Shine Ministry Spotlight: Step into the World of Rescue with Alex Davis
Spotlight gives ministries and volunteers the opportunity to share their passion to connect with others who may want to contribute or partner with their mission.
Does your heart ache when you see the photos of sad dog faces, some of whom are bruised, battered, and starved? Have you wondered how you could possibly help those poor souls who have no voice? You can. Learn more about the rescue world and how you can make a difference in the lives of both rescuers and their forever families—one foster, one adoption at a time.
You’ve probably heard the horror stories of raids on puppy mills, properties of pet hoarders, and dog fighting rings. Maybe you’ve encountered a hungry dog rummaging through garbage on the side of the road. Texas and many southern state shelters are full of unwanted animals who’ve grown up on the streets, were dumped on the side of the road, or owner-surrendered to a local high-kill shelter. The euthanasia list is a continuous tally of dogs who are days, hours, and minutes from their last breath. Yes, the stories are sad, but there is hope for many of these dogs. Just a few states away, in Colorado the local shelters and Human Societies are relatively empty with many families wanting to adopt a life-long companion.
States such as Texas and New Mexico have supply and Colorado has demand—a perfect solution. But how do we get these dogs to their forever families? The heroes are the non-profit rescues and their dedicated volunteers who step in to fill this void. Their sacrificial stories are amazing—joyful, heart-wrenching, tiresome, and heart-warming. One young woman’s story will both inspire you and leave you feeling exhausted. My prayer is that Alex’s story will move you to take just one small step deeper into the rescue world where your efforts will be personally rewarding.
When Alex was 6 years old, her mother asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She replied, “I want to be a seal trainer, have 10 dogs, 10 cats, and 10 kids.” In middle school, Alex slept in the garage for a week on a blow-up mattress with 2 stray dogs she nick-named Scooby and Spice. You could say she was babysitting those two until she could find their owners. In high school, Alex volunteered at the Houston SPCA. Now at 25, Alex is a certified veterinary technician with 3 dogs and 1 cat. She’s fostered over 200 dogs in nearly 4 years and directly touched the lives of thousands of rescue animals. What does the future hold for Alex? Who knows, but it may be too small to fit in those 10 kids.
She adopted her first dog in 2013, followed by a second and a cat in 2014. Based on a New Year’s resolution, in January 2016 she submitted her foster application to New Hope Cattle Dog Rescue (NHCDR) and got her first heeler, Juno, that March. Over 50% of first-time fosters adopt their rescue, and Alex almost became one of those statistics. She refused to become a “foster failure” and pushed through her tears to let Juno go to another family, so she could once again foster and give more dogs a chance at a forever home.
Today she searches social media sites for dogs to tag, runs short- and long-haul transports, provides basic medical care, screens adopters, does adopter home checks, evaluate fosters, helps with behavioral training, attends and sets up adoption events, serves on the Board of Directors of NHCDR, and works collaboratively with many other rescue non-profits.
How Does Rescue Start?
As Alex became more entrenched into the rescue world, she became aware first-hand of the struggle in springing a dog out of so-called Texas prison. There are multiple hands that touch a dog’s life from when it’s pulled off the Texas streets or shelter to its forever destination in the home of a Colorado family. The most critical need in the system is available foster homes—especially in Texas where the process begins.
Rescue starts when someone posts on social media, commonly Facebook, a dog found dumped on the streets or when volunteers post photos/video of available shelter dogs. Yes, there are volunteers who walk the Texas shelter aisles—whose sole purpose is to put those adoptable dog faces behind wire cages on social media, so someone’s heart can be tugged. A Colorado rescue can commit to take the dog but will only do so if it has a short-term foster in the shelter area that can hold the dog for about 1-3 weeks while out-of-state transport can be arranged and the minimum vetting completed to take the dog across state lines.
Shelters will routinely allow registered 501c3 rescues to pull dogs for free by submitting their nonprofit incorporation papers or completing shelter forms. Ideally, the local foster will provide a home environment, learn of the dog’s behaviors and personality, take it to a vet to secure its health certificate and vaccinations (at rescue expense), and ensure it makes its transport to Colorado when space has been secured.
Colorado volunteers will pick up the dogs off transport and typically take them to their next foster home until they are adopted. Fosters take daily care of the dogs, which includes helping with training (crate, potty, behavior, and basic commands). Dogs are also spayed and neutered before their adoption. On average fosters give a loving home to these rescue dogs for a couple days to a couple weeks and commit to taking them to scheduled adoption events, vet appointments, and meet-and-greets with potential adopters.
Adoptable dogs are posted on the rescue’s website, social media pages, and available at the adoption events. Potential adopters must fill out an application and are screened, which includes home and vet (if family own other pets) checks. The adopting family must typically agree that the dog spend most of its time indoors. Although each rescue has its own rules, most have a trial adoption period to make sure the fit is right. At any time if the family can no longer care for the dog, the contract stipulates it must be returned to the rescue. This process delivers a high permanent adoption rate.
