Jack is one lucky Aussie. Turned over to an Oregon shelter as a 2-year-old because his owners couldnât afford to keep him, the future farm dog escaped the tragic fate of so many shelter dogs: euthanasia.
Instead, the staff contacted a volunteer with The Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline (ARPH), who whisked the beautiful Australian Shepherd into foster care to await adoption as a rescue dog.
Finding a Rescue
âLaurie Trenholm, of Puppy Hill Farm Animal Rescue, urges adopters to look for a rescue that has operated for awhile and has a good reputation, perhaps one approved by your local PetSmart, and to be cautious of long-distance adoptions.
âMost rescues will take their animals back if thereâs a problem, but this gets more complicated with long-distance adoptions,â she says.
To find rescue organizations and adoptable dogs, check out www.petfinder.com, where you can peruse adorable pictures and histories of individual pets, or surf over to the American Kennel Club website at www.akc.org to find a purebred rescue group (click âClubs,â then âBreed Rescue Groupsâ).Â More information on the rescue organizations mentioned in this article:
Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline, Inc.
For Other Animals …
âWithin a week I knew I wouldnât be able to watch him jump into someone elseâs car and drive off,â says Hilary Hines, the woman who fostered Jack.
The longtime volunteer with ARPH who tends a 12-acre hobby farm in The Dalles, Ore., adds, âNot that he wouldnât have hesitated to do so! Heâs such a friendly, happy-go-lucky guy.â
Hines swiftly signed the adoption paperwork and welcomed her new rescue dogÂ permanently to the farm.
Now, three years later, an ever-cheerful Jack brings smiles to hospital patients and tired nurses as a therapy dog at a local hospital.
This versatile Aussie competes in agility (heâs earned several titles), trains in obedience competition and delights in helping Hines with her daily farm chores.
âThe sheep have a lot of respect for Jack,â she says. âHe just has this presence about him and he comes in very handy at feeding time when the sheep want to crowd around me.â
(Too) Many Rescue Dogs Available
According to an estimate by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), roughly 8 to 12 million dogs and cats enter our shelters each year; a shocking 5 to 9 million of these are euthanized for lack of space and resources to care for them.
(Too) Many Rescue Dogs Available
At the same time, an undetermined number of luckier pets, like farm dog Jack, find new homes through no-kill rescue organizations often staffed by volunteers. These rescue animals, usually kept in a network of volunteer foster homes, will live in their temporary abodes as long as it takes to be adopted, but that doesnât mean they donât need permanent homes.
âPeople often say, âOh, youâre a no-kill shelterâthatâs great!,ââ says Laurie Trenholm, a university professor who started Puppy Hill Farm Animal Rescue in Melrose, Fla., with her husband in 1999.
âBut the majority of our animals come from the shelter. If we canât move our animals out, we canât take animals in.â
Start Looking for Your Rescue Dog
If youâre looking for a tail-wagging addition to your farm family, this article will offer you some persuasive reasons to come to the rescue of a dog in need.
But first, please take some time to consider what youâre doing. Are you willing and able to care for a dog, make this sensitive and social animal a treasured part of your family, and commit to giving it a lifelong home through thick and thin?Â
Going Home, Sweet Home
Congratulations, youâve adopted a rescue dog into your farm family, an animal capable of amazing devotion, forgiveness and resilience.
As you bundle your new pet into the car and drive to your farm, remember that your dog mayâor may notâpull a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde act when you first arrive home.
Donât just toss him out with your other animals and expect everybody to live together in perfect harmony from the start.
Introductions to other pets and livestock should be accomplished gradually and safely, keeping them separated in the beginning and then supervising interactions closely.
âPeople come here and they see a very balanced, good-natured dog because itâs been living here at the rescue,â explains Lillie Goodrich, founder of Sweet Border Collie Rescue.
“So keep your rescue dogâs life simple for the first few weeks and let it get used to your family and your home. It takes about three months for a rescue dog to really relax and understand itâs not leaving.â
âWeâre already dealing with the abused and abandoned; the last thing we want to do is put them in a similar situation,â stresses Suzannah Sloan, founder of The Furrytale Farm, a pet and farm-animal rescue on Bainbridge Island, Wash.Â âWe want this home to be their final home.”
