No Dog Left Behind

 

June 2016 was when we first posted Ernie on our instagram account. Our friend Polly took him as a foster because he had nowhere else to go and she could tell there was something very special about him. Polly's own dog isn't ever crazy about having new dogs around the house but she was fine with Ernie because he was so easy going. He was healthy and other than not being well taken care of and the resulting skin issues from laying on concrete for most of his 7 years of life, there appeared to be nothing wrong with him. We thought he'd be an "easy placement". Phrases we used to describe Ernie in his adoption profile were "extremely sweet natured", "loves people", "loves attention", "will just put his head in your lap to be pet", "isn't too high energy", "likes to spend time exploring in the yard but then is mellow in the house", etc. 

File Jun 21, 12 16 50 PM.jpeg

In the middle of August 2016, Ernie still hadn't been adopted and Polly and I were handling Dale Jr. If you remember, he was one of our special needs foster dogs with severe medical issues that required a lot of time, money, and care to get him through his treatment. Another foster had volunteered to take Ernie in NC even though we knew deep down it wasn't the best environment for him (she had several dogs and a rather chaotic environment). However, as with all other rescues, we have limited resources. And, like usual, we were so short on foster homes which was made worse since that was a particularly difficult time for us with so many special needs cases. So, we posted Ernie again on our social media channels again to try to drum up some interest and get him out of NC fostering into a loving, forever home.

 

"Remember this guy? He has sort of gotten lost in the shuffle and we want to find him the home he deserves. Ernest is being fostered in North Carolina and travel can be arranged if needed. Ernest gets along fine with other mellow dogs but we think he would be best as an only dog. He can be hard to walk on a leash, especially if he sees another dog so he will need training and work in that area. He is a sweetheart and deserves a good home."

"Remember this guy? He has sort of gotten lost in the shuffle and we want to find him the home he deserves. Ernest is being fostered in North Carolina and travel can be arranged if needed. Ernest gets along fine with other mellow dogs but we think he would be best as an only dog. He can be hard to walk on a leash, especially if he sees another dog so he will need training and work in that area. He is a sweetheart and deserves a good home."

Name: Ernest 

Location: NC

Age: approximately 7

Health: great teeth, energy, clear eyes, excellent hearing, no arthritic issues, sheds little.

Sleep: naps occasionally, sleeps quietly and soundly at night.

Temperament: He can be touched anywhere; has not been abused because he does not fear sounds or touch; no issue with thunder or other loud noises. He rides extremely well in a car. Has great eye contact, will smile as you sweet talk him, responds to attention and will come for petting, put his head in your lap. Good with kids. Good with most dogs but recommended as an only dog. 


Needs: Human companionship, access to the outdoors (genuinely loves the porch, deck and the ability to access the yard at will), some fun and stimulation, light exercise, good food, soft bed, and a kind voice with soft hands.

A few weeks later, the NC foster had indicated she was having issues with Ernie. She spoke of signs of aggression which was a surprise to us. Her patience was waning and we could sense it. We asked for more photos with no response back from her. We offered assistance placing him, and so many other rescues now jumped in with offers to help. Our fear and original doubt that her chaotic situation was going to work for him was being validated and we were now desperate. In the meantime, we had tragically lost Dale Jr. who could not survive his heartworm treatment and we did not want to lose Ernie but we were terrified. On September 9, 2016 we put out another plea for help:

This is our last chance to save Ernie. He is currently in a terrible foster situation that is setting him up for failure and eventual euthanization. He is being kept in a crate to the point that he is starting to show signs of arthritis because his foster cannot let him be around her other 6-7 dogs. That environment is too stressful for him and he will never make it unless we help get him out. He needs to be an only dog somewhere with some land to just chill and be his happy sweet self like he was when this photo was taken. Please, please help us save him by sharing this with anyone whom you think could be of help. Thank you.

It turns out, the NC foster lied. She had already had Ernie euthanized, we are not sure when exactly. But she lied to all of us about it and never had our permission. We would have taken him back into our care and several other rescues had stepped in to offer emergency help.. but she did not give him the chance. On September 12, 2016 we posted,

RIP Ernest. We tried to save you. Not just us but Above & Beyond Rescue, Butts Mutts, Southeast GSP Rescue, Southeast Michigan Bird Dog Rescue, Southern Mutts Rescue Wagon, and Girard Lifesaver Rescue among others.

