A Fresh Start

Chance Foundation rescues, rehabilitates dogs with issues too tough for typical Shelters

During the 2000 Christmas season, Country Club Kennels owner Carla Nammack visited an SPCA with holiday treats and cookies for the shelter’s dogs. “That was when I saw this poor little pathetic heap of a dog; he was emaciated and saturated in his own urine,” she remembers. “His chart said he was fourteen, deaf, and blind.” Elderly dogs brought to a shelter in such condition are rarely adopted. The decision had been made to euthanize the dog, and he was due to be put down within minutes.

“I asked the SPCA’s director if I could take him out for a little walk. As soon as I put the loose leash on his neck, that little lifeless blob of black perked up and his little stumpy tail almost wagged right off. I made a very quick walk out and then made a very quick u-turn to the front desk and I said, ‘I don’t know where I’m going to put him, but I’m bringing him home.’ ”

Nammack did not know if the elderly spaniel would live even a week, but she was determined to make his last days comfortable and full of love. She named him Chance, after the second chance he was given that Christmas.

“He still had taste, touch, and smell, so I had to hold him a lot. It was a lot of work taking care of him, but he was a happy dog and I loved loving him!” Nammack said. “I had him for two years and three months. As painful as it is when you have to say goodbye, it’s worth the pain of losing them to know you gave them happiness and love and have their love and devotion in return.”

The Chance Foundation.

The need for groups like the Chance Foundation is great. “We are known for being one of the few rescues who will take the dogs that have some issues and need work. Every day I have probably 10 to 20 emails from different shelters that contact us about dogs that have issues that they aren’t equipped to work with,” Nammack said. Some dogs have medical conditions, and some have behavioral problems. She and her staff rescue and rehabilitate dogs from local agencies; they have also transported dogs from groups as far away as South Carolina and Texas.

Murdock is one of the rescues. Photo courtesy of Chance Foundation

“She really doesn’t have the word ‘no’ in her vocabulary,” said partner Matt Slaughter. “We’ll pick up a dog that has a plethora of problems, and as we’re driving back, she’ll say, ‘The girls [at the kennel] are gonna kill me,’ ” he laughed.

“When we met, I was so impressed,” he went on to say. “I’ve seen so many people who say they’re passionate about their work, but at five o’clock they’re clocking out. [Nammack] lives and breathes this, and what she does is magical. Some of the dogs we bring in, you’d see them and think, ‘No one can help that dog.’ But within days, sometimes hours, they are a totally different dog because of the care and love she shows them. It’s amazing what happens once they know, ‘This person likes me and is going to take care of me.’ ”

“The environment helps, too,” Nammack said. “Some dogs are just not equipped to live in a shelter. When we get them in a different environment, we see the potential of the dog that is hiding deep inside.”

Nammack and the staff and volunteers at the Chance Foundation believe that no dog is born bad. “I equate rehabilitating dogs with raising a child,” she said. “They need structure, exercise, and mental stimulation. You raise them, feed them, love them, and discipline them—not by hitting or yelling, but by teaching them how to be a polite canine citizen living in a world with humans.”

Scooby has benefited from Chance Foundation. Photo courtesy of Chance Foundation

What Chance Foundation does.

While in the Chance Foundation’s care, the dogs are housed, fed, shown kindness and love, socialized and trained, spayed or neutered, and given any medical care and vaccinations they might need. If necessary, when a dog first arrives he or she might stay in Nammack’s home with her until he/she is ready to move to Chance Foundations section of Country Club Kennels. They also have a quarantine section of the kennels if that is warranted.

“Once the dogs are ready, for adoption, they are listed on our website, and we do everything we can to find them the very best match for a new home. We typically talk to potential adopters on the phone first, then have them come out to meet the dog if it sounds like they may be a good match. If, at that point, the potential adopter wants to pursue adoption and we feel that the dog is a good fit for the family and they for him/her, we conduct a home visit to make sure we’re sending the dog to a safe environment and to help with the transition.”

