Our three legged pit mix Max may be a familiar face for some as he's been with us since 2012. Of course the goal for every dog rescued is to get adopted into a forever home. Max had a rough past and while we try not to bring their past experiences into rescue with them, we started to realize in the months after his rescue perhaps some of his behaviors got carried over. From what we know Max was roughly two years old, the close companion to a homeless gentleman which he had a strong bond with. He survived getting hit by a car resulting in the loss of his front leg and even survived a fire in a transitional home with his companion. Once it became clear his owner was not going to be able to find another shelter or home to take him and his dog in, rescue was sought for Max. We gladly accepted Max into rescue, with his huge smile and wagging tail.
Once Max started to get settled and form close bonds with his fosters we realized that he could become extremely protective of his person or space. While we did the best we could to work on this behavior, in the early days we just didn't have the funding to spend $3-4k on professional training. Max then got bounced around to various foster homes and spent time with each of the directors at the time. Eventually long term boarding was sought and finally Max had a place in sanctuary. While it was a bittersweet moment we thought we were doing the best for Max to be able to live safely in the country and have other dogs to play with. Back in 2018, less than two years after we thought Max had found his retirement community we got contacted that the rescue was shutting it's doors due to financial reasons. While some rescues turned a blind eye and never got back their dogs they sent, we knew there was no other choice but to get Max.
We immediately hopped in our rescue van and went to get our boy back. In dog years, two years may seem like a lot to them so we were a little unsure of how Max would respond to us since he was living with new people and forming strong bonds with his caretakers there. When we pulled up we immediately seen Max in an outside yard with another dog. Of course strangers pulling up got all the dogs into a barking frenzy, Max included. We jumped out of the van a little hesitant when approaching his yard but all it took was a little call out, "Hey Maxie" and he turned into a puddle of wiggles and happy tail wags. For a second you are so happy he remembers you and then you are hit with a tremendous amount of guilt that you had to "send him away" and basically were yet another person in his life to abandon him.
In rescue you are faced with a lot of hard decisions, some keep you up a night worrying about whether you are doing the right thing or not and some can bring you to tears. We never take the decisions we make lightly and always try to put the well being of the dog in our care first. We have grown as a rescue from our past experiences and are strong believers in getting the professional training dogs need as soon as we can. It's a HUGE expense to the rescue but one we feel is well worth it. We often think back, had we been able to spend that kind of money when Max first arrived, would he have been able to find his forever home? Could Max have had a better life than the one he has now?
It's been three years since Max came back to our rescue. He is safe and he is happy so that's all we could ever hope for. He gets to spend his golden years at my house being the wise older foster brother to all the dogs that come through and basking in the sun, simply enjoying life. Sure it's not always easy, if I have visitors to the house I have to be extra careful, if he is out in the yard my gates are pad locked, I have the responsibility to make sure no one gets hurt. We made that commitment when we rescued him and will do what it takes to make it work. We are lucky enough to have a rescue partner that is also able to safely handle him so he has another safe place for when I have to leave town etc. Sometimes I feel like things always revolve around Max's care but you make it work, that's just what you do. It's the least I can do for a dog that I have no doubt would protect me with his life if need be. ~JL~
"Feral" dogs are more common than one would think in the rescue world. While some might imagine them as a wild pack of dogs wreaking havoc across a community, they are more often than not are a group of related dogs where breeding got out of control and it's become an issue of extreme hoarding. We have had a variety of feral dogs come into rescue, some come around quicker than others while others have taken years to adopt.
You can read Nichole's experience with her own feral fosters below. A long time volunteer with one of our partner shelters as well as adopter and foster for Copper's Dream.
Shortly after I started volunteering, we had a hoarding case come into the shelter. I connected with a dog and decided to try fostering. She was young, came around quickly, and was adopted two weeks later.
I decided to foster an older dog, Button, who was about 4 years old and came from a hoarding situation. I spent hours every Saturday sitting in her kennel, laying in the hallway, or wherever else she decided to pancake. A few weeks later, Button was on “the list” for failure to thrive. I sobbed. I went to say goodbye. I walked in her kennel, leashed her up, and she walked right out, brave as could be. We walked all around the shelter complex, me crying the entire time. My son suggested we take her home. So we did. Well, she went into heat two days later and broke with giardia... all over my kitchen. We were off to a great start.