It has been a year now, and we cannot forget the events that led to the loss of sweet Ernest. The "no dog left behind" effort is to help remind us that every animal in need is important and that action is important. We believe in doing something. Saying yes. 

The proceeds from these Ernie stickers will go to Southeast GSP Rescue who took on the care of Ernie, Dale Jr, and so many more special needs dogs since then. 

Thank you to Brent Wick for the beautiful drawing of Ernie. 

Fostering | Part One

I’ll get too attached.

It’s not the right time.

Yes, you probably will get attached. And, it might not seem like the right time. But isn’t that so true for so many things? We can be very good at protecting ourselves; but, in this situation, I think almost anyone who has fostered a rescue animal in need would say it’s time to open yourself to the idea. For these animals, time is of the essence and could be the difference between life and death. Committing to adopting is a lifelong commitment to the animal. But fostering? While it is temporary, it may be one of the most significant things you ever do.

Sizemore and Kim Dillen

Sizemore and Kim Dillen

Titan (R) rescued from the streets in Alabama. We named him Ranger, treated him for Heartworm and helped socialize him with other male dogs. Now he is Duke and living the life with a loving family, farm, and three other very happy dogs in South Carolina. 

Titan (R) rescued from the streets in Alabama. We named him Ranger, treated him for Heartworm and helped socialize him with other male dogs. Now he is Duke and living the life with a loving family, farm, and three other very happy dogs in South Carolina. 

The thing is, we would all be lying if we said fostering was always easy. Seriously, sometimes it actually is simply fun and shockingly easy. But more often than not, you will encounter some challenges whether it’s adapting to a new routine, waking up a little earlier, having to sweep a little more often, spending a little more money on food, or...getting attached and having to say good bye. If you ended up here reading this, chances are you’re not the type of person who typically chooses the easy way out, are you? You’ve experienced the deep sense of fulfillment and pride when you worked really hard on a project, trained really hard for a race, or took in an animal in need and transformed his/her life. Easy things don’t give us that fulfillment and satisfaction, challenges do.

The thing is, we have that option. We can choose to say yes or no. We can choose to offer help or turn our head. Animals who are neglected, abused, dumped, abandoned..they can’t choose. They need us. While fostering is no doubt a commitment, it’s not permanent unless you want it to be. The life of the animal you foster will be forever changed by love and trust because of you. And, whether you expect it or not, the effect that will have on you is profound.

We asked our friends on social media to share with us what they thought was “the most surprising thing” about fostering. After reading the responses, the general theme that emerged was that the experience of connecting with these animals and sensing their gratitude is actually a gift to us. When we go into a foster situation to help them, somehow we are always surprised at the degree to which the animal helps us, whether we thought we needed it or not.

We’ve included a selection of the comments received from our instagram and facebook pages below.

It’s amazing how quickly you can see a change in a scared, traumatized, neglected dog. Their hearts are so pure and they just want to know they are loved. The other surprising thing is how cruel some people can be...but I like to focus on the good that’s out there.
They can so quickly fall right in line and adapt to routine and love..like they’ve been with us their whole life.
It’s so much more about the adoption match than it is about their time with me. I stopped fostering for years because I thought I needed to have an ideal lifestyle first, then I finally got involved again when I started working from home. But why did I wait? I don’t have to be their perfect home, I just need to keep them safe and get to know them so I know if a home is a good fit.
That goodbye gets easier. And, if you’re fostering puppies, sometimes the goodbye is a huge relief - puppies can be high maintenance! Some fosters I could so easily see staying in our family but our role as a loving pitstop on the way to their forever-ever home makes me feel awesome and immensely fulfilled. When they go home, I take a few minutes to cry in my car, and then I know it’s on to the next one that needs our help! There is no shortage.
Fostering is one of the most gratifying gifts I’ve ever been the RECEIVER OF. Yes, I know I’m potentially saving that animal’s life but I feel like I’m the one who’s being fulfilled, uplifted and given the biggest gift! Fosters are needed so desperately to save these lives..I would strongly encourage everyone to give it a try because it just might rescue you.
They are so genuinely happy to be in an environment with love, you can see the gratitude in their little faces! I love how quickly they figure out how nice it is to sleep on a soft bed and how they come out of their shell and blossom physically and mentally. They are so appreciative of being well cared for.
I was actually surprised at how I was able to become attached without getting my heart broken. We rescued a dog before her and I think that made the entire fostering process a lot easier.
While it’s tough to say good-bye, the reminder that there’s always another dog/cat in need makes it a lot easier to let go as they move on to their fur-ever homes. At first I used to think I could never let go of my fosters, but experience has taught me otherwise.
Every foster has his/her own story. Getting to know each one and finding them the best possible home is the best feeling.

