rescued 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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Animal Welfare in Cuba: Aniplant Cares for and Protects Dogs and Cats

Animal welfare in Cuba is a daunting challenge.  On my recent trip to Cuba, I had the honor of meeting Nora Garcia Pérez, the founder of Aniplant, an animal care and protection organization in Havana.  Nora has dedicated the past 28 years of her life to the animals of Cuba:  from big ventures like founding Aniplant and promoting animal welfare on Cuban radio and TV, to smaller efforts like traveling around Havana in a little yellow Fiat with the passenger seat removed to make room for two street dogs who sleep in the car every night.

Aniplant, or Asociación Cubana para la Protección de Animales y Plantas, is located in Centro Havana, not far from the University and only steps from the beautiful Malecón sea wall.   Aniplant seeks to eliminate the suffering of Cuban animals through sterilization campaigns to reduce the number of strays, public education to promote the need for good veterinary care and animal health, facilitation of dog/cat adoptions, and hands-on intervention in cases of animal abuse.  

If you’re a dog lover and have ever been to Cuba–or to any third world country for that matter–you know the helpless heartache of seeing painfully thin and sick animals on the streets.  And while Cuba is a highly educated, healthy and empathetic population, their lack of resources is a tremendous problem.  Often, people simply do not have the means to properly care for animals.  That means that many dogs/cats go without spaying/neutering, resulting in unwanted animals roaming the streets in search of food and shelter.  The Cuban government collects strays from city streets, and almost all of those dogs/cats are immediately euthanized by poisoning or electrocution.  Aniplant’s main mission is to reduce the number of strays by providing as many spay/neuters as possible.  They have performed nearly 5,000 sterilizations each year since 2012 and are currently trying to expand operations throughout Havana and all of Cuba.   Like everything related to Cuba, it is complicated.  While Aniplant is the only animal protection organization permitted to function in Cuba, there are ministries and permissions to deal with and there are the obstacles of getting medical supplies and donations around the U.S. embargo.

The Aniplant location at 128 Principe is home to 19 dogs:  16 adoptable ones and 3 waiting to be on their way to homes in the UK and the USA.  The dogs have the run of the back areas of Aniplant–the kitchen, a play area outside and a little room just off the courtyard.  There are employees at Aniplant who work to train and socialize the dogs, and to prepare their meals of rice and meat.  A veterinarian and vet tech are also on staff for routine procedures and emergency care.  And every Friday, hundreds of pounds of meat for dog food are delivered to Aniplant to be sold to the community for fundraising.  The place is immaculate, colorful, lively and upbeat–the receptionist sings on occasion and offers tiny cups of strong coffee to those waiting patiently for services.  Dog and cat owners chat with each other and hold their pets close in the tiled lobby.  Potential adopters check in at reception and discuss the adoption application process.  And every now and then, the dogs break into barks or whines as a visitor makes their way back through the courtyard.

I spent several days at Aniplant, photographing and videotaping and will have a short multimedia piece to share with you soon.   In the meantime, if you are moved by this story, please consider a small donation to the Aniplant Project.   Considering that veterinarians in Cuba make only about $250 a year, any amount of money donated will go a long way to helping the animals.   Donate to Aniplant.    Nora’s wish list also includes a truck or large van to take the Aniplant spay/neuter clinic on the road and a small animal ventilator.  If you, or anyone you know can help with those items, please contact me.

Aniplant lobby
The reception area of Aniplant, located at 128 Principe near Hospital in Centro Havana.
Veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, cleans dog teeth
Aniplant veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, cleans the teeth of a sedated Beagle in Havana, Cuba.
cat awaits surgery at Aniplant
A cat has been sedated and cleaned by the veterinary technician and awaits surgery at Aniplant.  Havana, Cuba.
Training a dog at Aniplant to walk on a leash
Aniplant houses 19 dogs currently up for adoption. These dogs get training–like leash walking and basic commands–from the trainers on staff at Aniplant, in Havana, Cuba.
Disposable surgical gloves washed and drying in a window
Disposable surgical gloves are washed and dried for re-use at Aniplant. Medical supplies are precious and nothing is wasted.  Havana, Cuba.
Potential adopters visit Aniplant dogs
The dogs at Aniplant are available for adoption. Guests are allowed to visit with the dogs and encouraged to apply for an adoption.  Havana, Cuba.
Dog rests in a built-in space in Aniplant kitchen
Aniplant moved into their space about 5 years ago. Renovations included building cave-like spaces for the dogs in the kitchen. Havana, Cuba.
Man carries a dog in for veterinary care
A man brings a Husky in to the Aniplant lobby for veterinary care. Aniplant is open 6 days a week for veterinary services, workshops and the sale of fresh meat for animal food.  Havana, Cuba.
Dog in a bathtub at Aniplant
This sweet face was always the first to greet me…and anyone else at Aniplant.  Havana, Cuba.
Dog in shopping cart awaits care at Aniplant
This dog had been hit by a car and was carried into Aniplant in a shopping cart for follow up care.  Havana, Cuba.
Cuba Aniplant Veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, checks his messages
Aniplant Veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, checks his messages while waiting for the clinic to open in Havana Cuba.
Nora Garcia Pérez with Carol Fletcher
Founder of Aniplant, Nora Garcia Pérez (left), and Carol Fletcher following our interview.  Havana, Cuba 3/13/15.
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Rescued Dogs of Havana Cuba: Sheltered by Museums

