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Heartworm Heroes Foster Program

Heartworm Hero - Rhino
Heartworm Hero - Rhino

Heartworm Heroes is a new and progressive foster program launched in partnership with the Josephine County Animal Shelter and Shelter Friends. Heartworm disease in shelter dogs presents unique challenges for a shelter facility. Recovery time and cost for treatment are often prohibitive for a County facility. The medical protocol is rigorous and requires convalescence for a period of six to eight weeks or longer, keeping the patient quiet with limited activity in a foster home.

Our first patient, Maverick Macphail was a pilot test that proved very successful. A pit bull who had been extremely neglected, 25 pounds underweight, riddled with wounds, and to make matters worse was diagnosed with heartworm. But he was a forgiving very adoptable pooch. We are delighted to report that after his recovery he was adopted thanks to his foster families and the financial support of Shelter Friends. Our next benefactor of this program is a little pitbull, Rhino who is now in his 9th week of treatment and well on his way to readiness for a new home.


This album of photos and story here written is presented for many reasons. The hope is that not only will the reader experience the joy of helping our Great American Shelter dogs; by adopting, volunteering, and supporting the efforts to find wonderful homes for our guests, but also to understand some of the challenges presented as we work to bring a second chance to our guests. It is also to educate the public on one of the challenges for some of our most vulnerable, those with heartworm and, the importance of heartworm prevention so we have a safe and healthy community of man’s best friend.

From time to time you may see a dog posted as lost, found, stray, surrendered, or other, and on occasion, you may wonder “What happened to Fido?” There may be circumstances in which for the best interest of Fido, we have chosen not to publish his or her forever home or sanctuary. “Sometimes you only see the tip of the iceberg”; the real work, the intense dynamics and efforts for the well being of our guests are often under the surface and you may never see the incredible efforts proffered by so many, to keep our animals presented to the Josephine County Animal shelter in safe harbor. There may be times you don’t see the end result. And there may be reasons you may never know. Perhaps we need to transfer a pooch our of the area to keep out of the hands of less scrupulous people. There are some that just need to be liberated from a life, not in keeping with our sense of goodness.

Heartworm Hero - Maverick
Maverick Macphail, The Little Man I Am

This story is to celebrate the incredible efforts over the last several months of one of those most vulnerable. His name is Maverick Macphail The Little Man I Am, a Great American Shelter Dog. In his honor, we proudly launch a new program, Heart Worm Heroes, a joint effort of the Josephine County Animal Shelter and Shelter Friends and You! Maverick MacPhail, The Little Man I Am, demonstrated the need for a successful program. Our first official benefactor of this program is Rhino, who will be presented in Part ll of Heart Worm Heroes. We hope you enjoy Part 1, and we welcome your support by availing yourself to foster and support this effort financially by contributing to the Heart Worm Heroes Fund managed by Shelter Friends.

Although we will go into more detail about the challenges of Heart Worm treatment in a later segment, I will be brief now only to say that the challenges are multi-fold. The cost which can be up to $1000, and from a 4-12 week or more recovery plan; and most importantly, the commitment of foster families to the time necessary for recovery. Each dog will be unique in the treatment plan and protocol required.

Heartworm Hero - Maverick

Enter Maverick. A dog was spotted malnourished and skinny 25 pounds underweight by a concerned citizen and posted to Facebook. This started the formation under the surface of the Great Iceberg; the part you don’t see which were the efforts of the public, Shelter Friends volunteers, and Animal Control Officer David Pitts to get the coordinates to secure him to safe harbor.

First we had to find a foster family that would commit to from 4 – 8 weeks or more. He got an extended foster family! Although he was 25 pounds underweight, we couldn’t wait to start treatment; He started his treatment plan as outlined by his veterinarian. Treatment is often very aggressive, rigorous, and hard on the body. The patient needs to be kept calm so as not to raise the heart rate while the heartworms exit the body. We will go into more detail about the treatment in our upcoming Segment ll. He got the best of the best in food! His foster mom Dagmar blended, crushed, grated, ground every kind of nutritious concoction she could dream up! He was clothed in coats of many colors to keep his body heat in as he was so thin.

We played music for him. We slept with him! We cuddled him. We prayed for him.

Heartworm Hero - Maverick

The time came about 6 weeks later that he was cleared for normal activity. Then his extended foster family grew. Foster families welcomed him into their homes where he learned good manners, kept gaining weight and strengthened his muscles and his heart! They took him on car rides, walks in the neighborhood, on out-of-town trips, and foster dad’s help.

Then the search began to find him his forever home! We fielded many inquiries. Adopters needed to be aware and apprised of his treatment and that we were hopeful that at the six-month mark, he will test negative on his heartworm test; and further, they need to be prepared to follow up, if we have a bit more way to go with follow up treatment, which is possible.

Oh the tears! The day came that he was to go on his meet and greet! His potential new adopter could have picked any dog, anywhere! But they chose Maverick! As we drove away on our trip northward, tears rolled endlessly from his foster families, “Oh no, don’t go; we love you; what if he doesn’t like them! “

Heartworm Hero - Maverick

As we arrived, we were greeted by the most amazing couple! We walked Maverick and their dog Sunny down the road; did a proper introduction; strolled their beautiful yards with fruit trees and green grass. As we went inside- they had prepared two beds for him to choose from. Later, however, they would report he chose dad’s recliner- and that was just fine with them. In the meantime, dad excused himself and set upon setting a feast before us. Genuine Louisiana sausage, red beans, the most scrumptious fresh blueberry, and strawberry crepes, and the best coffee! The dogs kicked back, getting acquainted, kissing nose to nose.

The Little Man I Am, Maverick Macphail has had an amazing journey!

Heartworm Hero - Rhino
And now a new journey begins for Rhino, a little blue nosed pit, our newest Heartworm Hero guest!