RUSKIN (FOX 13) - There's no shortage of kisses at CARE Animal Shelter in Ruskin. It's one of the many reasons Dena Dawson volunteers here at least once a week.
"The two things I love most are animals and children," she explained.
She gets a full does of furry friendship when she comes to visit. CARE -- which stands for Critter Adoption & Rescue Effort -- houses up to 22 dogs and 45 cats at a time.
"It's as close to a home that these types of animals will have until they find their forever home," she continued.
All of the dogs spend their days outside and in spacious enclosures at night. They've got tons of room to roam: Three acres gives pups like 'Don Juan' a chance to run around and play.
"This one, he is nothing but a lover and that why we decided to call him Don Juan," Dawson said. "He has a lot of energy so I think that it would be good for a family that has kids."
But she does have one warning for his next family.
"The only thing that you have to look out for is that he likes to lick toes," she laughed.
Dawson and the rest of the volunteers are devoted to the animals at CARE, spending more than 14,000 hours a year socializing, walking and caring for each rescue -- getting them ready for their forever home.
"Some of the animals that come in, their spirit is broken. I don't have a lot of money but I have time and I have love and if that's what it takes to get these guys happy and find a loving home, then I am all for it."
Each animal comes with their own issues, their own past. But they still all get treated with the same amount of love and care.
"You just get some that are somewhat distant and you can tell that they've been out on their own for a little while and haven't been treated like they should," Dawson continued. "And then if you can just come in and sit in one of their kennels and you can sit and love them and they give you this affection back you're like, 'This is a start, they're gonna be happy one day.'"
It's Dena Dawson's love for all fury friends that makes her a hometown hero, even though she doesn't see it that way.
"It's not being a hero," she offered, "it's just making a difference."
The animal shelter is always looking for help, including donations like animal and office supplies. You can see their full wish list at www.careshelter.org.