As many of you know, I’m a dog lover and have an on-going project documenting the work of people who rescue dogs.  And I love Cuba.   I love walking in Havana, photographing the elegant decay and witnessing the extraordinary changes happening there.  I love meeting the people, getting to know their hopes and worries, and always admiring their persistence, creativity and resourcefulness.   So this month, I decided to overlay these passions and dig a little deeper into the stories of the rescued dogs of Havana, Cuba and those sheltered by museums.

Street dogs are commonly seen in Havana, picking through the trash or teetering down the sidewalks.  It is heartbreaking and frustrating.  But in a country where food can be hard to come by for people, perhaps it is not unusual or unexpected.   One thing that has surprised me is that many museums in Old Havana have taken on the role of sheltering dogs.

On my first trip to Cuba I saw a fat little dog wearing a business card and sleeping near Fototeca in Plaza Vieja.  On subsequent trips, I saw more of these dogs with business cards…in front of other museums, in front of Havana’s University, and wandering around the old plazas…dogs who generally looked healthy and happy.  So, on this trip, I went looking for these card-carrying dogs to find out more about their lives and the people who care for them.

These are the five dogs of Museo de la Orfebrería (Museum of Metal/Silver Work), a quiet courtyard museum on Obispo near Plaza de Armas.  They are cared for by Margarita Garcia and Odalys Valdéz, who work at the museum as guides and security.  The dogs spend their days napping in the shade of the courtyard, or lazing on the sunny bricks in front of the museum.  During the day, they greet visitors politely–without fanfare or dogged attention.  And they keep Margarita and Odalys company during their 6 day shifts working 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  In return, Margarita and Odalys feed them and keep fresh water on hand.  The dogs are sheltered in the museum– partially in the role of protecting the museum from thieves–but most definitely to save the dogs from a hard street life.

After noticing a few strays outside who seemed to pace by regularly–as if looking in…one more time…for an opening, for an invitation, I asked Margarita if there were ever more than five here.  “No.  Only five.  We cannot feed or have more.  But these five?  Good for them.”  And good for Margarita and Odalys and all the guides who care for these precious little souls.

Entrance to Havana's Museo de la Orfebrería
Margarita Garcia stands at the entrance to Havana’s Museo de la Orfebrería, where she works and cares for the museum’s five rescued dogs.
Aparicio wears an identification card
Dogs under the care of Cuba’s museums wear cards identifying them. The cards have the dog’s name, where he/she lives and that he/she has been sterilized. These cards are intended to protect the dogs from being picked up by Havana’s dog-catchers.
Odalys and Margarita
Odalys and Margarita stand in the doorway of the Museum while dogs sleep in the background.
Dogs in the Courtyard
The five dogs have full access to the museum’s courtyard.
Preparing the meal
In a back room of the museum, Margarita prepares a meal of rice and a few bites of chicken for the dogs.
Dinner for Five Dogs
Margarita sets out a meal of rice and a little chicken for the dogs in the courtyard of the museum.
Sleeping Dog
Canelito enjoys cat-napping in the courtyard.
Vladimir at the front door of the Museo de la Orfebrería
Vladimir’s favorite place is at the door, greeting the many tourists walking past on Obispo near Plaza de Armas.
Odalys and Dogs
Guide Odalys enjoys passing the hours with the dogs.
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The dogs at The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary

This post is all about the dogs at The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary.   Yeah, yeah, I know that my project is about the dog rescue organizations and the people who run them…but I find all the dogs and puppies so distracting!   All those personalities, those smiling faces, and all the wagging tails and busy feet–it’s too much for me sometimes and I only want to sit among them and play.   So, today, it is all about the dogs…and maybe a horse too.   I hope you enjoy the characters.  Hug a dog today…and everyday!

