Recently, I shared my thoughts on finding a reputable dog breeder and why I believe they’re important.
Today, I’m going to share why reputable rescues are extremely important as well. I’ve come across sketchy rescues over the years. Rescues that pocket the money they get for the dogs rather than using it for their care. Rescues that don’t have the dog’s best interest in mind.
Some people encounter a rescue like this, have a bad experience, and then swear off rescues. Here are six reasons I support dog rescue, and why I think you should too.
Reason #1: Bella
Sweet, sweet Bella. The Great Pyrenees Rescue, Montana got a call from an older couple wanting to rehome their dog. She was said to be a pyr—although she may have been a Maremma (who really cares though). We drove hours to find a sweet, extremely matted girl on a heavy chain. Bella couldn’t have been more than 85 pounds, and even I struggled to lift the chain.
We got her off the chain and on a leather leash. I could barely hold on to her—she was so excited to be free from the chain. This tiny, skin and bones dog was able to snap the leather leash in half and took off. My stomach dropped as I watched her sprint across the property and leap into the lake. After swimming a lap, she came out of the water, shook off, and then happily trotted back to us and let me put her on a new leash.
Bella is now living her best life in her forever home.
Reason #2: Bell
Bell and Bella joined the Great Pyrenees Rescue, Montana at about the same time, making it quite difficult to keep them differentiated. Bell was also an owner surrender and only two-years-old. I went to the home to meet Bell, so I could determine the best foster home for her.
The couple was moving to a home that didn’t allow big dogs, so they were only taking their small dog and kittens (I think there were six of them). Bell wasn’t neglected, but she wasn’t given the love she deserved either. When I went to pick her up, I was given her shot records, some of her things, and the collar they swore by. A shock collar.
That promptly went into the trash. Bell’s foster home ended up being her forever home, and she lives an amazing life. The life she always deserved.
Related: Helping Pets in Need Become a Wellness Pet
Reason #3: Sam
Sam. We tried to get him into rescue, but couldn’t find a foster. Without fosters, rescues can’t survive. Thankfully, we knew amazing people at a local dog resort who were able to take him for a few weeks. It worked out that we found a foster when I was coming home from Spokane and could pick him up and take him to his foster home in the same trip.
Sam settled into his foster home, and we began the search for his forever home. Sam was an extremely sweet boy, but he had come from the south and was heartworm positive. I did several home visits until I found a family that seemed ready to take in Sam. I don’t trust anyone with my dogs, but at that time, I would have trusted this family with my pups.
We finalized the adoption, and Sam made his way to his forever home. We all cheered to see this amazing boy finally get the life he deserves.
Just a few weeks later, I got an email that still makes me cry to think about. The couple’s daughter came home from college and was using some very loud appliances. Supposedly, Sam grabbed ahold of her pant leg—no skin was broken. We had never heard of any aggression issues with him even after spending weeks at daycare.
Rather than return him to rescue (per the contract), the vet advised he be put down. After hearing the news and taking some time to calm down, I gave the vet a call. I needed clarity. Was I missing something? Was there a piece of the story I didn’t know? I talked to the vet and he told me that the dog was far too aggressive, and he would never stand for that behavior. He also told me that wasn’t interested in dealing with heartworm treatment—which was still extremely treatable at that time.
We all mourned the loss of Sam, and set out to honor his memory by helping even more dogs in need.
Reason #4: Rocky
I vividly remember receiving the call about Rocky: “We need transport ASAP. We were contacted by a girl thinking she has a pyr puppy that was being stomped on by local teenagers.”
So I drove and was greeted by the sweetest, yet biggest terror, puppy. You would have never known the injuries he had sustained based on his attitude. He came to our house to spend the night and immediately hit it off with Mauja. After playing the night away, we hit the road.
A wonderful veterinarian works closely with the Great Pyrenees Rescue, Montana, and was ready to take him in and determine the severity of his injuries. Long story short, three years later and he’s still there. Turns out there isn’t any pyr in him, but we love him all the same.
