Fostering Part III ~ by Pat Lang

Talk about getting thrown in at the deep end!  Sarah Starbird, one of Dogwood’s wonderful fosters, had decided in early 2018 that she strongly believed in the mission of fostering and that Dogwood was the place. But she didn’t expect that her first two (and so far only) fosters would be Logan, a sweet puppy from Lake County, who had been hit by a car and badly injured, and puppy Bruno, who would turn out to have Parvovirus.

Logan was first and was relatively easy, needing to be kept quiet while he was healing. His first week with her, during which he needed to be kept quarantined from her three other dogs, Logan was kept in the spare bedroom with his crate. Sarah slept in there with him at night and once quarantine was over, Logan was moved into the main bedroom with the other dogs, all older and very friendly towards him. Once Logan was fully healed, the perfect family showed up to adopt him.

Bruno was a much more complicated story, and a potential heart-breaker. He came in as a puppy, delivered very late at night and with a possible case of giardia. Things quickly turned south and by Friday afternoon Bruno was very lethargic, suffering from diarrhea and vomiting. After touching base regularly with Hannah Houston, the decision was made to take Bruno to Dr. Capurro – by then he was a very sick puppy.  He couldn’t keep food down and was declining rapidly. Sarah undertook a regular regimen of sub-q fluids but despite her best efforts, her husband came home from work and noticed how dramatically Bruno had gone downhill in just one day. With a temperature of 107, he needed to be admitted to PetCare emergency fast!  During his five days there, Bruno starting eating a bit, a huge victory since he had gone almost ten days without eating. By that time, Sarah knew she was not ready to ever let him go – a foster fail!

This was a hard decision for her since she had made a commitment to foster, but she also knew that she couldn’t ever let Bruno go. He brought her so much joy. Sarah admits that this is her addiction; she bonds to animals in need. She is thrilled to have connected to Dogwood and to have found a way to contribute around her passion.

With a full house now, Sarah has moved on to reviewing adoption applications for Dogwood, and is amazed by the fact that the perfect people just keep turning up at the right time for Dogwood’s adoptables!

Fostering Part II ~ by Pat Lang

That sure is one funny looking kitten!  Probably Toni Welch-Hiner’s first reaction when she met Owen the lamb, her new foster.  A new experience for this long-term foster family, but one that Toni’s daughter was eager for; she had always wanted some sheep and this seemed like a relatively “easy” way to get their fix. But Owen was a steep learning curve, although help from neighbors who had sheep made things a bit easier.  Owen arrived at 1week old and only 6 pounds.

For his first two weeks in foster, Owen didn’t want to eat (they often had to pry his mouth open to get him to nurse) and there was lots of experimentation with different types of bottles.  They finally landed on human baby bottles (well, Owen did come to think of himself as a baby!) The spare room/garage was turned into Owen’s playpen, covered in puppy pads and outfitted with a large dog crate and a Snuggle Safe for warmth. Puppy pads aside, Toni became a champion mopper!  In addition to figuring out what kind of formula Owen needed, they had to figure out how to hang his bottles so that it was easy for him to nurse, and bring in hay and a salt lick (realized they needed this after he started eating dirt). For exercise Owen got the use of the dog run. Sheep-owning neighbors were a big help as was Dr. Dotti of Cotati Large Animal Hospital.

Owen turned out to be a very personable little critter, stubborn and persistent but very people-oriented so it was important to find a family who would love and keep Owen as a pet.  He’s happily ensconced in his new home, thanks for Toni’s commitment to fostering.  Another life saved!
And did you know that Toni was also Tiny Peggy’s foster mom and now permanent mom after a foster-fail?!

Fostering Part I: Tiny Peggy & Kitten Fostering ~ by Pat Lang

Have you got what it takes? What it takes to be a foster? Are you a cheerleader, wet nurse, substitute momma, poop cleaner and medicine dispenser, disciplinarian, playmate, and whatever else it takes? Are you willing to fall in love (over and over again) and then willingly have your heart broken (at least for a little bit) when your “furballs” leave for their new homes?

That’s what fostering is all about – taking in those in need, regardless of their condition, and giving them whatever it takes to get them to the point where their “forever” homes can adopt them.

How best to show you/tell you what it’s like than to report from the front lines, from Toni Welch Hiner’s foster “farm”. Toni is a kitten specialist, although she generally doesn’t take on bottle babies. She recognized that her home setup, with a separate room/garage, worked best for kittens, and the room soon became the kitten barn. Toni did kitten fostering nearly non-stop for 4 years.

