Linda Watkins - When dogs need new homes

I rescue dogs.

It sounds simple: Get a dog from a shelter, off the streets, from a home where it’s unwanted and find somebody who wants it.

My rescue friends will tell you: We don’t do this because we’ve nothing better to do. We do this because millions of dogs each year are euthanized due to lack of training and commitment on the part of their original owners. The majority of the dogs we see are in rescue because of easily corrected behavioral issues their owners wouldn’t or couldn’t make the effort to correct. As we keep telling each other: Saving one dog won’t change the world — but the world will change for that one dog.


The best way to explain dog rescue is to describe a typical week in my life, omitting my “other” life of caring for my own dogs, home, yard, family, our business and other projects needing my attention.

I rescue one breed only: Australian Cattle Dogs (aka Queensland, blue and red heelers). In addition to a small, Oregon-based effort, I work with a national organization, dealing with dogs across the country.

On Friday, I was on the road by 7 a.m., heading to Silverton to pick up one of our rescues for delivery to his new home. His foster mom accompanied me. We got Bear loaded, and Jaime and I went to Keizer to pick up a second dog going to a new home. Heidi was coming from her foster home in Cottage Grove, destined for the Seattle area. Long story short: Bear definitely hit the doggie Lotto with his new home in Portland’s Pearl District — and Heidi met her new family, who’d driven south from Puget Sound to La Center, Wash.

Saying farewell to Bear was bittersweet; He was a stray with a leg that had to be amputated. The odds are pretty much against finding a good home for an older, three-legged dog, but he’s a special boy. I’d thought about keeping him.

Back at home, I checked doggie updates on Facebook.

First, an obese female in a “private shelter” in Pennsylvania had offers to help transport and foster, but the trick was going to be getting her released from the shelter. A bit of research convinced us that getting her away from the shelter wasn’t going to happen; reluctantly, I decided not to put any more energy into this project. Her little face haunts me, but sometimes we have to let go.

I checked in with a California rescuer on a 350-dog hoarding seizure in the works for a month now. It’s still delayed as the county attempts to work out a deal with the owner, but in the meantime I have a few volunteers spread from California to North Carolina standing by to foster the dogs. We don’t know what physical or psychological shape the dogs are in, so we don’t know what they’ll need in terms of facilities or money to cover medical costs, training and transporting.

On Sunday, I was contacted for information on a cute young female in an Idaho Falls shelter. Good news: she had a possible adopter. I contacted friends in Boise and Idaho Falls to discuss the shelter’s process — not particularly “rescue friendly” — and one said she’d check it out on Monday.

A man in Bend contacted me about his friends whose youngish male Australian shepherd mix needs a new home. Rusty is too large and energetic for two seniors following open heart surgeries. Unfortunately, Rusty has some behavioral issues. These can be handled, but it will take time and a knowledgeable foster or owner — so far, we have neither.

A past adopter whose senior girl has died contacted me. Cathy is ready to bring a new dog into their home as a friend for Shiloh, who I helped her find about five years ago and is now an only dog. A deaf red male fostered near Seattle is a possibility. He came from a shelter where he was not doing well — cattle dogs have an especially hard time in shelters; their behavior deteriorates rapidly in confinement.

On Monday, I evaluated a sweet young female in McMinnville. After their living situation changed, her family made the tough decision to re-home her. The great news is she can remain where she is until the right home is found.

I helped another rescuer connect with someone outside her area to do a home visit for a possible adopter and posted a couple of Northwest dogs on Facebook.

And I was notified that the dog in Idaho Falls was adopted out of the shelter, so she was “off the list.”

Meantime, an ad hoc group in California was trying to find someone to take a senior ACD out of a shelter there. Shelter staff said the old guy was probably 15 years old and mostly just ate and slept. Leaving him to die by lethal injection at a shelter just didn’t sit right with any of us.

On Wednesday, I finally said I’d take him, as no one else had stepped up. But I had to become an “approved” rescue to pull dogs from this particular shelter. I completed an application, provided the IRS 501(c)(3) letter of determination and signed a rescue agreement. It took most of a day.

We got “Ancient Abe” out on Friday — healthy other than severe sinus and ear infections. A week later, we heard that Abe died in the early morning at his temporary foster home. I’m sad because I’d hoped to meet this sweet old man, but I’m glad he at least had a week in a loving, warm home and didn’t die on the euthanizing table in a shelter.


Outcomes like these truly change the world, one dog at a time.


Guest writer Linda Watkins became involved in rescue 20 years ago. She serves as director for Pet Adoption Network, based in Philomath, and on the board of directors for the national Australian Cattle Dog Rescue, Inc. She lives in Carlton with her husband, Randy Stapilus, and two cattle dogs, Rose and Sam.




What you are doing is heroic.

Mary Starrett

As a "foster failure" (that means I wind up keeping the rescues I'm just supposed to foster for a short time
) I applaud your efforts. It's a one dog at a time proposition.
Thanks for your commitment.

Mary Starrett


What a great story. Your commitment and love for these animals is inspiring. Lucky dogs and lucky families.

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