Finding a home for the holidays — and beyond
By MINDY KEPFIELD
A longtime animal lover is working to help abandoned dogs find forever homes by opening a rescue shelter in Marion.
Victor Buckner hopes the addition of a sanctuary will help him save adoptable dogs from being euthanized.
“I have always been a dog lover,” he said. “It’s hard not to be. There are so many loveable dogs that need a good chance at life.”
Buckner has formed a nonprofit, Wags and Wiggles Furever and has started finding new homes for abused and abandoned dogs through a network of foster volunteers that began growing in March.
Buckner typically deals with dogs, but will not turn down a cat.
His effort to aid the city’s pets and their owners has already produced notable successes.
The Buckners have given out more than 8,000 pounds of dog and cat food to pet owners hammered by the economic wrath of COVID-19 shutdowns.
Owners who were “having a hard time” might have had to surrender their pets if they weren’t helped out, he said.
The Buckners also lent a hand to a woman who needed a home for her English Mastiffs, Buck and Belle, after her house burned down.
The lady was already struggling with a divorce and cancer treatment, Buckner said.
Buckner found someone to foster her pets, but was stunned to hear the woman passed away.
The dogs found a new home with Bea Holub, a receptionist and lab technician at Marion’s Spur Ridge Vet Hospital.
“They are right at home,” she said of the pair.
Buck and Belle are now a year old and have grown to 140 pounds each, though they still act like puppies, she said.
“I have had mastiffs all my life,” she said. “It knew it would be hard to take care of these dogs and not absolutely fall in love with them.”
Buckner said Holub turned out to be the perfect match for them.
“She just loves them both to death,” he said. “It’s so awesome to find people who have such feelings for dogs, not everyone gives a hoot.”
Adoptions by foster families who fall in love with their foundling pets — which Buckner jokingly calls “foster failure” — are happily common.
He and wife, Cindy, share their home with their own rescues Harley, a brindle mix; Bill and Piper two English mastiffs; and Henry, a Labrador he drove all the way to Tennessee to adopt.
Elderly volunteers typically prefer to foster smaller dogs because they are thought to be easier to control, he said.
“Smaller dogs are the ones that get picked first,” he said. “Not everybody wants a big dog.”
The permanent building he is planning in a lot near the old Pizza Hut will provide a haven for dogs that are overlooked until they can find homes. The parcel is being donated by CenturyLink Telecom, Buckner said.
He plans to finance the cost of the 25x30 food structure with donations to the nonprofit and his own pocket and will do much of the work himself.
About 15 kennels with raised bedding will house healthy pets and several rooms will shelter pregnant or sick animals.
Viega in McPherson donated water lines and thermal flooring to keep the kennels warm.
Each animal will have its own outdoor exercise area with an added play yard where prospective pet parents can play with the pets.
“People that already have dogs can take their dog out for a meet and greet with the shelter dog,” he said.
Finding homes for rescue pets is easy, for now, but Buckner expects a boost in requests in January.
“After Christmas there is usually a big boost in demand to rehome pets,” he said.
In the meantime, Buckner is planning a pet parade Dec. 12 near both of the city’s assisted living centers for residents who miss their pups, or just need some cheering up. The parade will be outside for the safety of residents who can watch from the building.
“We will go by the windows,” he said. “It will give them a chance to see the dogs. The more pups the better.”
Donations to Wags and Wiggles Furever can be made by visiting the nonprofit’s web site or at Tampa State Bank.
Last modified Dec. 3, 2020