You may be confused by that term, because it has two separate meanings, but the same dog can fit both of them.
One definition of a rescue dog is a dog who rescues people – or other animals. You saw them on the news during 911, and you’ve read about their heroism in many other situations.
They might be dogs who are actually trained for rescue, or a dog who saves his family from a burning house. I read about a dog recently whose owner collapsed in a diabetic coma and her Rottweiler called 911 – and then let the ambulance people in!
Dogs rescue humans every day. Even medical science has now determined that dogs (and cats) are beneficial to the health of elderly people living alone.
When you think of a dog rescuing people, you think first of search and rescue. Search and rescue dogs are trained to follow a scent trail and find a missing person.
Well-behaved, well trained dogs are at work across the country, helping people every day. And many of those dogs once lived in rescue shelters.
While it can’t exactly be termed “rescue,” dogs are helping people with everything from rounding up the cattle to sniffing out cancer. Some dogs are trained to alert their owners before an epileptic seizure while other dogs are trained to guide the blind or assist the deaf. Other dogs are trained to assist with daily living – doing things like opening the refrigerator or bringing the telephone to their owner when it rings.
Of course you’ve read about the miracles that dogs do in nursing homes and hospitals, giving patients a reason to live by their mere presence and the love they project.
Dog’s noses are even important to national security. They work at airports, at shipping piers, at ports of entry, and at prisons – sniffing out drugs and even bombs.
Rescue Dogs in Shelters
The other kind of rescue dogs are the dogs that we humans rescue. They’re the ones who have been abandoned, or dumped by some uncaring human. Or, like the ones you saw on TV and read about after Hurricane Katrina, they’re the victims of disaster.
Some are merely thrown out, while others are left tied where they have no chance for shelter, food, or water. I live with one like that – a Blue Heeler found tied behind a house along with 2 Gordon Setters and an old Shepherd, with no food or water dishes in sight. Lucky for all of them, our Pepper is a pretty vocal boy. He hollered until the neighbors called the police.
This Siberian Husky mama dog was part of a group of 39 dogs who were abandoned when their people simply drove away and left them one bleak December day. No food, no water, and the only shelter was a travel trailer with no heat. Three of the mother dogs had their pups inside the trailer, but this girl, later named Christmas Miracle, had stashed her brood under a shed about a quarter mile away. She was one of the most difficult to catch, and by the time we got her she had been shot, shattering a leg bone. An observant neighbor and a miracle led rescue workers to the shed after they had been without their mama for two full days. Yet, through cooperation with about 3 different rescue groups from one end of Idaho to the other, all are now healthy and happy.
When that sad story was told in the local newspapers, it helped our community drive home the message about spay and neuter. Only about a year earlier, that family had moved into their travel trailer with only about 5 dogs. None of them had been spayed or neutered, so within a year they had multiplied to 39. The people simply didn’t know what to do with them all, so they abandoned them.
You’ll find rescued dogs like these in shelters across the country, waiting for the “second rescue.” That’s the adoption that will give them a forever home. Thankfully, you’ll find a lot more rescued dogs in homes like mine, where 3 adopted rescue dogs rule the roost. Two came to us on purpose – from rescue groups. The other was a Newfoundland Dog cross found abandoned on an ice-covered lake. His leg was broken, so we think he probably fell from the back of a truck and no one noticed in time to retrieve him.
Contrary to what some people think, some of the best, most well-behaved dogs in the world come from shelters and rescue groups. Yes, a few of them were abandoned because they hadn’t yet been taught any manners (that’s correctable!), but many are just good family dogs who either got lost or were abandoned by people who didn’t value that kind of love. In some cases, they were left behind when their person passed away. Many are puppies – just making a start in life. And many are purebred dogs – some even with their papers.
I won’t tell you that you’ll never run across a problem dog in rescue – but they make up a minute percentage of the overall population of rescues.
Why Not a Black Dog?
One of the strangest things I learned when I got involved with rescuing dogs is this: Black dogs have a harder time finding new homes. I have no idea why, but when you talk with animal shelter people across the U.S. you’ll hear the same story.
Black dogs come from many fine breeds, like Black Labrador, Newfoundland Dog, Scottish Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Schipperke, and more. But for some strange reason, when they are abandoned and end up in a shelter, they are there longer than white or brown or grey dogs. I haven’t kept careful records on this, but I believe the multi-colored dogs are adopted faster than any of the others.
Surely people are looking for a dog for his or her personality, not the color! And anyway, what’s wrong with black? I think they’re just as pretty as any other.
My own family has always had a black dog (as well as a few others), so I was shocked when I learned of this problem.
This is the reason why, when you go to an adoption event, you’ll often see the black dogs wearing colorful scarves around their necks. Shelter workers learned through experience that sometimes the scarf will draw attention to the black dog long enough for someone to notice how friendly and well-behaved he is.
Maybe the whole problem is that the black dogs aren’t as flashy, so people simply don’t notice them, especially if they sit quietly.
Rescue Dogs are Special
The wonderful thing about rescue dogs is they seem to know they were saved, and they appreciate it. Not that all dogs aren’t wonderful, but these guys are somehow special. They don’t take their comfort for granted. And many of them go on to become the “other kind” of rescue dogs, too.
As much as they should resent humans for their earlier mistreatment, they don’t. They forgive us and love us and do all they can to make our lives happier. In so doing, I think they “rescue” all of us by bringing joy and laughter into our lives.