DUNEDIN — For eight years, Dunedin Doggie Rescue has approached animal shelters as far away as Highlands County, trying to save dogs from euthanasia.
Most are mixed breeds that have missed some threshold of desirability that might have rendered them adoptable by county standards. They might be too old, too shy or too grumpy to make the cut. Even being born the wrong color (Google "black coat syndrome") can land a dog on death row.
But since 2006, when it gained nonprofit status, Dunedin Doggie Rescue has found homes for more than 500 dogs, often through volunteers who serve as "foster parents" and screen potential owners.
Ken Blaisse, a retired telephone technician, and his wife, Louise, accounted for more than 100 of those rescues, taking the canine castoffs into their home.
"Ken and Louise are the most prolific fosters," said Ken Koenig, 54, who started Dunedin Doggie Rescue in this dog-friendly city with his wife.
Over an adventurous adult life, Mr. Blaisse and his wife had seen much of the United States on a motorcycle. They had ridden up Pikes Peak and the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.
"There is nothing like crossing the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset on a bike," said Louise Blaisse, 66. Despite his wanderlust, Mr. Blaisse relished coming home to San Jose, Calif., where he could return to his books on math, physics or the space program.
A series of dogs awaited too, a St. Bernard and later a German shepherd and then a malamute. Mr. Blaisse rode his Honda Shadow a lot less after shattering his leg when a van pulled in front of him. He retired from a career with Dictaphone in 2005 and headed to Florida with Louise, a chow named Sasha and a cat, Myst.
Kenneth Robert Blaisse was born in 1948 in Philadelphia, the eldest of seven children. Louise was born a month later in the same hospital. They dated for a while in high school. After serving three years with the Army in Colorado and Germany, he looked her up.
"We always had similar perspectives," his wife said. Both were left-handed, believed in rational self-interest, and had friends who had cut them off once they learned the Blaisses didn't believe in God.
Mr. Blaisse volunteered as treasurer for Dunedin Doggy Rescue. He helped out at Suds on Sunday, a monthly dog-grooming event at the Pinehurst Pub. Louise ran the adoptions table for rescue dogs. Sometimes they ended up keeping animals others had adopted but then given back.
Those included Spritzer, a 15-year-old chihuahua mix who "reminded you of Yoda with hair," Louise said.
The dog lived an additional three years in the Blaisse home. A couple of days before Spritzer was to be put down, organization volunteers held a farewell party, as is their custom.
"People hold and pet the dog and say goodbye," Louise said.
A few years ago, Mr. Blaisse was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His symptoms worsened in mid July and he went into Suncoast Hospice.
Yet Mr. Blaisse had always stated that he wanted to die at home. With his signs slipping, his wife asked the hospice to take him home. Mr. Blaisse died July 21, just as the ambulance pulled into his driveway.
He was 66.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.