Rescue Rosie bonds with her new owner on the day she was adopted. Courtesy Havenese Rescue, Inc.
For many responsible breeders, an important aspect of their commitment to their chosen breed is support of breed-rescue efforts.
Most of the dogs who end up in rescue are not from responsible breeders, it's true. Responsible breeders screen prospective homes carefully to ensure the right "fit," and they educate prospective owners about training, grooming, care, and what to expect of the breed. They are "there" for each owner throughout the dog's lifetime and are willing to take back at any time a dog they have bred, should a home not work out or unforeseen circumstances arise.
Dogs who end up in rescue are most often from situations where an owner was not sufficiently screened and educated beforehand to ensure that having the dog would fit their lifestyle, or where an owner had nowhere to turn when a problem arose.
Dogs from responsible breeders can occasionally end up needing rescue or re-homing too, however. For example, an owner might be embarrassed to contact the breeder about a change in circumstances and take the dog to a shelter instead. Or an owner can die, leaving family members with no idea of whom to contact about the dog.
Whatever the origin of a dog who winds up in a difficult situation, dedicated breeders step up as needed to help out the breed they love.
In this and the next issue of AKC Breeder, several dedicated breeders and fanciers with extensive experience in breed rescue share their thoughts about what they do and how the fancy supports their efforts.
(For an alphabetical list of breed-rescue groups, visit akc.org/breeds/rescue.cfm
.) Dorothy Christiansen, ASSA Rescue Network
Dorothy and Ray Christiansen have bred and shown Shetland Sheepdogs since 1970 under the Lynnlea kennel name, with more than 30 AKC champions and numerous obedience-titled dogs.
Dorothy is an AKC judge of the entire Herding Group and a very active member of the American Shetland Sheepdog Association, for which she is a breed mentor and head of the ASSA Sheltie Rescue Network
. How did you first become involved in breed rescue?
I had read about Golden Retriever rescue in our area and decided there must be a need for our breed, with Shelties being very popular at that time. My club, the Interlocking Shetland Sheepdog Club of Monee, decided to start a small rescue in the summer of 1991. And that was the very small beginning of the ASSA Sheltie Rescue Network. Talk about a little acorn becoming a mighty oak! None of us ever thought Sheltie Rescue would become as large and involved as it has. Can you describe a rescue situation that was particularly memorable?
One case has become legend in Sheltie rescue circles. It was a Saturday in the fall of the early 1990s. I received a call from Joliet Animal Control saying that a man had picked up an old Sheltie he thought had been thrown from a car. They wondered, would we be able to take the dog? Ray and I went immediately to see the dog.
In the corner of the finder's kitchen lay the old Sheltie. Because she looked a bit familiar, I gently rolled her over to check for a tattoo—and found that she was tattooed with our number. She was Ginger, Lynnlea's Sweeter Than Wine, CD. We had placed her at least eight years before. We don't know how she ended up at the side of that road.
We gathered her up and went right to our vet. Ginger was infected with every possible parasite, and her mouth was so bad that every tooth had to be pulled. Cleaned up, she came back home to us. Ginger stayed another year before bone cancer took her at age 14. This case, more than any other, galvanized our rescue work. (I say "we" because I could not do any rescue work without the support of my husband, Ray.)
Farokh Irani, of New York, soon helped me set up an e-mail list, and slowly communication knitted rescues together. We now have at least 80 rescues that annually save and rehome about 2,600 Shelties. What are some of the rewards of working in breed rescue, and some of the more difficult aspects?
The rewards are obvious. Rescues regularly exchange stories and before-and-after photos showing happy endings—in sharing these, more than a few tears are shed.
There are a number of difficulties: transport, reaching dogs in time, finding just the right home, and mediating disputes between rescues with different philosophies. The special challenge, however, is raising the money to pay vet bills. All rescues raise their own funds to cover basic vet care; I also provide funds for major expenses like surgeries to fix broken limbs, to remove tumors, or for special tests.
Our parent club, the American Shetland Sheepdog Association, has been very receptive and supportive of rescue. I maintain a rescue page on the ASSA website (assa.org/rescue.html). They provide free a booth at each national from which other breed rescues can sell items. Diane Troese designs a special T-shirt every other year, and Incolay produces a limited-edition resin ornament, with the proceeds going to rescue. Donations are our life blood and are regularly sent to the ASSA Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization. Major donors receive a special pin designed by Virginia Perry Gardiner.
Sometimes it seems like I spend my time trying to find new ways to raise money! What are some ways that breeders and fanciers can help out breed rescue?