We’ll be posting our next question regarding some of the challenges and difficult situations you’ve had with fostering and how you dealt with it. Stay tuned for that on social media, we’d love you to chime in as a contributor.

Special thanks to Polly Johnson of Southeast GSP Rescue for assisting with this article.

#teamrescueproject

Pearl by Andrew Ratzke

Six years ago Hayley and I decided we were ready for a dog of our own. We both grew up with dogs and couldn't wait any longer to be dog owners ourselves. When we decided we wanted a dog of our own, we talked a lot about rescue and finally, after doing some research, we began our search. Both of us grew up with dogs that were purchased from breeders and while our dogs were amazing, we were really interested in rescuing a pup who needed us. I will never forget the first day we went to the local shelter in search of our future pup. I had spent some time in shelters and was like a kid in a candy store, racing from kennel to kennel excitedly shouting, "Oh look how cute this one is. Ahh I love this one. Man, that is a big dog. Oh this one is so little." I couldn't get enough and wanted to play with all of the dogs all at the same time. That was until I turned around and saw Hayley teary eyed and somber. It was her first time in a shelter and it wasn't easy for her to see all of the dogs that needed someone to give them a chance. We left quickly and did a little debriefing in the car. "How could anyone not adopt a dog?" she asked. And that was it. We knew rescue was for us and we (maybe me a bit more than Hayley) couldn't wait to go take a look at more rescues in the area. 

When we made it to the Seattle Humane Society something just felt right and we knew this was the rescue we wanted to support. We did some exploring and spent some time with a number of different dogs. We met what we thought for sure was going to be our dog and at the last minute, the family that was fostering the dog decided to keep it. We were crushed. Excited that the dog had a great home, but crushed. We didn't let it slow us down though and the following Saturday we were back at the shelter. That Saturday we met Eddie (now our Pearl). She was so scared, shaking, hiding in the corner. I don't know what it was about her, but I bonded with her instantly. I turned to Hayley and said this is it. She gave me a look like I was crazy. The dog wouldn't even come near us, but I was hooked. I walked over and scooped her up and the rest is history. She hasn't been the easiest. She was 3 when we got her and had a troubled past. That said, she has grown so much and we know her life is better with us than it could have been with many of the other families who were interested in her. We have learned so much and love her more than the world, even when she has a tough day. I don't know what we would do without her and I am excited for the day when we are able to head to the shelters here in Portland (where we live today) to find our next pup to join our little family.

DaisyDuke by Christine Rucker

For the original story and more photos, visit Christine Rucker.

This was Daisy. Calm in the presence of chaos. Always a perfect combination of grace and goof. Of curiosity and fear. We were lucky to have shared 14 years of adventures and mis-adventures. 

Yes, she was 14.

I do it myself, when someone tells me they lost a pet, first I offer my condolences, then I ask..so how old was he/she? somehow the longer the life of the animal.. the easier it should be to let go, right?

They’ve had a full life, and probably enough love for five lifetimes. They have also been entwined longer in your life and they become the glue that keeps the rest of your family together.

Yes, fourteen IS a ripe old age for a dog, and especially her breed of German Shorthair Pointer.

 But 14 years is not long enough when they have planted roots into your life.


She grew up in the shadow of a great dog name “Duke’, who stayed with us until he was 19. She was named DaisyDuke in honor of him. We shared her lineage with one of my best friends who adopted her brother “Luke”. They made up the Dukes of Hazard dog dynasty.


There are a million “little” things that made Daisy “Daisy”.

The way she would bark when the tires hit our gravel drive and she would stick her head out the window inhaling the air, biting at the trees we passed by. Like she was trying to ingest all that was home to her.

The way she would know the second I got out of the shower, no matter how hard it was for her to climb the stairs as she got older, she would be waiting to lick the water off my legs and if there was lotion involved. it was like icing.


The way she would press her body against mine at night.. not just sleeping “next” to me.. but sleeping with me. How you could easily get her to break into a song by one howl in the morning and the way her ears would perk and her head would cock when you told her there were rabbits waiting for her outside.

The way she barked at you if you were a little late in feeding her, just in case you might have forgotten.


These are just the physical things she would do. She could easily read my emotions and at times knew me better than I knew myself, and while she couldn’t talk, she had developed a different kind of language. One that spoke directly to my emotions.

