By Caroline Ramagos
Dog has been man’s best friend for about 15,000 years. Cindy Shotwell, owner and founder of Must Luv Dogs Rescue in Zachary, proves that friendship goes both ways. In 2012, Shotwell created a Facebook page to reunite lost pets with their owners. Soon her intention shifted from reuniting lost pets with their rightful owners to helping unclaimed dogs find safe, loving homes.
Shotwell noticed abandoned dogs near wooded areas along roadways in her community and began rescuing them. She and a friend started the most logical way they knew how—by scooping up the abandoned canines, fostering and nourishing the dogs back to health, and doing their best to find each pup a loving home.
As the number of rescued dogs grew, so did her concern about the number of shelters in the Zachary area. At the time, the West Feliciana Animal Humane Society in St. Francisville was the nearest shelter to Zachary.
While there were many great shelters in the Baton Rouge area, including Friends of the Animals, Companion Animal Alliance, and the Capitol Area Animal Welfare Society, they were too far and too crowded for the number of rescues Shotwell was fostering.
Zachary’s Dog Rescue
Using her experience in animal rescue and business operations, she formed Must Luv Dogs, Zachary’s only non-profit organization focused solely on serving abandoned and surrendered dogs. The 6-year process wasn’t an easy one. After negotiating discounts for veterinary services, joining dog food banks, creating social media pages, marketing, fundraising, and gathering a foster support network, Must Luv Dogs became an official non-profit rescue organization in 2018. That year alone, the group rescued around 80 dogs and spent more than $25,000 on vet bills. The non-profit continues to grow. In 2021, the rescue took in 122 dogs and spent nearly $45,000 on their medical expenses. Overall, the organization has rescued over 400 dogs.
When asked about the possibility of acquiring a physical location for the rescue, Shotwell mentioned how important it was to her that all the donations from local citizens and small businesses go straight to the animals’ care and veterinary needs. “I don’t want that money to go towards paying electricity bills,” says Shotwell. She also mentions that not having a physical location encourages more people to foster, which helps the dogs feel safer and gives them more opportunities to adapt to different surroundings.
“It’s really all because of the fosters,” Shotwell says. “We couldn’t work without them.”
A Fur-Ever Friend
I experienced the Must Luv Dogs Rescue in action at their adoption event held April 2 at the Zachary Farmers Market. Tails wagged, tongues licked, and smiles formed when kids and adults came to meet the audacious pups. Excitement erupted when the canines were able to walk around and smell the roses.
One of the most energetic and playful ‘good boys’ there was Forest—a 2 ½-year-old, mixed-breed dog who has been waiting the longest to find his forever home. Shotwell rescued Forest when he weighed only 35 lbs. After a year of care, vet visits, and bottle-feeding, he’s now a whopping 70 lbs. The once scared, malnourished dog is now a fun-loving, energetic pup who insists on belly rubs, cuddles and a game of fetch.
Many of the dogs rescued share a story similar to Forest, but each sweet, adoptable dog from Must Luv Dogs Rescue shows that while a dog is man’s best friend, all it takes is one person to prove that a man can be dog’s best friend, too.
Check out these adorable, adoptable pups:
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