2013 June 11, Tuesday
Ensenada, Baja Mexico to southern California
The transport by car and air took only a day, but the planning and logistics to save these lucky seven took us weeks! Some tireless true-hearted ladies in Ensenada have been working over hundreds of miles to help rescue young and small dogs in Mexico who find themselves homeless, starving, and in many cases injured from abuse and serious neglect. Mrs. Ana Villaescusa tends these innocents and works nonstop to network for their adoption to caring forever homes in the U.S. We, and many other rescue organizations in the US, receive and help network her pleas on a regular basis. This past couple of months she has pleaded for help with around 10 small dogs, many of them puppies but some pregnant females or new mothers and some adults who had been hit by or thrown from cars.
2013 May 13- June 10
San Bernardino, California to Baltimore, Maryland
Abner and Carmaline -- the names given these two by staff at the very-high-kill shelter in Devore, San Bernardino county, California, when they arrived there May 3, 2013. Both very thin and not in good health, both gorgeous Maine Coons but described by the shelter as brown tabby domestic medium-hair cats. Worse, they deemed Abner as “Rescue Only” because he didn’t seem very social. But here’s a hint as to how this great story turned out -- check out these “Before” and “After” photos of Abner!
SEE THE UPDATE below from Abner and Carmaline's new human family!
UPDATE 2013 June 5
Pepper has crossed the rainbow bridge, on June 3, 2013. Brad, the human who gave Pepper his final happy forever home, let us all know. In his words (parenthetical remarks are ours):
"Pepper passed away sometime during the night on Monday June 3. That day he had a warm bath and air-dried himself out in the sunshine on the front porch (one of his favorite places and pastimes). He seemed happy and comfortable, and he went to sleep as usual after his dinner and of course a couple hours of tap dancing around the house. (Brad always laughingly described as "tap dancing" Pepper's habit of walking around his home after eating dinner in the evenings, as if to check out all of his favorite spots before retiring in his bed near Brad's bed.) All was well and I didn't see anything unusual. When I awoke in the morning I found him in his bed. I thought he was sound asleep but actually he had died.
I am happy to report that this final weeks were far better than whatever his life had been before. He was quite a character and often brought a smile to my face. I will miss him, as he had easily made his way into my heart. But I know that he is in a good place and enjoyed his final days here. Thanks for saving him and making it possible for me to help him in his last time with us. --Brad"
Thank you, Brad, for giving Pepper the love and the home he had waited all those long years to find. From Joyce saving him from that hot desert and finding us to your asking at just the right time for an older dog that you could help, it seemed like this whole story was a meant-to-be. It's good to try to do good, isn't it?
-- from all of us at On Wings Of Care
2013 April 07
Salton Sea, California
“I may be old, and I may be deaf. I may be blind, and more than a little arthritic. But my name is Pepper, and I don’t give up on life easily. I know my good times are coming, and if I have to wait right here for life to find me, I will!”
And wait he did. By the time Pepper’s first angel found him, he was sitting all alone in an empty parking lot in the hot dry desert near the Salton Sea. He was so weak and dehydrated he could hardly lift his head let alone walk, but she could see that he was alive. She called another angel, a woman named Joyce Lindsay, who took Pepper to the VCA Valley Animal Medical Center Emergency Hospital. They kept him for a few days and did lots of diagnostic tests, including x-rays and blood work. They told Joyce that Pepper was about 15 years old and assured her that Pepper had plenty of life left in him, he was just going to have to take it a little easy in his old age!
We received the plea for help from Joyce. It came among the hundreds of others we get in any given week. But this was an easy one, because we had just recently heard from a wonderful friend and dog-lover named Brad who lives near Kings Canyon National Park in California, near the famous giant Sequoias. Brad said that now that he was finally settled in his retirement ranch, he wanted to do what he has promised himself ever since his beloved old dog “Tess” died a few years ago. He wanted to offer hospice to another old dog. We sent him a photo and the story of Pepper, and that was it -- Pepper’s dream had come true! Not only would Pepper have Brad for his devoted human, and the fabulous Bar2B ranch to live on, he would also have two very sweet female terrier canine sisters to love, whom Brad affectionately refers to as his Bees -- "Wee Bonny Bee" and "Honey Bee."
