Growing up, Suzi Faulkner always knew she wanted a rottweiler.
She just never knew she would one day live with 10 foster rottweilers and two of her own - and one Akita - and would have a job that included rescuing hundreds of the breed.
But rottweilers have quickly become Faulkner's life work. Fourteen years ago, she was given a rottweiler that was sold out of a pickup truck. The dog was poorly bred and his story made Faulkner, now 42, realize how many rottweilers were in similar situations.
Her love for the breed driving her to action, she started volunteering with the Atlantic Rottweiler Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit rescue organization in Mooresville. And soon after, in 2006, she became its president.
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Her job description includes fostering some of the rescue dogs, working to make sure the dogs that come in are properly socialized and processing the adoption applications and making house visits to ensure a successful adoption. She also organizes fundraising events like an upcoming car wash/dog wash and the foundation's annual adoption fair in the fall.
She donates a portion of her Mooresville business, 4 Paws Pet Salon, to house rescued rottweilers. The grooming facility that triples as a boarding kennel and a place for dog training classes is located on Brawley School Road, close to Faulkner's house.
"I do a little bit of everything," she said. "Even though it is strictly volunteer stuff, we still have to run it like a business."
But all the work becomes worth it when Faulkner visits with one of the dogs months after it was adopted and sees its happiness with its new family.
"They got the gold ring at the end," she said.
One of her favorite success stories is the case of Skylar, a "wild child" rottweiler who came to the foundation but was having trouble being adopted. Faulkner and others at the foundation quickly realized that Skylar needed to have a job and contacted a Rowan County's sheriff deputy, who helped put Skylar through K-9 training school. Skylar is now a certified K-9 officer and the sheriff deputy's partner.
Happy endings at the foundation happen often: last year, around 60 to 70 dogs were adopted. But for the dogs unsuccessful in finding a new home, the foundation has a firm "no-kill" policy.
"If they have to stay here, they stay until they get a new home," said Faulkner.
The only times the rottweilers are euthanized are when they are terminally ill or have an unfixable problem, like biting. And Faulkner considers those trips to the vet the hardest part of her job, since she sits with each dog as they are put down.
"I'm kind of the only person they have, and I want them to know they were loved," she said.
Faulkner fell in love with the breed as a child and hates the misconceptions surrounding rottweilers like the belief they are not kid-friendly dogs and that they are vicious.
"There's no dog born inherently vicious," she said. "They're actually a sweet, gentle, loyal breed of dog."
And Faulkner intends to continue working to help as many rottweilers possible through the foundation.
"I would love (for the foundation) to be able to have its own facility and not be piggybacking off my business," she said. "And eventually my goal would be not to rescue because there are no more (rottweilers) in need."