By Sonjie Johnson
Meet Stella. She’s a 12-year-old Springer Spaniel, adopted by Jim and Melanie Salasek in 2019, from Pet Haven,( Minnesota’s first, and oldest foster-based animal rescue.) Their five-mile daily walk includes the Como Lake paths. Always eager to greet both two and four-legged friends, Stella is an early morning favorite. It wasn’t always that way.
When Jim and Melanie adopted her, Stella was a nine-year-old retired breeder, with broken teeth, afraid of people and dogs. She likely spent most of her life in a crate, her only purpose to produce a litter of puppies twice a year. Although she still gets anxious when left alone, and needs time to get to know new dogs and people, Stella has come a long way.
It took the Salaseks about a year to get Stella to stop barking at other dogs and growling at men. Neighborhood walks with generous treats for good behavior, along with attention from other walkers helped Stella become the charming and friendly dog she is today.
Stella is one of the many rescue dogs that walk Como Park streets and paths. Getting to know her and dogs like her, was the impetus for this story.
What follows is a short synopsis of Twin Cities animal rescue organizations, and the dogs they serve.
Although each dog’s story is slightly different, they typically fall into one of three categories: family surrenders, breeder surrenders, or auction purchases.
Family surrenders occur when circumstances force families to surrender their animals. These dogs may have quirks, but are generally friendly toward people, and adapt more easily to new families.
Breeders surrender a dog when the dog is done breeding or the puppy is substandard. These dogs can vary widely in temperament and behavior. Responsible breeders produce socialized dogs who have been well cared for.
Puppy mills are just that. Multiple dogs in crates, bred only to make a profit. Often fearful and anxious of people and other dogs, they need love, patience and training. These dogs typically take a longer time to adapt. Having said that, when they get those things, they also make wonderful pets: like all dogs, socialization is important.
When a puppy mill dog is no longer of value, it may be sold at auction. These dogs are typically about eight years old; they may have health issues or disabilities. Rescue groups attend the auction to save as many as they can afford to buy.
No matter their backgrounds, most dogs will adapt to live happily with the right families.
There are 74 animal rescue groups in the Twin Cities that are approved by the Mpls Animal Care and Control, plus numerous smaller groups. Of those listed, many are breed specific, from Shih Tzu to Great Pyrenees, to 4 Pits Sake.
Almost all rescues follow the same process. A dog is surrendered or purchased at auction. If intact, it is spayed or neutered, given updated vaccinations, necessary medical treatments and placed in a foster home. Fosters socialize and care for the dog until it is placed in a forever home.
The advantage of a fostered dog is that there will be more information prior to adoption – is the dog good with kids, other animals, potty trained, leash trained? When the family has young children, a foster home may be best for a successful placement.
Rescue adoption fees vary widely, depending upon the age and health of the dog.
The Humane Society is the largest dog rescue presence in the Twin Cities. According to Sarah Bhemani, Strategic Communications Manager for the main AHS Minnesota adoption site (Golden Valley), roughly 8,000 – 9,000 pets are typically adopted each year from all MN sites.
AHS adoption fees for puppies and dogs range from $129 to $767, depending upon age, breed, size and health. (Adoption fees cover less than 1/3 of the cost of animal care in shelters.) AHS does not use fosters. It does provide pre-adoption behavioral evaluation, counseling, 30 days of pet insurance, free follow-up exam, and a 60-day return pet option.
All animal rescues are powered by volunteers. Transport, intake, vet appointments, fostering and placement – volunteer members provide these services. Most operate on a tight budget and cannot afford paid employees.
Pet Finder is an online resource that contains adoptable pets from all groups. It is especially useful if looking for a specific age or breed.
In the coming weeks, pictures and bios of other Como Park rescue dogs will be featured in the newsletter. For now, keep a look out for Stella and Jim on their daily walks. Stop and say hi, and don’t forget a dog treat!
The author, Sonjie Johnson, was a volunteer with Midwest Pug Rescue, MN Divisi8on for 10 years. She fostered many rescue pugs, from families, mills, and auctions, and adopted three of them.