But she’s had challenges of her own: she rescued Tiny Peggy and her litter, picking them up at a parking lot in Tracy where everything was closed. What was supposed to be a Momma and five kittens, turned out to be Momma and six kittens, all of whom had been stuffed in a shoulder bag for at least a couple of hours before she even got them. Intake is a flurry of activity: every kitten is weighed, poop samples taken, flea treatment administered and then they are set up in their own large dog crate, with soft bedding, puppy pads, litter pans and food and water.

Once they are settled, there is a real schedule, with weights being taken and tracked on a spreadsheet several times a week. This data gives you a real sense of who’s thriving and who isn’t….and Tiny Peggy wasn’t. It becomes a constant process of constantly adjusting feeding (Peggy’s litter had been started on cow’s milk and that needed to be replaced with KMR kitten formula, and then gradually adding in Wellness kibble and canned food when they are ready (and when you’re ready for a real mess at feeding time!). Transitional kittens tend to get more food on themselves than they do in themselves…now kittens, we EAT the food, not WALK in it!. These foster parents know all the cleaning tricks from the right kind of towels (yellow microfiber from Costco) to how to get 6 kittens clean and dry after a feeding and before they all fall asleep. The age of the kittens drives the feeding schedules, with the very young ones receiving food every 3 hours and older ones on slightly longer intervals. (Makes you appreciate that Momma’s work is never done!)
And then there was the ringworm! Peggy’s litter came down with it and it began to seem like this litter was never going to leave. Every 5 days, they needed to be dipped in a smelly lime-sulfur dip, requiring gloves and goggles. The stuff stains, it smells, and the kittens are just a mess. They also needed oral medications. And once the ringworm was gone, all the chairs had to be hauled out of the room, disinfected with Rescue Cleaner and left to dry in the sun.
But all that work with Tiny Peggy formed a bond that couldn’t, and wouldn’t, be broken…Tiny Peggy became a foster fail….and her new life can be followed on her Facebook page, Tiny Peggy. The rest of Tiny Peggy’s litter all found wonderful homes, selected personally by Toni, from the approved adoption applications

The work may at times seem endless, and your heart can be broken when not everything goes as planned…but what better reward than knowing you’ve saved lives, found these sweet little creatures loving homes, and had weeks and weeks of kitten joy and laughter along the way!

Stay with us for Part II, where we learn how fostering kittens led to fostering Owen the lamb!

-Dogwood Volunteer Pat Lang

Road Trip! ~ by Pat Lang

Love the lure of the open road? Love driving long distances in the dead of night? Love meeting new people in lovely destinations like Denny’s parking lots or I-5 truck stops? Love rescuing animals? Then transport may be just the thing for you!

If you follow the Dogwood Facebook page, you’ve seen many, many references to dogs (and some cats!) being rescued from Central Valley shelters or from homes where the owners are overwhelmed and can’t cope.  But we’ll bet you didn’t how much effort, planning, coordination, and sheer hard work go into bringing these animals into Dogwood’s loving arms.

The need is huge, and as Dogwood becomes a bigger and bigger presence, there are more calls and Facebook requests for rescues: mamas and puppies, sick animals including dogs with mange (now becoming a Dogwood speciality), injured animals: the list goes on!  Once the request is made, it becomes a matter of determining “do we have room?” and “are there foster homes available”?  Then comes scheduling!  This is a tough job and one that can easily take hours.  Identifying who can handle the transport, or part of it, and when; if a transport that needs to be done in legs, who can do which leg, from where to where, and when. And then trying to fit all the pieces together into a seamless whole.  Many, many phone calls, text messages, Facebook posts and instant message requests later and we have a plan. (Kudos here to people like Jennifer Colletto, among others, who work tirelessly just about every day to make these rescues happen, for Dogwood and other Northern California rescue groups. These tireless volunteers work through California Rescue, Facebook and other websites as well as using their own personal networks to facilitate our rescues).

Transporters then determine where (and when) the meeting point will be, most often a well-lit, very public place like Denny’s or a rest-stop.  Armed with cellphone numbers for everyone driving the various legs, they load up with crates, blankets, leashes, collars, bowls and water, towels, potty pads, and cleaning materials, and off they go into the night!  Although rescues can happen at any time, many occur in the evenings or late at night: some volunteers work a day job and can only help after work, some are emergencies.  This transport work is made so much easier in the age of smart phones! Transporters stay in touch so everyone knows if the previous leg is on time or running late; they can keep on top of traffic conditions and give each other a “heads-up” when they are closing in on the meeting point.  Once the meet-up occurs, everyone (drivers and passengers!) gets a potty break, and then it’s on to the next leg.

Meanwhile, “back at the ranch,” Shirley Zindler, Hannah Houston and other volunteers are setting up for the new arrivals so they can be checked, wormed, vaccinated, and settled for the night in soft, warm beds.