She’s been my confidant, my therapist, and my marriage counselor when needed. She came into my life when I wanted kids but could not have them... and she became my surrogate child.


It might sound cliche to say she was the sweetest dog I’ve ever known. I’ve known a lot of dogs and been privileged to spend my time on this planet surrounded by dogs. But, Daisy truly was the sweetest I’ve ever met.
She had a combination of gentleness and kindness that really is rare in an animal. She never killed anything. She was kind of a Buddah dog that way..


There was the time she found baby bunnies in the back yard and brought them in one by one to her dog bed,then took a nap on top of them. If anything has ever died from too much love, it was those bunnies.


Being a bird dog, she would find birds and bring them to me inside. As soon as they dried off from her slobber , they would take flight and we would chase them through the house and release them back outside.


She once met her match when she cornered a chip monk who took offense and hissed at her, then took pleasure in chasing Daisy back to the house.


And she was the only dog in our pack that I would allow off leash when a baby fawn showed up at our house needing some care. It immediately imprinted on Daisy and Daisy reluctantly became a surrogate animal mom for the fawn.


Daisy was not the independent type unless we were on a trail, then she would satellite me or just plain wander off.


I tried the E-Collar a few times, but she figured out how far she needed to be away from me for it not to work. This only enabled the satellite effect.


I had a signature “Whoop Whoop” when I wanted to find her, and so many times that would be answered by a “Bark Bark” coming from the parking area of the trail. She would be waiting by the car for me, ready to go home and my bike ride was usually cut short when it was hot.


But other than that, she didn’t mind asking for help.. she would bark at doorsteps the couple times she got lost until someone came to the door. Once she wandered off on a hike along the Blue Ridge parkway, she went to the road and barked at passing cars until someone stopped.


Even though most pointers are good swimmers, she preferred if you’d find her a big raft or boat to float on. The few times she was inured, she was the best dog patient ever, because she didn’t fight your help, she loved it.


She eventually became a better trail dog and would come when called quickly. So when I blindly got another pointer. This one rescued and wired with an anxiety I couldn’t put my finger on, I recruited Daisy to help with the training.

Since Daisy came back to me when I called her and she was 20 lbs. bigger than our new dog Bailey.. I figured I could leash them together and Daisy could bring her back by overpowering Bailey.
I momentarily forgot how easy going Daisy was. Bailey took off, dragging Daisy along for the ride. They ended up 4 miles down the road at a dairy farm, probably with Daisy barking at the farmhouse until someone came out.
The call I got from the farmer was hilarious: “So, I know pointers are prone to run off and all.. but I never seen two of ‘em tied together before”


And that was Daisy. Ready to go along for the ride without a worry. She traveled across country with us when she was recovering from a knee surgery. She stayed in weird places and strange motels without a single bark of opposition. She traveled more miles with me than most people have. She adventured hard and made me laugh often.


And she was always there waiting for me when I returned from adventures of my own. She taught me to be kinder, and made me a more patient person.

We always think in terms of how to train our dogs, but don’t realize the way they train us. She taught me how to relax more and appreciate a 2 mile walk in the woods instead of a 20 mile ride in the woods.


14 years of adventures are suddenly ending in a sterile emergency vet office at 11:00 at night on the 4th of July.

Leaving us wondering what happened and how we are going to walk out of here without you.


Daisy was too sweet of a dog to linger with an illness and too sweet of a dog to make us wonder when the time was “right” to let her go. She got sick suddenly and the decision was made for us. Everything happened so quickly.

All we could do was send you out of this world with our love and our tears.


Your last day was spent in the woods and by the river, with a pack that loved you. And that’s how it should have been for a dog as sweet as you.

 I’m sure you’ve carved out a little piece of dog heaven and named it Hazard County.

There are thousands of pictures I could share of Daisy's life. But these embody her like no others I have taken of her. We loaded her up in an overpacked element and drove west. She was the peacekeeper, the comedian, and the best therapist a married couple could have on a 4,000 mile journey. This is the spirit of Daisy:

For the original story published July 12, 2017 and more photos, visit Christine Rucker.

Wild Love by Christine Rucker

Detached attachment is a sticky line.

Love tends to hook onto my heart easily and when I love back, it’s for the long haul.

So when a four month old starving fawn walked up to me in the yard this past September, I felt those hooks sink in and I knew I was in for a life changing experience . I named her Farrah Fawncett. And Farrah was going to challenge how I could love something with a sense of detachment.

