Portrait of A Dog RescuerJeanette DeMars, founder of Corgi Connection of Kansas, is one of those many wonderful people who devote their lives to the rescue of unwanted or abused dogs. Learn from her experience what it means to give your time, love and patience to save and restore the lives of these dogs.
Jeanette DeMars with Benny C
"Rescue is a passion - not a fashion." At least for me it is.
Years ago I began helping a local group with the abundance of animals at the local shelter. After several years with the group, I decided I wanted a more hands-on experience and more to say about whom dogs were adopted to. That was just over three years ago, when I created Corgi Connection of Kansas.
Little did I know what I was really getting myself into. I thought I was devoting a lot of time to the local rescue I had worked with before, but running your own is something I don't think anyone can really prepare you for. I remember telling the person I was working with at the time about forming the rescue, "Yeah, if it doesn't work out we'll just stop doing it."
Stop doing it? That's like telling a nurse not to care for the sick anymore. There's just such a need to help animals, you can't walk away, unless... unless your heart was never really in it to begin with.
So taking what bit of knowledge I gained from working with the local group, I set out to save Corgis. I was fortunate because I already had some networking with other rescues from my previous experience. One thing I didn't have, however, was foster homes. I knew in my heart that I couldn't do it all. (A difficult thing to admit!) But after securing those first couple of foster homes, I was off and running. Using my own money for the first several months, I never worried much about finances. I just knew somehow things would work out and slowly the rescue became near self-supporting. With assistance from CorgiAid frequently I was able to give the dogs the veterinary care they needed and get them ready for their new homes.
Getting the word out about the Corgis I had available for adoption wasn't too difficult with the help of Petfinder and my own website. What was difficult was making decisions about who would be "good enough" to adopt a Corgi from Corgi Connection. Having numerous quality applications for the same dog is gut wrenching. Telling someone you don't think the dog they applied for is the right one for them... at best, it's difficult to tell them.
I take dogs in to my rescue with the theory they are a lifelong commitment on my part and not just until I get them adopted. At times it weighs very heavily on me, but other times when I hear from someone who adopted from me in the "early days" it just picks me up and encourages me to continue.
The toughest times in rescue are when I feel terribly overwhelmed with requests to take in dogs that I just don't have space for. I can't use every foster home I have every day of the year. The people who so graciously open their homes up to the dogs we pull from shelters or breeding situations or from owners need to have breaks. It's difficult to say no to taking a dog and it's also difficult to impose on people's lives. Fortunately I have had some of the best people in the world contact me through my website about fostering and I am able to rotate around some. I try to do as much as possible for the foster people I have. The rescue pays for all veterinary care, heartworm and flea/tick prevention. It provides collars, leashes and crates. If the foster home is nearby I sometimes even take the dog to the vet when necessary. Every dog is neutered/spayed; brought up to date on vaccinations; heart worm tested; teeth checked; a fecal test done and micro-chipping. This is the standard routine care each dog receives.
Corgi Connection has been fortunate in that we haven't had a lot of serious medical cases. We have treated heartworms, various other parasites and unfortunately lost one Corgi to encephalitis. Currently we have two dogs with some medical issues. It's difficult knowing their life is in your hands and balancing what quality of life they would have versus costs, adoptability and my own conscience. While it's true I can't save them all, I can sure make one dog's life better by giving my best to that single dog.
Rescue has huge rewards along with heartbreak, frustration, long hours of driving, doing paperwork, fund raising, going to the vet, more fundraising and worry.
Dogs like Benny, now the famous Benny Corgipants on Facebook continually reminds me there is good to be done and good people who help. When the State of Kansas contacted me about taking a Corgi from a large breeding facility, I never dreamed of the conditions this beautiful dog came from. They told me he had a facial injury. I just figured he has been bitten and needed some stitches. When one of my best friends, Patty Harrington, brought him to me I just cried. It was an injury that was not to be fixed but instead became a huge learning experience about dogs and the type of people who will love them.
Read more about Benny here.
In my opinion, dogs from breeding situations are the most difficult to take in to rescue. You never know what they are going to be like; they may be very well socialized, they may be terrified, they can have strange behaviors due to their conditions. There can be a number of things in addition (oftentimes) to health issues.
Ruby is a case in point. She was this itty bitty little girl we pulled from a shelter in Missouri where she landed after coming from a breeding situation. She was my first "mill dog" and I had no idea just how "damaged" she was until she had been with us for a few weeks. Terrified most of the time, Ruby would sit in her kennel and just randomly growl and snarl.
With the endless patience of her foster mom Sarah King and a little bit of help on my part, we slowly got Ruby to literally come out of her shell. I am fortunate enough to be able to bring some of the rescue dogs to work with me. Since Sarah and I work for the same employer, we worked out a system of her bringing Ruby to me in the morning to spend the day. Fellow employees would take turns coaxing her to come out of her kennel, offer her treats and gentle touches. Eventually we moved Ruby to another foster home with Sarah Kueser, who had another dog which we felt would help Ruby become a little more "dog-like." Nearly six months after taking Ruby in to rescue we felt she was ready for a furr-ever home, but it had to be an experienced home.
We found just such a place when Alison Williford of Texas applied for her. She had two rescue dogs of her own all ready and was committed to giving Ruby the best. Alison drove from Texas to Kansas to get her new addition and has since adopted again from Corgi Connection.
There are numerous joyful adoption tales to share from Corgi Connection. Approximately 100 dogs have been rescued by CCK. We have placed dogs in Texas, Colorado, California, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and of course throughout Kansas.
Jeanette DeMars with Albert
I am continually amazed by the kind, loving people who open their hearts to these dogs and the lengths to which they will go to make them a part of their family. Friends as well as complete strangers have been so kind to the rescue with donations, willingness to help and wonderful comments about the work Corgi Connection of Kansas does. I strive hard to be a rescue deserving of such accolades.
Re-posted on The Daily Corgi, 29 January 2014