foster dogs

Dog Rescuers

Almost 8 million dogs and cats enter U.S. shelters each year, and almost 50% of them will not come out alive. The cycle is horrific.  Dogs come in abused, neglected, heartbroken, sick, old, pure-bred–with one thing in common…they are unwanted and unloved.  It is hard on the animal-lovers who work for the shelter. It is hard on anyone who loves animals.

What many people don’t realize is that about 35% of abandoned animals are pulled out of shelters by rescue groups. Rescuers go deep into the shelters looking for adoptable dogs. They find foster homes, they provide food and vaccinations and spay/neuters. Their own homes are usually brimming with wagging tails. They sell t-shirts for medical care fundraisers. They network to find just the right family for each dog. They organize transport to move dogs all over the country, to get them to homes where they will be loved and taken care of. Their phones buzz with incoming texts, emails, messages…about the dogs they’ve saved, or about dogs that are urgently in need of a place to stay before time runs out.

Rescue groups operate all around us.  Rescuers seem to lead double lives…working full time jobs, raising families and giving the rest of their time, hearts and homes to the dogs they save. It takes a great human to traverse through this bittersweet cycle. Rescuers experience extreme joy when opening a shelter cage to save a dog, only to turn around and have their hearts broken when they look into the eyes of the desperate dogs still in their kennels. And there is pain–anger–when they walk to the front of the shelter, only to see a line of people dropping off unwanted pets. It takes a hearty soul to care so deeply, to do so much, to function so effectively around “humanity” and to give so much of their lives.

This is the story of Kelly and Judy: special souls who are dog rescuers in this never-ending stream of unwanted and abused animals.  View the photos in slideshow to see captions for each.  Start slideshow by clicking on the first photo, and then using the arrows to navigate through.

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Transporting Rescue Dogs

Ever wonder what happens with the dogs saved by rescue groups? Transporting rescue dogs gives many a better chance of adoption or foster in a new state. Almost every weekend, hundreds of rescuers move these precious souls miles in 1-2 hour bits of travel. It’s an incredible network, and a feat of organization and determination, and sheer love for the dogs.

Last Saturday, I rode on a dog transport with Judy, picking up 10 dogs in Merrillville, Indiana and driving them to Itasca, Illinois. This was just one leg of their 8-9 hour journey from Indianapolis to Minneapolis.

I arrived at Judy’s just after 7 a.m. as she was configuring the van with her crates and cages. Like a Tetris puzzle, she arranged the crates to maximize the space and to make sure there would be enough separation for the parvo survivors we would soon meet. There was a smell of fresh laundry–bleach maybe–from the clean padding, beds, and towels lining the cages. Some towels were strategically placed on top of the cages under the air vents, so no dog would get blasted with the AC. Behind the driver’s seat was a bag of slip-leads and collars, some towels, baggies, water dishes and water.

We had a list of the passengers to expect…

  • 1. Shelby – Poodle-x, 9y F(S), 30 lb.
  • 2. Goofy – Pomeranian, M(N), 5 lb.
  • 3. Maltese – F, 8 lb.
  • 4. Juno – Terrier, F(S), 30 lb.
  • 5. BeaglePup – 10 weeks
  • 6. Lil Bit & Skittles – APBT puppies, 8 lbs. each
  • 7. Frenchie – 10 weeks
  • 8. Dexter – 4 months
  • 9. Puppy – 8 weeks. WILL TRAVEL IN OWN CRATE

The list also told us the that these dogs were traveling with health certificates, collars and that all were up-to-date on shots. There was an updated e:mail with more specifics on the meeting places for each of the 7 legs of the journey and who would be receiving the dogs upon arrival in Minneapolis. We pulled out of Judy’s driveway around 7:20 a.m. with the crates, the list and the sunshine, headed to meeting place #1 in Merrillville, Indiana.

We arrived a little early to the parking lot where we’d make the transfer from one car to another. A text let us know that Tara and Gwen were 10 minutes away, coming in 2 cars from Indianapolis. While we waited, Judy reminded me to be careful not to touch another dog after touching a parvo-survivor puppy. The parvo-surviving pups would also have to take their potty breaks in a different place.

And then, they arrived! Two cars pulled up, on either side of Judy’s van. Introductions, hugs and brief chatter as we jumped out to make ready for the transfer. I think I laughed and cried at the same time as Gwen’s hatchback opened to reveal a carload full of dogs looking back at me. The next 30 minutes was a whirlwind…get the dogs out, walked, watered and then situated in Judy’s crates and car.

Puppies!  These pooches have just completed the first leg of their 8 hour journey.  Lil Bit and Skittles (on the left) have survived parvo.
Puppies! These pooches have just completed the first leg of their 8 hour journey. Lil Bit and Skittles (on the left) have survived parvo.
The belongings of a Pomeranian named Goofy.  Goofy's  person passed away 2 days prior.  Life shattering change, maybe eased by traveling with familiar things.
The belongings of a Pomeranian named Goofy. Goofy’s person passed away 2 days prior. Life shattering change, hopefully eased a little by traveling with familiar things.
Switching crates/cages and cars.  Everybody gets a walk and some water.
Switching crates/cages and cars. Everybody gets a walk and some water.
Handsome :)   All dogs have a tag with their info.  Calling them by name earns you a tail wag and if you're lucky a little kiss.
Handsome :) All dogs have a tag with their info. Calling them by name earns you a tail wag and if you’re lucky a little kiss.
Shelby/Peaches and Frenchie getting situated in the next car.  Waiting for the other dogs to finish their walks.
Shelby/Peaches and Frenchie getting situated in the next car. Waiting for the other dogs to finish their walks.
Patience.  Last one to be unloaded.
Patience. Last one to be unloaded.
Jema is a parvo survivor.  I got the honor of riding shotgun with this puppy in my lap...but Judy gets a hug first.
Jema is a parvo survivor. I got the honor of riding shotgun with this puppy in my lap…but Judy gets a hug first.