Reason #5: Bud
I’ve been involved in countless rescues, and I can count on one hand the dogs I felt I needed to keep. Bud was one of the hardest dogs to let go.
We received information about Bud, a 5-year-old Great Pyrenees (Or Maremma. Or mix! We loved him regardless). We were told he was playing with and injuring the livestock, and barking all night, annoying the neighbors. I drove out with Mauja and Atka to do a temperament test, and found a terrified, emaciated dog in the goat pen. It took five people, including the owners, to get him on a leash in a very small pen. My heart broke watching the fear in his eyes.
He was amazing with Mauja and Atka and slowly warmed up to people, but we could tell he hadn’t had much human interaction and had probably never been indoors. Mauja and Atka went home with Nick, and I took Bud, who was NOT okay with car rides.
I was worried about the added stress of him being in our house, but we lucked out. Our neighbors were out of town the few nights we had Bud, allowing me to stay with him in their house, avoiding any unnecessary stress. It was then that I got my first true LGD (livestock guardian dog) experience.
After somewhat accepting the leash and a lot of coaxing, we were able to get him inside. Bud was covered in mud so he got a bath, and then we cuddled up on the floor to relax. Exhausted from his bath, we both fell asleep, until he became anxious just a few hours later.
He wanted outside. He wanted to survey the yard. He wanted to check for predators and make sure things were safe. So, we went outside. From 1 am to 8 am, we stayed outside. I sat on the patio drinking ALL THE COFFEE, while Bud guarded the yard—it was amazing to see his instincts and skills come to fruition.
We had a few very long nights, but after several days, we transported Bud to his foster home. As much as I felt I needed to keep him in my life, his foster family “failed” and he’s living the good life.
Related: When Reality Hits a Worn Out Advocate
Reason #6: Balto
When we lived in Montana, I volunteered at the local shelter walking dogs (didn’t need a FitBit to know I got ALL my steps in!). One day, I headed in to walk a few dogs, and there was a 6-month-old Great Pyrenees / Lab mix. He was very excited and couldn’t stop jumping, so I was never able to see if he had double dews.
I inquired about the puppy and learned he was an owner surrender. There was a woman interested in him, but if she backed out, he was mine. We even brought Mauja and Atka to meet Balto to see if the foster situation would be easy or more difficult. *Note: the shelter was aware of the intent to put Balto into a reputable Great Pyrenees rescue. I opted to pay the adoption fee to save the rescue money, but also to support the shelter.
A few days later, Balto went to the vet to be neutered, and I was able to pick him up later that day. He was drugged up, but in good spirits, and was excited to see Mauja and Atka again. Balto wasn’t interested in eating, so I hand fed him and slept on the floor next to his crate for the few days he was with us.
I was able to find a Great Pyrenees rescue that was able to take him, but they were located in Wisconsin. Distance isn’t going to stop me from helping a dog in need. We found a sitter for Mauja and Atka, packed our things, and headed out on the 19-hour trip to Wisconsin.
After a long day and night (and lots of pyr snuggles), we finally reached the rescue—well, what we thought was the rescue. There were dogs running everywhere, piles of trash, and no safe area for the dogs. I remember saying, “If this the rescue, we’re turning around and taking Balto back home with us.”
Eventually, we realized that we had the wrong location and were able to find the Great Pyrenees Rescue of Wisconsin. My heart melted. I could see the love and care that went into each dog. I could tell the rescue owner truly wanted the best for these dogs.
Saying goodbye to Balto was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. If we were in a different place, he would have found his forever home with us. Thankfully, I know he was able to find an amazing home, and nothing warms my heart more than seeing Balto updates.
There is so much to the discussion about dog rescue and the ways to end the need for it. Check out these amazing blog posts as we work to end the need for dog rescue.
Fidose of Reality | How to Find a Reputable Dog Rescue
Big Dog Mom | How to Put an End to Dog Rescue: 10 Simple Solutions that CAN Work!