Does it always go smoothly?  No!  Are there always surprises? Yes!  Sometimes the people we are meeting wonder if we could just take one more dog – if we can, we do. Sometimes the dogs are in much worse shape than we were led to believe or the owners become reluctant to surrender an animal you’ve driven miles to pick-up!  Our transport volunteers roll with the punches, make lots of phone calls, and make it happen: quite literally, they are making life-saving decisions.  Central Valley rescues are hard: the need is great, the conditions can be dire, and sometimes people can be difficult. But these heroes do it because they are saving lives.  They go into warehouses after hours, with passwords and a flashlight trying to find a stowaway Mama and her kittens from China, they go into homeless encampments, they encounter difficult owners who’ve changed their minds…

And let’s not forget the transport volunteers on a local level who ferry animals back and forth to vet appointments! They all make a difference, one animal at a time…

If you are interested in joining our team of volunteer transporters, please complete our volunteer application and let us know that this is a skill you have to share.
Gray Kitten

What to do if you find a litter of feral kittens ~ by Pat Lang

It’s that magical time of year: kitten season, when it almost seems as if it’s raining kittens. Shelters are packed to the rafters (or soon will be) with every shape, size and color of kittens. And that’s just the kittens we know about! Feral moms are giving birth in bushes, in empty garages and garden sheds, wherever they can find what they think is a safe spot.

Sometimes what looks like a safe spot to them ends up being an area that we humans wander through or that presents other risks to the little feline family. So today’s “kitty lesson” is what to do if you find a litter of newborn/young kittens, with no Mom in sight. First thing: do nothing at all but watch and wait!  Many, many times Mom hasn’t abandoned her new little family but is out hunting, looking to provide for her newborns.  Moms can often be gone for several hours. In most cases, a little patience on your part will reveal that Mom returns to feed her family.  Check on the family several times a day, from a SAFE distance (binoculars are a big help!). Keep an eye on numbers: if the little family seems to be getting smaller in number, Mom may be moving them to a new and safer location.

Orange Kitten

Our first instinct is to help – and for us, helping usually means rescuing the kittens.  But this good-hearted instinct creates more problems than not.  First of all, if the kitties are truly wee little ones, they will need to be bottle fed.  And while bottle feeding little ones is a wonderfully satisfying task, it is still a lot of work.  And, even more importantly, bottle feeding is a really an unsatisfactory substitute for mom’s milk.  Mom is the best at raising her brood: her milk provides crucial nutrients and there’s no substitute for the training and discipline that Mom provides.

But we understand wanting to help. So here’s what to do: put some dry kitty food and water out for Mom but at a distance from her litter.  Mom purposely puts her litter away from food since she understands that food attracts predators..  When she returns from the hunt, she’ll appreciate the easily accessible banquet!  And keep a quiet eye on the little family, from a distance and at different times of the day.  That way you’ll have the best chance of seeing if Mom returns to care for her family.  Kittens who aren’t receiving enough milk will most likely be either crying constantly or very lethargic and inactive. Assess the health of the kittens: is their fur dry and fluffy? Or wet? Are they sleeping quietly? Or crying/squalling? Are they dry and away from danger?  Is their location away from traffic, people, bikes, etc.?

Gray Kitten

If after a day or two, you sense real trouble, seek out help from an organization experienced in dealing with feral cats.  They can offer advice and direction on how best to proceed.  In Sonoma County we are fortunate to have Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County as our feral experts, but more and more grass roots/volunteer organizations dedicated to the care and protection of feral cats are popping up all over the country.  The Community Cat Coalition in Washington state, Alley Cat Allies on the East Coast and many others.  A quick Google search for feral cat organizations should provide you with the contact information you need.

If the little family can stay  together until the kittens are old enough to be weaned (usually 6-8 weeks) then you can consider how best to trap the family for spay/neuter (once again many local organizations offer free or low cost spay/neuter) and can pull the kittens for socialization and Trap/Neuter/Return the feral mom.

Careful and watchful waiting will yield the best results for everyone.

Dogwood Animal Rescue Project Volunteers Participate at Community Event in Sebastopol, Apple Blossom Festival

Dogwood Engages Community at Apple Blossom Festival

Every April in Sebastopol, the community comes together for a Springtime celebration at the Apple Blossom Parade and Festival. This year Dogwood was thrilled to participate at the festival where we we able to share our mission, meet community supporters and sell some wonderful Dogwood items.

During the festival, we were blessed to get to interact with many people; some who were brand new to learning about our rescue project as well as some past adopters, current volunteers and other community supporters. Among our visitors was Sonoma County DA and Dogwood adopter Jill Ravitch, who adopted Hope in 2016. We were also delighted to visit with Miss Sonoma County Tyler-Avery Lewis and Miss Sonoma County’s Outstanding Teen Pinkeo Phongsa.

