Dawn knew Sierra was the dog for her the day Lucky’s Legacy foster dogs were brought to a Solid Ground Recovery house in Frederick.
“She came right to me,” Dawn said. “Maybe I’m the one for you and you’re the one for me.”
Solid Ground Recovery, owned by Sean Nicholson and Bradley Meadors, has four sober living houses in Frederick. The organization partnered with Lucky’s Legacy, a nonprofit, foster-based rescue, to foster one dog at each of the homes.
The goal was to uplift spirits and help those living in recovery during the time of COVID-19 when they could be facing unemployment, lack of in-person meetings outside the home and more free time or boredom, all of which could halt their recovery.
Dawn said her dog Sierra has helped her therapeutically. Part of the recovery program involves a spiritual awakening and Dawn said on walks, Sierra takes special notice of creatures like squirrels or rabbits. Nicholson asked that last names of those living in the recovery houses not be used for safety purposes.
“I’m more mindful when we’re having walks of nature and the creation and God and … it just centers me,” she said. “She’s helping other women in the house, too … just livening up the house.”
Everyone in the house helps care for Sierra. Dawn, who is the house leader, said she “adds to everybody right now considering what we’re up against.”
Nicholson said before the four new foster dogs — Hazel, Cookie, Sierra and Leo — there was Kai.
Kai was a dog who lived in one of the Solid Ground Recovery homes and he was “the coolest dog in the world.”
“The guys were so appreciative that we allowed them to have a dog and … it teaches them responsibility and it helps with people’s mindset and mood,” Nicholson said.
Kai suffered a stroke and died recently and Nicholson said it was crushing. It also made them reconsider having dogs in the houses because of the cost of veterinary care.
But then COVID-19 came and Nicholson and his fiancee wanted to help boost morale and bring positivity to the houses. This led to the idea of providing dinners every night for every house, an effort that has been fueled by individuals and restaurants in the community.
It was also around this time that a friend reached out to Nicholson and asked if he ever considered fostering dogs.
Lucky’s Legacy covers all the veterinary needs of the animals they foster, so that wasn’t a concern and Nicholson said the dogs they gave Solid Ground Recovery are perfect.
The community has stepped up to help with the dogs, too. People have offered food, toys and other donations to help provide the necessary care.
The dogs are helping the people they live with stay busy, be responsible, have a routine and have a purpose.
“We’re just stepping up to the plate and doing the best that we can to try, you know, to keep the house together, and take care of each other, support each other and the dogs,” Dawn said.
Jimmy also lives in a Solid Ground Recovery house and is the caretaker of Cookie, a puppy.
“It really has been a blessing having her in the house,” he said. “Morale’s a lot better because there’s a different kind of love in the house.”
Angel, a house leader at a Solid Ground Recovery house, said the dogs bring unconditional love.
“A lot of us, you know, we don’t have a lot of family members or anything to help us, and not only that, but it shows us responsibility. It gives us an opportunity to, you know, have a daily routine with the dog,” she said.
Angel is the caretaker of Hazel, who likes to play with Cookie and chew on her own leash.
“I think mostly it’s that unconditional love,” Angel said. “When you’re depressed or upset, they know and I think that will help a lot of us through this coronavirus situation.”
Dawn and Angel both said that the dogs help eliminate boredom.
“[Hazel] loves to play,” Angel said. “We just taught her how to catch and she brings it back now and they like to play with each other, too.”
Dawn said Sierra loves and plays with everyone in her house.
“There’s more laughter,” she said. “There’s more mindfulness and it’s awesome.”
Jimmy said at the house he lives in, Cookie is learning to open up and interact with other people.
“She’s a good girl,” he said. “She’s very affectionate, at least with me. I mean, it’s definitely been good for other people when she gives them the opportunity. She just needs to feel secure.”
Jimmy also said having Cookie has led to a lot more group interaction in the house.
“It actually brings everybody out into the same common area,” he said. “It’s hard being bored but she helps with that.”
As for the dogs being adopted, that thought is being pushed aside for the time being.
“I don’t want to let her go, that’s all I know at this time,” Dawn said of Sierra. “When people have pets, it doesn’t matter if you’ve had them for a week or for a hundred years. They’re like your children, you know, and the last thing you want to do is be separated from your children.”
DJ Stouffer, who is the founder of Lucky’s Legacy, said he’s thrilled about the partnership between the rescue and Solid Ground Recovery.
The nonprofit takes in dogs, cats, reptiles and small animals. It’s based out of Hagerstown.
They go to high-kill shelters and take the animals that have been there for awhile, are on the euthanasia list or aren’t doing well in a shelter environment.
Vet care is taken care of by Lucky’s Legacy and they also try to provide fosters with necessary supplies such as collars, leashes, litter boxes and food.
“We try to make sure they have everything they need,” he said.
Normally, the animals would be introduced to the public via monthly events at pet stores around the area, but that has been put on hold for the time being. The rescue can also do off-site adoption where they go to a person’s house.
But right now, they’re mainly using social media to get the word out about the animals they have available.
Stouffer said the foster dogs at the recovery houses can give the residents some positive energy.
“These guys are giving these dogs a second chance like they’re getting a second chance, basically, so it’s a win-win situation” he said.
And speaking of positive energy, Angel said Hazel, Cookie, Sierra and Leo are doing something very important.
“For a very long time, a lot of us haven’t laughed,” she said. “A lot of us haven’t had fun and I think these dogs bring that out.”