Category: “Rescue Stories”

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

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.

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.

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.

Read More →

On The Way To Bakersfield – by Marlene Augustine

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. Read More →