One of our favorite things about getting out at these types of community events is getting to interact with our adoptive families and hear their stories of life with their animals. We were thrilled to hear about many of our animals (and see current photos) of the lives they are living as a result of being rescued through our program. We also got to meet many potential adopters and potential volunteers who we will be thrilled to invite to join us in our mission.

Our organization is full of gifted volunteers who share their gifts in a variety of ways, from hosting events to fundraising to cleaning out kennels. Everyone has something that they can do to make a difference. We have a few very talented volunteers who use their crafting skills to donate to the cause. Special thanks to Carol Davis, Toni and Lindsey Hiner, Debbie Milani Reeser and Arlis Minetti who made and donated handcrafted pet bandanas, collars and tug toys which were on sale in our booth. These, along with sweatshirts, hats and other Dogwood swag helped us to raise close to $1000, all of which will be 100% spent helping animals in need.

We are continually grateful for the support we receive from the community and love when we can engage and participate in such a fun event. Be sure to watch our calendar and follow us on Facebook to find out where we will be next.

Special thanks to Buzz Doughty and Doughty Enterprises for sponsoring our booth fees for this event. If you would like to learn more about planning an event for Dogwood or how to become a sponsor, please contact us. Additionally let us know if you would like to donate fabric or supplies to our volunteer team. 

Finding Thelma ~ by Shirley Zindler

A text message that one of my former foster dogs had escaped from her new adopter caused my heart to miss a beat. Thelma is a precious girl who originally came to Dogwood Animal Rescue from an overcrowded shelter after being confiscated from her former owner. When she arrived, nursing 5 young puppies, she was in skeletal condition and very subdued. She was a kind, gentle dog and a wonderful mother and I grew very attached to her. Once the puppies were weaned, Thelma went into another foster home where she could receive further training and socializing while I focused on her puppies. I still saw Thelma frequently over the following month or so. She and her foster mom, Alex, often joined us at the beach or came to visit. Thelma also stayed with me when Alex traveled and I was thrilled to learn that she was adopted into a loving home.

Thelma escaped from her adopter only a few days after she was placed so she didn’t really know him or the area yet. She went missing on a dark, chilly evening on a busy road and her adopter was distraught.  Within moments of our post that she was missing, dozens of volunteers were out looking for her but hours of searching in the dark did not yield a single sighting.

Early the next morning we were back at it and finally had several sightings called in from one area a couple of miles from where she was lost. It was encouraging to see how many volunteers and friends arrived to search and post fliers. For the next four hours we walked the trails and paths nearby and drove all the surrounding roads over and over but there were no further sightings.

Exhausted and discouraged, I said to fellow volunteer Janet, who was searching with me, let’s go back one more time and drive through where she was last seen before we head home to rest for a few hours. Lost dogs are often seen in early morning and late evening so we made plans to come back later.


When we got to the place where the last sightings had been I decided to place a couple more fliers in the area. I parked, leaving Janet in the car with our dogs, and took a couple fliers to the walking path. I put one up, then decided to put my last one up a little farther down the path. It was quiet except for a few bird calls and the babbling of the creek nearby. It was beautiful place but my heart ached with sadness. In my experience, these things often don’t end well. I had literally placed an extra blanket in my car that morning to wrap her body in it if we came across it in the road. Even if they survive the busy roads, many lost dogs get into panicked survival mode and won’t even come to their owners.

I had my eyes on a pole I was going to put the flier on when I heard the click of dog nails coming up fast on the paved path behind me. As I started to turn around my heart was pounding and my mind was racing. It can’t be. It can’t be. But there was Thelma racing toward me, joyfully, ecstatically. I dropped to the ground and she was in my lap in an instant, wiggling, kissing, whining and pressing herself to me. I was crying, unable to believe she was safe and in my arms.

My leashes were all in the car so I scooped her up and started walking back toward the road, my cheek pressed to her fur. I was sobbing so hard I startled her and had to pull myself together for her sake. We were soon joined by her other foster Alex who also had a touching reunion with her before she was reunited with her frantic adopter.

The emotional ups and downs of those two days have taken it out of me, but knowing that darling Thelma is safe is worth all the heartache. And seeing so many out searching is a reminder how much people care. Thank you to everyone who helped and all who sent up prayers for Thelma’s safe return.

Room at the Inn – by Shirley Zindler

As a rescue we get requests for help every day, sometimes many times a day. The scenarios are endless and the people calling range from desperate to demanding. We provide rescue and spay/neuter services based on the number of volunteers and resources we have. We are a foster-home based rescue, and we can only take in as many animals as we have homes to care for them. We help as many as we can but we have to say no a lot too.

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How Do They Know? – by Patricia O’Rourke

Here’s how it starts.  It’s early; I’m sitting by the woodstove, sipping my tea and reading.  Often the stove is going, out where I live, near the coast, so I’m cozy.  Warm stove, hot tea, book, jammies, slippers; you get the idea. Cozy.

