Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 1:08 am | Updated: 10:07 am, Wed Nov 13, 2013.

Kate Fratti

It was December of last year, and Marianne Ahern, 57, who has been fostering rescued dogs since Hurricane Katrina, realized she was angry.

Not just angry, but starting to feel deeply discouraged, too.

The number of orphaned animals doesn’t ever seem to improve, she said.

“The flow (of unwanted animals) is as constant and as sad as it’s ever been,” Marianne said.

Negativity is uncharacteristic of the married, working mother of a much-loved grown son. But every girl, even a mostly cheerful, grateful one, has her breaking point.

Fortunately, when the Lower Southampton woman reached hers, anger gave way to a first-rate idea. Sometimes you have to “apply a little love to a problem,” Marianne had reminded herself.

It’s been a leap of faith in terms of time, energy and money, but way better than feeling powerless.

She still works full time, still fosters rescued Australian cattle dogs, and since January, with the help of friends, she now “upcycles” thousands of donated used stuffed animals — Teddy bears, Beanie Babies, character dolls — into inexpensive dog and cat toys.

Profits from the toy sales are the love she’ll apply to the problem. One hundred percent will be used to defray the cost of spay and neuter programs, and other animal welfare causes.

Strip kids’ stuffed toys of hard plastic eyes and noses, clear away any harmful stuffing like beans, cover eye holes with decorative appliqués, replace the innards with a squeaker and voila! Rover’s a happy dog. Stuff a cloth bird or mouse with catnip and Fluffy is in seventh heaven.

An incision is made on each toy’s belly so a 3-inch squeaker can be installed. The stitching to close the opening is done roughly and in colorful thread so it’s easily seen. A reminder that a spay-and-neuter incision is a must-have accessory on any pet.

A fashion accessory product on-air expert for QVC, Marianne has fostered 92 dogs over the years. No. 92, a very frightened pup who’ll need rehab before it can be adopted, lives with her now.

But animal advocates, even the most committed, cannot rescue the country’s way out of the problem. The key is for spaying and neutering to be an expected, commonplace, no-need-to-think-about it practice.

It isn’t today. So the real work is impressing on humans our ethical obligation to make it so. It is the only way to change the fact that 3 million to 4 million animals are put down every year. Killed not because they aren’t healthy or viable pets, but because there are too many of them to place in loving, responsible homes.

In the interest of people and animals, Marianne founded and incorporated Glad Dogs Nation, a for-profit company specifically created to feed the nonprofit Glad Dogs Foundation. The foundation funds spaying and neutering and education programs, maybe even public service announcements to create awareness.

Dog and I checked out the website,

Take a look even if you don’t own a pet. The toys, all sizes, are cute, cute, cute.

And best of all, cheaper than I’m used to. I’d stopped purchasing soft toys because they cost too much and didn’t last long in Dog’s possession.

“Why not just walk around to the back of the pet store and just drop some cash into their Dumpster,” Husband asked as I picked up bits of stuffing from the last decimated toy.

Glad Dogs toys cost of fraction of what I’ve been paying. Marianne argues that they’re tough to tear apart, too, but Dog and I just laughed at her.

She’s gathered thousands of donated stuffed animals through collection drives. So many that she had to rent storage space as she gathers teams of volunteers to upcycle them and get them ready to sell. If you or your group would like to help, get in touch with Marianne by email at

Her focus now, as the holidays approach, is on selling finished toys. Think gift-giving. Think, too, about a time when more cats and dogs have responsible loving homes. This is one way to help.