Still grieving the loss of her dog to disease three months earlier, Sue Ganser of Arlington Heights got the call she'd been hoping for.
Her search for a new pet was over -- the perfect dog had been found for her by the Elk Grove Village-based Almost Home Foundation.
Hobbs, a black-and-white Newfoundland with a jolly personality, needed a home with someone who'd care for him always.
The life of this 1-year-old dog hadn't started well.
He'd been dumped by his owner when he got heartworm disease and was picked up running alongside a country road by a downstate pound that might have euthanized him.
Then, on the day he was to be transferred out, the pound burned down, killing 50 animals. Hobbs made a narrow escape.
Now renamed Colbee, he spends his days playing with Lady, Ganser's boxer, while she's away at work.
At night, he curls up on the couch with Ganser while the three of them watch TV before going to bed.
"I can't tell you what a great dog this is," Ganser said. "I'm so lucky to have him."
Hobbs was saved from near-certain euthanasia by Illinois Animal Rescue, an all-volunteer group that coordinates the transport of dogs and cats from high-kill pounds in rural areas downstate to no-kill shelters, many in the suburbs.
The network has saved about 6,000 animals since it incorporated last year.
Hobbs was one of about 50 animals on a Thanksgiving week transport from Franklin County about 300 miles southwest of Chicago. He spent less than 48 hours with his foster family in Des Plaines before being adopted by Ganser.
In the following weeks, most all the animals found new homes. Here is an update on some of the animals who were on that transport.
Tim and Carol Seidensticker of Mount Prospect adopted Pumpkin through the Elk Grove Village-based Almost Home Foundation at a pet show at PetSmart in Schaumburg.
It was her creamy yellow coat that attracted the family, but it was her immediate purring upon being picked up that cinched the adoption.
As soon as she was taken home, she used the litter box, without being trained, and began eating food out of a dish without being prompted.
At night, she likes to curl up on the Seidenstickers' pillow.
She has become a gentle companion for the couple's 5-year-old son, Anthony.
When Tim Seidensticker comes home from work at 2 a.m., Pumpkin is there to greet him, while the rest of his family is asleep.
"She is the best cat that anyone could've ever asked for," Tim Seidensticker said.
The Hickey family of Elgin came to Animal House in Huntley so 10-year-old Billy could pick out a new puppy, but it wasn't so simple.
"So what do you think?" Margaret Hickey asks her 10-year-old son, Billy, who's playing with three golden retriever puppies named Austin, Veronica and Stevie.
Even with his parent's gentle encouragement, Billy still can't decide.
Austin, a male, is too shy, he decides. But the girls are still in the running as each takes turns licking his face, which Billy doesn't seem to mind in the least.
Stevie pushes Veronica out of the way in a bid to kiss Billy's face.
"That girl seems more affectionate," said Jim Hickey, Billy's dad.
After about 45 minutes, Billy picks Veronica. Her slightly more subdued face-kissing had won him over.
When Lizzie came to Animal House in Huntley, she'd lost much of her coat to mange, a treatable skin disease caused by mites, and she had heartworm and an eye infection. She'd lost all her puppies to starvation and fire.
The Peppa family of Barrington was drawn to Animal House by another dog they saw on the shelter's Web site.
At first, the family didn't even want to see Lizzie, but a volunteer there suggested they give her a chance.
"The goal was not Lizzie," said Amanda Peppa.
The family was told of Lizzie's tough life -- how her previous owner had chained her up without food, leaving her and her puppies to slowly starve to death. One by one, her puppies died until neighbors called animal control.
By that time, only one was left alive. Lizzie faced euthanasia at the pound but was picked for a rescue transport to the Huntley shelter.
Then, the night before she was to leave, a fire ripped through the shelter, killing her only puppy. Lizzie was trapped in the fire as it burned the pound around her, but somehow she survived the smoke, flames and falling debris that killed more than 50 other animals.
For the past two months at the shelter, Lizzie had been filling out her frame and growing her hair back.
"After we met Lizzie, we couldn't look at another dog," Peppa said. "We fell in love with her right away."
Baby needs a home
Baby, a corgi/basenji mix, is waiting for a new family at Animal House in Huntley.
Gentle and sweet-natured with people, Baby doesn't like to share her toys with some dogs, while others are perfectly welcome to join in.
"Baby is a bit choosy about her company," said Kaylie Carroll, an Animal House shelter development manager.
No one at Animal House can figure out why Baby, of all the dogs and cats on the Thanksgiving transport from downstate Benton to the shelter, still is without a home of her own, Carroll said.
Baby also was one of the dogs who survived the Franklin County Animal Control fire.
When the fire broke out, she was stuck in one of the indoor/outdoor pens, but was smart enough to run out when animal control officers snapped the lock on her pen.
On the transport ride a few hours later, she was the dog who coughed and wheezed and suffered the most from smoke inhalation, but she quickly recovered at Animal House.
Baby is spayed, microchipped, heartworm-tested, current on all vaccines, dewormed and on Heartgard Plus and Frontline Plus every month to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworm. Her adoption donation is $300.
How you can help
You can learn more about Illinois Animal Rescue, an all-volunteer effort that has saved thousands of pets, at the Website www.illinoisanmanrescue.org. It works with many shelters, including:
• A.D.O.P.T in Naperville
• Almost Home Foundation in Elk Grove Village
• Animal Education and Rescue in Libertyville
• Animal House in Huntley
• Arf in Bolingbrook
• Heartland in Northbrook
• Fortunate Pooches & Lab Rescue in Palatine
• Plainfield Humane Society in Minooka
• Tails Humane Society in DeKalb
• True Hearts of Rottweiler Rescue in Round Lake Beach
Source: Illinois Animal Rescue