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Willow, the English bulldog-pit bull mix who has spent most of her 9 years living at the Lancaster town dog kennel, appears closer to finding her first real home.

The overweight, 70-pound brown-and-white mixed breed was rescued Friday by Buffalo Paws and Claws Animal Shelter in East Aurora.

“We love her, and we’re not going to let anything happen to her,” said Kristy Cordova, president of the rescue group she founded in 2009.

Willow has difficulty standing and walking.

“She is the most gentle soul. Even though she has these issues, she pushes herself to walk. She is a fighter,” Cordova said Saturday.

The dog – who was found eight years ago in Como Park shortly after giving birth to a litter of pups and presumably looking for them – lost her caregiver last month, when Lancaster dog control officer David R. Horn died unexpectedly on the job.

Horn found her in the park and the two had become buddies over the years. Willow took up permanent residence at the town kennel. Horn often took her to Burger King or Dairy Queen for burgers and ice cream treats.

But Willow had another good friend, Lancaster resident Karen Zielen. For many years, Zielen and her husband, Bob, would often walk Willow when she was healthy. As Willow grew older and less mobile, Zielen spent the last couple of years visiting Willow each week at the kennel.

It was Zielen who became concerned about Willow’s future amid talk by town leaders of restructuring dog control operations and possibly selling the kennel or moving some of the canines elsewhere.

“Others in town also thought about how it’s no life for Willow in a kennel,” Zielen said.

Zielen feared Willow might be euthanized because of her age and mobility issues.

So Zielen contacted Buffalo Paws and Claws.

“I begged, and said, ‘Please, see if you can come and take her,’ ” Zielen recalled. “I thought, they just can’t kill this dog.”

After mulling it over, town officials decided to let Cordova pick up Willow, who has became an instant hit on the shelter’s Facebook page since its first posting on Feb. 1. An update followed Friday. She is described as an “amazingly sweet girl.”

“I had one day to get her. The town said she’d either go to Clarence or the Humane Society,” Cordova said Saturday. “She was so sweet and full of kisses.”

Cordova took her to Seneca Animal Hospital, where she was vaccinated and evaluated. Veterinarians are running tests on her, trying to determine what’s wrong with her four legs, though they don’t believe she is arthritic, Cordova said.

“She walks slowly, but sometimes her feet buckle and she falls over,” Cordova said, noting that she has temporarily been placed on a steroid.

“It’s sad. We got home and she climbed up on my lap, and put her head against mine, and, I’m like, ‘Why couldn’t I find her sooner?’ ”

Because Willow is so overweight, she is on a special diet, Cordova said.

Buffalo Paws and Claws is looking for a foster home for Willow, but she is not yet ready to be placed for adoption. Anyone interested in fostering Willow should visit the shelter’s Facebook page, text or call Cordova at 208-7747.

email:krobinson@buffnews.com