By Alicia Dziak

As one of many foster families who works with Empire Animals Rescue Society (EARS), a rescue based in Salamanca, I’ve seen first-hand all the work and countless hours of volunteer time that goes into saving animals.

Since my family began fostering for them about three years ago, we have had about 20 dogs come and go from our home (OK, so two of them stayed!). Each dog has a story. Some have come from high-kill shelters in Kentucky, taken the “puppy express” up to the southern tier, which is a network of drivers who each take a car-full of animals along a specific leg of the journey, and then pass them on to the next person. Some have come from bad home situations right here in WNY. Some have had their owners pass away and are left homeless. Whatever the reason they have ended up with EARS, they are welcomed, loved and placed with a foster family until they can be matched with their person and their forever home.

Residing with a foster family instead of being at a traditional shelter allows the potential adopters to get some great information before they make a decision. Fosters are able to give many more details such as habits (Do they do well in a crate? Are they house trained?), behavior (Are they good with other dogs and cats? Do they like younger kids?) and personality (Do they like to snuggle? Are they high energy?) There are so many factors to consider and having that reliable information from the foster family can help in finding just the right pet.

EARS volunteers not only coordinate with a large network of foster families, but they also organize entire “fixing” days when they take car loads of animals who are in their care to be spayed or neutered at local vets. Since they also have a presence at many other local events, sometimes there are two events going on simultaneously. For instance, at last weekend’s Allegany State Park Beach Party, where EARS had a table set up and several adoptable pets, it was also a day to take other animals to be fixed, so organizers of both had to figure out which animals were going where and who was taking them.

People ask me all the time, “Aren’t you sad when they get adopted?” Of course, we get attached to some of them. But seeing them light up someone else’s face and seeing that instant bond when someone meets their new dog for the first time makes it all worth it.

Over the years, I’ve become Facebook friends with many of the people who have adopted our fosters, and get to see them grow up. Just last week, a friend of mine who adopted our foster dog Hugo (and who sends me pics of him all the time!) sent me a picture of another one of our foster dogs, Lacey, who was adopted by someone I didn’t know, saying they were at a pool party and got to talking and realized they both got their fosters from us! Another one of our fosters was adopted by our neighbor, and another one was adopted by my sister. So, many times, saying goodbye just means “I’ll see you at your new home!”

If you are in the market for a new pet, EARS always has many puppies, kittens, dogs and cats available. If you get your application filled out ahead of time and approved, when you find “the one” it’s a quick process.

Thinking about adopting? On Sunday, Aug. 26, Cocktails and Canines will be held at the Ellicottville Distillery (5462 Robbins Rd., Ellicottville) from 2-5 p.m. This is another great opportunity to meet many adoptable animals, talk to their fosters and learn about how you can adopt. Plus, you can check out the distillery, who offers corn and apple distilled vodka and corn distilled whisky, made from locally grown produce.

Be sure to like the EARS Facebook page and visit to view current animals they have in their care.