Pepper stayed with us for a little while in the Los Angeles area until we transported him up to Brad. He seemed to listen to our every word as we told him about his new life to come! A few days after he had arrived at Brad's ranch, we visited him again -- and what a new Pepper we saw! He had learned his way around the front yard and the house, and he sleeps like royalty in all the beds that Brad has made for him. Here are some of our favorite photos. We especially like to see the big smile on his face when Daddy Brad carries him along on their daily walks! Pepper -- you were right all along. Life did have something good in mind for you, after all!
2013 April 22
Devore Animal Shelter, San Bernardino County, California
UPDATE 2013 June 16 Sunday
CHAZ is with his forever family!
See the details and photo below!
“Chaz” was dropped off at Devore Animal Shelter in San Bernardino by his owners on March 12, 2013. They said they wanted him killed ("put to sleep") because they had to move to a place where they couldn’t have him. Fortunately for Chaz, the shelter staff decided that wasn’t what Chaz needed or wanted, so they decided to hold him for the required five days until they could legally release him for adoption.
The shelter called Chaz a 10-year-old neutered male red shepherd mix. Well, they were right about the neutered male part. Now, about six weeks later, he looks years younger and much healthier than he did when we pulled him from the shelter. We see some very fine “black-mouthed cur” with maybe bits of shepherd and chow in him. Most of all, we see now a strong and handsome, quiet, gentlemanly dog with a huge heart, and a dog who has let go of his heavy heart and is becoming a joyful, happy, secure canine family member.
Staff in the shelter said that Chaz had never showed any aggression toward them or other dogs and was a quiet, well-mannered dog. But each progressive day in the shelter had left him more and more visibly on edge, and he had begun showing wariness toward the male staff. By Friday March 15, the shelter labeled him “Rescue Only - Behavior observed. Available 3/17.” This was tantamount to a death-sentence -- first because it limited his options to a small number of county-authorized registered 501(c)(3) rescue organizations, and second because he would have to be pulled by Sunday or early Monday, or he would likely be euthanized by Monday night. In just five short days since entering the shelter, Chaz’s prospects for life had gone from bright to slim indeed.
That’s when we were alerted to his situation. We are a registered 501(c)(3) and are authorized to pull from these and other shelters. But we do not maintain kennels nor a wide base of fosters. We network with trusted rescuers and fosters and and successfully place several dogs per month from high-kill shelters, and we help in the transport of many additional rescued animals. Any animals for whom we take personal responsibility for more than just a few days are usually only those whose time has run out and who are facing needless euthanasia.
Although he was not one of those easily-placed cute, small “scruffies” and “fluffies”, Chaz was a winning dog to our view -- healthy, non-aggressive, quiet, well-behaved, highly intelligent. Wariness of men is not an incurable attitude and certainly does not warrant euthanasia. Chaz just needed the right people to find him.
2013 April 13, Saturday
Longview, Texas to Lone Pine, California
An email came out of the blue from rescuers we hadn’t helped before: Could we fly some rescued dogs from east Texas to northern California? We asked our usual questions -- how many dogs, what breeds, genders, ages, conditions, why are they being transported, are they going to rescues, fosters, or adopters at the other end, etc. It was all quite legitimate, and of course we wanted to help. The number of dogs kept changing between 6 and 13 over the next few weeks, and so did everyone’s schedules and the weather across the southwestern US. By April 3, we called for a “Must Go,” and weather and logistics finally came together Apr 11. We chose a small airport in Gladewater, TX as the most convenient for everyone, and we arrived there the evening before to be ready for an early morning departure. One of the fosters brought three of the dogs for us to meet and also brought us a much-appreciated dinner, and we settled in on a couch for the night.
But when do things in rescue work ever go exactly as planned? The first surprise the next morning was that we were going to have fewer dogs than we had expected -- only six, including our own canine mascot Jerry (Jeremiah - his story is here). So all of the dogs would have plenty of room to stretch out, and we decided to use no carriers since all of the dogs got along just fine together. But nature had less happy surprises in store for us. Overnight, winds across the southwestern US had picked up to near gale force along our entire route. The headwinds didn’t concern us -- those just meant slower progress, so we would have to plan an extra fuel stop and not waste a minute of time. No, what would make this day’s flight one of our most grueling ever was the turbulence for almost eight straight hours. The winds were even worse at higher altitudes, so we flew as low as terrain would permit, always in radio contact with Air Traffic Control but frequently too low for their radar to see us. I had to keep a constant tight grip on the control yoke, trying to anticipate and compensate for the near-constant mountain-wave action that carried us up and down between 8,000’ and 10,000’ as we fought our way westward.
