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Jefferson Awards: Organizer Finds 'Forever Homes' For Abandoned Pets

MENLO PARK (CBS 5) - "Forever Homes" is the name Jo Hamilton gave to well-suited families who adopt dogs and cats. Hamilton has fostered animals for fifteen years. When she realized there were just too many dogs and cats waiting for that "forever home" she stepped up, and co-founded Companions in Waiting, an animal rescue and adoption organization.

Eight years ago, Hamilton started Companions in Waiting so she could help dogs and cats find homes through weekly pet fairs she organized. Animal Control Officer Jeannette Washington said that added exposure makes a difference.

"She's taken many animals from us and has found homes for them," said Hamilton. "She's an asset--just another means to get our animals into new homes."

Arnie, a twelve month Beagle and Chihuahua mix, was abandoned on the streets of East Palo Alto. Thanks to Hamilton's program, Arnie found a home at one of the adoption pet fairs in Menlo Park.

"I was really drawn to him," said Kathy Gilles. "I've been thinking of getting a dog, looking at different breeds and sizes and he's a really good fit, I think."

The store owners at Pet Place, which was a partner at the Menlo Park event,  have allowed Hamilton to set up tables to introduce animals to potential families. In Arnie's case, it was a success- Gilles took Arnie home!

Hamilton hosts these adoption fairs monthly throughout the Peninsula with the help of volunteers who evaluate each pet's personality and screen prospective parents like Gilles before sending a pet home.

"We always send you home to think about it for 24 to48 hours. We always want you to think about it," Hamilton said.

Hamilton, a former school teacher, has kept a scrapbook of adopted pets as a way to remember each adoption - boasting 23 last year alone.

"You meet such amazing people and they so love the animals, they keep in touch, one family lives in Hawaii and I still get Christmas cards," Hamilton said.

Companions in Waiting has raised money through calendar sales featuring their success stories. Hamilton herself has taken in scores of dogs and cats over the years.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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