DAMARISCOTTA LAKE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - If you're lucky enough to visit author David Rosenfelt and his wife, Debbie, don't dress up. In fact, you might want to wear your jeans, because you're guaranteed to find yourself covered with dogs.
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The Rosenfelts currently share their home with 20 dogs, including Golden Retrievers, a Lab or two, a pair of Great Pyrenees, a large Bernese Mountain Dog and even a giant Mastiff. They set up a deafening chorus when a visitor walks through the door, but eventually calm down to occasional barks.
The Rosenfelts say their dog family began in the mid-1990's when they were living in California. After Debbie's beloved Golden named Tara died, the couple started volunteering at an animal shelter. They saw large, older dogs being left in cages or even euthanized because no one wanted them.
So the couple formed the Tara Foundation, and over time say they found homes for about 4,000 dogs. Those no one wanted, if they were friendly, went home with Debbie and David. "At one time we had 42," says David. "So 20 seems normal."
Seven years ago, after a visit to Maine, the couple decided to move here. They bought a house on Damariscotta Lake that fit a special requirement: no neighbors to disturb. They fenced in a two-acre swath of woods to make an outdoor playground for the pooches.
Two years ago, they were finally ready to make the move. David chronicles that five-day odyssey in his latest book, Dogtripping: 25 rescues, 11 Volunteers and 3 RV's. And while the author will jokingly describe the trip as "misery", Debbie says "It was one of the greatest moments of my life".
They admit the dogs are a lot of work, especially the daily outdoor cleanup and all the trips to the vet. Then there's the food. A lot of food. David says that before he left for a two-week book promotion tour, he had to buy "500 pounds of kibble".
There can also be an emotional cost. These dogs they've rescued are older dogs, some with serious medical problems. The Rosenfelts know all too well the pain of having to put dogs to sleep. "You never get used to it," says Debbie. "But you... want them to have quality of life and have dignity. So when they can't hold their stuff and can't have dignity and are despondent, you kind of know." Adds David:"And you focus on the fact that for the time you had them, they were happy and loved. And that's the best you can do, otherwise you'd go crazy."
However, it's hard to talk about that sadness when you're surrounded by all those eager, wagging, barking, boisterous dogs, craving attention and even jumping 80 pounds into your lap. And there will likely be others coming to join them in the months ahead. David says they were down to just fifteen dogs two months ago, but while he was away on that book tour, Debbie found five new dogs that needed a home. In mock frustration, he complains: " ...she goes into a shelter like she's going to Bloomingdale's. She sees an old dog that need help, says I'll take you and you and you." And so the family grows again.