Karla Meador's dogs have a pretty good life.
Her fenced backyard backs up to Lake Norman so the dogs can go swimming or just soak up some rays. Meador even bought a pickup, golf cart and pontoon boat just so they can take frequent rides on land or water. One of her dogs even jumps right in the kayak with her.
The dogs come and go as they please using the doggie door. Meador feeds her dogs nutritious food - not a surprise since she considers herself a health nut - and makes sure to give them lots of hugs, kisses and scratches behind the ears. On a cold night, the dogs spread out in front of the fireplace, and if Meador is lucky, maybe the dogs will save her a spot.
"People come to my house and say, 'Can you adopt me?' " the Denver resident joked.
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Meador, 45, has always been around animals. Stray cats and dogs were always showing up or being dumped on her family's property "in the boonies." Meador learned the importance of animal rescue early on, and it stayed with her. For 25 years, she has been rescuing, fostering and adopting homeless animals, most recently with Tri-County Animal Rescue, Foster Charlotte Area Dogs, Boston Terrier Rescue of North Carolina, Blue Ridge Boxer Rescue and North Carolina German Shepherd Rescue.
Usually, Meador fosters dogs that are in danger of being euthanized because of age, medical problems or behavioral issues. The rescue groups pay for the dogs' care, but Meador is not shy about forking out her own money to help a dog in need. She has rescued hundreds of dogs over the years, and not all of them came from a rescue organization able to foot the bills.
"I helped rescue a litter of puppies that were on Interstate 85," Meador said. "They were running back and forth in the middle of the interstate, but I slowed down traffic and got every one of them. I couldn't get the momma, but I went door-to-door until I found every one of them homes."
Shanti, a 3-year-old Labrador mix, was living in a parking lot at a Mooresville hotel because her owners could not keep her inside the building. Three-year-old Samson, a boxer, had been turned away by three families before appearing on Craigslist. Maisy and Harley, both 8-year-old boxers, spent their lives being used to breed and then were dumped at a shelter. They stayed there for six months.
All four dogs became a permanent member of Meador's family. Harley has since passed away. But when one dog is adopted or leaves this earth, it is not long before Meador is caring for another one. A month ago, the information technology manager started fostering Buddy for Boston Terrier Rescue. The 2-year-old dog was losing his vision, and his owners were unable to pay for the surgery.
Boston Terrier and Meador paid $2,000 to get Buddy the surgery he needed to improve his vision. Buddy is taking five medications a day and visits a veterinarian in Charlotte weekly as he recovers. Meador said it may take several weeks for the surgery to take effect, but she has already seen a difference in his vision. Now, Buddy just needs to find a permanent home, ideally with a family that has other dogs but no children younger than 5.
"I have people that specifically request adopting a dog from me," Meador said. "It's like doggie boot camp here. I keep the dog. I housebreak it. I teach it to walk on a leash and listen to commands. I clean them up, get them in good shape and find them a home."
Meador is hoping to turn her animal rescue experiences into a book one day. Some of her funny stories can be seen on her blog, www.ifdogstalked.blogspot.com, where Meador posts pictures of her dogs and gives them voices. Meador also wants to form a nonprofit animal rescue group, If Dogs Talked, this year.
"I've got a wicked, witty sense of humor so it writes itself pretty much," she said. "Everybody says do what you love and the passion will follow. If nothing else, I have this sense of humor and this passion to share it with my friends and family. I love to write and I love dogs."