After all the walks, after all the crate moves, Judy and I got back in the car with our passengers. Lucky, lucky me–I got to ride with Jema in my lap! This little girl was recently spayed, and a parvo-survivor. She tried so hard not to sleep…she wagged her tail and smiled at Judy, at me, at the dogs in the back, at the scenery out the window and for a few minutes chewed on my hair. And those of you who know me, know that I was in heaven holding this little happy and curious girl with her sweet puppy smell. Everyone settled in. Some stared out the window–and I wondered what they were thinking, their lives so changed. Some slept peacefully, despite the one who cried and voiced her opinion about a few things.

On the road.  Some are too excited to sleep and stare out the window.
On the road. Some are too excited to sleep and stare out the window.

We arrived in Itasca to meet the next 2 cars who would take these babies on to Rockford, Illinois. Once again, walks, water and a transfer of crates and cars.

Stop #2.  Getting situated in another crate, another car for the 3rd leg of the journey.
Stop #2. Getting situated in another crate, another car for the 3rd leg of the journey.
Judy puts Goofy into Nancy's car.  Shelby/Peaches will be riding shotgun on this leg of the trip.
Judy puts Goofy into Nancy’s car. Shelby/Peaches will be riding shotgun on this leg of the trip.

It was only in the last few minutes that I realized how bittersweet transporting days were, as we petted and hugged these lucky dogs one last time. Saying our goodbyes, and wishing them safety on today’s journey and much love and happiness for the rest of their lives.

Transporting rescue dogs, from August 3, 2013.

Want to know more? Check out these websites for dog transports–and donate, volunteer, foster or adopt–anything and everything helps:

http://www.everydogcountsrescue.us/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Liberty-Train-and-Rescue/161898060592344

By the way, I had planned to write a little more about Avery, the beautiful pup who had 17 broken bones. Shortly after I met her, she had her last two casts removed. I plan to see her again soon and get some additional photographs and details. So, more to come. Thanks for your patience!

 

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Rescued dogs – their quirks & foibles

Atticus is simply not in the mood to play with the girls.  All 3 are rescued dogs & adjusting to normal lives.
Atticus is simply not in the mood to play with the girls. All 3 are rescued dogs & are adjusting to normal lives.

I spent a perfect July day with three dog rescuers and twelve happy rescued dogs.  Yes, 12.  It can be a little tricky at first when three packs come together…there’s a lot of hustle and bustle, tails and toenails moving in all directions, sniffing and more sniffing, and sometimes some curling lips and a little flash of teeth.  But with the exception of Fancy Pants–an alpha female who could just not handle having another little lady in her house–the 12 came together for a grand Sunday afternoon.

It’s remarkable, really.  These rescued dogs have been through untold trauma.  Stuff that we can never know or fully grasp.  They’ve been abandoned, neglected, abused, starved…the list of horrors is unending.  Their trust in humans has been breeched, and their hearts–and sometimes bones–broken.  Their experiences sometimes leave them with extra quirks–foibles, peccadillos.  It takes a special person to reach through all that and to give these broken dogs the unconditional love, care and dignity that brings them back.  They need restoration, some normalcy in their lives so that they can be considered for adoption.

The rescue people watch the dogs carefully, learn quickly…and accommodate these newly lucky dogs better than any restaurant or hotel I’ve ever seen.  They know who needs a little extra space, who needs to eat alone, who is afraid of slick floors or won’t go down stairs, who wants the pool filled, who appreciates a rug in the sun, who likes to chase and who likes to be chased, who needs which pill when, who likes ice cubes, who’s not feeling well, and who may need just a little extra cuddle today.

I think the dogs know how lucky they are to have been pulled out of hell and into the orbit of these compassionate people.  The dogs grow healthy, confident and hopefully forget all the bad things that happened before their rescue, before their foster, before their forever homes.  And while they may never lose those little quirks, they do learn to love again.

Bribery still won't get Rook down the stairs
Bribery still won’t get Rook down the stairs
Edward plays soccer with his beloved green ball.
Despite a billiard-ball-sized cancerous tumor hanging from his stomach, Edward plays soccer with his beloved green ball. Moments later he fell to the ground in a seizure. After 5 minutes, he recovered and went looking for the ball.
Pet shop boy Otis--and Ruby, the slightly askew rescue
Pet shop boy Otis– and Ruby, the slightly askew rescue

 

Solstice is frightened by the remains of a bird
Solstice is frightened by the remains of a bird
Hiccup on the couch
Hiccup was feeling a little anti-social after her surgery and stayed on the back of the couch most of the day
Shakira's purple stitches
Shakira needed eye surgery and got purple stitches
Anders the misunderstood
Anders the misunderstood. Sometimes he needs to be ignored until he calms down

 

Solstice & Atticus
Solstice (who is deaf & is learning sign language) looks up to Atticus (who has a bad eye)
Introducing the new foster
Fancy Pants is introduced to Avery, the new foster healing from 17 broken bones. More about Avery in my next post this week.

The quirks and foibles of rescued dogs.  From July 28, 2013 visit.

Want more information about fostering or adopting a rescued dog?  http://www.twentypawsrescue.com

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