There’s a certain magic that happens when you visit an animal shelter. Yes, it can be loud and chaotic, overwhelming and sometimes a little sad. But it can also be the most wonderful place on the planet — one that specializes in nothing more than keeping best friends safe and cared for until you arrive to take them home.

We all have stories about when we first met. Some of the best friendships start with a difficult introduction, while others are smooth sailing from the word go. It’s no different meeting your dog for the first time — especially in a shelter.

This is one of those friendship stories. It begins with Kharma, a gorgeous three-year-old pit bull mix who had been living in the South Pacific County Humane Society (SPCHC) in Long Beach since July 2018. All of the volunteers who walk dogs at the shelter were in love with Kharma. She was known as “the queen.” She could also be a little sticky with certain people and would sometimes bark and growl when some visitors would approach her. This probably explained her 10-month stay in a shelter that has found homes for more than 650 dogs and cats in a three-year period. That’s a lot of adoptions in a small community.

One volunteer decided to take a different approach to finding a home for Kharma. Kate Cooper, who has been walking dogs at SPCHC since December 2018, took a beautiful, smiling photo of the dog and had some postcards made to distribute along the Peninsula and in Astoria.

“As luck would have it, the first place I stopped was Salt Hotel and Pub in Ilwaco,” Kate recalled. “The person who showed me where to place the cards was Eddie [Knick]. He was immediately taken by her,” she continued. “By the end of my meal, Eddie came to the table and asked if he could schedule a time to meet Kharma. My partner and I drove to the shelter, picked Kharma up and brought her back to meet him within two hours.”

Eddie remembers the meeting well, “I just kept looking at her photo, thinking what a cute dog she was. And then Kate brought her to meet me!”

“Eddie was keen — very keen,” Kate recalls. She put Eddie in contact with Sara Tokarz, executive director of SPCHC, and they scheduled a meet-up on the beach for a walk with his dog Jupiter. Choosing to meet away from the shelter was a brilliant strategy, as all the stress factors melted away and Kharma was just able to be a dog on the beach with another dog. The meeting went beautifully.

Sara knew from experience that it was going to take more time to make sure bonds were formed between Eddie, his girlfriend Kathryn, Jupiter and Kharma, so several morning walks over the next two weeks were scheduled and Eddie waited until after a four-day trip to Bend to bring Kharma home for a trial foster.

“I can’t believe she was at the shelter for so long and no one took her!” Eddie said. “She is such a great dog. I am so lucky.”

On May 8, Kharma’s adoption was finalized. She now takes up the better portion of the bed, rolls in the grass, plays with Jupiter and smiles non-stop. Eddie couldn’t be happier, “She is the perfect companion for Jupiter. We go running together and they are the greatest pair. And she is definitely a couch dog!”

SPCHC has a few dogs who, like Kharma, are wonderful dogs and have been there for several months. They’re just waiting for the right person or family to take the time, commitment and insight into finding out their true potential.

“Building a relationship is key to helping them settle into their new home,” Tokarz says. “That doesn’t happen overnight with some dogs and it takes time to build that trust up.”

If you aren’t able to adopt, the shelter is always looking for good, responsible people to foster. Fostering can give much-needed respite to animals who are becoming fatigued with the stress of being in the shelter for extended periods. This gives them time to gain confidence and trust and makes them much more adoptable.

The South Pacific County Humane Society is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located at 330 Second Street NE, Long Beach, WA 98631. You can contact them by calling 360-642-1180 or visiting beachpets.com where you can also see all of the dogs and cats available for adoption.

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