Chihuahuas rescued from Texas find homes in Hamilton

Fifteen rescued Chihuahuas and other small mixed-breed dogs crossed the border and arrived in Hamilton on Sunday to go home with new owners and foster parents.

15 dogs stepped onto snow for the first time on Sunday

Dozens of dogs are heading north from Texas to Canada to find homes. 1:30

On Sunday morning, 15 dogs from Texas stepped out of their crates and their paws felt snow for the first time.

The dogs, mainly Chihuahuas and other small mixed breeds, had been on the road for three days to be adopted to new families in Hamilton.

A dog named Leona had a fitting message embroidered on her outfit. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

A group of patrons at the dog-friendly Munchies Café and Barkery on the Mountain were waiting for them, full of excitement.

Eight of the dogs already had "forever homes" they'd be going to. The other seven were going to volunteer foster owners until they could be adopted.

A bulletin board advertised the dogs on their way. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

"I can't wait to meet him," said Tracy Pitt. "It's like getting a little baby."

Pitt plans to take a dog named Jack to her home to Waterdown until he could find a permanent place. 

But none of the foster owners were 100 per cent sure they wouldn't fall in love and wind up adopting the pups themselves.

They had a term for it: "foster-fail".

"I didn't foster-fail yet," Pitt said. "But I may."

Tracy Pitt snuggled Jack, a dog she plans to care for as a foster home until it can be adopted. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Many of the people waiting for the dogs on Sunday talked about the dog-rescue community as a close-knit community. Some, like Roxanne Hein, had even been in touch with the dogs' previous foster owners in Texas.

"Now our family reaches down into Texas," she said.

Hein and her partner, Chris Costley, are going to be fostering a pair of dogs named Chloe and Honey, found on the streets of San Antonio, believed to be mother and daughter.

They've just lost a dog and said they have "lots of love to give."

Munchies Cafe and Barkery on Upper Gage Avenue in Hamilton has a front room where dogs can come inside with their owners, and a café and kitchen in the back. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

"My problem is him," Hein said, pointing to Costley. "I'm saying, 'Don't fall in love.'"

Carrie Germon said she couldn't guarantee she or her daughters wouldn't fall in love with Cinnamon, their foster dog.

She whipped out photos of Daisy, her previous rescue dog. Another dog she fostered, Skeeter, got adopted by a friend and so her kids can still see it.

While they waited, Carrie Germon showed pictures of her previous rescue dog, Daisy, to Tracy Pitt. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Rosie Henein owns Munchies, which she opened about four years ago. Since then, the community that has developed in and around the café has become very rescue-focused, she said.

Henein always wanted to work with animals, but gave up on a veterinary dream when she realized she'd have to euthanize them.

The café weds her family's bakery business history with her love of dogs. She has four at home and plans to foster at least one of the dogs coming Sunday from Texas.

Several organizations teamed up to make the cross-continent migration happen.

Juli Marchbanks, founder of God's Dogs Rescue in San Antonio, estimated the group has transported more than 2,000 dogs and puppies all over North America.

Marchbanks said an overpopulation of dogs in Texas comes from lack of enforcement of spay/neuter laws and what she described as a "very throwaway mentality" toward dogs. 

Chris Costley and his partner Roxanne Hein will foster a pair of dogs named Chloe and Honey. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

"Too many dogs die in this city every day, and we are so fortunate that we have groups like these ladies and all the ones we work with to get our dogs out of Texas; to get them up north where people respect and love them and care for them," said Debbie Davis, who rescues Chihuahuas, in a TV segment about the effort on Fox San Antonio.

God's Dogs transports the dogs up to the border, letting them out every few hours to relieve themselves. A member of the Munchies crew, Sundée Himburg, met them in a minivan in Buffalo and drove them over the border up to Munchies.

The dogs had been on the road for three days when they reached Hamilton. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Lisa Schwartz's 12-year-old son, Isaac, was one of the eager new parents. He'd been wanting a dog since he could talk, he said.

"We wanted to be able to help a dog who needed a home, who'd been discarded," Schwartz said.

Porter, a mixed breed, was the one they took home.

Lisa Schwartz, centre, hooked a leash to Porter, her new rescue dog. Her 12-year-old son Isaac, right, has been waiting to get a dog "since he could talk." (Kelly Bennett/CBC)
Isaac and Lisa Schwartz, left, play with their new pup, Porter, in the snow outside Munchies. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

When the dogs finally arrived just before 11 a.m., the group put down their coffees and breakfasts and sprang into action.

Each dog was taken out to pee, tentatively touching their feet to the snow. Some snuggled with their new owners.

The faces of the foster owners looked even more uncertain that they'd be able to let their new friends live with anyone else. 

Despite Roxanne Hein's warnings, they were falling in love.

Those who'd agreed to foster the dogs didn't sound as certain they'd be able to give them up once they arrived. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)


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