A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Linda Armstrong

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Linda Armstrong

It seems like every child wants a puppy for Christmas. And while we still have 314 days until Christmas, I would like to share some advice for when your child pleads for that cute, big-eyed puppy with a big, red bow for a collar on Christmas morning. Consider adopting before shopping.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA] 7.6 million companion animals enter shelters each year nationwide, an outstanding 3.9 million of that statistic are dogs. While it would be ideal for 7.6 million people to adopt an animal so shelters didn’t have to exist, I know the world isn’t a fairy godmother. But perhaps we’ve discovered a fairy godmother in the region.

Linda Armstrong is the co-founder of Sunshine Paws: a non-profit, foster organization that is determined to place rescue dogs into their forever homes.

“I had retired, officially retired in 2010, but it took two or three years to unwind the business. As my responsibilities with that business ended, I was sort of just looking for new things to do and conversation turned around to, she [Megan] knew how to do the dog thing but didn’t know how to do the business end. And I said well I could do your books and the website if you want to [actually start this organization]. It sort of just took shape from there,” Armstrong said.

While Armstrong took reins of the business aspect of Sunshine Paws, founder and partner Megan Wells took rein of the rescues.

“The president and founder is Megan Wells, and I have known Megan for more than 25 years, and I know how very gifted she is with animals. She’s always been around [dogs], trained dogs, rescued dogs; she has a ton of experience, but in addition to it she just has a gift,” Armstrong said.

While Armstrong had previous business experience, there were still surprises that came along with running a foster organization.

“Well I was shocked when I learned about the statistics, I think they’re saying now that almost 4 million dogs are taken into animal shelters every year, and I think only 10% of those animals have been spayed or neutered, so there’s just so much need. That’s what our rescue [does, we] will pull from shelters and then we make sure they get medical care, they get spayed or neutered and if they have a serious illness like like heartworms; which is an expensive treatment or surgery that’s needed we provide that. So the people adopting know what they are getting,” Armstrong said.

While Sunshine Paws shares the same purpose as shelters, they utilize different techniques to place rescues in their forever homes.

“We use the term that we’re a foster based rescue and what that basically means is that we don’t have a central facility. So when we pull animals from the shelter, we will take them, generally we take them directly for medical care, sometimes we take them for a bath first. But it depends on where they’ve come from, or what the circumstances are, but if we’re pretty sure they’re basically healthy [and] they just need some grooming that’s the first step. And then we get them in for medical care. Then they really go straight from the vet into a foster home,” Armstrong said.

“Typically our fosters have other animals, so we get to test how they get along with other animals, we have some temperament testing [done] before we pull them. But you’re never sure until you get them in a circumstance how they’re going to be with other humans, or other dogs, or cats for instance. We believe it’s a good way to test and be certain that we know the temperament of the dog before it goes into a forever home. It helps us make a better match,” Armstrong said.

Without a central location, Sunshine Paws relies heavily on social media to spread the word of current rescues available for adoption.

“We’re big users of Facebook and we now have a system of Facebook sharing; sometimes I’ll watch a Facebook post and within a very short amount of time you can view that over two thousand people have seen the post. It’s very effective in getting the word out,” Armstrong said.

While shelters provide a temporary home for rescues, fostering provides a different, more socialized environment for the rescue.

“Shelters are [a] very stressful place. I remember very vividly the first time I went into a shelter with Megan to do a pull and I was shocked. It is what it is but it’s very loud and very scary I think for the animal. We believe that the foster system that we’re using is much less stressful,” Armstrong said. “As often as possible they’re in a home environment, and I think that’s better.”