Mayor David McCauley recognizes the efforts of animal advocate and volunteer Robin Keough at a recent Buckhannon City Council meeting. Also pictured are information coordinator and grant writer Callie Cronin Sams, at left, and Casey Gilbert, Buckhannon Volunteer Center coordinator, at right.

Animal advocate tells the true ‘tails’ of dogs who found forever homes

BUCKHANNON – “I really do think that animals are part of God’s creation, and they deserve to be protected and taken care of.”

For years, Robin Keough has adopted, cared, fostered and saved the lives of countless dogs. Through her life’s work, Keough has helped dogs go from tragic conditions to puppy paradise.

In the wake of the City of Buckhannon honoring Keough as the third-ever Buckhannon Exemplary Service Testimonial award at its Dec. 6 meeting, Keough met with My Buckhannon to discuss successful adoption and rescue stories she has been involved with over the years.

Keough flipped through a scrapbook full of dogs she has fostered throughout the years.

So, exactly how many dogs has she fostered?

“Hundreds,” she says.

Keough, who currently has three adopted dogs – Betty, Baby and Fancy – said two weeks ago, she had 12 foster dogs in the house.

“It was a little chaotic. It was a little crazy, and it was very exhausting,” she said.

Foster.

That’s the name of the first dog Keough helped get adopted – and the same dog that ultimately helped change the life of a Vietnam veteran. Keough fostered the little brindle “chiweenie” mix from the Marion County Humane Society until he was put on PetFinders.

“A Vietnam veteran’s family was looking for a dog for their family member. He was kind of not as mobile as he used to be, and his family felt that a dog would really help him, and they saw his picture on the internet and they wanted him,” she explained. “They came to our house and they met him. They told us later that the dog made all the difference in this veteran’s life. He was going out more and becoming more social and talking to people more and just loved the dog, and it made a difference in his life.”

Another story Keough spoke of occurred in the community: a young girl had contacted Keough about owning a mother dog who had 10 puppies.

“She was really overwhelmed with it, and my group kept in contact with her, and we helped her with the dog food. We bought really nutritious dog food for the mother that had 10 puppies, and we got a rescue for her,” she explained. “The puppies were going to Pittsburgh, and I went out, and I wormed the puppies, and I gave them their first shots.”

Unfortunately, Keough received a call in the middle of the night that the puppies were having seizures. Sure enough, Keough and her husband went out at dawn and crossed a river on foot to get to the puppies.

“We got all the puppies, and we took them to the vet that morning,” Keough recalled. “Dr. Lammie in Elkins got us in immediately, and the puppies apparently had gotten into some kind of garbage or eaten something toxic. I had to bathe all the puppies in Dawn dish soap to get any toxics off of them.”

Drawing on her 25 years of experience as a nurse, Keough was able to give the puppies intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

“We had those 10 puppies for a couple of weeks, and they all went to rescues, and now I see them on Facebook, and they have wonderful homes – wearing little jackets and they have toys and beds,” she said. “And the mother got adopted and she has a wonderful home, so that was just a real successful story. Those puppies were sick, and they could’ve easily just all died.”

Keough spoke of a senior chocolate Labrador whose story starts out grim, but quickly changes thanks to her persistence and the community’s support.

“One dog came into the pound (Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility), and he was older chocolate Lab with a horrible tumor on his leg. Horrible. The size of a baseball,” she said. “His owners probably couldn’t pay hundreds of dollars to get it fixed so they didn’t claim him. And the dog was going to be put down. Nobody was going to adopt a dog with a foul-smelling tumor on his leg.”

Luckily, a vet agreed to perform the surgery; however, the operation came with a hefty price tag.

“We asked for pledges from the community and our dog friends, and we paid for that surgery. We got him neutered. He went to a rescue in Virginia called Gray Face (Acres),” she said. “He was adopted, and now he’s having a wonderful life, but it cost money to do that. It cost money and volunteers and people willing to drive him to the vet and take care of him and foster him after his surgery.”

About six years ago, Keough helped form Luv 4 Animals, a group of individuals dedicated to bettering the lives of animals.

“Up until that time, I had adopted dogs on my own or found dogs, but I hadn’t really belonged to an organization, and so about six years ago, I started volunteering at the Lewis-Upshur Animal Facility,” she said.

With the assistance of several local nonprofits – Luv 4 Animals, Claws and Whiskers and Animal Outreach – hundreds of animals in the community have left unfortunate conditions to lead happier lives.

“We are making a difference. Last year, almost 900 dogs came through the Lewis-Upshur Animal Facility, and it’s only 16 kennel runs, and almost all of those dogs went to [a] rescue [facility] or some were adopted locally, but most went out of state, and only a handful were put down,” Keough said. “We are no longer actually a high kill shelter. The various volunteer groups have made a difference.”

Keough insists the work of the groups would not be possible without the community’s support.

“It makes me feel good that the community is behind us,” she said. “We couldn’t do this without the community’s help.”

Keough said the county is lucky to have a family who sponsors two dogs a month, leading to roughly 30 sponsored dogs in the past year-and-a-half.

Still, the work of saving animals is never over, and Keough is calling for all hands – and paws – on deck.

With the age limit to volunteer at LUAF lowered to 17, Keough invites high school seniors to spend time with the animals.

“It’s very rewarding. We need more help. We need the community’s support,” she said. “Over pet population is a problem with the facility. It’s a community problem, and we need the community’s help.”

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