2012 September 30, updated 2013 March 12, and then updated again 2013 August 23
Arkansas to Indiana to Maine and home at last!
UPDATE one year later, 2013 August 23 ***** See Below, with photos! WOW!
2013 August 23: Skip's new mom, "Nan" in Maine, sent us this update today, and the photos you see below. Look at how Skip has matured and mellowed, and look at the wonderful look in his eyes! This was one of the happiest rescue stories ever. It shows that it is always worth working to find that perfect forever home, and that dogs know when they've arrived at the humans they were meant to love forever! Thank you Nan and family, and thank you Skip, all of you, for being the wonderful beings you are!
"Skip is doing fine. The pictures are great ‘Wilderness Dog’ pictures but really they are taken along the edge of the water out at our camp. We have been taking him out and about a bit more lately. This summer we went to rural NY state with him (to a family farm). He did very well on his first trip away from home since he got here. (He goes in the car with me about everywhere but we hadn’t taken him on vacation with us until this summer.)
Out at camp he does well. While we play in the water he lies on the shore and doesn’t go too far. We tend to be there when there are hardly any neighbors around so there are few distractions. The first time out the loons were around but very quiet until about midnight when they decided it was a good time to start calling. This set him off a bit as he didn’t know what they were and they do tend to sound a bit eerie. After a few barks and woofs he settled down again and, apparently, they settled down for the night too.
He is doing well on the farm. Continues to bark and get in the way of cars coming in the driveway, that’s a hard one to break. When cars go by on the camp road he is pretty good, he might start in that direction but comes right back when called, he seems to understand the difference between the road (not his) and the driveway (his). This was the same when we visited in rural NY state.
One of the hens hatched 6 chicks this Summer. He was a bit too interested in them so we kept them in the chicken house (with supervised outside time) until they were about 6 weeks old. Then he seemed to lose interest. When they are so very small, and fluttery, and sound a lot like a squeaky toy it’s a lot to ask that he ignore them. But now he seems to be fine with all of that.
Riding the trails (by horse or ATV, but horse is his preference) continues to be his favorite thing. He does get very excited when I get a horse ready. If I’m riding alone I let him stay out with me while I’m tacking up and try to get him used to (and therefore calmer) about the process but if I’m riding with company I put him in the tack room until we are ready to go out the door. I expect that he will get past the excitement of it in time. He doesn’t get that excited about ANYTHING else, although it’s pretty close when he plays ball.
Hope all is well with you, and that your summer has been a good one. It was a wet summer here, all the hay came in late and the 2nd crop will be fairly sparse. The garden has been mixed but the berry picking has been great!"
2013 March 11
We wrote two months ago about two little dogs we scooped up from the high-kill animal shelter in Devore, California at the close of their last day and last chance for adoption before being euthanized. (See "Last but not Left", 2013 January 06.) We named the white poodle-terrier mix Jasmine and the dark-colored one Coco. Coco was pregnant, but the veterinarian found complications that caused them to recommend spaying her immediately, which we did. We also had Jasmine spayed. We began networking to find them permanent homes, while in the meantime bringing them back to health with an excellent raw-food diet with supplements.
Jasmine was easy from the start. She smiled constantly. There is no place in the world she'd rather be and nothing else she'd rather do than hang out as near as she can be to her human. Her foster Dave found the right human within the first two weeks, and Jasmine -- now affectionally called "Minnie" -- soon became the happy companion to her forever human companion Teri Jo. Teri Jo had been wanting a dog like Minnie for companionship to her and her other older white poodle mix "Pearl." The three of them have been inseparable since the day they met!
Coco seemed like she might be more of a challenge. She seemed happy, and she was perfectly behaved -- quiet, obedient, as nice as could be. But she never quite smiled. We wanted to see her face light up and her whole body wag with joy! Little did we know how those smiles would finally come to be...
