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How Does Dog Breed Rescue Work?

By Professional Dog Portrait Artist Gwen Rosewater

When I take my little pack of Italian greyhounds out for their daily walk, people often want to know if all of those cute dogs are mine. Three of them are, and I usually have a fourth that I am fostering through a breed rescue organization. This has led to many a discussion about rescue- what it is, how it works, and how I ended up adopting three and caring for another. Since people often ask the same things, I wrote up this list of common questions and their answers.

Q. How do I go about finding a rescue dog? And what should I expect once I contact a rescue organization?

A.   Does an Internet search using the breed of the dog you are interested in (or ‘all breed’ if you have no preference) the word ‘rescue’, and the state in which you reside. You should find one or several sites , unless the breed you seek is really uncommon. Many breed clubs have rescue branches as part of their larger organization.
On the rescue site, you will be asked to fill out an application.  You may then have to wait several days to hear back - rescue volunteers tend to be busy!  After your application has been accepted, someone will call you, and a home check will be arranged. Here, a volunteer will come to your house to make sure that things are safe and secure for a dog. They will want to meet all family members in order to make sure that everyone is in full agreement about the potential adoption.
After this, you will be ready to be matched with a dog. How long this will take depends upon your own needs and the availability of dogs at the time you are ready.

Q. Aren’t most rescue dogs emotionally damaged? Hey, I would like to help, but I don’t really want to take on a dog with a lot of problems.

A. While there are dogs who come into rescue with dramatic stories and special needs, most of them are simply dogs whose original owners didn’t have time for them or never made the effort to give them any basic training.  And there are plenty of dogs who come into rescue with no real ‘issues’ at all. People who foster will work with the dogs in their care to prepare them for their permanent homes. They do things like dealing with any housebreaking training that needs doing, socializing them with their own dogs and getting them used to spending time in a crate.  It is always advisable to take your new dog to a basic obedience class, just as you would a puppy.
When you adopt a dog through rescue, you will know just what you are getting. Foster volunteers live with their charges, often for months, and will share everything they know about them with you. They want to make sure that the adoption is going to work.

Q. I want a dog that will really be bonded to me. Wouldn’t it be better for me to get a puppy?

A. Rescued dogs KNOW what you have done for them.  They show their gratitude by devoting themselves utterly to you.  No puppy could be more bonded to you than a rescue dog will be. 

Q. I still really would like a puppy. Do rescues get puppies in?

A. Rescue is committed to spaying and neutering, so most rescue organizations will not adopt out a pup until after it has undergone surgery. But there are many who are adopted out at well under a year of age. They are young enough to still be pups, but old enough to be fully housebroken and (probably!)  not chew up your shoes.

Q. It costs more to adopt a dog through rescue than it does through a shelter. Is this because the people who care for them get paid?

A. No. Rescues are volunteer, non-profit organizations. The fee you pay for adoption helps defray the cost of veterinary care. But there isn’t any money in it! My dog Boo, for instance, came into rescue with a broken hip, and needed $2,000 worth of surgery on top of the cost of his neuter operation and standard vaccines.  His adoption cost was $250. The difference in such cases is made up by any small surplus left from previous adoption fees, and by donations, often out of the pockets of the same volunteers that do fostering.

Q. What if the dog isn’t a good fit for my home? Can I take the dog home for a ‘tryout’?

A. Rescue volunteers work hard to make sure that the dog you adopt will be a good match, both to you and to any animals you may already have.  You will generally be encouraged to bring your current dog with you to meet your rescue dog.  When you take the dog home, it is with the understanding that you are committed to making it work. But there are cases where honest and unanticipated problems occur. In such a situation, rescue asks that you return the dog to them- it is part of the contract you will have signed.   In such a case, most rescue organizations will work with you to try again.

Q. Why do I have to fill out such a long application? I can just get a dog from a store tomorrow without all the trouble.

A. Rescue is made up very largely of those animals whose former owners made impulse buys in obtaining a dog, and the job of rescue volunteers is to see that that never happens to the dogs in their care again. We need to know enough about you to make sound decisions. Getting a dog through rescue takes a little while, but you will be adopting from people who really care, and who will be happy to help you with any questions or concerns you may have down the road.  If you have adopted a specific breed , your rescue representative will be a person who is very well versed in the behavior, care, and health concerns of that particular breed.  And through rescue, you can likely hook up with other local adopters of your breed and enjoy dog play dates.

Q. What happens if the dog’s former owner wants him back? Will they know where I live?

A. When a dog is given up to rescue, the owner signs a release form relinquishing all claim to the dog.  Their relationship with the dog ends there.  No information will ever be disclosed about the dog’s new whereabouts.

Q. Isn’t fostering hard? How do you give up a dog that has lived with you?

A. Yes, it is hard. And I have one ‘Foster Failure’ to prove it! But I always remind myself that in order to have the room to keep helping, I must let them go.   The dogs I have taken in touch me very deeply with their love. I make each of them the promise that they won’t go home with just anyone.  The person who leaves my house with their new companion will have shown that they are serious about the responsibility of having a dog.  Those who do will be richly rewarded.

Q. Gosh, fostering sounds like a great thing to do.  I would like to help. How do I do that?

A. Rescue organizations are always in need of volunteers, and your interest will be deeply appreciated. As with an adoption, you will be asked to fill out an application, then have a home check.  If you would like to help out, but don’t feel up to the responsibility of fostering, there is still much you can do. There is often the need for transportation of dogs from one place to another, for volunteers to do home checks, to help with fundraising…. If you want to help, rescue can use you!
Aside from her work with rescue, Gwen Rosewater is a professional dog portrait artist. You can visit her online at iconicdog.com

Contact: Gwen Rosewater
Phone: 707-431-2204
Email: gwen@iconicdog.com
Website: www.iconicdog.com

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