Slowly something starts to disturb this idyllic scene.  I become aware that he is staring at me.  Of course he stares, it comes with the breed, but usually, at this time of day, he’s a bit more relaxed, even asleep.  Not today. Continue reading

Blog on dog! – by Corinne Asturias

RubyLike having a child, the question when to get a dog can be put off endlessly if contemplated long enough. Is there ever a “good” time to throw ones life into this kind of turmoil? Best not to think about it too much.

However, we got a trial run by pooch-sitting a friend’s dog while she was traveling abroad for two months. He was a smallish, sweet-faced, silver-haired dog named “Otter.”

Among dogs, there are the kind you find and the kind that find you. Otter found my friend Maria by sitting under her car for 14 hours during a rainstorm one winter. He hit what you might call the jackpot. Ever since that fateful day, his life had been a tantalizing itinerary of long walks, chasing rubber balls and excoriating small stuffed animals. He had also been known to get Chateaubriand and swordfish for dinner, along with an endless supply of Snausages. For those of you who don’t know, Sausages are like those little weiners wrapped in cheese-flavored crescent rolls, only for dogs.

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The Nurturer – by Shirley Zindler

skunks poodle 013 The tiny infant wiggles in my hand, eager for her feeding. Her eyes and ears are still shut tight at two weeks of age. Her senses are reduced to the basics. She can feel the warmth of my hands holding her, and will be able to smell and taste the warm milk that she’s waiting for. Her hair is getting longer, the distinct white stripes are striking against the shiny black coat. There is even a little white stripe down the middle of her petite little face. Weighing in at only a few ounces, the baby skunk is a perfect miniature of the adult she will someday be. There is already a slightly sweet, musky odor to her coat, not unpleasant, but a hint of her future arsenal.

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On The Way To Bakersfield – by Marlene Augustine

Driving south through the dark of the Central Valley on 99 I look in the rear view. My artist and his musicians are asleep like little 4-year-old boys on a car ride.  They had been working day and night, performing at radio stations, doing live on-air interviews and ending the days with shows.

We are headed to Bakersfield and I realize we need gas.  We are nowhere near a real gas station like a Shell or a 76 because, well, we are in the middle of nowhere.

I see a gas station sign ahead and I know I would never venture to that sort of old, run down stand alone at night.   It is in the middle of the fields with transient broken down housing dotting the side road. But I feel safe with the guys.

I take the exit and the guys wake up. One begins to pump gas while the others shuffle inside to grab a water. I see 2 small brown dogs milling around. Continue reading

No More Dogs! -by Marlene Augustine

“No!!!! No more dogs!”, my husband said. I sighed as I looked out at my new Sonoma County home. It was complete  with an  acre enclosed  by a 6 foot  chain link fence. Perfect for a dog or two. But I knew why he kept saying that. Years before we had lost both our  17 year old rescue dogs. It broke my husband’s  heart. So “No more dogs” was a normal refrain when I broached the subject.   Plus we had lived in San Francisco with a tiny back yard. Not really conducive to having dogs.

But now we lived in the country! So, urged on by one of my new neighbors I contacted her dear friend named Shirley. I was just looking to foster a dog, not a puppy, a dog – one who needed a home for awhile so I could fill that dog urge.  And not get divorced! Ha! Because of this  I met Shirley Zindler. She  had a litter of puppies and a house filled with people and dogs and a few cats – everyone living in harmony.

SElsie Maehirley didn’t try to get me to adopt  a puppy but we spent a great deal of time together after that, walking her dogs around the back field, listening to  her stories and telling her mine in the world of San Francisco feral cat trapping and ‘on the road’ dog rescue. We were building a friendship on the shared experiences and our love of animals.

One day I brought one of the puppies home against my husband’s  wishes, just to foster until placed. And because of his constant complaining I returned the puppy about 4 times! I’m sure Shirley thought I was a nut case! But I couldn’t get the little guy out of my mind so one Sunday I went back to get him again remembering this was JUST to “foster”.

And that Sunday the puppy sat looking up at my husband as he watched a NASCAR race. Just sat on the floor, looking up, staring up, not moving or making a sound. Until finally my husband picked him up and placed him between his feet on the foot stool and said “Fine! Just STAY there!” Half an hour later they were both asleep as the cars went round and round on the screen, puppy chin laying on a knee and a big hand resting on a tiny white head.

MarleneAnd every night since that dog has sat between Larry’s feet on that footstool. 9 years worth of ball games and races and naps. We now have 2 dogs, HooverDog, the puppy I first saw at Shirley’s house and Elsie May, a pit mix who didn’t have the best puppy-hood. (But she is another story for another time.)