2013 January 06, Sunday
Devore Animal Shelter, San Bernardino County, California
The end of the weekend, the end of the day for adoptions, the end of the line for way, way too many dogs. That is how it is on Sunday afternoon at high-kill animal shelters all over the U.S. That's how it was here at the Devore animal shelter, located at the foot of the San Bernardino mountain range in southern California. Most dogs who enter this place have never had a loving home, good nutrition, a warm bed, or responsible care. What's worse is that many of them never make it out of here alive.
Today was one of those days when we head out to save some lives, not knowing ahead of time whose it will be. We went to Devore to check out several dogs for whom we thought we had some potential adopters. When we arrived, we learned that a few of them had been euthanized the night before because they had become too ill. It's not surprising that animals coming into the shelter tend to come down with upper respiratory infections, especially in this cold damp weather and after wandering as strays before before ending up in the shelter. A few others we had come to check out had been adopted that morning -- joy! We decided to hang out there to see which dogs would not be adopted by the end of this day, and which of those probably would not be kept alive until the next weekend adoptions. Sadly, there were many more in that category than we could pull. But today there were two whom we felt sure we could help and for whom we knew we could find good homes.
These two little gals had definitely seen better days, but probably not since they were very young pups with their own mothers. Neither of them had had good nutrition for a long while, let alone a bath or haircut. We're calling the dark one "Coco" and the cream-colored gal "Jasmine." How happy they were to walk outside on leashes and stand in the sunshine on the grass! But even happier to get home and to sleep on soft, soft bedding in a warm living room, and snuggle on our laps in front of the warm fireplace!
But .... we soon discovered that Coco was pregnant!
2012 December 23
Kernville, California USA
Sheba (aka "Cosette" when we first rescued her) was no ordinary dog, no ordinary rescue. When we pulled her from the San Pedro shelter in June 2011, she was by all rescuers' accounts a dog with the least potential for recovery to a normal, happy, functioning life. The staff at the shelter begged us to rescue other more adoptable dogs and let them just put this one out of her misery. We promised to send other rescuers to them for the others. We saw a deep longing in this severely lame, autistic, malnourished older female yellow shepherd covered with scars and ticks, and we could not turn our backs on her. She had been found chained on concrete in a back yard of a poor section of the city. She had clearly been the object of considerable abuse, including sodomy. She wanted no one anywhere near her back side, and one of her rear legs stuck straight out to the side and seemed to be almost useless to her. (Photos and that part of her story are in our original article about "Cosette.")
Once she knew I meant her no harm, she let me touch her hindquarters. And she smiled when I carried her out into the sunshine and grass that first day. That did it for me. Underneath that scruffy, dirty coat and bony body, she had the face of an angel and eyes that were ancient. Her silence and reserve were not offensive or disappointing. They spoke of dignity and a will to survive and move beyond the past, a gentleness that made her wary but still able to trust and forgive, with no inclination to punish or be aggressive. When I lifted her beside me into the right front seat of my car, her face glowed with joy and expectation. I had no idea what we would do with her, but I knew we needed to try to give her a life.
We carried her to our home, which involved negotiating a very steep walking path. She loved her new diet of raw food (mostly chicken with some raw milk, eggs, and the flax-based supplement Missing link). She was able to walk pretty well within just a few days. But to find a good permanent home for her was going to be a huge challenge. One of On Wings Of Care's stalwart volunteers and directors, Dave, came to visit her. Dave was dad to a wonderful long-haired rescue shepherd named "Bear" and two rescue cats, but we didn't seriously consider that he could adopt Cosette, as she seemed too much for him to take on. But Cosette felt differently. When he lay down next to her and began massaging her, her body and eyes and heart just melted for him. I assured him that he needn't consider adopting her, we totally understood why she would be just too much for him, and we left it at that. But as he was leaving, he said "Well, maybe she could just hang out with Bear and me for a while to recover, you know, until we find a good adopter?" My heart jumped. YES! You bet she could! I loaded him up with fresh frozen ground chicken and other good food for her, and he and Bear took her up to their home in the southern Sierra foothills.
2012 December 08, Saturday
Porterville, CA to Hillsboro, OR
The folks in Porterville, CA -- like many other crowded animal shelters in central California -- find themselves over-run with orphaned, abandoned, and injured dogs every day of the year. They never stop doing everything they can to find them homes or fosters before their allowed time in the shelter runs out. But finding homes and fosters is only one challenge. Getting all the dogs there is another.
