Sunday, March 27, 2016

#atozchallenge Prep Post: Dog Rescue FAQ

This is an #AtoZChallenge prep post, an introduction to the April series
The A to Z of #Dog Rescuing.

So what, exactly, is dog rescue?

The first of a series of actions through which a dog living in the streets (or in a bad home situation) regains quality of life.

This regaining of quality of life goes like this:

Rescue => Fostering => Adoption

Rescuing is the process of catching a stray dog, more often than not fearful and wary of humans, and bringing him/her to a safe environment where s/he can regain health and trust in humans. And it goes like this:

You get a call. A dog's been sighted, they need extra hands. You drop what you're doing and jump into your car. (If you're not a total amateur, you'll have heavy-duty footwear in the car already... Something waterproof, something that protects against thorns or scrapes or bites.) You'll spend the next hour (or hours) in the sun, on hands and knees, running through brush, crossing busy intersections, in the effort to Catch This Dog. Eventually, once everyone is exhausted and the dog is in a transport crate, you'll drive to the vet, get a pile of meds, then drive to the foster. Once the dog is settled there, you're done. You can go back to your day now.

I'm currently fostering a dog for a rescue organization. That makes me a rescuer, right?

It makes you a foster, which is beyond essential to rescuing. Put simply, there could be no rescuing without fosters; all these dogs we pick up off the street—in terrible shape, with diseases or wounds that will take time to treat and heal, and with broken souls—need a place to go, and a family to take care of them, to put them back together, mind and body, before they can go on to a forever home. But, unless you were involved in the actual street chase, diving under cars and all, you're not a rescuer. Fostering is separate from rescuing—and comes with its own challenges (and, as you've probably found out by now, its own joys).

We adopted our dog from the shelter. Does that make us rescuers?

It makes you heroes. The crème de la crème of humanity. The redemption for the sins of uncountable thousands. The example, the exception, the light. (But... No. Not rescuers.)

I picked up a puppy wandering in a supermarket parking lot and brought him home. That makes me a rescuer, right?

Uhm, no. (Sorry. Kudos for the initiative, though.) Here's why:

a) Are you sure it was a stray? Could it maybe have been just lost?
b) Street-born puppies rarely wander off by themselves. If he really was a stray, chances are he had siblings somewhere close by. (And a mom.) You might have missed a good chance of getting a whole family off the street.
c) Did you take him straight to the vet? Yes, before taking him home. A clean bill of health is essential to prevent the spread of infectious diseases or skin conditions. Plus, he'll need his first vaccinations.
d) Are you prepared to keep him? Do you have the budget (for food, medical care, behavior training), the time, and the space? If not, do you have a network that you can connect with to find him a good foster or forever home?

I want to help, but all that sounds too complicated. Isn't something better than nothing?

Something is indisputably better than nothing, but it needs to be the right something. (Think of it this way: you don't call an electrician to change your drainage pipes.)

If you're serious about wanting to help, get in touch with your local shelter and/or rescue organization and ask them who you can call when you spot a potential stray or lost dog. Ask them also about their volunteer programs. You can give a (much needed, and much welcomed) helping hand at your convenience, and at your time and budget capabilities.

Rescue is much too difficult; I could never do it. (Right?)

Actually, rescuing is pretty simple. It's time-consuming, and it's an emotional rollercoaster, and it can be very, very frustrating... But the mechanics are simple. In terms of qualifications, what you need is:

a) A deep love and respect for any form of non-human life on the planet;
b) Humility (you'll need to ask for a lot of help, from a lot of people; you'll also very, very often make the wrong decisions and screw everything up);
c) An open mind.

I'd love to get involved with rescuing, but I'm not allowed to keep pets where I live now.

Many people confuse rescuing with fostering. Rescue is the act of catching a street dog and taking him to safety; fostering is providing that safety. Lines get blurred sometimes; rescuers end up fostering, fosters go out on rescue missions. But the fact remains: you can be a rescuer without fostering, and you can foster without rescuing. And you can help immensely without doing either. Check out the Other Options post for a list of cool ideas (there's tons you can do without even leaving your living room couch). And you can always contact your local shelter or rescue organization. They always need an extra pair of hands.

Got dog rescue questions? Let me know, and I'll pull together all the resources I can to answer them :) Thanks for coming by!


  1. Very succinctly explained. Once again, admiration and respect for all rescuers and fosters, and bloggers who call attention to social issues.

    Best always,

    Ninja Minion

  2. SO informative! I am currently looking into volunteering at a local shelter. I do not think I have the emotional strength to foster, only to say good-bye later :(

    1. Good for you!!! Volunteering is essential, super über important; every volunteer, regardless of what you volunteer with, helps the shelter take in another animal that would otherwise be left out in the cold (literally). KUDOS!!!!! Look forward to reading all about your experience :)

  3. This is great information to clarify the differences. I would love to help but my biggest fear, well 2, is seeing the animal is such a bad way that I would want to adopt it and, if I foster, I would want token the animal. It takes a certain soul to be able to deal with the suffering these poor animals deal with. I watch animal rescue shows but it is different when you are actually there.

    1. Birgit, I hear you... It really is hard to let go. I know a rescuer/foster that cries every time someone adopts one of her dogs. When you know the animal is going to a good home, though, to people that will care for and love him/her as you would, it's really the happiest ending of all — mainly because that means that *you* are now able to take in another life that needs healing ;)

      Thanks for coming by!

  4. It is such an important social issue Guilie and kudos to all who partake in this. Thank you also for clarifying important areas where there could be confusion. I love the list you put up for qualifications required!

    1. So happy you liked it, Susan :) Haha... yeah, the "qualifications" really apply not just to rescue but to living a good, worthwhile life, in a way. For me, dog rescue has become a sort of Zen, a path to understanding myself and life, and to living it well.

      Thanks so much for the visit!

  5. Can't wait to see your AtoZChallenge, it sounds amazing. We have adopted rescued cats and I'm currently on the list for a disability service dog. I'm blogging blessings at and also poems about MS at

  6. Very well explained! I considering fostering (as a short term doggy boarder for families escaping violence) but was worried I couldn't commit to the time element with work, so I work with exercising working dogs in their playtime for owners who can't due to their disabilities.

    Looking forward to your A to Z!

    Mars xx
    Curling Stones for Lego People

  7. Guilie, I was so impressed with your theme and efforts here that I've nominated you for a Liebster award! No pressure, but if you choose to accept and follow through, you'll find all the details here: good luck tomorrow on the A-Z. Gail at Making Life An Art


No love like Dog Love--or Blog Friend Love!