The Black Dog Rescue operates out of the Waitsburg Hardware and Mercantile, and has been rescuing and fostering animals for about 61/2 years.
During the past year, between 125 and 150 animals have been placed in adoptive homes.
"We find homes. They go all over the Northwest. It's just amazing. People just show up," Marilyn Stellwagen said.
A donation jar on the store counter, and the $50 per animal adopters donate helps pay for food and veterinary care for the animals.
The Stellwagens have a collection of store pets they have adopted, and each has a story. A horse stepped on Tuffy's foot when he was a tiny kitten. Cougar, an orange tabby who outweighs J.R. by five pounds, was trapped in the alley near the store. Rocky is blind. A city maintenance worker found him in the middle of the street.
Jesse, a mid-sized dog, keeps her distance from everyone but John Stellwagen, and gives testimony to the term "dogging his footsteps," as she follows him everywhere in the store.
Jesse was badly abused and her extreme fear makes her unsuitable for adoption into a family, Marilyn said.
Jack McCaw, a retired farmer who drops by nearly every day, recently adopted Sweet Pea, a feral cat found in Dayton. Sweet Pea was intended to be a barn cat, but McCaw found her every morning waiting expectantly at the back door.
He relented, and this week Marilyn said he reported he now has to take her outside once a day just to remind her what her job is supposed to be.
Bill and Maureen Vollendorf of Walla Walla adopted Lillian, J.R.'s sister. The two pups are very fond of one another, and when the Vollendorfs bring Lillian to visit, the two tear up and down the store aisles, Marilyn said.
Lillian drops by to visit her brother about once a week, Bill Vollendorf said. "She comes in here and makes a beeline for his cage," Vollendorf said.
The Vollendorf's are regular visitors to the store, and had heard Lillian's story and watched her grow before deciding to adopt, Bill said.
"John and Marilyn do a wonderful job here. It's an equal kudo that needs to go to both of those people because they have the biggest hearts in the territory," Vollendorf said.
Lillian is the family's fifth or sixth dog, and all have been rescued from the street or adopted from a shelter, he said.
Lillian is twice as big as J.R., but has some similar deformities, including stacked growth plates on her leg joints. She also has a malformed eye, Vollendorf said.
Despite a bit of grumbling about Lillian's need to go outside during the night, the Vollendorfs are indulgent of their new pet, including her puppy penchant for reading material.
"She has internalized ‘Call of the Wild' and a history book," Vollendorf quipped.
"We've had a lot of wonderful stories. It's amazing. These animals touch peoples' lives. I think one of the nicest parts is helping connect people with the animals," Marilyn said.
Carrie Chicken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 522-5289.