by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
For a couple of decades, Joan Moran’s house on Tower Pond has not only been home sweet home for the 74-year-old, but it’s become a safe haven for man’s best friend.
At first glance, the modest dwelling, with its bright yellow door in front, does not look like a place that would house eight dogs and their loving caretaker.
Moran has literally opened her doors to many dogs over the years. She has gotten different breeds, demeanors and personalities; however, there is one common denominator. It’s the value Joan places on each dog’s life.
Holly is a sheltie with one of eight stories. She was given to an 84-year-old family member as a Christmas present, but when the energetic dog kept knocking him over, Holly’s next stop was the Cheboygan County Humane Society.
Joan is a frequent visitor to the facility located along Hackelburg Road. Executive director Mary Talaske knows her well and gave her a call. She was delighted to provide the 17-month dog a forever home.
“Joan is a type of person everybody wishes they could be,” said Talaske. “Most people want to do something to help, Joan gets past the want and goes out and does it.”
Once a dog makes it to Joan’s pack, “This is where they stay,” she said. Holly and Joan have been together for seven years.
Sweetie is a registered Maltese born without a tail and had four homes when a call came from Cheboygan.
“People wanted her for breeding. I don’t know why anybody would pick a little female, who is deformed, and want to breed her, puppy-mill style,” said Joan.
The other dogs are Zoe and Zina, a pair of Chihuahuas, along with Chester, Cocoa, Cinder and London Rose.
“They are all good guys,” said Joan, looking at them gathered around her living room chair. Holly affectionately licking Joan’s Crocs.
She has taken in as many as 10, but at her age, “I have to watch the ages of these animals, because they could outlive me.” She has had a discussion with her son about their future care, God forbid, something happens.
“They keep me going,” said Joan. She walks three and four at a time along the rail-trail a few blocks away and does it each day. “If I tried to do all of them at the same time, it would be a disaster.”
She goes through about 25 pounds of food a week at three stations and always keeps the water filled.
The dogs are all well-behaved and have so many personality quirks.
Zina is the most loving and most times can be found in Joan’s lap. Zoe is usually there, too. She is missing a few teeth and easily has the worst breath.
“If you were in a car with her for an hour, you would know it,” said Joan with a chuckle.
Most dogs enjoy going for rides and she has taken all eight on rides in her car. “It does not work well at all,” said she, laughing as she tried to get the words out.
That’s why the good Lord made windows.
“And they lick all the windows,” said Joan.
In the house, there’s always hair in every corner and always something to clean up in the yard.
“It is a constant job of cleaning,” she added.
There is a doggie door in the living room leading out to a deck with stairs to the rest of the fenced in yard.
London Rose gets an award for standing in the doggie door and letting cold air in on winter days. When this happens, she gets a little help.
“I will say, ‘Holly, will you get London out of the door?’ ” said Joan.
A few minutes later, her neighbor arrived home from work, which started one barking. Most of them ran out the doggie door to investigate. She said it’s like raising a bunch of kindergartners.
Why does she do it?
“It’s a calling,” she said. “The first animals I took in, I was five-years-old, were kittens that were dumped off. My mother told me to get rid of them. I instead took them in my room and that was an absolute disaster. She let me keep one of them.”
Her kind heart toward animals has continued to this day.
Two years ago, she rescued a labrador retriever that been at a home near Hillman where authorities seized 37 dogs and six miniature horse. The story made statewide news and led to the conviction of a 35-year-old woman.
Joan got a call from the Elk Country Animal Shelter to see if she was interested in taking in one or two.
Joan was not interested in any puppies because people are more apt to adopt them. She prefers the older ones that people typically do not want.
The lab was, old, blind and had foreign substances in its ears. “I said, ‘okay, I will take her,’ ” said Joan. She was 28 pounds when she brought her home.
“When she passed,” said Joan, pausing to keep her emotions in check, “she was probably about 80 pounds. “This gets to be heartbreaking after a while.”
She has a little cemetery in the corner of her yard.
Last year, Joan took half of the dogs to a blessing of animals and pets on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi at St. Paul Catholic Church. She took the dogs that are good on leashes and would get along with others at the event.
“It’s a lot of work, but it is a great life,” said Joan.