Lucky Puppy in Argyle

By Ben Westcott, Chronicle Staff Writer

Since opening in 2019, Lucky Puppy Great Beginnings Adoption Center in Argyle said it has placed approximately 2,000 dogs in safe, loving homes.

Dogs awaiting adoption. Chronicle photo/Ben Westcott
The dogs come from the western Florida panhandle. Lucky Puppy Rescue was founded in Bonifay, Florida in 2008 at a 125-acre family farm.

How its adoption center ended up at 511 Pleasant Valley Road in Argyle starts with some Saratoga Springs snowbirds who wintered in Florida. They volunteered at Lucky Puppy, eventually bringing some pups back.

Founder Teri Mattson says, “We would ship up a few dogs at a time and get them adopted, but we have so many, that we eventually started looking for a property to buy to use for an adoption center…

“And that’s where we kind of lucked into this place, because it used to be a dog kennel.”

“For years, we had sent dogs north, even to Pennsylvania and Maine, because we have such a low opportunity in the South,” Ms. Mattson said. “They were saturated there with dogs.”

“The area where we live is very low socio-economic, and they don’t value the animals in the same way that we do,” Ms. Mattson said of the Florida region where the rescue is based. “So there’s lots of overpopulation where dogs don’t get spayed and neutered.”

“Animals are a very low priority in the South,” she said. “And it’s generational…the dogs don’t go to the vet, the dogs don’t get fed regular food. And they have litters of puppies and they take them and give them away free or they dump them. So many are abandoned.

“It’s a lower standard of care,” says Ms. Mattson. “For them it’s an animal and it stays in the yard. A very common term in Florida is yard dog. They never go in the house, they never get in the car to go for a ride…

“It’s a different mentality. It’s just like cattle out there in the field. But at least cattle make money. So dogs are really just kind of an extra living ornament there for most people.”

Founder and director Teri Mattson, left, and dog handler Hannah Allen. Chronicle photo/Ben Westcott
She said Lucky Puppy picks up neglected, abandoned and abused dogs, including strays running loose and dogs about to be euthanized at shelters.

The rescue focuses a lot on pregnant dogs and raising litters because they’re so at-risk, Ms. Mattson said.

“Not a lot of rescues will do that because of the time involved to raise a litter of puppies and take care of the mom through that period, and then the risk involved with keeping them healthy, with parasites and viruses,” she said. “But that’s kind of turned out to be our niche over the years as we’ve expanded.”

She said that at the farm in Florida, usually around 200 dogs are fed, vetted, cleaned, socialized, fixed, and cared for until they are deemed ready for adoption.

The adoptable dogs are then loaded onto a big commercial bus with crates for the 24-hour drive to Argyle. Ms. Mattson said the roundtrip cost is about $2,700, and the trip is made two to three times a month.

As for the fee people pay to adopt dogs in Argyle, she said, “The puppies are $600; adults are $500. All are vaccinated, sterilized, microchipped.”

Lucky Puppy is a registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit. Its annual revenue was $614,179 in 2020, the most recent year in its IRS Form 990 tax filing.

In Argyle, they house around 30 dogs at any given time, in three buildings on the just under six-acre property. There are several outdoor play areas and a trail system through the woods.

Ms. Mattson said they’re looking to expand. “It’s not big enough for us,” she said. “We have many more dogs that can come north than we have kennel space for. I might have plenty of dogs ready for adoption, but no kennel for them.”

She said, “We’ve got another kennel in place, we’re just waiting on the weather and some funding to set up the concrete and the fencing and things like that.”

While the dogs are at Great Beginnings, “We want to make sure everybody’s healthy and in good behavior. We partner with a vet here locally and we also partner with a local trainer. We try to make sure that each of the dogs are in great shape before we hand them off to the new family.

“We have some great volunteers,” Ms. Mattson said. “It’s incredible. Especially when the sun’s out. This weekend we had people walking dogs all over the property and playing with puppies.”

She said, “We have at least two staff members on the facility every day, but we would like to have more. We just need to do a little more fundraising for that.”

She said that the organization is looking for an office manager.

Ms. Mattson said they put a lot of effort into teaching the canines manners. “We try to give the dogs a head start, which is a true benefit for the adopter,” she said. People come from Albany, Vermont, Massachusetts and Canada to adopt.

“We’re not in a hot spot, but we’re in a reasonable distance of quite a few different places,” Ms. Mattson said.

Over the last year Great Beginnings started having open houses at least once a month. “It’s a great way to get people to come see the facility, and then also be able to play with the dogs and pick a dog that might be the right fit for them,” she said. They do adoption events offsite too.

Ms. Mattson tries to ward off misconceptions about the adoption center.

“Sometimes people think it’s a shelter and they think of doggy jail,” she said.

“We are not doggy jail. We’ve got lots of little activities that people can do if they come volunteer. And the more that dogs meet people, the more social they become, which makes their adoptions more successful. We need people to help us sometimes with chores and maintenance, but we also need people to handle the dogs, which helps build their confidence.”

Lucky Puppy’s website is Phone (518) 638-7290.

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