ZACHARY, LA (WAFB) - When checking in on the August Power of 9 Award winner, the Bunch family was bursting with puppies!
Joey and Bryan Bunch have four children and live in what seems like a normal house in a quiet neighborhood of Zachary. But the population of the Bunch house is more than just people.
At the time, they were fostering nine from the parish animal shelter managed by Companion Animal Alliance. They chose the lush green grass of the front yard to send their "guests" out tumbling and scampering.
McKinna Bunch, the couple's eldest daughter had just spent only her second day in classes at LSU. She's a freshman. McKinna and her mom hold what they call "Bottle Babies" because they were abandoned before they were weaned and have to be fed, sometimes as often and continually as every two hours.
Joey holds a black tiny puppy with the partly closed eyes of a newborn and pink mouth of the constantly nursing. McKinna has a gray dog with splotches of skin problems they are trying to remedy.
"We're pretty sure that they're related," McKinna said to her mom. Joey answered, "She looks awful, look at her skin!" McKinna agreed, "I know. Poor baby."
Turner, the family's only son, is in high school. He and his sister Adley amble in from the garage with two more puppies. Adley has a gift with them. Throughout our visit, the puppies climb and clamber over Adley.
Laryn, which is pronounced like Karen, is the youngest and loves the puppies so much, she might someday be a veterinarian. Her father Bryan said Laryn is her mom's biggest help, constantly assisting however she can.
Joey sets the bar high as a volunteer. She is one of Companion Animal Alliance's star foster parents. Over four years time, CAA said Joey has fostered more than 150 animals, and that's in addition to having their own family pets.
"We have five adult dogs, four cats, a bunny rabbit, a hamster, a guinea pig, a bearded dragon and a parakeet," Joey said.
With that many personal animals, I asked how did the animal fostering get started. Joey remembered it was a call from the CAA. She had asked about what she could do to help. Then, a woman dialed Joey's number.
"She called me and she said, 'We've got seven puppies, Can you take two?' I said 'sure,'" said Joey. "So I asked my husband and when I got down there, and I couldn't separate them, so I took all seven, and we haven't stopped."
All four Bunch children are part of the volunteer commitment.
"They feed 'em. They go to adoption events every weekend with me. They scoop poop. They clean up papers. Everything," said Joey.
As much honest to goodness effort and time as she and the kids put into these pets, what about when they finally are adopted?
"At first it was hard," Joey said. "I still cry every once in a while, especially when the 'bottle babies' get adopted because we spend a whole lot of time together. But it feels really good because you know they're going to a good home, and usually I just go to the shelter and get something new to fill that hole."
Joey's husband, who avoided the camera, told me "Through doing this [Joey's] taught the kids a valuable lesson. That you've got to live beyond yourself, and the compassion that it takes to do this and the dedication. It's really inspiring."
Power of 9 award is sponsored by Capital One Bank, United Way's Volunteer Center and WAFB.