That's a loaded question . . . send money, and lots of it! Seriously, truly dedicated breeders take back a dog they bred and rehome him if necessary. If for any reason a breeder cannot do that – because of zoning laws, for example – rescue will help place a dog, but a monetary gift is expected, especially if vet bills will be excessive. Most dogs in rescue come from shelters or are owner give-ups. Our policy is to never turn away a dog due to age or health.
Though we do not provide papers when we place purebred Shelties, the dog can receive a PAL number from the AKC that allows the dog and owner to compete in companion and performance events. Many rescued Shelties have earned MACH titles in agility, and one currently scores very high in herding at each national. All adopters are encouraged to get involved in agility or obedience, as these activities really meld the dog-human bond.
Lu Wyland, Havanese Rescue
Rosie is checked out by the vet on the second day after coming into Havanese Rescue. Courtesy Havanese Rescue, Inc.
Lu Wyland is a longtime member of the Havanese Club of America, a member of the parent club's health committee, and a founder of Havanese Rescue, Inc.
, an independent 501(c)3 organization rescuing and rehoming Havanese. How did you first become involved in breed rescue?
Having fallen in love with my first Havanese, I decided I wanted to add another to my home and planned on showing this time around. The dog of my heart joined my family, but it turned out that she had a hereditary condition, and I couldn't show her and obviously couldn't breed her. So I looked for another way to give back to the breed I'd come to love. Rescue caught my attention, and it's where I've put my energy for well over a decade now. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of Havanese rescue and to have been touched by so many dogs. Can you describe a rescue situation that's been particularly memorable for you?
I feel like I learn something from each of the dogs that are in my home, even if they're here only briefly on their way to a more long-term foster home. One of the most memorable dogs for me was Rosie, an 8-year-old Havanese-Maltese mix who came to us from a bad irresponsible-breeder situation along with several other Havanese and Havanese mixes, where the owner was terminally ill.
Like the other dogs in that group who we received into rescue, Rosie was infested with whipworms. She also had badly infected teeth and ears and was seriously underweight. I was amazed, though, because this seven-pound dog never had an accident in my house. I couldn't believe that a dog who'd lived outside could be so clean in her house training. She also sat for a treat after simply looking around at my own crew when they did, and she even walked well on a leash the first time I tried it with her. I thought she must be just incredibly smart.
Rosie was adopted by the mom of one of the staff at my vet clinic. A few months after Rosie was home, I was told one day that when her new mom was playfully shaking her finger at Rosie and the other little dogs in the house while saying, "You guys are so spoiled," Rosie fell on her side and let her tongue fall out of her mouth – she did the "Bang! You're dead!" trick, which I'd never taught her. She certainly hadn't learned it in the outdoor pen she lived in before she came to rescue. I realized then that Rosie must have been someone's housedog before she ended up in a bad environment.
Some people would think it would be too hard to rehabilitate a dog of her age who'd lived outdoors and been neglected for so many years. So often I think about how without rescue, Rosie would have died without being back in a house, snuggling on a lap, and hanging out with her new dad at poker games. She would have died without someone delighting in her personality, marveling at her intelligence, and cherishing her loving nature. We never know who we're getting in rescue, and you can miss out on incredible gifts of love and bravery if you make a judgment before you live with the dog. What are some ways that breeders and fanciers can help out breed rescue?
Breeders have so many skills. When they share those skills with dogs who need rescue's help, the dogs thrive.
I've been fortunate to work with fantastic breeders who are volunteers with Havanese rescue. They know our breed and are very dog savvy. They are some of our busiest and most willing foster homes and are good at helping a family determine the right dog for them.
Breeders also tend to have great dog networks. Whether we're fund-raising, in need of transport help, or looking for more volunteers or adopters, Havanese breeders have stepped in and helped make our rescue net stronger.
In starting out, one of the things I really wanted to see was the idea that our rescue Havanese are dogs who belong to all of us who love this breed. They aren't separate; they're not "other." They're ours.
Happily, I feel like the majority of the Havanese fancy who are involved with the breed in their daily lives feel this way. We have a lot of support, which is critical to our ability to be effective. Do you have any comments on how the proposed rule changes to the Animal Welfare Act might affect breed rescue?
I'm very concerned about the impact of this on rescue, if it passes. It could very well prevent breeders from providing foster care, and that would have a devastating effect on our rescue and other groups as well.
That's just one of the issues, but it's a huge one for a group such as HRI, which has very involved volunteers who are breeders. [For more on the possible effects of the Animal Welfare Act on dog breeders and rescue, visit the Government Relations pages at akc.org/petition To be continued in the fall issue of AKC Breeder.
Arliss Paddock breeds and shows English Cocker Spaniels and is former managing editor of the akc gazette and current editor of the breed columns.