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      Panhandle Paws of Hope to educate pet owners

      Gayle Luna is in the process of putting together a local organization that will help pet owners to understand the importance of properly caring for their animals.

      Luna adopted Cheyenne and her eight puppies from Lorie Hubbard, the Fritch woman who once had more than 75 animals on her property. Not long after, Dr. Rob Barrenger of Palo Duro Animal Hospital tested Cheyenne and found out she suffers from anaplasma marginale, a tick-borne disease affecting the dog's blood. Now, Luna is paying hundreds of dollars in veterinary bills.

      "She was life-threateningly anemic," Dr. Ballenger stated. "She certainly is responding well to treatment so far. She is not out of the woods, but she's looking a lot better than she was."

      Though Luna said she does not regret adopting the dog, she pointed out vet bills are a big reason many people end up surrendering their pets.

      "If you take an animal from somebody, you need to be aware that there are going to be costs. No pet is free and if you're going to be a responsible pet owner you have to understand that."

      Now that she is experiencing this first-hand, Luna has even more incentive to get her organization, Panhandle Paws of Hope, up and going. The non-profit will focus on educating pet owners about the importance of doing more for their pets than feeding and watering. Yearly shots, exams and proper shelter will be among the highlighted topics. Dog food will be given to animals in need, and Luna said it is possible some funding could also be available for minor vet bills. The goal is to help animals like Cheyenne so they will not have to be taken to a shelter.

      "They all need homes, Luna cried. "It doesn't matter if they're in Fritch, Canyon, Panhandle, Bushland- they all deserve a chance. And that's the purpose of our group is to help those that slip through the cracks."

      The organization will make its first appearance next week in Canyon at the 4th of July parade. Luna said she currently has some animals that are needing homes- they will be walking in the parade and will be available for adoption afterward. A booth will be set up in the square where people can learn about the non-profit and show their support.

      "Pets don't have a voice," Luna added. "People can take care of themselves to a degree. But, a lot of the time, pets are put to the side."

      Panhandle Paws of Hope does not currently have a website or Facebook page, but Luna said both will soon be constructed to help spread the word.