Happily, people in the colder northern states love the small dogs that abound in California! Maybe it’s because these small dogs don’t require long walks in the sub-freezing weather, or because they love nothing better than to hang out indoors with their humans? Who knows, but thankfully, there are many people in the northwest who are delighted to adopt the many small dogs who find themselves lost and homeless in California. So we at On Wings Of Care do all we can to help get them there!
During our rescue transport flight back to California from Texas on December 6, we received a frantic phone call from our friends at Porterville. They said that their previous plans to fly 71 of their dogs to Oregon, Washington, and northern California were falling through, and that if the dogs didn’t go by that weekend, their time would be up. (Think “euthanasia.”) Among these were 40-45 smaller dogs and about 25 medium-sized dogs. “Whew!” we said, “That’s a lot of dogs and crates!” They had expected at least four large planes to do the transport, but chronic bad weather and various other problems had interfered. Now the only option being offered was that if Porterville would drive at most 28 dogs in individual carriers to San Jose, each dog freshly bathed and clean, the dogs could hitch a ride in the cargo bay of a jet that was returning to its home base in Hillsboro, OR. We acknowledged with sympathy the near-impossible challenge of immediately bathing 28 shelter dogs and finding vans and drivers to take them to San Jose, but asked -- “What about the other 43 dogs??” Well, that’s why they were calling us, they said. But FORTY-THREE dogs?
2012 December 06, Thursday
Georgetown, TX to southern California
Little Squee was supposed to be a big healthy ball of fur kept warm and happy by her mom and fellow New Foundland pups. But it didn’t work out that way for her. She found herself alone, hungry, and eventually so malnourished that her fur started to fall out and her skin hurt terribly. You’ll know what poor little Squee felt like If you’ve ever had a painful rash like poison oak, where your skin felt dry and stiff and sensitive, and then imagine feeling that over your entire body and being all alone in the world, too.
Some rescuers in Texas found her back in October and knew just what she needed, and they didn’t waste a moment giving it to her. The treatment for mange is not fun, not for the dog and not for the people giving the treatment. But these wonderful folks knew what they were doing, and even though Squee didn’t look cuddly or cute, she soon learned how good it feels to be held and cuddled and loved, and the healing began. By the end of November, Squee’s own beautiful black fur had started to grow again, thick and luxuriant. Her little body was growing plump, her eyes were starting to sparkle, and she was indeed looking like the big dog her paws promised she would be.
2012 December 05 Wednesday
Southern California to Dallas and then Georgetown, TX
This flight home for Blackie has been in the making for several months. Since his best friend and human partner Tammy suffered a very serious injury from a passing truck in California last August, he had not seen or heard her or anyone else he had known and loved in his first five years of life, and life seemed to have turned a corner to bleakness. There was one bit of light and warmth, however, which came from some kind and perceptive animal handlers at the shelter in Kern County, CA, outside of Bakersfield. Despite Blackie being a well-muscled and strong, intact young male pitbull with some evidence of scars on his face, they saw right off that he was also a gentle, stable, sound soul who meant no harm to anyone. So while Tammy spent months in hospital critical care, Blackie spent months in the Kern County shelter.
He became a shelter favorite, in fact. When we went to visit him in November, he was out in the grassy play area chasing tennis balls and rolling on the grass -- with children! We even brought one of our dogs, an aussie-terrier male, to see how Blackie would be with other dogs -- looking ahead to flying him with some other canine passengers in order to take him back home to Texas when it was time. We need not have worried! Blackie could be a poster dog for pitbulls! He had no pent-up negative emotions or behaviors whatsoever. He was clearly a dog who had known much love, probably only love, and now that he had suddenly been separated from his human, he wanted only to be a courteous guest and to try to be happy until his human could find him again.
