Curtin takes in are from kill shelters in North Carolina. They come in different breeds and various shapes, sizes and medical conditions.
"They'll see a vet down south," she said. "They'll get neutered down there, and spayed, because it's a lot cheaper down there."
The dogs also receive shots at a local veterinarian before they go into their new homes. The person adopting the dog pays a $150 adoption fee and receives the dog's full medical record.
"We have an adoption application," Curtin said, adding that she has two meetings with the prospective adopter before giving away a dog. The first visit is with the dog in a public setting, she said. The second is at the person's home.
"We check out the home to make sure it's right for the dog," she said.
Most of the people who adopt dogs are New Canaan residents.
"A lot of (the dogs) go to New Canaan, Stamford or Darien," she said. "And then a few of them went to Long Island."
This makes it easier for Curtin to keep contact with the dog owners and see how the dogs are doing in their new homes.
When she goes to college in the fall, Curtin will leave many of the duties to her family and friends. She said she will remain active with the organization.
"I'm still going to be doing some adoption events and hanging up some flyers, but I won't actually have dogs in my house," she said, adding that she will miss seeing the dogs.
When she is home, Curtin said she will undoubtedly see her dogs with their new families at Spencer's Run in Waveny Park, where they usually recognize her right away.
"They will run up to you and start licking your face," she said.
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