Why I do rescue...

Why on earth do you mess with that?

The other day as I reflected on my years of involvement in Alaskan Malamute rescue, I realized that my reasons for doing so have increased and changed greatly during this time.

When I got my first Malamute and joined the Alaskan malamute Club of America to learn more about this terrific breed, I became aware of the Alaskan Malamute Protection League. I sent for information, decided that this was a very nice thing for needy animals, and that I should help since I now owned one. There was no other Malamute rescue person in Ohio, so I not only helped, but I became the state coordinator. I rescued and placed two Malamutes before getting my information from AMPL and before really knowing what I was doing.

After reading all the material sent by national coordinator Virginia Devaney, I felt ready to do a good job with the next Malamute. And I did do better. The dog came and went. Some came and didn't go. Time passed, and every year I became more knowledgeable about this breed, rescue, and people.

When I began, I felt that rescue was something that needed to be done. After spending time with my dogs, I couldn't stand the thought that a Malamute would need rescuing and there would be no one there who was willing to help. I still feel this way. Caring for the individual dog is the most important piece of rescue to me.

Over the years, I have learned to enjoy helping people, too. People who, through no fault of their own, have to give up their animals that they love deeply. (Of course, this is not always the case; I have also met people I would just as soon not have on the face of the earth.) And there are all the great people who adopt our animals. I have developed great friendships with some of them. Some have gone on to become rescue workers themselves in their own area. Some are really great ambassadors for our breed. Always having a beautifully cared for animal that behaves and is well adjusted to present to the public is our greatest asset. I am so proud when someone calls and says,"I saw one of your dogs and fell in love. How do I go about adopting one of these very special animals?" They love and care for the dogs that spent time with me and that I consider "mine"; they do more for advertising rescue than anything else.

There are so many stories to go with so many dogs that have shared their lives with me.

There was the man who came to me during our National rescue Showcase and said, "See how my wife walks? She was limping so badly when we came to meet our special friend. Having the dog to share walks and knowing the dog needed her for exercise and socialization made my wife get out and do what she needed most to recuperate. Not only do we have a great companion, we also have my wife's health. You don't know how much this all means to us!"

There was the Christmas card with a picture of one of my dogs lying in his yard. It said, "He's healthy, he's happy, and he's truly my best friend."

There was the father-in-law who answered the phone when I called to check on a recently adopted dog who said "This isn't their dog. This is an extended family dog. We all love him and spend time with him. This dog couldn't possibly get any more love!"

Definitely not last or least are the malamute breeders in Ohio and from neighboring states who have given me support over the years. Money, transportation, picking up dogs from pounds, affirming that the dog that needs help is truly a Malamute (you wouldn't believe the different animals people have tried to pass off as a Malamute. I wouldn't believe that sometimes I take them anyway, just to get them away from the creeps they have lived with.), and much emotional support. I especially appreciate Ione Zeller, who helps repeatedly in all ways, and Roger Gifford, who held a little guy for me for three months while I was very ill and unable to do so.

In addition to people giving up their animals and the ones who open their hearts and homes to adopt, there are all the other rescue people. I have found that many breeds have their own rescues. We tend to group, to exchange ideas, paperwork, stories, lists of available dogs, and anything else they might come across that will help. Everyone is supportive of other breeds. We check dog temperaments, adopt dogs from shelters, transport dogs or get them from abusive situations or to veterinarians. There is a huge network, all across America, of people helping their own breeds and each other. Occasionally we get together for showcases or seminars, but mostly it's smaller groups. It's always a good time.

All rescue efforts are done differently, and I am especially proud of the Alaskan Malamute rescue. Devaney is still national coordinator and she has coordinators in most states. We have a bimonthly newsletter. People in neighboring states communicate with each other and help with placements. Occasionally, we will ship a dog across the country, but only under special circumstances. I feel our organization has a good reputation and is well-run, and I am proud to be part of it.

Each animal who has spent time with me took some of me when they left and left part of themselves behind. I started out feeling that I was giving, and I'm still sure that I am. But every bit as important, the rescue dogs are giving to me, too. I have received so much love, so much breed knowledge, so many challenges -- both physical and mental -- that I don't understand those who think that rescue is a dirty word. I have taken away a great deal more than I have given.

One story: Indiana

A large male Malamute was hit by a car on an Indianapolis street and left by the driver to die. A passerby saw the dog and took him to a nearby emergency clinic. He didn't have the money to pay for the dog's treatment, but he would pay for euthanasia if the veterinarian would stop the poor animal's suffering. The vet went into the room to inject the dog, and the dog dragged his painful body across the floor and licked the vet's hand. The vet left the room, syringe in hand, and told his staff that if they could find someone to care for the dog before the end of the day, he would do the treatment at cost.

A relative of one of the clinic staff called me with less than two hours to spare. I agreed to be responsible for the Mal and pay his bills. He was saved once again. The veterinarian called after examining the dog and said he had serious injuries and recommended an orthopedic surgeon. I called Virginia (Devaney, national Mal rescue coordinator) and she said,. "Go for it, kid. We'll come up with the money somehow."

The dog was taken to the orthopedic surgeon by Michelle Latelle, a very kind Siberian Husky rescue person. Unknown to each other, both Michelle and I began calling the dog "Indiana."

Indy underwent surgery and went to Michelle's house for three weeks of gentle love and tender care and will be released soon to come live with me for the rest of his recuperation.

Indy's back leg was broken in two places. One was a clean break, but the other was quite complicated, requiring both a pin and a plate. He went through a heart-breaking period when he was in s o much pain, he would stand for 18 hours to avoid the pain of lying down. After two days, he gently pushed aside the towel Michelle offered as help in descending the stairs to go outside and walked down by himself. He has been through a lot, but he has had so much luck and so many people who went out of their way for him. He has endured his pain with dignity and has become a playful, gentle, talkative, affectionate boy.

-- By Linda Smith --

Don't forget: rescue groups often need foster homes, spotters to visit shelters and look for particular breeds, and donations of equipment and money to pay veterinary bills. If you're interested in working in rescue, contact a local kennel club or AKC for the names of rescue coordinators, either local or national. Many contacts are available in internet newsgroups, a few groups have web sites. For further information see any of the comprehensive dog resource listings.

Linda Smith

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