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Voters' Choice Awards spotlight: Triangle Beagle Rescue family shares their foster story

The Shepherd family has fostered 17 dogs in 2.5 years through Triangle Beagle Rescue.

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Jessica Patrick
, WRAL multiplatform producer
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Shepherd family has fostered 17 dogs in less than three years through Triangle Beagle Rescue.

Tracey and Chris Shepherd and their 15-year-old sons, William and Dylan, can't get enough of the floppy-eared beagles.

Right now they have five dogs in their house – their foster, Sport, and four beagles of their own. The goal is to find foster dogs adoptive families, but sometimes the Shepherds get attached.

"We joke that we can't be outnumbered when it comes to the number of dogs we have here permanently," laughed Tracey, who admits she and Chris gave in once or twice and adopted a foster. "They're just so cute."

"A lot of them I really want to keep sometimes," said William, remembering Chip, a basset/beagle mix the family fostered that carried a stuffed polar bear around with him 24/7. "He was just very cute. I really didn't want to let him go. But we had to because a family wanted to adopt him -- and that let us foster more dogs."

Chip – who still has his bear – is happy and healthy with his new family, but Tracey said he had a rough start.

"When Chip first came to us, he had a severe case of heartworm and a bad cough," Tracey said. "He couldn't even keep water down."

Chip developed pneumonia, but with the help of veterinarians who work with Triangle Beagle Rescue, the Shepherds nursed him back to health. His progress meant so much that the Shepherds created an Instagram account to document his story.

"There are some [dogs] that just tug on our hearts," Tracey said. "They come in and are in such bad shape – they don't have fur or their legs are broken – and we get to see them through that journey of becoming the dog they are meant to be."

That's what the Shepherds are doing now with Sport, who has lived in their home since June. Sport, like many of their other fosters, is a dog the family will remember long after he's adopted.

"When Sport first came to us in June, he wouldn't let anybody touch him," Tracey said. "Now when I come home he jumps up, and in the morning he gets up on the bed for belly rubs. It's stuff like that that just makes our hearts feel so good."

Of the four beagles the Shepherds own, three came from Triangle Beagle Rescue.

"We try to go into it knowing that we are going to find a home for them," Tracey said. "I try to express to the kids that we are a temporary family. We can love them with all of our hearts, but our job is to get them ready for their forever family."

Dog lovers don't have to foster or adopt to help organizations like Triangle Beagle Rescue, which needs volunteers to organize fundraising events, create social media campaigns and go on "freedom rides" to rescue dogs from overcrowded shelters.

Since COVID-19 has canceled the fundraising events Triangle Beagle Rescue relies on – like Beers for Beagles and Beaglefest – volunteers have been sewing cloth face masks to raise money for the rescue. So far, the masks have raised $10,000, which all goes to take care of the rescued beagles.

For the past two years, Triangle Beagle Rescue even paid to rescue several dogs that were part of the meat trade in China. Volunteers drove from North Carolina to cities like Chicago and Atlanta to pick up the dogs from the airport.

Triangle Beagle Rescue has been a WRAL Voters' Choice Awards winner for two years now. "We couldn't do it without our volunteers and all the people that vote for Triangle Beagle Rescue," Tracey said. "We have the best volunteers ever."

"The dogs are awesome and the people are awesome – especially the whole fostering process," said Dylan. "It takes a lot of work, especially with dogs that are really scared, but in the end it's all worth it."


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