The Price to Adopt
Most rescues require a $250 – $350 adoption fee, which barely covers the cost of vetting (vaccines, heartworm test, deworming, spay/neuter, etc.) and transporting across state lines. Behavioral training, food, supplies, and special medical care (orthopedic surgeries, Distemper, Parvo, etc.) are typically covered by donations—not the adoption fees.
Many people don’t understand why the adoption fees are so high for unwanted rescue animals. The truth is that rescues want to make sure they put a happy and healthy dog in the home of its forever family. With that end goal, rescues are just covering their basic costs in the adoption fees.
Fostering Makes You a Rescue’s Hero
Rescues are looking for fosters with big hearts. There aren’t any special requirements to be a foster other than a willingness to open your home and show patience as a dog acclimates to its new trauma-free environment. As Alex says, “If you can love a dog, have patience, and be understanding, you can be a good foster.”
Fosters may find they work on crate and potty training as the history of the dog is mostly unknown. If the foster/dog fit is too strained, rescues will do their best to find another foster home. Fosters must realize rescue organizations run solely on volunteers, so nothing happens overnight.
Many families help the system by joining the ranks of relief fosters—helping long-term fosters who need to go out of town for a couple days or week. Rescues are always happy to have fosters who can relieve other fosters on a case-by-case choice which keeps the dog in a home environment and saves the kenneling of $15 to $40 per night.
Rescue Comes with a Personal Price
How does a young rescuer fit in the demands of rescue while earning a living? Not very well. Rescuers like Alex pay a heavy price to rehome these dogs. She’s lost personal relationships, forgone work hours, and self-funded expenses (gasoline and wear and tear on her personal vehicle) from her own meager vet technician salary of $25,000 per year.
Although Alex has gained an incredible support network of friends who have a common passion and knows the pure joy of connecting the family and rescue, the price has been expensive in both money and untold hours in the field.
How many hours does she dedicate to these dogs? On average Alex spends 4 hours a day on social media—tagging shelter dogs, responding to texts and calls of dogs in need, arranging transport, answering foster questions, etc. Because of her reputation in the rescue world, she routinely gets calls from locals for help with a dog they found abandoned or a neighbor who wants to get rid of a dog.
Every 3 weeks she donates one of her days off for a 15-hour transport run. After cleaning crates and loading the van, she may travel to New Mexico to pick up 20 dogs and drive them up to Denver. There are 1-2 adoption events per month which usually involves 5-6 hours of her time for travel, setup, and tear down. None of this includes her time for taking dogs for vetting, supplies to fosters, and meet-and-greets with potential adopters. Oh, and she cares for upwards of 5 rescues in her own home.
Alex has a heart for the working dogs (cattle dog/heeler) and bullies, because people misunderstand these breeds. Many adopters don’t realize the energy level of working dogs who require lots of exercise or a “job”—otherwise, they can get destructive. She favors pit-bull mixes because the press has turned the American Pit Bull Terrier, once referred to as the loyal American family dog, into a villain.
Today Alex is serves NHCDR, breed specific for heeler mixes, and she tags pitties with From Forgotten to Forever Rescue (FFTF). She has a dream to own property to build kennels as backup to her own foster-home rescue. Her passion is to save death row dogs—those minutes from euthanasia—victims of shelter overcrowding. Alex is truly the champion of the underdog of underdogs.
A Simple Request
Please be a foster. Why? Because fostering adds so much joy to your life as you see these dogs’ personalities come to life. You can be a change agent who can help a dog go from being traumatized to thriving.
If you have a dog or two, the rescue will require that your pets are spayed or neutered. No one wants an oops! If you’ve ever thought of fostering, do it. The upside is how fulfilled you’ll feel in helping an underdog, and the only downside may be some adjustment in a temporary living situation.
You Can Help in Other Impactful Ways
The innocent victims are the dogs, and the heroes are those volunteering in the rescue world. You too can be a hero, and there’s many ways to help:
- Reach out to a local rescue and offer to be a short-term foster.
- Offer to be a substitute foster for a long-term foster going on vacation
- Offer to transport dogs from foster to transport
- Donate money and/or supplies to a local rescue
- Help a rescuer with expenses for gas, oil/filter changes, gift cards for services, or money to help defray their own out-of-pocket expenses
Any amount helps. If you’d like to learn more about rescue, send a word of thanks, or gift a woman who cares too much, you can reach Alex at email@example.com or 281.881.1826.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon who has a heart for ministry and servant leadership and can be found in the mission field coaching on relationships and marriage strengthening, drilling water wells, installing filtration systems, and teaching hygiene. You can contact Sandra at firstname.lastname@example.org