And please — Volunteer.  Donate.  Foster.  Adopt a shelter dog.

smiling dog
She barked, growled and grunted and now sits basking in our attention.
puppy dog in hay
This little one came out of the Puppy House to greet me. The next day, he had to go back to the vet. Two of his litter-mates had tested positive for distemper.
puppies heart and soul animal sanctuary
These babies are part of a litter of six at the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary. Two of the six were already at the hospital and the four remaining in the Puppy House weren’t feeling so good. The next day, the two at the hospital were diagnosed with distemper and these four siblings had to join the other two at the vet for treatment.
Perry old dog dementia
Perry is about 16 years old and suffers from a little dementia. He wanders the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary.
White horse and chihuahua
Jasmine the white horse and a little friend at the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary
Dogs watch chickens
Dogs watching the chickens get a carrot treat.  Many animals find sanctuary at Heart and Soul. Every species has their space and everyone is safe.
three legged dog and puppies
Ivan may only have three legs, but he’s got a ton of patience for these rambunctious lab puppies. He spent most of the late afternoon watching the puppies rough house and occasionally got into the fray.
dog horse eating
While Jasmine worked on her alfalfa dinner, the dog kept her company.
Dog food dish
One lucky dog has the kibble bowl all to himself at the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary
Dog on porch
This dog was skeptical of people, and watched me cautiously from the safety of the porch
Emma Tibetan Spaniel
Emma greets visitors on the porch of the Heart & Soul Animal Sanctuary’s Giant Doghouse
dog trees valley rock ridge
At Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary, there is a hike every day to the ridge.
three dogs in new mexico
Jasper, Ivan and Daisy enjoying the New Mexico afternoon at the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary.
smiling barking growling dog
This little personality talked and talked and talked. She gave you about 7 seconds…and if you did not acknowledge her presence…there were some sharp words :)
Smiling dog
This smiling lovely barked, growled and scooted under the porch rail to get our attention without leaving the porch.
dog in doghouse
Jasper hides out in the little dog house after a hike at Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary.
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Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary / Rescue in New Mexico

In March, I spent some time at the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary, a rescue located on 100+ acres outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.   Founder and Director, Natalie Owings cares for, and lives among, over 200 animals–dogs, cats, rabbits, wedding doves, horses, chickens, guinea pigs, ducks, llamas, alpacas, goats….  If any animal in the area needs a home, a meal, and some compassion, this is the place.

For the abused, neglected, sick or starving animals who have found safe haven here, this can only seem like heaven.  Many of the animals are rescued from shelters in the area.  And will stay here until adopted or transported to another state for adoption.  Some may live out their days here.

About 30 dogs have the run of the Giant Doghouse and surrounding grounds.  While they are fenced out of spaces for some of the other animals in order to keep the peace, they have ample selection of beds (inside, outside, in the sun, in the shade) and can help themselves to kibble anytime they are hungry.  There are no cages, no leashes… and no fights.   Every creature here is loved, respected, and safe …and they know it.

Please take a minute to visit the website:   http://www.animal-sanctuary.org/

Dog beds on the Porch
Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary’s Giant Doghouse porch has beds for everyone.
Feeding the dogs
Food and water dishes are always full for the 30+ dogs.  They can eat whenever they get hungry.
New Mexico dog walk
Every afternoon, Natalie takes the dogs on a hike.  It begins with a chaotic cacophony of dog voices as Natalie leads the way to the trail…surrounded by little feet and wagging tails.  Once on the trail, some dogs run ahead, some stay close and others wander out to the sides…dashing back along the way.
dog tired puppy gets a lift
 On this hike, the puppies got so tired from keeping up with the big dogs and all the exciting activity, that they started falling asleep in the sun because we lingered too long…and a couple needed to be carried back.
memorial urns dog cremation
There is a quiet chapel with a shelf of urns–each with a photo.  Gone, but never forgotten.
chicken with Natalie Owings
Natalie brings a chicken into the barn.
Rabbits, heat lamp and space heater
On a cold day, rescued rabbits huddle under a heat lamp.
white doves peace birds
Some people release doves at weddings or funerals, not realizing that the domesticated birds cannot survive without their communities.  Doves will often be killed by other animals or starve after the release.  Natalie has built an aviary to give homes to rescued wedding doves.
Heart and Soul Animal Rescue gate
The dogs wait to see where Natalie is going. She almost always stays with them, not going beyond the double-gates.
Horse Chihuahuas puppies
The white horse, Jasmine, was abandoned at the Sanctuary a few years ago. Today, she wanders freely around the place, often with little dogs following her.
Thorn in dog paw
Natalie removes a thorn from a puppy’s foot during one of the afternoon walks.
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“Are you ok?”: Giving hope to shelter dogs

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about going with Judy early one morning to transport 10 rescued dogs on a 60 mile segment of their journey to Minneapolis.  A rescue mission that felt good…happy…exciting.  I had held a parvo-surviving puppy.  She was lucky to be alive.  Lucky to be out of the shelter on that sunny day and lucky enough to be healthy and on her way to a rescue.  I felt her little heart beating, felt her tiny breath–felt her sigh as she gave in to a few minutes of sleep.  I was happy and full of hope holding that little dog…so, so full of hope.

