In honor of friends recently adopting animals and for those rescue groups which tirelessly work to help animals in need, I’ve composed a short story that I hope readers of this blog will enjoy. For truly, I am grateful for pet rescue and adoption!
They came from Canada to meet their new family member. Husband and wife rented an RV and made a holiday of traveling with their young son from Calgary to Sheridan, Wyoming. I drove 160 miles to bring them their new baby: a young male Great Dane. The Canadian family immediately fell in love with the pup, and they thanked me enthusiastically for being part of the team that brought this rescue dog adoption to completion.
I've been part of pet rescue transport for more than five years. Great Danes, Bull Mastiffs, English Springer Spaniels, Boston Terriers – various breeds, various rescue organizations, various adopters, all with a common theme: a story woven with compassion, love, friendship, and gratitude.
The adopters are grateful, the rescue groups are grateful, and the dogs are grateful.
Her name was Jazmine, and she reached my waist simply standing on all fours. This Great Pyrenees was abandoned in a desert where she gave birth to twelve puppies. Each one survived, thanks to a mother's protective instinct, and her tenacity to find food for herself despite the odds waged against her and her youngsters: intense heat, lack of shelter, minimal water and food. Odds were that none would survive. The scars on Jazmine's face spoke volumes to her possessiveness and perseverance. Those claw and bite marks were likely garnered from encounters with raccoons, coyotes, and other predators of young pups. By the time mother dog and babies were discovered and brought into rescue, Jazmine's giant frame was whittled to nearly nothing. After medical treatment for she and the babes, each dog found a new home. I was Jazmine's transport for 200 of her 1,200-mile journey. Thankfulness for the Good Samaritan who found the mother and puppies and gratitude for the rescue group that provided not only medical treatment but also a foster home for them, I accepted the request to help transport Jazmine, the final dog in the canine family to be accepted into the caring arms of a permanent human family.
As we walked around a rest stop adjacent to the interstate, this giant dog, though possessive of her babies to keep them alive, displayed nothing but gentleness toward me. The pony-sized dog leaned her head against my thigh and gazed at me with wondering brown eyes. I caressed the top of her white head and hugged her against me. Gratitude for my small part in getting this formerly abandoned, sweet dog to her new home many miles away overwhelmed me and tears filled my eyes. I could sense Jazmine's thankfulness, too, in addition to her uncertainty. It was like she “knew” she was going home. And she did. A few months later I received a photo of Jazmine with her new family – a man, woman, and two children laughing and smiling in a grassy backyard, hugging their new companion ...and Jazmine with a doggie grin, licking a child's face as she joined in the joy.
To be part of such unions, to play a small role in saving companion animals' lives, to find true purpose in such endeavors – gratitude is one of the many emotions I experience. I receive thanks from all sides, from the rescuer and from the adopter as well as from the dog. But, it is I who is truly grateful to have a role in bringing lives together, in helping to forge a family, bringing four-footeds and two-footeds into a friendly, caring relationship that can last a lifetime.
Theo, a Boston Terrier, needed transport through my home state of Wyoming. His new family lived in Montana, and, like the family from Canada, this couple was willing to drive a fair distance to meet me and their new furry friend. We rendezvoused at the same location where I'd met up with the Canadian couple who adopted the Great Dane, a three-hour drive for me and a five-hour drive for the Montana adopters. Theo sat up straight in the passenger seat of my car, in anticipation and expectation. When we arrived at the tree-lined rest stop off the interstate, he placed his small paws on the car's dashboard, looking around as his little black and white body wiggled in excitement. His instinct seemed to inform him this is where he was meeting his new family. He let out a happy YIP and looked at me with black eyes before gazing out the windshield again and then also the passenger-side window. I took him out of the car for a short walk, and not long thereafter a SUV with Montana license plates pulled in behind my car. Theo watched intently as a pregnant woman and then a man about 30 years of age stepped from the vehicle. Theo stood on his hind legs, his front paws dancing with excitement. The couple laughed. The man bent down, raised Theo into his arms, and then he and his wife hugged their new furry family member. Prior to leaving for Montana with their adopted dog, the man and woman thanked me for being part of Theo coming into their lives. The small dog licked my hand before getting into the SUV with his new human family. The large smile stayed on my face during the three-hour drive back home.
Fairy-tale endings may not exist for all people or all pets, but for the rescue animals I transport, there is a happily-ever-after – love, comfort, dedication, family – and I’m grateful to be part of that ending.
I'm grateful to be part of their happily-ever-after stories. And to have ones of my own.