And our house is known to  have a foster or two running around now and then because of Shirley. So, Trust me when I say, Dogwood Animal Rescue Project will not be your ordinary rescue. Lots of love and care for every creature who lands there. But then again, who wants ordinary when one can have extraordinary!


Charlotte & “Us” – by Dominique Palma

charlotte-us-postGrowing up surrounded by animals – horses, guinea pigs, birds, cats, DOGS (so many special dogs), it was a rude awakening to graduate from college, move to San Francisco and wake up each day pet-less. Something was missing. In a matter of months I sought to remedy the situation by getting myself a kitten, and raising her to be the best dog a cat can be. Sushi has been my companion for over seven years and I adore her, and she ALMOST filled the dog shaped hole in my life, but not quite.

For years I’d torture myself by scouring looking for the perfect scruffy friend to adopt, sending links to my mom in the hope that she’d respond and say “Great idea! Go for it!”. She never did, because we both knew the timing wasn’t right.  I wasn’t ready to give up happy hours and after work Giants games to instead rush home and play with my dog each day.

Along came Shirley, and her endless supply of rescue opportunities.  Curly puppies, scruffy puppies, big puppies, tiny puppies… I knew that one day, when the time was right, Shirley would have the puppy for me.  That time came sooner than I might have guessed.

Just a month before my wonderful boyfriend Matt was planning to move into my apartment, I stopped by Shirley’s with my mom and met Charlotte.  Her fluff, her wiggly little body, her precocious personality – I just knew she was the one for me!  But was she the one for US?  Could I choose a dog for myself when I was about to build a home with someone?  Charlotte wasn’t Matt’s definition of a “real dog” – not what he would pick if he had a say.

12583732_10207779461746116_730374213_nToday he admits that Charlotte is the exact dog he would pick.  There’s nothing a “real dog” would do that Charlotte can’t do. She just happens to be more portable and easier to bathe!  She is such a fit for our life – she goes to Tahoe and bounds through the snow, she goes camping and oyster shucking, and wine tasting, and holds her own playing fetch with dogs three times her size at the beach, and doesn’t quite hold her own in wrestling matches with Sushi.

Life wouldn’t be complete without Charlotte- the highlight of my day is coming home from work to cuddle her viciously.  We are so grateful that Shirley found her for us, and look forward to a lifetime of adventures with our Charlotte!

Meeting Shirley Zindler – by Hannah Houston

Hannah Blog 1Animal Rescue and I have been friends for well over 13 years.  It began when I was going through a rough patch in my life and became addicted to watching the Animal Control Officers Rescue shows.  Then one day I got off the couch and said to myself “So what are YOU doing to help?”   That evening I applied to foster for many rescues but the one that fit my personality the most was a boxer rescue.

Through rescue I became acquainted with most of the folks at Sonoma County Animal Services and The Marin Humane Society.   I kept hearing “Shirley this and Shirley that” but never really made an effort to meet this infamous “Shirley”.  After my own dog died I went in to the Sonoma County Animal Services to meet a beautiful black Great Dane puppy, thinking she would be perfect for me and was told that the giant puppy who had curled herself into a ball and was clearly praying she not be seen was being adopted by “Shirley”. I thought ‘I have to meet this puppy stealer’-in jest of course.

Fast forward two years: a dear friend had offered to foster a pregnant boxer.  It was her first foster and my first experience with a pregnant female.  12239557_1108173532527767_2249995825620532309_nWhen I mentioned this in passing to the Kennel Manager at Sonoma County Animal Services, she said “oh you must call Shirley” and she gave me her cell phone number.  So I did.  As it turned out this pregnant boxer was one of my most horrifying and rewarding cases I have ever dealt with. You see, the mother had an undiagnosed heart issue and died leaving my friend and I with 9, only day old puppies and very little experience.  This meant feeding 9 puppies every 4 hours, helping them eliminate, keeping them warm but not too warm, being sure they where gaining weight, and knowing when they were failing. I was at a loss… clearly overwhelmed… and deeply saddened by the loss of the fabulous boxer mom.

Then there was a beacon light on my phone “how are things?”-Shirley.  To say Shirley was a life saver would be an understatement.  I called her day and night asking for guidance and she always picked up.  She was a coach, a mentor, a friend, a therapist.  She was (and is)  a God send.  She helped us save 7 of those 9 puppies, helped me understand that not all puppies make it and that was normal even with the mom alive.  She even offered to take them if we needed her to.

12244272_1108176942527426_2297967185541416518_oI feel blessed to be in rescue helping those who couldn’t help themselves. Meeting the fabulous animals and people in rescue.  Seeing the completion of families and the beginning of best friendships with their new four legged companions.  The fosters forgiving their pasts and beginning their new lives forever changed is truly wonderful.  If I could wag my tail I would because from the day Shirley texted me “how are things?” till this day forward I knew Shirley was a friend for life.  A life saver. What I have received will always out weigh what I have given.  Thank you Shirley Zindler, I am so proud to call her my friend.