Rescue Dog Pros
Thanks to the serious problem of pet overpopulation caused by indiscriminate breeding, acquiring a dog has never been easier.
Rescue Dog Pros
Turn to the classified ads of any major newspaper and youâll see canines galore of every breed, breed composition and price.
âFree Dog to Good Homeâ flyers plaster bulletin boards at the post office, the veterinary hospital and the feed store. Your neighbor thinks, âHaving one litter of pups would be such a cool experience for the kids!â or âMy Labrador Retriever is so awesome; letâs breed her!â and up pops another âPuppies for Saleâ sign.
While itâs true that good, reputable dog breedersâthe kind who screen buyers, test for health problems and will take a dog back if neededâexist, there are all too many inexperienced people breeding dogs just to make a buck, says Trenholm.
Viki Pearson, founder of Puyallup Animal Rescue in Puyallup, Wash., suggests the following:
She explains that in the Gainesville area, for example, a lot of Pit Bull breeding goes on, flooding the rescue with Pit-mix puppies that can be difficult to place in the right home.Â Â Â
Buying a dog from a backyard breeder or taking a free dog off someoneâs hands does nothing to help solve the pet overpopulation crisis and often encourages even more indiscriminate breeding.
The Benefits of Rescue Organizations
Rescue organizations, on the other hand, tackle the problem head-on by devoting much of their resources to spaying and neutering animals accepted into the program before theyâre adopted out again.
The adoption route also carries some clear benefits over buying a backyard-bred canine or snatching a free, too-cute-to-pass-up pup outside the supermarket. The biggest perk? It feels good to rescue a dog that needs a home, to give it another chance at happily-ever-after, to save a life. Really, really good.
âThe thing people tell me all the time is that they feel theyâve done the right thing by rescuing a dog,â says Lillie Goodrich, who has re-homed over 900 Border Collies through her Sweet Border Collie Rescue in Morris, N.Y.
She strongly believes that rescue will always be important for this intelligent, flashy and high-energy breed (which was unfortunate enough to have been prominently featured in a popular movie, âBabe,â to boot).
âThe problem is that the breed isnât meant to live on quarter-acre lots in suburbia, but the desire to have them because theyâre pretty and smart is high. Often these dogs have just landed in the wrong home: The emotional benefit [of rescuing a Border Collie] is knowing you have the ability to respond to the needs of this breed.â
The Fee is Worth It!
Rescuing a dog has practical benefits, too. For one, adoption fees for purebreds and those wonderful, often genetically healthier mutts are much less than the price of a purebred dog from a breeder, notes Sloan.
Although she hastens to add that if someone seems overly concerned about the adoption fee, sheâll advise the person to look elsewhere.
âCaring for an animal costs a lot of money,â she says. âMy philosophy is, ‘What you get for nothing, you treat like nothing.â We put adoption fees on our animals because we want them going to people who will value them.â
If you do the math, the pet adoption feesâessentially donationsâthat enable rescue groups to continue their important and expensive work, are a bargain, even compared to a freebie dog.
A puppy coming into Trenholmâs rescue, for instance, will at minimum be spayed or neutered, vet checked, dewormed, treated for fleas and vaccinated. âIf folks take a free puppy out of the paper, it would cost $250 to $300 from a veterinarian in our area to have that doneâand our adoption fee is only $100,â she explains.
A good rescue will evaluate the temperaments of dogs they take in, and can offer you training and behavioral assistance and referrals after adoption.
Furthermore, most rescues have you sign a contract that states if a problem occurs or an issue arises that prevents you from keeping your petâsay, your child develops an allergyâyouâll return the animal to them to re-home. You would be hard-pressed to find a backyard breeder or an owner, desperate to unload a dog, willing to do the same.
Just because a dog has found its way into rescue doesnât mean it automatically has behavioral issues.
Good dogs come into rescue for many different reasons. The owners may have:
- Passed away
- Discarded their pet before moving
- Or may lack the time to exercise an energetic breed
Still, unlike the frolicking young pup purchased from a reputable breeder and raised in your own home, a rescue dogâs background is often shrouded in mystery. Did the dog receive proper socialization as a puppy to people and to other well-behaved canines? Did it suffer abuse or neglect?Â
âPeople have to be prepared to help a rescue dog adjust emotionally,â says Goodrich. âThe downside [of rescue] is you have a dog that needs longer to adjust, requires more patience and might not be able to handle everything you expect it to handle because in its history something has gone wrong.
