What is the difference between a dog shelter and a dog rescue?
Animal shelters, dog pounds and dog rescues all take in unwanted dogs and try to find them new homes. There are two major differences between shelters and rescue groups. Shelters or pounds are usually run and funded by local government. Rescue groups are funded mainly by donations, and most of the staff are volunteers.
My husband and I had lost our dog, Isabelle, Izzy, in May 2015, and we were not looking for a replacement. We loved our rescued dog so much, and now in September of that year, it seemed still too fresh in our hearts, the loss. But one night, my husband asked me, if I could have any dog in the world for a pet, what would it be? And I immediately chimed up, a Black and Tan Coonhound. You should have seen the look on his face. After a long-stunned silence at my immediate reply, he asked me why that very particular breed? I stated the obvious, to me anyway: My dog growing up was a cross between a black and tan coon, and a beagle. Even though he never hunted, my father always loved and had hounds at his boyhood home. And I must have acquired the genes, because I always adored hounds. Black and Tan Hounds.
The American Kennel Club gives the specification of the breed, Black and Tan Coonhound, as being “large, athletic hunters who work nights. Black and Tan Coonhounds are friendly, easygoing hounds who love company. They are snoozy by the fireside but tenacious when on the trail of the wily raccoon. The B&T is a real American original.” The breed was created by crossing Bloodhounds with Black and Tan Virginia Foxhounds. And “snoozy and tenacious” are not the half of it. Females reach anywhere from 50-65 pounds, and males typically range up to 75 pounds. They are usually medium build, but lanky in the legs, with the long ears of a bloodhound.
That’s Not a Tara; That’s a Rella!
My husband started searching on B&T hound websites. We found a wonderful rescue organization dedicated to saving puppies that are going to be euthanized because they are not deemed “hunters” by breeders. We contacted the organization and thought we found a match. But, the volunteer rescue person kept saying that particular dog up for adoption was 50 pounds. Then, the weight was suggested to be 70 pounds, and finally it was told we would have a B&T hound about 80 pounds. I couldn’t have been able to handle a dog that large, so we decided it would not have been the right timing after all for a new pet.
But, that very night I received a phone call from another volunteer with the same rescue organization. He was an AKC breeder of bloodhounds, yet he helped out the B&T organization from time to time as a short-term foster caregiver. He told me he had not posted as yet a photo a new dog he had in his care. She was a runt, only about 48 pounds, and 1 ½ years old. She had been rescued from a pound in Indianapolis which had saved her from her original home of Kentucky. (She and many other puppies were saved from being euthanized soon after their eyes opened.) Indianapolis had transferred her to a pound in Bloomington, and she had been with both for a total of about 1 ½ years. This foster care volunteer rescued her from Bloomington. She was a nervous dog, he said, with a bite mark on her back from an outdoor cage mate at one of the facilities. And she didn’t like to stand up straight because her outside cages were too small for her size. Both places kept this dog in outside cages, which explained the reason she was nervous. (She hates thunder and rain to this day. I literally have to take her outside on a leash during any kind of rain or storm, even when it is simply a sprinkle or two.)
The rescuer told me she was a sweet and friendly dog, except with men, understandably so given her history. But, for some reason, she trusted this man, and I thought perhaps she might trust my husband. Both men have a kind of deep timber to their voices. What was the worst that could happen? She wouldn’t want us, and we would not have a new pet, after all?
I called the man, and we agreed to meet both of them in the parking lot of the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta. We drove down on a Saturday, naturally in the pouring rain.
We came in our van. We were the first to arrive. After about 10 minutes in a complete deluge of a storm, here came a BMW 700 series, with a grizzled looking older gentleman with a white beard and overalls. And in the middle of the backseat, a Black and Tan Coonhound was sitting perfectly still, like a woman of means chauffeured to Lincoln Center. We all got out and shook hands. And he told me a quick story about this B&T hound, or Tanner as he called her. She came to both previous pounds with the name of Tara. He said he only had her for two weeks, and she loved staying in the heated office space in the barn with her bloodhound roomies. And then he said something I will never forget. “My granddaughter was over this past week, and met her,” he said. “My granddaughter took one look at this dog after I introduced them, put her hands on her hips, cocked her head to one side, and stated quite succinctly, only being two years old, ‘That’s not a Tara! That’s a Rella!’ ” Rella being short for Cinderella, which she couldn’t pronounce with any assurance at two-years old. Well, I am a Children’s Librarian after all, and that was it for me. Even a two-year-old could tell a Cinderella in a black and tan fur coat right away for pete’s sake. I was taken. My husband says it was what came next which sold him on this B&T hound.