The Christmas Surprise – by Janet Palma

IMG_1927Years  ago, my daughter and I fostered puppies for Second Chance Rescue. We failed with the first foster puppy – we just had to adopt Taffy!  I’m not sure why, out of the 20 or so puppies we fostered, we had to have this one. It might have been her short, stumpy, sawed off legs, her tiny ears on her big head, or the fact that all her parts were such a beautiful unsymmetrical mess!  It also didn’t hurt that she was as sweet as they come and as soft as a chinchilla.

About two years ago, I got a text message from Shirley saying, “hey I just got a litter of foster puppies today and one of them reminds me of your old Taffy girl – she’s a short stack.”  That night I went over to hang out with my friend and kiss puppies for the zillionth time.  After being able to resist all those other adorable puppies I’d kissed, I found myself falling in love with this little Taffyish baby dog.  Those short legs!  I knew it wasn’t practical, we didn’t need a fourth dog, so when George said no, even though he never says no, I didn’t push.

The puppies happened to be ready to go off to their new homes right around Christmas time, and my wonderful husband had not yet shopped for me (that’s usually a Christmas Eve chore).   So when Shirley told me she found a great family for my puppy, one that lived in Sebastopol and had two kids, she wasn’t lying.  I was happy for them, sad for me.  I was happy that my favorite puppy was getting a loving home.  Sad that it wasn’t my home.

On Christmas Eve, George walked in the door with my beautiful Dr. Seuss puppy “Evie”, wearing a huge red bow around her neck, and blew me away!



Written by Janet Palma


Pets as Presents – Yea or Nay? – by Charlotte Tunstall Pearce

We’ve all seenStuart the photos and videos; a child opens a gift box and out comes the most adorable puppy or kitten in the world!  The best gift ever, right?  This is a long debated subject in the animal world and often thought to be a terrible idea.  However, in recent years, many shelters & rescue organizations have changed their position and policies on giving pets as gifts.  They’ve found that the majority of the time, an animal given as a gift, finds responsible, loving, caring homes.


If you want to give a gift of a pet, there are important things to consider. 

I co-taught a puppy class for years. Week after week, well intended people were dragged in by his/her puppy.  Many of those same people said “I’ve always had Labs” or “This is my seventh Border Collie”, we don’t realize that our ability to properly exercise and manage a high energy dog changes with time.  Or the well intended families that love animals but are gone all day at work and school. Their dogs are left to their own devices and often times become destructive and unruly.  In both of these cases, considering an adult dog that is a bit mellower might have been a better choice.  This applies with our feline friends as well.  Typically, the younger the cat, the more energy and time demanding they are. This is fantastic for an engaged, active family but not so much for the mellower household.

Here are several things to consider before giving a pet as a present:

  • Has the gift recipient expressed interest in a certain type/breed of dog or cat?  If so, for every breed there is a breed rescue. Try that avenue first and save a life!
  • Is the recipient ready for a 10-15 year commitment?  If not and a 5 year commitment feels better, consider an adult or senior animal.
  • If the recipient is a child, are the parent(s) willing to take full responsibility?  No matter how strong the intention that it’s ‘Billy’s buddy’, it will most always fall onto the adults’ lap.
  • Is the recipient able to financially support the cost of owning an animal? (vet, food, training).
  • What is the recipient’s ability to care for the animal? Some types of animals are easier than others; cats can be exercised in a variety of ways without leaving the home, whereas many dogs need activity outdoors.
  • Choosing an animal is a very personal experience.  Consider wrapping a cat/dog toy in a box with a gift certificate to your local animal shelter and let the recipient choose for themselves.
  • Ask the animal shelter/rescue group/breeder about a return policy before adopting.
  • Consider a ‘Senior for Seniors’ program for the wonderful senior in your life!

WhenSandy Santa you adopt from an animal shelter or rescue group, you are saving the life of two animals, the one you adopted and one that you just created space for. Please adopt.

The upside to have animal companions is obvious; they enrich our lives in a multitude of ways.

Please, make good choices. These living, breathing beings are counting on it.


Written by: Charlotte Tunstall Pearce ~ Owner of Affinity Pet Services, LLC and Development Manager at Dogwood Animal Rescue Project

Top photo: Calder, Pippi and Daisy     Bottom photo: Sandy & Sandy

2016 Calendar is HERE!

pit pups skunks cows bull field 016


2016 Calendars are here! Incredible photographs from Shirley Zindler’s collection…

This calendar is filled with beautiful images of rescue dogs from the past years, along with a few wonderful happily-ever-after stories & inspirational quotes. Remember Boo? She’s was the little pregnant dog rescued by our founder, Shirley, in a tree trunk.  She is our cover girl for the Dogwood Animal Rescue Project 2016 Calendar!

