FREMONT — If they could talk, 15 dogs might thank Brad Dodge for a second chance at life.
The dogs, which came from Louisiana, were saved in memory of the former Fremont resident who died Jan. 15, 2019.
FurEver Home in Fremont was a busy place Wednesday afternoon as folks worked to get the canines situated in kennels. A miniature pinscher named Lucy wiggled excitedly, while a terrier-mix called James wore a more timid look.
Fremont residents Donna and Len Dodge tenderly held a black-and-brown terrier mix named Dodger.
Their son, Brad, had been a dog lover, too. He’d grown up with the family’s dogs.
Gunner was a Rottweiler.
“They did everything together,” his mom said.
And although he didn’t have sheep to herd, a border collie named Dirty seemed to like herding Brad and his brother, Tim, when they were outside playing.
Brad was in sixth grade when his family moved from North Bend to Fremont. He graduated from Fremont High School in 2005 and Midland University in 2012. He’d been employed with a construction company for the last several years.
His mom described him as a caring person, who loved spending time with his now 7-year-old son, Parker.
“He had a kind heart,” his mom said. “He was a great father. His son misses him a lot.”
Last year, Brad was in a construction accident Jan. 14 and was pronounced dead the next day. As an organ donor, the 32-year-old man helped five other individuals.
The idea of rescuing 15 dogs Jan. 15 — the date of Brad’s death — began with a conversation, said Deb Newill, founder and president of FurEver Home.
Donna Dodge is one of Newill’s friends and a fellow founder of FurEver Home, and serves as the board’s vice president.
At first, Newill offered to help the Dodges by going to the grocery store, shoveling their sidewalks or making a meal.
“I left it at that because I can only imagine how much grief is associated with the loss of a child,” Newill said.
But as the months passed, Newill wondered what more she should be doing to help.
She wanted to acknowledge the anniversary of Brad’s death, but wasn’t certain how to do it.
“I just was brainstorming what nice gesture I could do or if there was a way to put into words that we were still there for Donna and Len — and then I got to remembering that Brad was an organ donor,” she said.
Newill thought about the families whose loved ones had benefited from Brad’s gift and how children can do things that make their parents proud.
“I thought this was something they should be proud of as to how many lives he’s impacted — not just the recipients, but the families that did not have to say ‘goodbye’ like Donna and Len,” Newill said.
In turn, Newill began thinking about what FurEver Home does by saving the lives of dogs and sheltering them.
Thus came the idea of saving 15 lives on the 15th of January to celebrate the gift of life that Brad gave.
Newill wasn’t sure how the Dodges were prepared to recognize the day, but hoped the dogs’ arrival and second chance at life could provide at least a little renewed hope for that day.
So around Thanksgiving, Newill brought up the idea to Martha Bang, FurEver Home’s executive director. They reached out to Brittany Hebert, who’s involved in animal rescue in the Crowley, Louisiana, area, with three shelters there.
Bang and Sara Munson of Phoenix Remix Animal Rescue in Lincoln set out on Monday morning for what would be a 1,950-mile round trip.
The Nebraskans picked up 11 dogs in Crowley on Tuesday evening and four more in Lafayette, Louisiana — and drove back to Nebraska.
They reached Fremont before 2 p.m. Wednesday.
On her Facebook page, the Louisiana woman praised the work of FurEver Home.
“Today, I witnessed the beauty of compassion,” Hebert wrote. “We loaded up 15 precious lives to head out to Nebraska to find forever homes. This special group of dogs varied in many ways, from dogs on euthanasia lists to full, long-term shelter residents.”
Bang said of the 15, a few had been in shelters for four to six months.
“Their time was long up,” Bang said.
In the meantime, Bang saw other dogs there as well.
“It was really hard for me to walk out of that county shelter and not be able to take the ones I saw there with me,” she said.
All dogs come vaccinated, spayed or neutered and microchipped, Newill said.
The dogs will be available for adoption in 14 to 21 days, said Peg Gaudreau, event and pantry coordinator.
After that, the organization will post photos and bios of the dogs on its Facebook page and website.
“We feel it’s important that potential adopters know as much about the dog as we can find out for them so all personalities in the home match the best,” Newill said.
Donna Dodge appreciates the FurEver Home project.
“It means a lot,” she said. “It’s from the heart, so it means everything to me.”