Later that day, after the transport was complete, we went to animal control…a place where hope is hard to feel.  This is the place where almost half the dogs who walk in never come out alive*.  This is the place where so many people who love animals have the sad job of collecting unwanted, lost or abused dogs and cats.  This is the place where volunteer doctors and staff work tirelessly to save animals, and yet have to euthanize many healthy and treatable animals simply because there is no more room.  This is also the place where rescuers go to begin their work, where saving a dog begins.  They identify dogs for rescue, posting and sharing snapshots to network the many homeless faces, hoping that just maybe someone somewhere will fall in love and they can pull a dog out of there.  Rescuers go to Animal Control often, especially when they know their fosters have room to squeeze in just one more.

The place is a maze of “pavilions”, rooms separating the animals into those ready for adoption, those being held as “evidence” for court cases, those in medical care, or those simply doing their time in hopes that someone will come looking for them before their 5 days are up.  There are no outside windows in these rooms full of cages.  The rooms can be loud with echos of barking, crying dogs.  Or the rooms can be silent…like the air has been sucked out of the place, like dementors have been there.

Today, we were there to look for a couple of dogs that had been posted online for potential rescue, to temperament test another.  I followed Judy and her scrap of paper with the cage numbers.  All those sad eyes on us.  All the life behind those bars.  Some of the dogs desperate for you to slow down, to look, to touch, to acknowledge that they are alive.  Other dogs cowered in the cages, terrified, trembling, lost and confused, and maybe broken forever.  These dogs seemed not to want anyone to look at them, to see them, matted and dirty, shrinking into the bright orange tile and concrete corners.

It is hard to witness.  I tried to concentrate on photographing Judy with the dogs, on learning what she was looking for when she studied their paperwork.  I followed her–her golden ponytail, her scrap of paper with the cage numbers, her voice.  And I watched her…I watched her muster her spirit, her smile, her hope in this hard place.  I watched her giving hope to each of those shelter dogs.  “Are you ok?” she asked each of them with a smile.  “Are you ok?”  Sometimes it was a question.  Sometimes it was a statement, willing them to be ok when options looked bleak.  Whatever it was, even if she spent only a second with each soul–it mattered.  That little heartbeat of a moment, a smile, a kind voice…It means everything…to the dogs…and to Judy.

It is a cruelly hard job for animal lovers to work in this place, to remain hopeful, to not give up at the sheer magnitude and the never ending streams of needy faces. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the dogs.

"Are you ok?"
“Are you ok?”, Judy asks. Judging from his scars, he may have been used in dog fights.
Reading this dog's kennel card while he waits
Kennel cards tell you a little bit about the dog’s history…maybe a name, maybe a former address or where he was found, maybe a bit about his tolerance of other dogs, cats or children.  The cards also tell you how much time he has left.
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Pearl was scared and angry. Judy waited, talking to her about nothing in particular.
130803_7177
This smiling baby watched me as I watched Judy…After 30 minutes, Judy was still trying to convince Pearl to come out of her cage. Pearl would eventually get out of her cage for rescue, though this would not be that day.
130803_7079
One of the aisles of cages, in one of the many pavilions at Chicago’s Animal Care and Control.
130803_7183
“Unknown” name, found at an “unknown location”. Matted, dirty, terrified. This dog had 2 microchips and was waiting for the owner(s) to be identified and notified.
130803_7159
Aisles of cages, and always…always…a waiting face.
130803_7146
Judy noticed this mama had painted nails. “Who polished your nails and then abandoned you here? Where are your babies?”
130803_7192
“Are you ok?”

*  Most current (2011) Asilomar Accords records from CACC:  “Jan 1 holding 863 dogs.  Thru 2011:  Took in 11,115 dogs.  Adopted out 943, Transferred out to rescues/other organizations 3,407, Returned to owner 1,355.   Euthanized/Died in care:  5,477.  Dec 31 holding 793 dogs.”  (corrected math on records shows 796 dogs remaining.)  Please see www.asilomaraccords.org for more information on shelters in your area.

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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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