Ginny Stolicker, Oakland Press
Gerri House calls her babies, and they come running, tumbling
over each other, yipping and barking all the way. One little guy
trips. The others keep right on tromping over him. Wagging
ferocious he's up and running again to his mistress' arms.
The competition's tough for attention, but each dog has his or her fair
Of course, there are a few who deserve a few extra pets and hugs. Barney
and Marcie did not always live on the Hadley Township farm, the
House of Rex. They were rescued.
While House raises English sheep dogs for show and sale, she also
rescues sheep dogs.
"Barney originally was on of ours. He's only 6 months old. But he
broke his leg a couple months ago. His owners called, and I was
willing to help them out with the vet bill. I said I'd play
half. They said they couldn't afford to pay half and were going
to have him snuffed. I brought him back to the farm."
Barney's leg is healed, and he's ready for a new home as soon as
House finds the right place.
Meanwhile, there's Marcie—the sort of animal most any dog lover is
tempted to take home.
House figures the dog must have been stolen from her original
owners. Either she got away from her kidnappers or she was
dumped. Marcie was found in Mason in Ingham County. When House
arrived at the shelter, she walked right up to the matted,
emaciated dog in spite of warnings that the dog might be mean.
"She was so thin and her hair was all matted. I think she was
someone's pet. Hard telling where she was from. But she's
looking for her owners, it seems. She rushes up to every car
that pulls into the driveway. You can tell she's had some
obedience training and she's wonderful with children."
"Marcie, who's about 2 years old, will be a great pet for the right
family," House says.
She charges only the cost of medical bills she has paid for the
dogs she's rescued. There are, however, some restrictions.
"I don't let my dogs or rescue dogs to to anyone unless they have a
dynamite fence. They have to be secure."
All of the pedigreed dogs are guaranteed against hip dysplasia, an
ailment common among sheep dogs. The X-rays from a local
veterinarian are sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals
"Anyone who gets one of my dogs signs an agreement that I get the
dog back if they can no longer keep it. For instance, if they
move, I don't want the dog going with the gardener.
"I keep a careful check on the dogs. Every Christmas the owners
send me pictures. If I don't hear from them, I start calling or
driving to see them."
Not only does House continue corresponding with owners, everyone is
invited to the annual, summer "Puppy Party" at the farm. It's an
"owners only" celebration, but don photos are welcome.
The rest of the year House continues her 24-hour-a-day
responsibilities of caring for the dogs.
One of House's dogs has gone a step beyond the competition arena.
He's on stage traveling across the country with Robert Goulet
and the "Camelot" production.
His career is carefully scrutinized by House.
Finding the right home for her pedigreed dogs or rescue dogs is
priority. She does not profess to being a savior.
"You see a lot of shelters for animals. There will be hundreds of
cats in cages. People will say, 'Look how we've saved all these
cats.' For what? That's no way for the animals to live. I try to
find homes for our dogs," says House, who wears her creed on her
sweatshirt: "There's always room for one more."