For centuries humans and dogs have been companions and for more than 100 years people have shown off their pedigreed pooches in a special show in New York City. The 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show began this week. During this annual event, the best in breeds compete for the best in their category, and then those seven dogs compete for Best in Show. The pups are pampered, groomed for local, regional, and (owners hope) national competitions. One can learn a lot about dog breeds watching the televised Kennel Club Dog Show, including any new breeds recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club).
The AKC recognized two new breeds earlier this year: the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje, a spaniel-like canine, and the Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen (GBGV), classified in the Hound Group. The total number of AKC-recognized breeds is now 192. Read more about the newest types here: http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/newest-akc-recognized-breeds-nederlandse-kooikerhondje-grand-basset-griffon/
The top dog in the country will be chosen tonight at Westminster, from all the pampered, primped, and perfect pets that have competed the past few days. But, for those of us who don’t show our dogs or maybe don’t even care to watch Westminster, is there a program to which we (and our canine companions) can better relate? YES!
On Monday evening, February 19 (next week) Hallmark Channel presents The American Rescue Dog Show. Categories include:
Who might win Best in Rescue? The choice is likely going to be difficult, but I’m rooting for the deaf Dalmatian who lived in several different homes until finding his “true love” (Valentine’s Day is tomorrow after all!) and is being certified as a therapy dog. We can all learn about perseverance, courage and trust from rescue dogs, especially those who have faced more challenging circumstances, like disability and rejection.
Before and during the show, we can tweet and share pictures of our own rescue dogs using the hashtag #BestinRescue and @Hallmark – the company plans to award someone $1,000! That would buy lots of dog biscuits!!
I love Hallmark Channel – many shows and movies are uplifting, funny, and family-friendly. And, I’m delighted at how they often incorporate animals into the programs, including upcoming movies. The company has also chosen to promote pet rescue and adoption, partnering with Adopt-a-Pet to help people look for the proper pet for their household: http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/2018-american-rescue-dog-show/adopt-a-pet-search.
They also provide a listing of the rescues from where the Rescue Dog Show contenders were adopted: http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/2018-american-rescue-dog-show/rescue-organizations.
Wyoming, the state in which I live, stepped into the rescue spotlight earlier this month. Governor Matt Mead signed a proclamation declaring February as Adopt a Rescue Pet Month. My state hasn’t been the best at protecting companion animals until recently. Because of many rescue organizations which have cropped up in the state, including Cheyenne-based Black Dog Animal Rescue, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, more attention and compassion has been given toward pets by legislative measures and other means. We still have a long way to go in this state, but thanks to the governor’s recent action and the increasing number of people involved with and supporting rescue endeavors, I believe Wyoming may continue making positive strides.
Rescue Dogs Rock! I’m the guardian to two in my household, and we’re going to sit back and enjoy Hallmark Channel’s American Dog Rescue Show next Monday evening as well as many upcoming movies with pets as co-stars – I hope you and furry friends will do the same.
He never knew the inside of a house. He rarely had opportunity to play with toys. He’s unfamiliar with leashes and walking the neighborhood, and his housetraining is limited. His name was Stormy.
One year ago, the then-three-year-old Shih Tzu was one of dozens of dogs rescued from the squalor of a puppy mill. Staff and volunteers at Hearts United for Animals have a mission – to rescue, work with, and re-home as many puppy mill dogs as they can. They also take in dogs and cats for other reasons, such as deaths in the family, and they help owners keep their pets who might have to give them up due to the animal’s medical condition. Nearly 400 animals reside at the rural Nebraska animal sanctuary, many of them small breeds like Stormy. But, there are also larger dogs, such as Hounds, Labs, and Shiba Inus. Other organizations, such as National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado, have a similar mission: closing puppy mills by rescuing the oppressed, neglected animals and bringing new life and hope to those creatures.
What is a Puppy Mill?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a puppy mill is “a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization. In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little-to-no recovery time between litters.” The pups are sold in pet stores, over the Internet, through newspaper ads, and at swap meets and flea markets. Because millers focus on making money, the dogs are often bred with little regard for genetic quality, and therefore, the puppies are often ill or have significant health issues. There is no oversight to this industry, and though there is no real data to know the number of millers in the U.S., the ASPCA estimates there are about 10,000 puppy mills in America.
The Humane Society of the United States also rescues and shuts down puppy mills. Learn more about their operations at http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/campaigns/stop_puppy_mills/?credit=web_id93480558.
Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 is Puppy Mill Awareness Day. Take time to learn more about puppy mills and then educate your family and friends. Do what you can to help bring an end to this terrible life thousands of dogs endure!
New Life, New Hope
Stormy now has a new life – and a new name. Jeremiah Story Irwin is the new four-footed family member in my house. He, and other puppy mill survivors (and their rescuers) have a story, and I write stories, therefore, his middle name. A few weeks before his first anniversary with HUA, Jeremiah now lives in a house for the first time in his life, has other animal friends (although the original Irwin resident pets are still getting used to the idea of a new housemate!), and has a large backyard to explore. The first time he accepted a toy and trotted around the house with it brought tears to my eyes. There are challenges, such as housetraining, but he’s catching on quickly, and he’s already learned the commands of sit and come – in less than a week. He’s a smart, loving, happy boy, and I’m thankful we found each other! I am also thankful to the heroes who help puppy mill dogs escape the horrors of their previous lives!
Adopt, Don’t Shop! And encourage your friends and family to do so. By those actions, you, too, can impact (and change) the lives of puppy mill dogs, giving them hope, love, and joy.
April is known as Volunteer Appreciation Month. Animal welfare organizations, from local shelters and rescues to larger, nation-wide groups depend upon volunteers. In fact, many rescue organizations are strictly volunteer-based. If not for the dedication of volunteers and their love for pets, most companion animal groups would not function well or even exist.
Volunteers help pets in need in many ways. Whether walking dogs, brushing and socializing cats, or assisting with transports and fundraisers, volunteers are vital to the health, welfare, and adoption of pets. Most rescue organizations, like Black Dog Animal Rescue in Cheyenne, Wyoming, depend on volunteers to foster animals in their care as these pets await adoptive families. Other groups, like MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue and Big Dogs Huge Paws rely upon people to transport dogs either into rescue or to their adoptive families, as oftentimes the distance the animal needs to travel is quite long. This is a role I enjoy fulfilling – transporting a dog into rescue or to its new adoptive family. Several times a year I’m called upon to help transport dogs through my state, usually up or down Interstate 25. Wyoming is a large state and there are great distances between towns; there aren’t a lot of people in the state (at least in the area where I live) who transport. Therefore, whenever I’m available during a time of need, I heed the call. I’ve transported Boston Terriers, Great Danes, English Springer Spaniels, even a Newfoundland for rescue groups in my region. I love every trip, for I know I’m helping a pet in need – it’s an amazing, humbling feeling!
I’ve also traveled to Utah’s Best Friends Animal Sanctuary where I volunteered with the cats. Spending time in their enclosures, playing with them, petting them, as well as taking them outdoors on leashes and in baby buggies, my heart has been filled by knowing I’ve assisted those kitties be more social and therefore, more adoptable. I’m hoping to return to that marvelous place again this year to once again volunteer.
There are many ways a person can volunteer with local, regional, even national animal welfare groups. Some of the endeavors take time, others just a few hours a week, and some just a few hours every few months (like transporting). Here are 10 ways in which you can help animal rescue organizations as a volunteer:
You’ll be amazed at the difference you can make in the lives of pets who need help by volunteering. Take this special time of Volunteer Appreciation Month and consider how you might be helpful to organizations that help pets in need – your service is greatly needed and will be genuinely appreciated!
The Westminster Dog Show is underway this week, so it’s a good time to remember that you don’t have to go to a breeder to find great dogs; you can find purebred dogs, as well as mixed breeds, available for adoption through shelters and rescues.
Not all breeders are bad; in fact, those registered through the American Kennel Club (AKC) must meet high quality standards. However, the facts remain that millions of dogs are turned into rescues and shelters every year, and of the four million that go into shelters, more than one million don’t come out – meaning, they die. And breeding dogs add to the pet overpopulation problem, which adds to the number of dogs euthanized every year.
It’s estimated that between 5 and 25 percent of dogs placed in shelters are purebred. Recently at my community’s humane society a long-haired, tri-colored collie came in because its aging owner could no longer take care of it. And, last fall two shih tzus were brought into the kill-shelter in my town, which is operated by the city; both had been used as breeders – one was 12 years old and not spayed. So, although good breeders do exist, so do bad breeders. That doesn’t mean the dogs are bad, they are just not as well-cared for, and many of them end up in shelters and rescues. In fact, the mission of National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR) is to bring into rescue those dogs which are used in what’s known as puppy mills – backyard breeders whose priority is profit and who often shove these creatures into tiny cages. Through NMDR, these adorable animals, from small Maltese to large German Shepherds, are socialized, loved on, given medical care, and made available for adoption.