Budget Earth | Dog Rescue – How It’s Done Right, Or Wrong
Karin Kinney says
I just drove from Dallas to CT with an amazing GP that my daughter was fostering for Big Dogs Huge Paws. He fits in perfectly with our mixed GP/labs that we rescued as puppies. He gives and gets so much love! He was an owner surrender due to his human dad dying and his human mom having to move in with her daughter with no room for him. We are so lucky that he is now a part of our family.
So happy for you! BDHP has taken in so many amazing dogs <3
Tammy McMahan says
You are so awesome to have fostered these dogs successfully!!! You have an amazing blog to help people to understand this amazing breed!!!!
Thank you so much for the kind words! <3
Carole McLaughlin says
Kelsie was such a benefit to Great Pyrenees Rescue Montana that when I heard she was moving to WA I could have cried. Happily she has continued to help us whenever possible and is ALWAYS a fount of helpful information. Thank you for all that you do for these big white fluff balls Kelsie.
Definitely miss working with you guys! Still happy to help any way I can!
I just love love love these stories! Thanks for your amazing blog.
<3 <3 <3
Rebecca Pierpont says
Ive been fostering for Great Pyrenees Rescue Montana since April, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done! Its something I’d always wanted to do but didn’t think I was quite ready since I’d just lost my girl to cancer in March. My little foster Ella was on the eu list, was a matted mess and had a horrible ear infection. She’d had little interaction with people and had clearly been neglected by her owners. Over the past several months she’s had a surgery to remove her ear canal, the infection was so bad! She’s almost grown her coat back since at least 1/2 of her had to be shaved. She was spayed. And she’s learned what being loved and part of a family feels like. She has some separation anxiety and is quite the counter surfer! We still have things to work on but I couldn’t love her more! And this is the best rescue, it’s all about the dogs!! Fostering is the best! ❤️
Thank you for giving this sweet girl a home! <3
First off, THANK YOU KELSIE!
I have also had an eye opening experience with rescue GPs. After suddenly losing my seven year-old sweetheart Cobi (the most wonderful GP ever!)
Might make a warning here about that horrible experience too : Anesthesia intolerance is an issue. Despite always reminding the vet to use “TO EFFECT” when anesthesia is needed (in this case, a teeth cleaning), my girl stopped breathing after the procedure. My heart was broken. I couldn’t even go back to work for two weeks. I got her from a working goat ranch and raised her from a puppy. Amazing how attached we were. GPs have a low metabolism and the risk is great, despite the statistical mortality odds for ‘dogs’.
My life was incomplete without her and needed to fill that hole in my heart, so decided on a rescue. I found one through a GP rescue group out of Portland.
She came with a note in her file… She was ‘bonded’ to another dog that she was rescued with, found as strays wandering around in a field in north Austin, Texas. OK, took both! Then discoveries started… They were rescued in Texas nearly two years ago now. They were bathed and flea/tick treated, and given a few vet checks. I got further checks when I brought them home. Both are older than what the rescue guessed, Sharon much older, but I didn’t care. Ozzy (the rescue named them) was under-weight. He was eighty pounds. He is now a healthy one-hundred thirty. I had to cut his new diet fairly quickly because he has low thyroid, his only health problem for which he gets meds.
Sharon was a sad sight. She had a terrible infection in her ears, a swayed back (apparently from multiple litters), severe arthritic hips, small tumors all over her body, under-weight (sixty pounds) and scariest of all, heart-worm. She has beaten the infections and heart-worm (All my thanks to local vets who got an education on that since it is not a common Washington issue). The rescue knew about the HW and provided medication, but she also needed monitoring, which my local vet did. She will continue to get laser therapy and pain meds for her hips and I monitor all her lumps and bumps for changes. She also over-gained weight and has been brought back to about one hundred fifteen pounds to ease stress on her joints.