She was absolutely feral. She jumped out of her skin at the slightest sound. We can only assume her previous owner only let her outside at night, because she would only go out at night, running laps around the yard for hours until we were hidden out of sight and she would finally come inside. She was terrified to get in the car, had zero recall, and good luck getting her in a crate. This went on for months. I would sometimes hide in the corner behind, waiting for her to run in the door so I could trap her INSIDE the house. The shelter had an adoption event and that morning I was crying, certain someone would adopt her and I would never see her again. She was adopted, by my husband, for Christmas.
I would like to say it was smooth sailing after that, but we had hundreds of setbacks. We rearranged our living room once and she laid in the hallway for 3 days, refusing to come in the room. Three years later, we have a dog that has a strong recall, can be trusted to play fetch off-leash, and brings so much joy to our lives. My husband always says Button can make anyone smile.
33 fosters later, I write this with a feral Copper’s Dream Foster next to me. Mika came to the shelter with 16 other dogs, most of which were completely feral. The day I met Mika, she flinched every time you touched her. I spent 5 hours sitting on the floor reading aloud to her. The more I read, the closer she scooted. Eventually, we were laying on the floor snuggling and she was taking snacks from me. She has been my foster for a couple of months and we have watched her discover toys and enrichment. When she is feeling overwhelmed, a Licki Mat or stuffed Kong usually settles her right down. Simple enrichment activities can improve learning, reduce fear, and improve memory.
For those willing to foster feral dogs, the reward of watching a dog blossom into its best self is absolutely worth the patience involved. Most feral dogs just need another dog, some time, and someone who understands it may take that dog weeks to want to interact with you.
Mom to Copper’s Dream dog Buster Brown
You can follow more of Nichole's foster experiences at @busterpawprints. Currently in rescue we have a few ferals - Mika mentioned above, another from her property Pez and little Cowboy. If interested in taking on the challenge of fostering a feral dog don't hesitate to reach out.
A couple weeks ago I was enjoying a nice quiet, for once, Saturday afternoon when my phone started blowing up from three different people begging me to go check out a situation with numerous puppies in poor living conditions. I was originally told there were likely over 30 puppies in need of immediate rescue. I immediately thought that's way beyond what I can handle by myself and was going to suggest reporting it to animal control and let them handle it. Well, not more than 30 minutes later and after talking to a couple people, curiosity got the best of me and I agreed to just go check things out. I told myself I was just going to look and see who I can refer them to, to get the proper help. Driving down a dirt road by myself, nearing dusk, following someone in a car ahead of me I didn't know, I kept thinking what the hell did I get myself into! After 10 minutes there I said I would be back on Monday morning to take them all! While I have seen worse living conditions, this was still no way for 23 puppies to be living.
Things quickly got out of hand when the owners three females got pregnant by one visiting male dog resulting in three litters with over 30 pups, some had already been given away. Rescues can't stress enough the importance of spay and neuter. While the owners had no intentions of breeding or having puppies, it goes to show how quickly things can get out of control. Luckily the puppies were all well fed and friendly, they just never experienced the world outside this property.
Once back home I quickly got on the phone with Alyce and a plan was made. In 24 hours she was able to secure enough foster homes and drove 3.5 hours north early Monday morning to meet me in Tehama Co. After a long day and night of continuous rain on Sunday we were nervous as to what the conditions would now be. We showed up to puppies shivering and damp, huddled into the corner of their outside kennels covered in mud and their own feces. Thankfully things went as smooth as we could have hoped and in one hour we had successfully removed 23 puppies ranging from 3 - 4.5 months old off the property.
Back in Redwood City, Karen jumped in to help and our assembly line was formed. Vaccinate, photograph, clean up and pass onto to their eagerly awaiting foster. All 23 pups, litters A, B and C are all doing amazing. Each one's personality is shining through, they are loving the attention and constant cuddles. Many of the fosters have reported the same things - they love to play fetch, super gentle and love affection. Most are now available for adoption and you can see their current progress in their albums.
Now that the pups are all safe and doing well, we can focus on the important task of spay and neuter. We have been working with animal control on the situation and covering the costs to alter the three moms as soon as possible. Having a portion of our yearly budget go to community assistance is such an important part of rescue and we are happy to jump in to help private citizens when we can.
We decided to try something a little different here and give everyone a glimpse into our daily lives of rescue. It's not always puppy kisses and playtime. We hope to share the good, bad and ugly with you all. Our days start from the minute we wake up to usually the minute our heads hit the pillow. From hundreds of emails a day, medical emergencies, daily care of our own fosters, there is usually never a dull moment. We hope you enjoy some of the stuff you generally don't see or hear about and get a better idea of the rescue world.