Other rescue groups, such as Big Dogs Huge Paws that specialize in rescue and re-homing the larger dog breeds, such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, and Newfoundlands, and English Springer Rescue America, with chapters around the nation, take in specific breeds that need new homes. Even the AKC endorses breed-specific rescues – learn more at http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rescue-network/contacts/.
If you’re thinking of adopting a dog and aren’t sure what breed is right for you, watching this week’s Westminster Dog Show is a great way to learn about the various breeds. You can also review breed traits, personalities, and behavior patterns by reading up on the different types of dogs at this website: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/. One of the most responsible things a person can do before obtaining a dog, whether through adoption or purchasing from a breeder, is to learn what type of dog best fits your lifestyle and desires. Do your homework before bringing a dog home!
The most popular type of dog in America is the Labrador Retriever; it is also among the top five most common breeds found in animal shelters (or lab mixes); black labs are also among the least likely to be adopted because the coat color tends to blend in with the dark surroundings of many animal shelters. And though Labs are popular, not one has ever taken Best in Show at Westminster. Neither has the Golden Retriever, Dachshund, or Chihuahua, all of which are also very popular breeds. Perhaps one of those will win this year. Stay tuned!
Wondering where to catch the dog show of dog shows? Visit http://www.sportingnews.com/other-sports/news/westminster-dog-show-2017-tv-channel-schedule-online-stream-coverage/n9nwcw6efxf16ki6f5eeqk5g to learn which TV stations are carrying this special event.
And remember two important things the next time you’re looking for a specific dog breed as a companion: (1) do your research on dog breeds and (2) adopt, don’t shop! One of the best ways to find a certain breed of dog, in addition to the earlier-mentioned resources, is to go to Petfinder.com – you can search for a specific dog breed, even sex and age, that is available through a local, regional, or national rescue or shelter.
Guest Post by Kelly Wright, Rover.com
Those of us who have had the honor of adding a rescue pet to our families know what incredible creatures they are — and so do the amazing people working in animal rescue who make these connections possible!
Through our conversations with rescue volunteers for our latest feature, Real-life Heroes: Animal Rescue Volunteers Share How They Keep Fighting the Good Fight, the Rover.com team learned that although there are many of us who are advocates of adopting, rescue pets are still often misunderstood. And unfortunately, these misconceptions often prevent loving animals from finding their forever homes.
Here are a few falsehoods rescuers want to clear up about the animals they save:
All kinds of breeds need to be rescued — even purebreds
It is a flat-out myth that there are only mixed or large breeds available for adoption. No matter what kind of critter your heart desires, you’re likely to find one in your local shelter or rescue.
“What we get a lot of is that people want a purebred, or they need a hypoallergenic dog for allergies. We have those in rescues,” said Lisa Jensen, a Board Member of Safe Haven Animal Rescue in Oklahoma City. “In Oklahoma, we have a problem with puppy mills, and we often get the rejects from the mills. Those kids are great dogs, and purebred!”
And if your local rescue doesn’t have what you’re looking for, Lisa said you can still opt to adopt: “Even in the shelters, we have so many purebreds!”
You’re also not limited to rescuing an adult if you have hopes of bringing a puppy or kitten into your home.
“If you are looking for a younger animal, shelters often have puppies and kittens,” said Jessi Burns, Marketing and Communications Manager of Foothills Animal Shelter in Colorado.
They come with ‘built-in’ benefits
Of course, if you are open to adopting an adult or even a senior pet, there are plenty in need of a good home — and it turns out, there are a lot of perks to picking a pet with a little experience under his belt!
“A lot of shelter animals are adults, so what you see is what you get,” Jessi explained. “When you meet them, you can get an idea about their personality, size, and energy level.”
And this can be especially helpful for parents with younger children, and aren’t looking for another “kid” to raise.
“In addition, most have already lived in a home environment, so they know how to behave appropriately and won’t chew on your furniture or go to the bathroom indoors,” Jessi went on.
They’re truly good pets — the rescues do their homework!
It is true that tragically, many of the animals that wind up in shelters or in rescues have had a rough start, and some are a bit more timid than others due to past neglect or even abuse.
But don’t let that stop you from adoption — the volunteers who work in animal rescue put every effort into rehabilitating animals physically and emotionally, and don’t adopt them out until they’re confident they’re ready for their new family.
