From Bonifay to New York: The Story Behind Lucky Puppy


Teri Mattson didn’t set out to run a dog rescue. It was an accident. A happy accident, we think that is what the thousands of rescued dogs and the people who benefit from their love and companionship would say. When Teri and her wife Becky Lowrey moved to a family farm in Bonifay, they brought their personal dogs, Gracie May and Deed. Soon after moving in, Teri brought home two stray puppies from a park and a male cat and two kittens who were dumped on their road, all in the same day. They named the male cat

photo of a young mama dog eating kibble and nursing a puppy

photo of a white and tan young mama dog at the lucky puppy rescueMr. Mom because he would care for the kittens like he was their momma.  It became apparent very quickly that there was a serious problem of unwanted animals and animal neglect in Washington and surrounding counties. Dogs started to show up often, dropped off on their road and even up the driveway of their home and farm, where they raise beef cattle.

“I always tell people when we moved here, we were 'normal' people with our two dogs. Those days are long gone," laughed Teri.

In 2008, this unplanned endeavor snowballed through need into a 501(c)3 organization, Lucky Puppy Dog Rescue & Kennel, Inc. Fully funded by donations and fundraisers run by volunteers, the rescue is around the corner from Teri and Becky’s home. In addition to kenneling upwards of 200 dogs in Bonifay, Teri, staff and volunteers also run Magnolia House in Panama City where litters of puppies are raised and some adoptions take place. A community of staff, volunteers and fosters transport, care for and assist in the adoption of Teri’s dogs, the Lucky Puppies.

Photograph of puppies in a pen at the lucky puppy rescueTeri is lovingly called “Momma T” by the staff and volunteers of the rescue, and by many of The Lucky Puppy’s 20,000+ followers on Facebook (@theluckypuppy). She earned this nickname and reputation by caring for hundreds of momma dogs during and after delivery. Lucky Puppy’s Retired Momma Dog program was created to provide the best maternity care to pregnant dogs, give them a safe place to give birth, then spay them to prevent more unwanted litters. These “retired momma dogs” are either returned to their families or adopted to loving homes. Their pups are raised, vetted, spayed and neutered, vaccinated and found the perfect home. Sometimes it is a challenge to find those forever homes.

To find forever homes for all of these dogs, Lucky Puppy looked north. Teri sought partnerships with rescues in northern states, building a network of volunteers and foster homes. A community of support grew in New York’s Capital District, north of Albany. “Lucky Puppy North” welcomed transports. Fosters and adopters would meet the bus in a parking lot, ready to take home the lucky puppies.

The biggest change and evolution in the rescue’s operation came in October 2019 when Teri and Becky purchased what is now the rescue’s Great Beginnings Adoption Center in Argyle, NY. The center is a seven-acre parcel of open field and woods with two kennel buildings, play yards, a training area and a ranch home. In just two years, the adoption center has grown from adopting 200 dogs a year to over 700.

The adoption center is focused on finding the best fit for their lucky puppies; playing matchmaker between dogs and people. When dogs and puppies arrive, they are welcomed off the climate-controlled bus by staff and volunteers. Over the next few days, all the newcomers go through behavior assessments; testing toy and treat drive, energy level, play style, personality type and noting any fears or guarding behavior. All this information is shared with adopters and used by a team of volunteer adoption counselors, who review applications and connect the pups to people.

One of the things that sets Lucky Puppy apart is the belief and commitment to training, enrichment and fulfillment for all their dogs while at the center and when they join their forever homes.

Partnering with a certified dog trainer, Lora Bacharach, owner of North Country Paws for Obedience, they are able to work together to train staff, volunteers and fosters as well as  connect new adopters to training resources. Seeing each dog as an individual and developing training plans and activities for engagement and partnership by learning their strengths and weaknesses drives the program. The passion for learning more and helping the dogs is evident in the groups who gather to welcome the arriving dogs, sign up to foster and donate their time to work at events.

Teri started as an accidental rescuer but her passion has grown Lucky Puppy to help so many dogs. All dogs who are helped by Lucky Puppy are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped, dewormed and given flea and tick and heartworm prevention. Many dogs must remain in Florida due to being heartworm positive, a huge problem in the south that is easily prevented using a monthly dose of Ivermectin or other heartworm preventative. These dogs remain in Teri’s care and are treated until they are heartworm negative and can travel to New York to be adopted. These long-term residents, the Retired Momma Dog Program, Spay and Neuter clinics (Teri transports 20-40 every two weeks) and just the feeding and vetting of 100+ dogs in Florida and 30+ in New York is expensive!

“I wish people knew how expensive it is to bring these dogs North…sometimes people make it sound like it is easy. It is not easy, but it is so necessary!” says Teri, who recently had to fly back to

Florida after bus issues turned a 26 hour transport into a 36 hour trip. The bus is currently stranded in NY, awaiting repairs.

The Lucky Puppy Dog Rescue needs your tax-deductible donations to continue the good work they do. You can donate on PayPal @luckypuppydogrescue or on their website where you can also find their wish lists and other ways to donate. Visits to the rescue and adoption center are by appointment. If you are looking to adopt, the best way is to fill out an application at , be approved, then they can connect you with Lucky Pups who match your lifestyle. A foster application is also on the website. To volunteer in Bonifay, Panama City or in New York please contact them on Facebook @theluckypuppy.

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