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Wambolt in the Community: Safe Harbor Lab Rescue gives dogs a fresh start

Sue and Joe Netzel had been fostering dogs for Safe Harbor Lab Rescue since March 2007. Molly was foster number 57 out of 62 (and counting) Labrador retrievers for the couple, and she stole their hearts from her first ride home.

Molly was found in a crowded shelter in Arkansas, transported to Colorado, treated at a veterinarian’s office for existing conditions, and released to Joe for fostering. Despite the arduous journey, Molly was mellow and well-behaved, so much so that Joe knew he was bringing home a special pup.

Molly was about 18 months old and black from head to toe. She arrived with two sets of parasites—not uncommon for shelter dogs—and needed a course of treatment to set her right. Two weeks in, Sue and Joe found Molly to be just as laid back and attentive as the day she first arrived.

They snapped her up and gave her a “forever” home. Since then, Molly has become a fixture as a therapy dog across the Denver metro area. Weighing in at 80-pounds, she breezed through obedience classes and completed training for the Canine Good Citizen Certificate on her way to becoming a registered therapy dog.

Now Molly is a regular in the Paws for Reading Program at the Columbine Library, where she patiently shares her blanket with children who read to her in 15-minute increments. Molly also visits an independent living center, Brookdale Meridian, twice a month for visits with senior residents and ventures to a rehabilitation center once a month, entering patient’s rooms one-by-one for a little fur-therapy.

All this is possible because Safe Harbor exists. Founded in 2002, Safe Harbor is focused on giving Labs in need another shot at a forever home. Each month, the non-profit finds homes for about 20 stray, abandoned and surrendered Labs, many with medical problems. Through May 2018, the organization had rescued over 3,600 Labs.

And more Labs are waiting to be rescued.

Fresh start

Safe Harbor partners with volunteers at Pilots ‘n Paws to safely transport Labs from states as far away as Arkansas to Colorado.

All Labs are vetted upon arrival, whether they are surrendered here in Colorado or fresh off the volunteer air transport from Arkansas and other distant states. Sue says some Labs arrive in pitiful shape. They look beat up and disreputable, their fur is unhealthy. Their medical care can run into the thousands when medical problems are detected. Safe Harbor covers it all.

Once medical needs are met, dogs are microchipped, spayed or neutered and placed in a foster home. Within weeks, the Lab typically is ready for a fresh start. Sue calls the transformation “remarkable.”

Foster volunteers work with each dog to improve their adoptability until there is a successful placement. Each Lab is matched with carefully selected dog-lovers. The rigorous adoption process includes reference checks, a phone interview, a Lab meeting and a formal adoption agreement.

Volunteer-driven success

The all-volunteer organization has no salary expenses or physical facility. Safe Harbor partners with members of the community for training, fostering, and veterinary care.

Dedicated and hard-working volunteers, and a strong network of foster homes and families, make it all possible. The nonprofit group has volunteers dedicated to Lab intake, medical care, foster care, transportation, adoption, website management, fundraising and community events, and social media presence. It’s a big operation and help is always needed.

A ground transport relay from Albuquerque to Denver.

Opportunities to help

Wambolt & Associates contributes to these saving efforts in a unique way. When Safe Harbor received a couple large donations, the organization struggled to find a financial management firm that could reduce risk and generate a rate of return to support operations.

Wambolt & Associates stepped in to manage the organization’s assets pro bono. The mission of the organization is dear to the heart of founder Greg Wambolt, who is a lifelong lover of Labs and owns three of them today.

There are plenty of opportunities to help rescue Labs. Netzel says the number one need right now is for more people willing to open their homes and take care of a Lab short-term until they are adopted. Foster families facilitate adoption, exercise and train dogs, meet their medical needs, and help contract the adoption. If you have room in your home and heart, consider fostering and getting up-close-and-personal with a Lab during its journey to a forever home.

If fostering isn’t a fit for you, there are other ways to volunteer.

  • Donate – The cost of caring for over 250 rescued Labs a year is Safe Harbor’s biggest expense. The thorough medical care given to Labs is expensive; many Labs arrive sick, in pain, or injured.
  • Transport – Consider volunteering with the Transport Team, picking up rescued Labs as they arrive in Colorado or need a lift to the vet or their foster.
  • Adoption application reference checkers  – help the rescue team from home.
  • Help with community events and the organization’s annual fundraiser LabFest, a great way to meet other Lab lovers and spread the word about Safe Harbor.

Visit Safe Harbor Lab Rescue or call (303) 464.7777 to get involved.


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