Have you ever dreamed of working in dog rescue? There are certainly lots of benefits from doing so! There are also lots of potential personal costs, both financial and emotional. Let me give you an example of two of my Miniature Schnauzer rescue's recent saves. Then, if you're still thinking dog rescue is for you, I'll show you how to get started!
On a Saturday three weeks ago, my Miniature Schnauzer Ladybug and I walked up to the checkin counter at our local Banfield Veterinary Clinic in the Northwest Omaha Petsmart. As we approached the counter, a lady with a baby carrier sitting on the floor and a very sick looking tiny puppy on a leash was loudly dropping the "F" bomb to anyone within earshot. She was irate because the vet had just charged her around $80 to examine her pup, do testing and diagnose him with a critical case of canine Parvovirus.
She stated she could not afford to do the treatment required for the pup, and that she was going to take him straight from there to the weekend dropoff kennels at Nebraska Humane Society. Knowing these weekend kennels aren't staffed, I was very alarmed by her plans. Putting a puppy in severely dehydrated condition with frequent vomiting and diarrhea in a kennel alone was virtually a death sentence.
Well, it wasn't Cocoa Bear's day to die! After introducing myself to the woman as the owner of a local dog rescue, I offered her a way out - an owner surrender on the spot. The clinic manager handed me a blank piece of paper on which the owner wrote down what I asked. She signed and dated it, then handed me his leash and walked out.
I'll admit, my first thought was "What have I gotten myself into now!" But I knew what had to be done and I asked the vet to admit Cocoa (he looked like a Cocoa to me!) on the spot and get him well. After four days of hospitalization on IV antibiotics and other meds, I brought Cocoa home to continue his recovery. He steadily improved and within another week I was starting to get adoption inquiries about him. After all, he is the cutest pup ever and was only 14 weeks old. I wrote articles promoting Cocoa, got rescue friends to promote him on their sites, and started an online fundraiser at GiveForward.com to help with his $500 hospital bill. (If you'd like to help Cocoa's expenses, please visit his fundraiser here!)
Within two weeks of his rescue, I received an adoption contract for him. I made the 320 mile round trip to Kansas City where I delivered him to his new forever home. While there are always other transportation options, I insist on doing a personal home visit before I will release a dog for adoption. That's due to some bad experiences I've had in the past. (See Harry's story). Cocoa Bear will have a happy ending!
Last Friday afternoon, I was out watering my hosta garden when the cell rang. It was one of my awesome volunteers, Sheryl in eastern Iowa. It was 3:00 p.m. and she had just heard there was a tiny Schnauzer in a high kill shelter in a little Iowa town too far away for her to get to in time. The little girl had a deadline of 4:00 p.m. that day before she went in line for the "needle." I told Sheryl that yes, we would help her, and that she should try to get someone nearby to "pull" her (that's what rescues call it when we rescue a dog from "death row.") Sheryl was successful and a volunteer from another rescue went and pulled Penny before the deadline. Penny went then to a no-kill shelter where she would stay until Sheryl could drive to the shelter and pick her up for transport.
Meanwhile, I went to work on promoting this new doggie for foster care. I have recruited some awesome volunteers who will foster a dog on a moment's notice when an urgent situation arises. One of my newer volunteers saw her picture, fell in love, and sent in an adoption contract on Penny even before I had gone to pick her up! This is the "ideal" situation in dog rescue, when we have a place for the dog to go immediately.
My son and I met Sheryl in Des Moines on Sunday to bring Penny the rest of the way home. She turned out to be the most amazing little girl! Everyone who meets her falls in love. Penny was taken to my vet for a full checkup today and passed with flying colors. As the owner of our rescue, Penny has become my financial responsibility. We attempt whenever possible to recover our expenses via adoption fees. In extraordinary situations such as Cocoa Bear's, we do online fundraisers to help with the costs. Penny will get a good grooming tonight and we'll finish her behavior evaluation. Then any problems will be noted to the prospective new owner and she will be delivered tomorrow night, provided all goes well at the home visit.
There are dramatic puppy mill rescues; sometimes pulls from pounds; there are personal rescues off the street, removing a dog from danger; but by far the most common situation is the owner surrender. In one common scenario, the owner has died or gone to a nursing home and the dog is owner surrendered to a rescue. In another just as common situation, somebody has adopted or purchased a dog and it "just didn't work out." Sometimes there are divorce situations. People move to homes (why?) where they don't allow pets. The reasons are as varied as a rainbow but the end result is the same - poor Fido or Fiona has nowhere to go.
So, do you still want to work in rescue? If you do, the easiest way to get started is to go to Petfinder.com. Look up the type of dog breed you're interested in. Check out the contact information for the rescue on the listing. Then, contact them and offer to volunteer! It's that simple.
If you are very experienced with a particular breed and want to start your own rescue, you should familiarize yourself first with your local regulations. Is there a dog limit? Does your city require a license to rescue? All of this information can typically be found online.
You can also find a local physical shelter and go there to hook up as a volunteer. A long time ago when I was still physically able, I volunteered to maintain the gardens at Town & Country Humane Society south of Papillion. They are a no-kill nonprofit rescue that is close to my heart. I've helped them and they've helped me over the years too.
If you're not able to physically volunteer with a dog rescue, maybe you can contribute financially or in other ways! Whatever you choose to do, the universe and the dogs will thank you!