Sunday’s at the Rescue: The Hometown Pack

So fellow travelers, time to pay a visit to the rescue.

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I am often asked why the dog rescue where I volunteer brings dogs in on transport when “so many local dogs” need homes. It took a few years for Helping Hounds to establish strong, working relationships with local shelters and other rescues.  The rescue community can at times become polarized. It takes unique leadership to create a functional network; tentative outreach is easily fractured by misunderstanding. Like any young organization, a new rescue will stumble if it tries to run before learning to walk. HHDR had it’s share of setbacks in the early years. The turning point came a little over two years ago, when new leadership and an experienced director took full charge of operations. Once they established functional systems for intake, health care, adoption applications and basic training needs for both volunteers and dogs the staff knew they had the foundation to create a stable outreach program. When space was available they began to regularly take in dogs from local shelters willing to network with them.

HHDR placed over 1,200 dogs into new homes in 2014, an impressive number for a small, independent, donation driven, volunteer fueled rescue. While a growing number of local dogs are in that number, transport dogs make up the majority of adoptions.  Every dog pulled from high kill shelters and transported to our area saves two lives.  The dogs brought to HHDR immediately make room for other dogs in a shelter somewhere else.

Dogs selected for transport are breeds in high demand ie: small to medium size dogs or popular breeds of larger dogs like labs and retrievers.  Those are the types of dogs first chosen to be adopted out of local shelters.  HHDR rarely transports in adult “bully breed” dogs, since they know there are plenty they can bring in from local shelters.

When the network pulls together, which I am proud to say happens with increasing frequency, it makes an impact. Listen to this statement from Helping Hounds Director Kathy Gilmour:

“We know the hard work being done by those on the front lines of animal rescue and they have our respect and support. We know the heartbreak of saving a life from abuse and neglect, taking a dog off the streets and saving him from starvation and the risks of injury or death only to have to hold them and tell them you are sorry your best wasn’t good enough, no one came for you but we need the kennel for the next one we just saved.

Our partnerships offer an alternative. Transferring them leaves that empty kennel standing ready and we could not be more proud to work side by side with our partners and take just a little bit of the burden off their shoulders and bring a little bit of hope to those who can’t find their way out of the system fast enough.”

It accompanies this post on HHDR’s Facebook page:

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These are the faces of the latest local intakes from the hometown network connection.  Nine local dogs who came to HHDR  from the facility which takes dogs brought in by city dog control.  Eight of them clearly appear to be what are known as “bully” breeds and regardless of whether they are in fact “pit bull” mixes ( “Pit bull” is not an actual breed, it is a term which refers to several terrier breeds including American, Staffordshire and Bull Terriers) the misconceptions about their breeds will weigh against them in the adoption market.

 “Oh we’re not picky about the kind of dog as long as its not a pit bull,” is one of the most common things potential adopters will say to staff and volunteers. I am tempted to tell them about the many “pitties” we have in our family, but I have learned my words are unlikely to breech their mindset. People can meet the sweetest dog, gentle with their children, playful with other dogs and still ask repeatedly if the staff is “sure this dog is not a pit mix.”  Folks, when it comes to rescue dogs, there is nothing “sure” about breed, no matter what appearances indicate.  You want certainty please find yourselves a reputable breeder.  What we do know for sure is the dogs we have on hand are going to make wonderful companions and deserve to be loved as they are.

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Andre, a local sweetheart, who has already found a great new home.

The average time for most dogs as an HHDR resident is less than two weeks.  Notice I said most.  Certain dogs will take longer to find their new families. This is because the staff works on a “best match”  rather than “first pick” model.  Young puppies will not be adopted out to a home where no one is home all day long,  large high energy dogs or nervous small dogs will not go to homes with small children. The staff is particularly careful when adopting out special needs dogs like April pictured in the top right corner of the poster above.

April was found with a collar so deeply embedded it had to be surgically removed. Although the wound around her neck has healed, she can never wear a collar of any kind again.  I’ve had the pleasure of walking April in her jazzy red harness.  She’s a happy, playful girl; you’d never know she was so severely mistreated.

Pearl, the beautiful blue-grey girl in the middle on the left was found living outside, with an untreated eye condition and a misshapen leg which had clearly been broken and left to heal on its own. She has also obviously been very heavily bred. Pearl is not as outgoing as April, but she has responded well to the tender care and kindness of staff and volunteers. While still cautious, she gratefully accepts gentle attention. I sat in her pen the other night as she quietly licked a little peanut butter off my fingers.  Slowly, I moved my other hand to gently rub her head and back.  Eventually she leaned into me, sighing as she let her head rest on my leg. Moments like that are worth ten times the hours I give as a volunteer.

April and Pearl are lucky dogs who have been given a chance at a new life; most city shelters euthanize dogs found in such poor condition, regardless of their temperament.  Those facilities simply do not have access to the resources needed to save those lives.  The transport dogs are lucky too as most of them make it onto the truck just days before their time was up.  Helping Hounds is proud to be a way home for every one of them and I am blessed to have the chance to be a friend along the way.

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Local girl Sweet Pearl meeting a new transport friend. Update Sunday May 3rd  Pearl has found herself a big loving family who promise she will be cherished for the rest of her days.

Walk softly on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Editorial Note:  Sunday’s at the Rescue is a series of posts about my experiences working with rescue dogs.  It is named for Sunday, a sweet young dog who came through the rescue where I volunteer, stole a piece of my heart (as so many of them do) and got herself adopted into a great home.

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2 Comments

  1. Sunday’s at the Rescue: the revolving door | Trail Mix
  2. Sunday’s at the Rescue : Transport Day | Trail Mix

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