Category Archives: Rescue Stories

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.

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.

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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