I had tentatively taken the leash from the volunteer, and that Black and Tanner as they are nicknamed took off with me, the leash, and went a sniffin’ with that powerful scent instinct they have. And yes, remember, it was pouring, and she could have cared less. Even at 48 pounds, she took me for quite a run around the museum grounds. It is the only time she has ever been without fear in the rain since we called her ours. The volunteer told my husband at that moment, “Watch out for that one. She’s a runner!” My husband laughed so hard at me being towed by a hound in the middle of a rain storm at the end of a 20-foot lead leash-he could have cared less. He was hooked on her from then on.
Our Rescue Dog: Snoozy and Tenacious
We got her home, and she was terrified the first night in a crate of substantial size and comfort. Pillows and blankets everywhere. The third night she was home with us, my no-backbone husband took pity on Rella and coaxed her onto the bed to sleep with us. She has never left us since, much to my chagrin. She has the softest, silkiest fur. And it comes out every millisecond. What a shedder. We call her our cheeseburger in between two sesame seed buns when we are going to go to sleep. She is so cozy and warm. A medium sized cuddler.
She is the world’s best nester. Our dog is a “nester.” That’s right; it’s what we call her too. She can take a blanket, a set of pillows, socks, anything and turn it into the most perfectly symmetrical round nest you have ever witnessed. A bald eagle or a robin would be mightily impressed. And it only fits her body. Perfect architectural integrity, that one.
And our Rella is a natural born mamma. She found her own “blind piggy” all by herself. We had a cat, My Buddie; she was named by our nine year old daughter at the time. When we first brought Rella home, Buddie was 16 years old and failing. She bopped Rella on the head twice the first time they met, became instant friends after they decided that the boss was definitely the long-time resident, and settled in together. But, Buddie only lasted two weeks from that initial meeting. We were all devastated. Even Rella. She loves to meet everyone, and is so good with all she meets. She just wanted her own “buddie.” And has been trying to have a pal of her own, with neighbor dogs and cats, strangers dogs, even “squawnkers.” (See earlier blog posting entitled “Squawnkers.”)
So, just a couple of months ago, Rella had had enough of being alone during work days, it seems. She crept down to the basement where I have my studio space during one of my daytime shifts here at the Library. I keep many of my stories, art, props, and puppets there. When I came home for lunch to let her out, there she was on our bed (I’ll never forgive him) with a pink pig hand puppet under her chin looking at me. I used this puppet from time to time with children for storytime. It is simple, small, it barely fits on my hand, and had two black rivets for eyes. When I came home after my shift was over that evening, both rivets were pulled out. She likes to chew buttons off of clothes lying about. The rivets showed up in the backyard a couple of days later. That blind pig has been her constant companion ever since. She tosses it, she cuddles it, she goes everywhere with it. She knows that blind pig is completely dependent on her “momma Rella” now. Tenacious indeed.
Rescue dogs or any animals fortunate enough to be found, cared for, loved and given a chance at a new life with a forever family is important. It is rarer than we think, however. The Humane Society of the United States of America states: “data reflecting shelter/rescue animal populations is spotty due to a lack of reporting requirements, which leaders in animal welfare are aiming to address.” Last year it is estimated that 1.5 million shelter animals (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats) were euthanized in the United States, down from 2.6 million animals only eight years ago. I ask the simple question to anyone thinking about a shelter or rescue animal adoption: What is a life worth to your well-being today? For us, there is no monetary or emotional value available to easily answer that question. And yet, Rella, our snoozy (what is “snoozy” anyway), tentacious, adorable, mushable, cuddly, pampered, non-BMW 700 series riding dog is worth everything we have to keep her safe and protected. My B&T is the greatest 55 pound find in this world. And it really is like the old saying goes: We are the ones rescued, not her.