“No one who does rescue is paid for what they do,” Nammack explained. “It’s very emotionally and financially draining.” Some of the organization’s funding comes from adoption fees, donations, a golf tournament, and Giving Tuesdays in December. “But the majority of our funds come from one wonderful local gentleman who has a heart of gold and wants every dog to have a life as wonderful as his own two dogs,” Nammack said.

As someone who picks up the broken pieces when a dog owner cannot or will not fulfill their responsibility to their pet, one of Nammack’s greatest desires is that people educate themselves before adopting a dog. “If you’re on the fence, go work with some dogs first,” Nammack said. “Volunteer, or find a group that does fosters and offer to foster a dog for a while. Dogs are living creatures that need respect and take considerable time, attention, and money to take care of properly. They are not toys for our entertainment that can be tossed aside once we tire of them or they become ‘inconvenient.’ They are living creatures with feelings who depend on us to provide them with their basic needs … food, comfortable housing, companionship, mental stimulation, exercise, and of course, kindness and love.”

Zizzou, Muffin, and Quentin enjoy Chance Foundation. Courtesy of Chance Foundation

There are currently nine adoptable dogs at the Chance Foundation facility, in addition to several dogs Nammack and her team are still preparing for life in “forever homes.” If you are interested in sponsoring or beginning the adoption process for one of the Chance dogs, visit the Chance Foundation’s website.

Staff & Volunteers

“I’ve got such a wonderful staff and a great facility where the dogs receive ample exercise, mental stimulation, love and affection, as well as training,” Nammack said. “Everyone who works here states that the reason they do what they do is because they want to help dogs.”

Carolyn Dotson

One such staff member is Carolyn Dotson, kennel attendant. A lifelong Catlett resident, Dotson grew up surrounded by animals and wanted to become a zookeeper when she was a girl. “I always like to see that moment when the dogs become their true selves,” Dotson said, “when you can see them relax and be happy with the other dogs.”

Kathy Weaver

Kathy Weaver comes from Manassas to volunteer at the Chance Foundation. Weaver and her husband first met Nammack when they needed someone to care for their fourteen-year-old lab Amos, who had had back surgery and needed special care due to his laryngeal paralysis. The Weavers’ veterinarian recommended Nammack, who impressed the Weavers with her devotion.

Unfortunately, Amos’ health eventually deteriorated. During a visit to their shared vet, Nammack learned that the Weavers had made the difficult decision that Amos needed to be put down that day. “Because she truly loves and cares for the animals, Carla called us up in tears to express her deepest sympathy and to let us know how much she, too, loved sweet Amos,” Weaver said.

Photo by Katie Fuster

“So on the way to the vet’s, we stopped by for her to say goodbye to Amos. That’s what really sold me on [The Chance Foundation]. So whatever I can do here, I do.” Weaver participates in everything from Chance Foundation adoption events to animal transport. She also helps with fundraising for the foundation.

Country Club Kennels

Nammack moved to Catlett in 1993 so that she could have more room for her dogs and horses. But when she traveled, she was faced with a conundrum. “I could not find a place where I felt comfortable leaving my dogs,” she said. Her parents had happily taken care of her pets while they lived nearby, but then they moved away to the beach.

“That’s where the thought came into my mind that I could start a small facility where people felt good about boarding their dogs,” Nammack said. In her position at her father’s air services consulting firm, she was able to work from home while she tested her business model out. “When I realized it was going work and be successful, my dad,  who is an animal lover as well, understood when I told him I wasn’t going to be working for him anymore. It was due to my father’s kindness, understanding, and generosity that I was able to start Country Club Kennels in 1996. And then in 2000, I officially started the Chance Foundation.”

Katie Fuster
About Katie Fuster 12 Articles
Katie Fuster lives in Warrenton with her husband, children, and rescue animals. For more on this story, drop by her writers’ page at facebook.com/AuthorKatieFuster.

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