“Yes, animals with behavior issues do come into rescue, but those animals are placed in experienced foster homes,” Marina Hebert, a volunteer with Small Animal Rescue Society of BC in Vancouver, pointed out.
Many people who foster have years of experience working with special-needs pets, and work with rescues time and again to make sure that these creatures get the time and attention they need before going off to their forever homes.
“The ones rescues put up for adoption have been carefully screened,” explained Marina.
The close relationship fosterers and rescuers share with the pets they care for not only helps ensure that they’re ready to live with a new family, but also that they’ll end up with the perfect people.
“They’ve spent time with volunteers who know all their needs and quirks, and actually know them so they can match them to the right people,” Marina said.
The truth is, every animal deserves a happy life, no matter how they got their start. If you’re interested in adding a new furry — or feather, or scaly, or even hairless! — family member to your brood, consider visiting your local shelter or rescue.
As Jessi told us, not only will you save a life, but you’ll also make an irreplaceable friend. “I truly believe that shelter animals make the most amazing pets and companions!”
Kelly Wright explores and celebrates the magical and mysterious bond between pets and people for Rover.com’s Animal Heroes section. If you have an amazing story about how an animal has brought joy and wonder to your life, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. From big to little, from extra-tiny to extra-large, dog breeds are as variable as the human race. Red, white, blue, black, brown, tawny, spotted, solid; short-hair, long-hair, no-hair. Outgoing and friendly, shy and reserved, protective, loving. A hunter, a herder, a comfort, service-oriented. Sniffing, drooling, laughing, quiet, boisterous. There is a type of dog for every type of person.
Dogs have been part of humankind’s existence for eons. And yet, millions need homes each and every year.
October is National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, a time to celebrate the joy of canine companionship and promote the adoption of these wonderful creatures. The ASPCA estimates nearly eight million dogs and cats enter shelters across the United States annually; about three million are killed. Sadly, only about 35 percent of animals that are available for adoption actually get new homes, meaning millions are killed because not enough people adopt.
In addition to the humane societies and animal shelters, there are rescue groups, many of which are voluntarily-run, that take in dogs (and cats) in an effort to re-home them. From coast-to-coast, these tireless individuals run these organizations with one focus: to save and adopt-out pets. Some are breed-specific; many of these are noted by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Others are type-specific, such as herding dogs or large dogs (see the websites for HERD of Wyoming and Big Dogs Huge Paws). Others accept whatever dog needs rescuing. To find a shelter or rescue group near you, visit Petfinder.com. Or, if you’re interested in a breed-specific rescue, visit the AKC website: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rescue-network/contacts/
When you adopt, especially from a kill-shelter, you are saving a life. In fact, you’re likely saving two lives: the one you adopt and the one coming into the shelter after it. Wherever you adopt, shelter (kill or not) or rescue, you are helping more than one dog, for when you adopt, room in that facility or foster home is made for another animal in need.
Dogs that go into a rescue or shelter aren’t bad; they are likely being given up due to a move (the #1 reason people give up their animals), health of the person (an elderly individual going into a nursing home cannot take their beloved pet with them), or other life change, such as job loss. If behavior is the cause, the owner likely did not provide his/her dog with obedience training. Simple commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “heel,” “come,” and “no” alleviate a lot of behavior issues – but a dog can’t teach those things to himself; owners need to be responsible for the training of their pets. Classes are often held through AKC clubs, big-box pet stores, such as PetCo and PetSmart, or one can hire a trainer (or research how to train a dog themselves – just remember, positive reinforcement is the best way to train a dog).
Pets improve people’s lives. Research shows people with pets are happier and healthier. Dogs make us exercise; even walks around the block help both humans and their canine friends be healthier. The simple act of petting a dog decreases blood pressure, reduces stress, and calms us down as well as uplifts our moods. Many dogs enjoy riding in the car, going for walks, jogs, and hikes, and simply being a part of a family; therefore, they make wonderful companions!
So, consider adopting a dog this month. Whether you are single, married, have children (or not), or are retired, there’s a dog to fit every lifestyle. Of course, you need to find the RIGHT dog -- that’s one of the roles of animal shelters, rescue organizations, and humane societies. The staff and volunteers who spend time with the animals know their personalities and may often know the dog’s background, therefore, they offer a tremendous service for those hoping to add a dog to their life. But, do your research as well. You know your lifestyle – learn about the breeds and discover what type of dog best fits your family life and energy level. Visit this website to learn about the different dog breeds: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/
Be a hero – save a life today by adopting the right dog for you!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.