Proceeds from this calendar will go directly to assisting the start-up costs for creating Dogwood Animal Rescue Project, enabling us to become a 501c3 non-profit organization – to assist Shirley Zindler & provide hope for homeless animals through rescue, rehabilitation, wellness & education.

$15.00 (includes sales tax) + $4.00 s/h

Supplies are limited, order yours today!

The Beginning of a Beautiful Thing – by Janet Palma

It was a beauFullSizeRendertiful September morning three years ago when my sweet husband asked me how I would like to spend my birthday. That was easy, I wanted to start with a walk on Dillon (off leash) beach with our two dogs. As it happens so often in life, I had no idea that decision was going to slowly change my life for the better.

It was most likely Tyra, the gigantic black Great Dane that started the conversation that morning with Shirley and Paul. I instantly liked this woman! Was it her bubbly, fun, easy-going personality that popped out, was it that I discovered within minutes that we both love dogs and horses, and rescues and fosters, and that we lived walking distance for 12 years and never met each other during that time? That we both raised a son and a daughter that went to the same schools, or that I used to be a flight attendant and Paul is a pilot? That their son, Scott was trying to get on as a fire fighter, and my husband George, had just retired from the Fire Department?   Maybe it was all the smiling, laughing and talking we crammed in to those few minutes. As we went to continue on our way, Shirley caIMG_1966lled out, “friend me on facebook”! And Paul made a little joke about her 400 fb friends!

That evening I did friend her on facebook. And not too long after that it turned into a “real” friendship. A friendship you can’t thoroughly describe, but that you can only feel with your heart.

Shirley and I have stayed up a few nights watching homeless mommy dogs deliver their unwanted puppies. We have kissed those puppies daily, played with them over glasses of wine, and watched them go off to their new loving homes. All the while we were developing a strong bond as we got to really know each other. We shared stories, secrets, hopes, dreams and heartaches with each other. We laughed often, cried occasionally, and talked constantly! We never took for granted that luxury of time. The time it takes to grow a close friendship. We appreciated the rare and unique chemistry we shared.

Our Monday morning beachIMG_0324 walks started spontaneously with just the two of us and a pack of dogs. Shirley would pick me up in the “clown car” with 4 or 5 dogs and my 2 would jump right in, and off we’d go. On the way home, we would stop in Tomales at the deli and split a turkey sandwich, and bet each other we couldn’t get the sandwich guy to smile! (Now he has our sandwich waiting for us with a big smile on his face!)  Shirley would post all her fabulous photos of our fun morning on fb, and soon other women began showing up and joining us on Monday mornings. Now our ritual has become somewhat famous with 20 dogs at times running and playing on the beach! It’s therapy for all and a great way to start the week!

I was also honored to be in on the very first discussion of a possible non-profit. Now here we are…off on a glorious adventure! Shirley has already done so much for animals in need, now the sky is the limit! Shirley has a heart of gold, and I am so grateful to hold a place in that heart.

Written by Janet Palma


So we had this idea…

dogwood flowerSo we had this idea…to provide support for Shirley Zindler, author of The Secret Life of Dog Catchers, who works tirelessly ~ day in & day out in Sonoma County, California to help animals with the greatest needs.

We’ve watched her take animals in…be it dogs, cats, skunks, and even wolf-hybrids and provide them with love, socialization, training and when they are ready, a new place to call home. Always funding her efforts out of her own pocket. She shows up for animals when no one else will be there.

Shirley is the reason so many animals have happier lives. The reason that so many knew, even in their last moment, that they were loved, that their lives meant something. She is the reason, after many years of effort, that a group of inspired friends & folks got together & along with her, initiated Dogwood Animal Rescue Project.

DARP is in currently in our infancy stage…we are building our organization to become 501c3 non-profit and to establish our goals of assisting Shirley in every capacity we can.

How can you help? What can you do? You can start by sharing our Facebook page with friends, liking us on Twitter (@DogwoodARP) & Instagram (DogwoodAnimalRescue) and/or send us an email at and tell us how you can help.

DARP is not able to accept financial donations at this time – but we do have a GoFundme account set up to help between now and the beginning of the new year  to aid Shirley while she provides care for those animals in need.

We are implementing an Amazon Wish List, building our website, designing a new tee shirt, and a 2016 calendar. More information on those items to come.

We’ll be sharing some of Shirley’s amazing stories while we’re hard at work bringing this idea to life. It’s only because of your support that we can make this dream a reality.

Stay tuned for more updates…

Photo Credit: Unknown