Years involved with animal rescue: 20
Tell us about your organization.
Our mission is to provide education about the German shepherd dog, find homes for abandoned German shepherds, and to build a community within our organization of support and friendship stemming from our mutual love and respect for this breed. We are an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization; we have no paid staff or facility. We are recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity and all donations are tax deductible. Our volunteers and rescued dogs are located in the San Francisco Bay Area region of Northern California and in parts of the Central Valley of California. We rescue German shepherds in areas where we have volunteers available.
How did you get involved with rescue?
I bought a German shepherd from a breeder here in the Bay Area and she encouraged me to join their club. Several women in the club were going to local shelters and getting dogs out as they could. I knew absolutely nothing about shelters then; in fact, I had never been to one until I volunteered to help them. My first rescue role was transporting a 14-month-old German shepherd who had run out of time at a local shelter and was going to be put down. I walked him out to my car, and he was jumping up and licking my face and just full of joy. I thought to myself, This dog was going to be dead tomorrow because no one bothered to help him? That was simply unacceptable, and I started helping more and more, until I took it over about a year later and formed San Francisco German Shepherd Rescue with two other people who were also involved.
What do you love about German shepherds?
While I love all animals, the loyalty, intelligence, and versatility of the German shepherd dog has always stuck with me. From guide dogs for the blind, to police K-9 officers, therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, herding dogs, drug and bomb detection dogs, military dogs, and of course, they make great family members.
Who would make the ideal guardian for a German shepherd?
The ideal guardian is someone who understands this is a breed that is very much a pack animal and will bond very closely with its human or animal pack. This is a dog that needs to be engaged with its family. From lying next to you watching TV, to taking walks or doing some sort of activity like agility or “nose work,” the German shepherd is happiest when busy. But not every one of them is a high-energy “go, go” type of dog, either. We get couch potatoes in rescue like any other breed. The real key is to match the dog’s temperament and energy level with the person or family it is going to. Rescue is certainly not about one size fits all.
What is the age range of the dogs at your rescue?
All ages. We get litters of puppies to senior dogs of 12 years or older and everything in between.
Most people assume dogs in shelters are all “mutts,” but many of your dogs — like many dogs in shelters — are purebreds. How do they wind up at shelters?
It is estimated that 25 percent of all dogs in shelters are purebreds. Many people get a puppy from a breeder without considering the long-term commitment that is required. Once the “cute puppy” novelty wears off, the dog gets less and less attention, little or no training, and is usually left alone for much of the time, where they get bored. The dog might start barking or doing some kind of destructive behavior like digging, and the frustrated owner dumps them off at the local shelter. Or unfortunately in recent years people have had to downsize their housing or have lost their homes and cannot take a large dog with them. Sometimes it is a divorce with both moving into non-dog-friendly housing, or maybe it is simply too much dog for some people — or they didn’t do their homework on the breed, which is imperative when considering any dog.
Your “day job” at Pet Food Express also involves working with shelters and rescue groups. How did you wind up with such a perfect job?
I had known Michael and Mark, the owners of Pet Food Express, for a number of years before I went to work for the company, as they had helped my start-up rescue group with food, supplies, and locations to hold adoption events. I decided to make a career change about nine years ago and use my background, which was sales and marketing, to do what I loved to do, and that was be involved in animal welfare. Fortunately for me, Pet Food Express was looking for someone who understood the rescue and shelter world to head up their community projects, and who could help them bring together what the company had to offer with where the greatest need was for the animals. I get unbelievable support from those two guys, who are truly animal lovers first and foremost, to help in so many different areas. It is a very gratifying job not only in what you can do, but who you get to do it with. From a company that believes in making a difference to all the passionate and committed animal advocates throughout the rescue and shelter community. Those people inspire me each and every day.
A dog I’d really like to see adopted is…
Jedi, who came out of a high-kill shelter in the Central Valley. This beautiful, big — 105 pounds — solid black male was another one of those examples of the “How did this dog end up here?” questions you ask at the shelter. Soon after coming into rescue, he suffered what is often a fatal condition called torsion. This is where the stomach flips, and cuts off the blood supply, causing an extremely painful and serious condition. We rushed him into surgery, where they tacked the stomach to the abdominal wall, preventing this from reoccurring, and they also had to remove his spleen, which had been affected. After $8,000 of emergency medical care (which is why we fundraise!), he is in foster care, waiting for his perfect home. You can find more about Jedi by going to www.gsgsrescue.org and clicking on the dog tab.
A dog who is a great success story…
Little Nikko might be just about one of my favorite rescue dogs of all time. The shelter was going to have him put down because of multiple health issues. He had a very weak immune system, which was causing all kinds of problems and we didn’t know, as we treated one thing after another, whether he was going to live or die. He was small for a German shepherd, more like the size of a 6-month-old puppy, but he was already about a year old. He was shy and fearful around strangers, yet so sweet and loving once he knew he could trust you. We fostered him at our house for many months, and there was something about his little sweet, sad face, that just made you pull all that much harder for him to survive. Not only did Nikko survive, he has gone on to to be a therapy dog, visiting assisted-living facilities where all the residents love this little guy. He remembers his foster dad, too — when I saw him at an event a few months ago, he pulled his owner across the room to come over and greet me.
Where can people go online to find out more, see adoptable dogs, volunteer, foster, or donate?
At www.gsgsrescue.org. All available dogs, events and ways to help are listed there.
• 1st Saturday of each month at Pet Food Express in Blackhawk, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
• 2nd Saturday of each month at Pet Food Express in Blossom Hill, noon–2 p.m.
• 3rd Saturday of each month at Pet Food Express in Napa, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
• October 2014 annual gala fundraiser (date and location will be announced early in the new year).