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Local woman saves pets

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SNOQUALMIE — Coco the Shih Tzu only had one eye.

But that didn't stop 8-year-old Nina Kato from scooping up the

little dog in her arms and adopting her on the spot. When asked, Nina didn't

even care about the dog's imperfection — and Coco went home to a new

bed, new toys, and lots of love.

There are many more stories like that at Three Rivers Rescue

in Snoqualmie. Hundreds, in fact. Kim Howard runs the rescue effort out

of her home where she helps find foster and adoptive families for the

abandoned dogs and cats.

Rescuing animals has been a lifelong preoccupation for Howard,

who cleans houses for a living and volunteers the rest of her time to Three

Rivers. For the last decade, she has found homes for hundreds of local

dispalced pets and decided on the name "Three Rivers Rescue" six months ago.

Howard gets the animals from King County Animal Control and is

a rescue outlet for animals on their last leg.

Howard said there is an overall misunderstanding of the reason

dogs end up in the pound.

Some animals have been found after being dumped in the woods

by owners who were tired of having a pet or they went on vacation and

didn't want to take the animal.

"People just assume that dogs are in the pound because they are

bad," she said. "But they are actually

there because they are unfortunate."

Howard added that she has seen a few dogs in the shelter that were

too aggressive toward people but said generally, it was a human error that

landed the animals in the pound.

When she rescues a dog from the shelter, Howard does a series of

assessment tests to make sure the animal is not aggressive and she tries

to figure out what type of person or family would be the best match. When

a potential owner asks how a dog would react to a specific situation,

Howard has been known to test the dog's reaction with the item in question.

Howard's daughter Reilly, 9, is in charge of naming the pets, a task

she enjoys. In addition to a new name, all pets leave Three Rivers spayed or

neutered.

Some dogs also receive additional training from Howard to get ready

for a new home.

"They are a member of our family before they are a member of yours,

so we already know what behaviors they have," she said.

The adoption process starts with a phone interview and includes a

three-page application and thorough screening by Howard before a match

is made.

Many families are attracted to puppies but don't realize the amount

of work they need, according to Howard. She said an older dog can be a

wonderful companion because they are easier to train and to care for than

puppies.

"Just keep the dog and make its last years happy," she said.

And Howard is the expert on that — she often rescues old or

terminally ill dogs from Animal Control and makes their last few months, weeks

or days special. She takes them for ice cream at Dairy Queen, gives them

a soft blanket to sleep on and loves them, since nobody else would.

A key to what drives Howard to show such compassion lies in her

past — her stepfather was a

"euthenizer" for King County Animal Control.

"All my life, he would get up every Friday, make a pot of coffee

and have to go euthenize every dog and cat that wasn't claimed in the

county," she said. "He would make as

many rescues as possible, and he was a very kind and compassionate

individual who had a job that nobody else would want."

Howard said she wants people to know that Animal Control

employees are not "the bad guys"; they are

"human beings who have a job to do."

Since Howard grew up seeing the need to find homes for

abandoned animals, she wants to let everybody know what to do with an

unwanted animal. She said anyone who has a pet they cannot keep should take it to

the Humane Society, where they specialize in taking pets. If a stray dog or

cat is found, Animal Control should be called at (206) 296-7387.

Three Rivers accepts donations of old blankets, leashes, pet food

and money. Volunteers are also needed to provide a variety of tasks,

including fostering litters of kittens until they

are adoptable.

Anyone interested in a Three Rivers Rescue pet should check the

Valley Record for the "Pet of the Week," call (425) 831-2456 or

e-mail mich@oz.net. There is a $75 adoption fee and a $15 county license fee.

"Every dog is perfect for somebody," said volunteer

Michelle Mullins. "And they don't care if

your teeth are crooked or you smell bad."

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