I felt like new mom. Second guessing my every decision, googling what to feed, how much to feed this new baby. When her belly would swell from the fruit and goat milk I gave her.. I worried I might kill her.. but a quick google search tipped me off to adding baby gas drops to her milk.

Of course I wanted to bring her inside, let her sleep with us and our three dogs. But I also knew that might ruin her chance of staying wild. And I more than anyone, know that being wild is being free. So instead, I made little huts all around the woods near our house. I spread straw under our deck and kept all our dogs.-except our gentle dog daisy- on leashes until I knew she would grow bigger and faster than the pups.

And I fell in love. hard. I’ve had many animals in my life.. I’ve raised all our dogs from pups to old age. But Farrah was different . I felt a crushing weight of responsibility to keep her alive and also keep her free. With the dogs I had a level of control.. but when Farrah left our front porch after eating and went into the woods, control was out of my reach.

I didn’t sleep much on the nights it got into the single digits. But Farrah would be at the door at day break , her fur all fluffed up and looking much bigger than she actually was. When I would her the coyotes howl and yip at night.. I’d get up and turn all the outside lights on. And in the morning, she would be waiting for me by the door.

We live in the middle of a triangle of hunters, so every time I would hear a gunshot, I would hold my breath. But then she would pop her head out of the woods, reminding me that she felt safe here and was not going to wander off too far.

People told me to put an orange collar on her, or an orange handkerchief, that she was now a family pet. I didn’t follow their advice. For one, she was not mine to keep or lay claim to, and secondly, I worried she’d get it hung up on something in the woods. Mostly, I didn’t want other deer to avoid her because of something “human” hanging around her neck. I wanted to keep her wild more than my need tokeep her mine.  I’ve been connected to this landscape we live in since we moved ten years ago and through that landscape, I felt connected to Farrah. We are all part of nature, and nature is more about connections to the wild world than it is about taming it.

I started to prepare myself for the morning she would not show up. And those occasional times she wouldn’t be waiting at the door, I would lose hours of my day just worrying about her, until she rambled up to the house mid-day. So it was a tightrope I balanced on. I learned to love without expectation. I learned to love something as much as I could and then let hope take over.

When I wondered if she was lonely being out in the woods solo, I would look outside and watch her doing hot laps chasing the dogs around the fenced-in enclosure. She found a way to play with them on my terms.

She brought a kind of balance into my life that is hard to explain. It’s a little like being able inhale deeper and breath easier. There was a new calmness around the house that her presence
created.

There are a handful of moments in my life that I feel are perfect, pure experiences.
One evening I was walking the dogs down by the river. We had just had a big rain and this heavy fog had settled over the river but you could see the clouds turning a deep pink from the sunset. It was as if we were surrounded in a soft cotton candy colored fog. I turned to walk back up the trail and Farrah was standing behind us.As she joined us at the river , she was silhouetted in this amazing colored fog. I wished only for a second that I had a camera but then realized it would have taken me out of this moment and taken away the rawness of this experience. Farrah walked the trail with us, all of us still enveloped in this surreal fog. As long as I live, the memory of that evening will be etched into my mind.

She began to take walks with us, then she started to follow me on my mountain bike though the trails. I finally let Bailey, my English pointer, off leash and she and Farrah would rip through the woods playing a hilarious game of tag and hide and seek. Farrah always won.

Eventually she stopped coming every day. Spring was here and the forest was full of new green treats. Maybe she was getting introduced to other yearlings that had separated from their mom. She was becoming more wild. This was my goal all along. She had gotten through the winter. She was still small, but she had filled out.

She was returning where she belonged. But it hurt. And we missed her. When she would pop back out of the woods, I was almost as surprised as when I first saw her. A kind of excitement you might get when you see family member you haven’t seen in a while. A kind of fluttering inyour stomach.

But the weeks we didn’t see her, that fluttering was replaced by a quiet sadness.

I’ve tried to write this many times but could not find the words. Or I thought in writing this, it might jinx her from ever coming back.

It’s been over two weeks since she last visited. Part of me is saying she’s moved on. Part of me is worried she ran into trouble. But all of my heart knows where ever she is, she had the loveof a human family, a free love that didn’t try to make her less wild. She was simply loved and given a little more advantage to survive.

This story has been abbreviated for this blog. To read the full version published on May 10, 2017 with more photos and videos, visit Christine Rucker