Alabama Champion is an ABC 33/40 series highlighting people who make a difference where they live.
It is the retirement plan that one Calhoun County couple wasn't expecting. Now they have placed all bets on a rather unique passion that they hope can make a real difference for animals no one wants, at least not yet.
"Every Monday through Thursday we have a transport van pick up from 4 to 6 dogs," Julie Madden said. Madden and her husband Tom welcome them here at Encore Enrichment Center for shelter dogs. The couple founded the facility to help boost adoption rates at shelters in the county. Madden says many are too high energy or afraid of human interaction. Either way they need training to make them "forever home" ready. Something many shelters just can't do.
"They don't have the time or space to do a lot of the things you should do to help a dog become more adoptable," Madden said.
Four days out of the week the Maddens, along with the center's director Charley Jones, volunteer and train the dogs in the basics. Before coming to encore, Jones spent years working and then running shelters. She says what the dogs get at this facility is worlds apart from the shelter life.
"Working in the shelter environment, knowing you are so busy cleaning up that you have no time to help them, give them the skills they need to get adopted. This is just wonderful," Jones said.
Right now the shelter is funded almost entirely by the Maddens retirement funds. The couple originally saw a different future; traveling, maybe golf. But the dogs won out.
Encore has been open a little more than a year and so far their success rate is over 50%. Of the 80 dogs they've trained 42 have been adopted. The Maddens have received some donations to help run the operation. They say they hope to have more as they continue.