Choosing a Rescue Dog
Before you even contact a rescue organization or visit a shelter, you and your family should first talk about what kind of dog youâre looking for in terms of size, energy level, personality and other factors.
Do you want a couch-potato canine who doesnât demand a ton of exercise or an athletic dynamo of a dog to herd your flock of sheep?
Do you desire a social butterfly who dotes on everyone or a more aloof dog that will bark at strangers?
Thoroughly research the breeds that interest you and learn about their characteristics, health issues, grooming demands and exercise needs.
Be honest with yourself when evaluating your lifestyle and what dog would be compatible with it. Realize that some traits are hallmarks of the breed and no amount of training or wishful thinking will change them, such as a Border Collieâs instinct to herd or a Beagleâs urge to follow his nose.
Youâll find valuable breed information in Dog Fancy magazine, in books like Paws to Consider: Choosing the Right Dog For You and Your Family, by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson (Grand Central Publishing, 1999), and on the Internet.Â
Once youâve done your homework, you can take the next step of visiting the shelter, attending a pet rescue âAdoption Dayâ or contacting a rescue to see what dogs they have available, fill out an adoption application, and schedule a visit.
Be prepared to answer a lot of questions that will not only help the rescue volunteers match you with the right dog, but also determine if you can meet this animalâs needs.
âBasically, adopters need to demonstrate that theyâll be good, committed pet owners,â says Trenholm.
Rescues vary as to their adoption requirements. Many require a home visit and references, including a veterinarianâs, and most insist that you have secure fencing to confine the dog when it goes outside.
Sloanâs rescue, for example, wonât place dogs in a family where both owners work full time and the dog will be left home alone all day, or where it has to live outdoors 24/7, an outcast from the human âpack.â
Keep in mind that choosing a rescue dog should be a family affair. Goodrich insists that the entire family come to look at an adoption prospectâand that means any other dogs as wellâto see if everybody gets along.
âYou canât just have Mom go pick out the dog,â she stresses. âHow do you know if the dog is shy of men or way too much for the kids? Itâs not that she canât choose one, but if you look at it from the dogâs point of view, he needs to meet everybody.âÂ
When you finally have the opportunity to meet a rescue animal nose-to-nose, Trenholm advises focusing on the inner dog and compatibility issues rather than let its outward appearance dazzle you.
âSometimes I have people get enamored with the look of the dog, but itâs kind of like picking somebody to go steady withâyouâve got to get to know the animal,â says Trenholm. âFind out as much as you can from the rescue people about the dogâs personality, its energy level, its likes and dislikes. Is this dog aggressive with other animals? Theyâll tell you what they knowâlisten to them!â
And if the rescuer says the pooch you want wonât work in your situation (as in, âYes, Brutus here will eat your chickensâ), remember that the individual has undertaken this volunteer work out of a love for dogs and probably has enough experience with the breed or dog in question to know what theyâre talking about.
âThe biggest beef I have as a rescue person is that people think Iâm trying to deny them a dog,â says Goodrich. âBut Iâm actually trying to match a dog to their needs.â
Did You Pick the Right Rescue Dog?
But how in the world do you really know whether youâve found the right dog or not?
No one can definitively answer that question for you, but Goodrich suggests picturing the following scenario to figure this out for yourself: Youâre in the car and driving away from the rescue. You look over your shoulder and the dog you met isnât sitting there in the back seat. How would you feel? Like youâd left your heart behind? Relieved?
âI always tell people, your heart has to be pulled,â she says. âIf you donât feel drawn to this dog, then itâs probably not your dog.â
Hilary Hines, of course, understands what its like to feel a rescue dogâs tug on your heartstrings and know he has to be yoursâforever. âJack,â she says, âis my heart and soul.”
About the Author: Cherie Langlois is a lifelong dog owner and freelance writer in Washington who writes regularly for Hobby Farms, Hobby Farm Home and Dog Fancy. In her spare time, she volunteers with Puyallup Animal Rescue.