Saturday is clean ear day and Sunday is bath day for all five dogs at the Fratrichs.
It's a two-person job that Julie and her husband Lou tackle together.
You might think Buddy, the blind chocolate lab, that towers over all the other dogs would put up the biggest fight.
Times Observer photo by Ben Klein
Sammy, a blind, white Maltese, is one lucky dog. After surviving one of the worst physical animal abuse cases in Warren County, he has landed at the home of Julie and Lou Fratrich. At the other end of the couch are Julie Fratrich and two of their other dogs.
But it's Gizmo, the brown 5.4-pound Chihuahua from the Humane Society, that managed to escape the dreaded tub last Sunday.
Walk into the Fratrichs' home and you'll be see Sammy, the blind white Maltese dog who survived one of the worst physical animal abuse cases in Warren County; Buddy, the blind chocolate lab who was abandoned in Youngsville; Lilly, the temperamental dachshund from Tidioute who runs the show; Murphy, a Turkish Maine Coon cat and noted pen stealer with an identity crisis that fetches and eats dog treats; and Mini, the most recent addition to the family, a black Chihuahua who survived six long years in a puppy mill in Lancaster County.
"These are dogs that people passed," said Julie Fratrich, a volunteer at Paws Along the River. "To live that long in a puppy mill is a miracle. Once they're done breeding they kill them."
If the Fratrichs' house is the last stop, these guys are pretty lucky.
They always have four permanent dogs and room for one more in case of an emergency situation, which how Mini became the latest addition to the family.
Over the past 13 years they've have taken in dogs that have one way or another ended up at a shelter. Some were abused and abandoned, some were taken in from a rescue group and others were given up by overzealous owners who were just not prepared to care for a pet.
Private organizations such as A Tail To Tell in Lancaster County help find homes for dogs like Mini.
Mini came to the Fratrichs just three weeks ago and is still adjusting to life outside of a cage. She just learned what toys are this week. She still won't eat out of a bowl, though.
"For her to live that long in a puppy mill is a miracle," Julie said. "The only thing that kept her there is the fact that she could produce puppies."
"She's a wonderful volunteer and really cares about the animals," Warren County Humane Society Director Karen Kolos said of Julie Fratrich. "She's taken on the special needs dogs that no one wants."
Take Sammy, the blind white Maltese, who was anemic from fleas, weighed only five pounds, his teeth were rotted and both his back and jaw were broken. He had spent so much time in a cage that he had to be taught to walk on cement.
"We have dealt with many disabilities and illnesses but never a blind dog that had been so physically beaten down," she said. "He should hate people for everything he's been through, but he doesn't. He's a wonderful dog."
Before him there was Scooby, a Whippet who came to the Fratrichs as a puppy and helped to socialize the other dogs in the house; Oppie, the mutt they took in who had no front legs; and Dutchess, a seven-year-old bulldog from the Humane Society who at first had bad manners and, Julie said, was the dog that almost broke her.
"They don't know what carpet is, it feels weird under their feet. Hardwood floors, shoes...you just have to be patient with them," she said. "She ended up being a phenomenal dog. It just kind of snowballed from there."
Sammy and Buddy visit Warren Area Elementary Center twice a year as part of the reading program with Mrs. Rogers' third-grade class.
"We take the dogs into the school and we go from class to class and the kids read to the dogs," Julie said.
Working as a foster home with dogs from shelters can be hard because of the bond formed, even if they are there for just a month. Fratrich said fostering is an important aspect because they then have something to tell a potential owner about the pet.
"They're still dogs and they can be phenomenal companions," she said.
Both of the Fratrichs' children, 14-year-old Corinn and 18-year-old Justin help out when they can.
"We take them for walks; we look like a parade," Julie said.
She recommends taking the time to investigate the breeder using a website such as www.petfinder.com and resisting the instant purchase of an animal that requires your time and attention.
"You want to see the mother and father, you want to see where the animals are living, you want to see the conditions they are living in," she said.
"I always say don't pick the dog, let the dog pick you. Or if people say, "I had a chocolate lab when I was a kid and it was the best dog I ever had", well, it doesn't mean the next chocolate lab you get is going to be exactly like that, the wonderful one you had as a kid. They do have traits and characteristics that are common, but their personalities are different. Each one of them has their own quirks and we just let them be them. We don't have a day that were not laughing at something somebody does."
At Paws Along the River there are already a number of puppies, kittens and purebreds that are ready to be adopted.
Kolos said they're willing to work with families to find the best match for their home and anyone thinking of a pet for the holidays should visit earlier to establish the pet in the new home.
"We have wonderful animals, wonderful pets waiting for a home," Kolos said. "Everything's been done, they just need a home."