2012 October 2
Geneseo, IL to Baton Rouge, LA
It's an inspiration when so many people work together to bring about a miracle like this one. The victim was "Miss T'Chen", a young female 40-lb rat terrier who lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her human father Fred who adores her and two big strapping young canine boys (black lab mixes) who worship her as their matriarch. She went out the front door of their home after dark just as the heavy rains of Hurricane Isaac hit the front yard in full fury, and in the confusion and flooding, she could not find her way back home. Most people had evacuated the area, and it was impossible for Fred to search for her during the hurricane. Some time later the next day, a flood rescue worker in the area found her. With no power or phone service and many roads closed, there was no place open where the kind man could take her, so he opted to take her home with him in his truck -- all the way to Geneseo, Illinois, some 800 miles north! There she received the best of tender loving care from the folks at Henry County Animal Shelter, as they searched the web and Facebook and by all other means they could think of to find her home.
Meanwhile, Miss T'Chen's daddy Fred was desperate. How regrettable that he had not had an ID chip implanted in her! He reported her missing to the local animal shelter, and they uploaded her picture and description to a Facebook page of dogs missing from Hurricane Isaac. The folks at Geneseo spotted this and recognized her, and they made the connection to Fred. That was about two weeks after Isaac. After the relief of knowing she was alive and well (but 800 miles away), now the challenge was how to get Miss T'Chen home!
2012 September 30
Texarkana, AR to Indianapolis, IN
Note: This story was updated in 2013 March, and again in 2013 August!
(We just uploaded a video of Skip meeting his new foster parent and canine siblings! See below.)
"Skip" is one of the coolest dogs we've ever met. An "English Shepherd" he is -- we didn't even know there was such a special breed. And there's a special rescue organization for them -- NESR (National English Shepherd Rescue). The care these folks took in finding Skip a new foster when he needed it was amazing. But part of the proof is that they called On Wings Of Care to transport him as safely and comfortably as possible! We were all set to fly him to his great new foster Frank in Indianapolis the weekend of September 29-30, as those were the dates that worked best for his current and future foster and for us. Mother Nature had other plans, as she placed horrendous storms along our flight path that weren't going to let up for days. But Skip's current foster needed to leave, and Skip needed to move. What else could we do? We decided we would bring along our two senior dogs Ford and Tilly (who love a car ride, or plane ride, or any kind of ride!) and we would all enjoy a road trip in our Prius. (That photo on the right is Skip's new foster siblings and dad!)
2012 September 24-25, Monday-Tuesday
7 dogs and 51 cats transported to Oregon, Idaho, and California
Cat rescuers are a very special kind of people. While dog rescuers typically work with several dogs at a time, cat rescuers seem to always be working with several tens of cats at a time! Cat House on the Kings of central California and Simply Cats of Boise, Idaho are no exceptions. When Lynea Lattanzio of the Cat House first proposed this transport flight to me, I expected we would be transporting the usual number of cats that we typically fit comfortably into our single-engine plane ‘Bessie” -- between 25 and 35. But when I told Lynea that Bessie was down for repairs after Hurricane Isaac and that the plane I thought I could rent out in California for a long-distance transport was a twin-engine Cessna, she was pleased no end, because that meant we could take about 50 cats and maybe seven to ten small dogs, too! And it turned out that she was right.
Seven of the cutest small dogs I’ve ever seen -- whose breeds I could not identify but surely spanned at least 10 varieties -- met us at Reedley airport in central California around 11 am on Monday. Along with them were 46 cats and kittens, in about 20 crates. Way too many large crates even for this hefty, emptied-out airplane. Time for Plan B! We picked out the largest and tallest crates, and began deciding where we could place the cats inside them, among the remaining smaller crates. Then we took all of the crates into the airport office, where we could accomplish these transfers in a closed area. No worries, though, the cats were immensely docile and tolerant of the whole process. They didn’t even protest at being a good bit more crowded then they had been at the start. We got the total number of crates down to 16, and filled the airplane cabin to the gills. All fit -- except one dog crate. So “Spam”, an adorable little golden-colored long-haired something-or-other, would ride with just a leash and could sit between out seats, in front of the crates and behind our chart box.
We planned to head directly for Hillsboro, OR, to drop off the seven dogs first. Then to Boise with the 46 cats. Because we had gotten such a late start, we decided to spend the night in Boise. The next morning, the plan was to bring five unadoptable cats back from Boise to live out their lives in sanctuary at the Cat House. They also wanted us to bring back some donated cat food. So every leg of this transport would be full and put to good use.
Within ten minutes of our smooth departure from Reedley, northbound for Oregon, Spam decided the only place for him was on my lap....