TWP VICTORY. “Luke has been waiting for almost a year for a place where he can call home. Until he finds one, he has a place at the Sunset Kennels in Cotten.
The affectionate and energetic mixed-breed dog is one of many in the area in need of homes, and kennel owners John and Allison Cotten have teamed up with local animal welfare group Mason County Mutts to ensure that dogs like Luke are ready for when their future owners come.
The Cottens train abandoned, abandoned and stray dogs from Mason County Animal Control, giving them some attention and making sure they are well behaved, to increase their chances of being adopted.
At Cotten’s reception on North Stiles Road on Thursday, John and Allison, along with Sara Lutz and Teresa Swist of Mason County Mutts, spoke to the Daily News about what they were trying to accomplish.
The idea started around October 2021, according to John. At the time, he was called to the Mason County Animal Control building at the request of a friend to give his opinion on whether the dog was “trainable.” He quickly “walked the dog nice” and figured he could easily do the same for the other lonely dogs waiting to be adopted.
“I looked around and said there was probably the same problem with all these dogs: no one ever taught them how to walk well on a leash,” he said. “And I thought we should do something.”
The Cottens contacted Mason County Mutts, which works with animal control, and some sort of alliance was formed.
Everyone involved said they wanted to make a real difference for homeless dogs in the area, as there has been an overabundance of them lately.
Lutz said there were more dogs at animal control than there have been in years, noting that it was a mix of abandoned dogs, abandoned dogs and strays.
She and Swist attribute this in part to impulse buying during the pandemic – people seeking companionship in their spare time and being unprepared to meet their commitments when things started to return to normal.
“Unfortunately, a lot of them are…dogs with issues that people haven’t addressed,” Lutz said. “Socializing your pet is really important, and when you stay home and go nowhere, later down the road, you end up with a dog that…ends up in animal control.”
According to John, a plan has been formed to always “have at least one of the (animal control) dogs here, and have him adopted after he’s trained.”
The goal was to take in and rehome a few dogs each month, but it’s been slow and Luke is still waiting.
“Four months later, we still have Luke,” John said. “Within a week, we had him act like a good citizen. He’s an athlete, he likes to move and he’s locked up a lot… but he’s a very beautiful animal. I had no problem with it, none.
He later added, “Luke is probably one of the best dogs I’ve ever trained. I have national championship plaques on my wall, and guess what? Luke is so smart.
“He really wants someone to love him,” Allison said.
Lutz and Swist are a little puzzled as to why Luke hasn’t found an owner yet. Although there have been interested parties, a perfect fit has been elusive.
But as determined as they are to find an owner for the dog, they are equally determined to make sure it’s the right owner – someone who can take responsibility, with a suitable home, credentials and the ability to cover veterinary fees and other expenses.
“When he goes into a house, we want it to be forever,” Lutz said. “We don’t want him to have to come back and then try to find another home.”
The Cottens are also currently housing another abandoned dog – a 9-month-old full-size Goldendoodle named Matilda – who they believe will go away soon.
“I don’t think we’ll have a problem placing it because everyone wants a doodle,” Allison said.
Until then, at least both dogs have food, shelter, affection, and structure from training. John said the first part of the training process, at least for him, is teaching dogs to walk properly.
“I make them pay attention, I teach them to stop, I teach them to come back to me,” he said. “I usually do a week-long boot camp…and I love (teaching) dogs to just hang out and be good citizens.”
John said he uses a “full combination of tools” and there’s a lot of work going into it.
Cotten’s Sunset Kennels essentially donates time and money to house, train and feed the dogs, which is why only two dogs are taken at a time. The company has other paying customers that it needs to track.
Mason County Mutts covered veterinary costs, such as neutering, vaccinations and vaccines for Luke, and if someone wants to adopt Luke or Matilda, Lutz and Swist will screen to make sure the fit is a good one.
Once Luke finds a home, the Cottens say they will fill his place with another animal control dog.
“Hopefully once we get him home we can get more dogs through faster,” Allison said.
Lutz said the partnership between Cotten’s Kennels and Mason County Mutts has been beneficial, and the Cottens feel the same way.
“We’re just trying to give back to the canine community,” Allison said. “They deserve it.”
Those interested in adopting Luke or Matilda should contact Lutz or Swist through the Mason County Mutts Facebook page.
Cotten’s Sunset Kennels opened in February 2021. The business is located at 2750 N. Stiles Road in Victory Township.