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Wagner helps pets find homes

PROCTORVILLE — Most people, if they could, were tucked inside a warm home a week ago Wednesday. But not Vicki Wagner.

The inch of snow that blanketed the area had made driving treacherous, but Wagner braved it anyway. First, she left her home in Proctorville to drive the back roads to the Little Victories no-kill animal shelter outside Ona, W.Va.

There she picked up “Baby,” an extra enthusiastic year-old Keeshond mix from one of the kennels.

Then the duo were off to the studios of WSAZ-TV in Huntington because “Baby” was about to make her television debut as the noon-time “Pet of the Week.”

It was a brief but memorable appearance as the young dog squirmed on the studio table as Wagner gave her pitch. “Baby” is just one of the dozens and dozens of rescued dogs and cats Little Victories, a non-profit group, is working to find new, safe, loving homes for.

Helping out these animals is a mission for Wagner, who started volunteering for the organization about a year ago. Already, she is on the board, as well as doing the biweekly “Pet” segment on the Huntington TV station.

A native of Tyler, W.Va., Wagner came to the area to attend Marshall University where she earned an associate degree in nursing. She worked as a nurse in the recovery room at Cabell Huntington Hospital for 10 years and has lived with her husband, Matthew, a loan officer at Huntington Federal Savings Bank, in Proctorville for the past 18 years.

No longer working at a paying job, Wagner finds herself working — gladly — at the non-paying job of a volunteer for Little Victories, where she puts in a full 60 hour work week.

She got into the animal rescue business when she took in a dog named Storm that was dumped out in her neighborhood. That opened her eyes to the pressing need for homes for abused, deserted or unwanted dogs and cats.

At Little Victories, all rescued animals are given medical care, including shots,

treatment for any diseases or injury and spaying or neutering. Usually getting an animal “adoptable” can cost around $500. However, the adoption fee is only $100 —- $150 for purebred animals.

Adoptions are made after potential owners complete a two-page application and have a home visit by a Little Victories volunteer.

Wagner can find her week filled with doing home visits, taking animals to the vets, fund-raising and working adoption fairs that Little Victories has periodically at such venues as Pullman Square and Wal-Mart stores.

Right now about one-fourth of the animals at Little Victories have come from Lawrence County and many adoptive families live in the area as well. The reasons for turning the animals over to Little Victories varies, Wagner says.

“It’s usually people either find them and don’t want to take them to the shelter where they’ll be put down or animals have been dumped at their home,” she said.

After her own experience with rescuing her dog Storm, Wagner thought by joining Little Victories she could increase her opportunities of finding homes for these animals.

“If I join Little Victories, I can help more dogs. I can cast a wider net and help a lot more than my own,” she said. “And it is because of the love I have for my rescue dog. I love my other two dogs, but there is really something special to know you

have saved a life. I want other people to know what I have experienced.”

And at least one other person agrees with Wagner’s philosophy. “Baby” has a new home.