The biggest discovery was their behavior. They were obviously neglected and abused. Ozzy does not know how to play, but knows his job as a guardian and protector (it’s innate). They are both as sweet as the day is long, get along with humans, dogs, cats, and horses. They both love attention, especially from children. Ozzy is happiest out ‘patrolling’ on walks or guarding the yard. Sharon is one of those beings that finds joy in doing almost anything (except listening. not deaf, just doesn’t listen), especially when she gets me to do something for her (then does a happy dance). She loves smelling everything, digging trenches in the yard, listening to music and ‘saying’ Hi! to everybody. Just a happy soul. She tries to get Ozzy going with play but he seems to have missed his puppy-hood and doesn’t respond as you might expect. When I take one or the other for vet or grooming, the one that was left behind is so inquisitive and excited to see the ‘traveller’ return, you know they are truly bonded.
The story here is that I had planned on getting another Pyr puppy for Cobi (and me) to train as I went into retirement. What I found is a need for so many (I was amazed at how many Pyrs are in rescue!) of these most wonderful dogs to find good, loving homes. I just couldn’t ignore these amazing creatures and wish I could find them all homes.
I was greatly influenced by a special friend who lived and did everything imaginable for dogs. She, over a Thanksgiving holiday (about six years ago) managed to rescue eighty dogs from a very bad situation, also in Texas. She cashed in her retirement, got donations from every source she could and borrowed more money besides. In the end, she found new homes (she was very picky about who was good enough) for every single dog (all kinds and mixed breeds). Sadly, she has since passed but I will never forget her drive and dedication. Her legacy will live on. I expect yours will too. And a big thanks to everybody else who finds it in their heart to rescue, it is not an easy thing to do, it takes a lot of love.
Your story brought tears to my eyes. Anesthesia intolerance is a real and very scary problem with Great Pyrenees due to their metabolism, like you mentioned. I think you needed them as much as they needed you <3
Cathy Armato says
I’m so impressed at all the great rescue work you’ve done, Kelsey! I know how much work it is to get a dog from a bad situation into successful rescue and foster. I loved reading these heartwarming stories, other than Sam’s story – that one tears my heart out. It always amazes me when new families opt not to contact the rescue a dog was obtained from if things don’t work out. It’s even worse when a Veterinarian takes drastic measures and ends the life of an animal. The Vet should have known better, shame on him. Thanks for sharing your stories.
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
I was so distraught after Sam. We had to deal with SO many obstacles getting him into a foster and then forever home. Needless to say, I took a few days off of work after I heard the news 🙁
Sheryl Webb says
I love your rescue stories and actually gave one of my own. Actually four of them. I wanted a Pyr and when we moved to a very small 10 acre hobby farm I contacted the Idaho State rescue in Boise. After some discussions with them a wonderful lady met me half way to north Idaho. She brought a beautiful sweet girl about 6 years old with her. I absolutely fell in love with Dolly and she lived with us for several years. She was our loved LGD watching over our 8 alpacas and several goats. One day she went for a walk on her own and never returned. I saw her about 2 years later with a different collar but recognized her instantly. She wouldn’t come to me but I’m sure she recognized me too. I believe a neighbor had her and he knew who’s she was but kept her anyway. I have always prayed she was treated kindly. My heart was broken.
Then the rescue lady called me and asked if I would drive to Montana and pick up a 15 month old male who would be an owner surrender. I did and he was one lively, crazy boy. So fun loving, so energetic, when we arrived home from our long 4-hour trip I walked him all around our property showing him the boundaries. After keeping him under lock and key for a couple days I let him off his leash to run the property. He immediately killed six of our chickens, dug several enormous holes in our front yard and was just a happy if not destructive camper. After a couple of weeks I found a couple in Spokane WA who wanted to come over to see Bo. They were delighted when they saw him and I could tell Bo felt the same. So off they went in the tiniest little sports car ever, top off. Bo in the backseat with his huge head resting on his new owner’s shoulder, saliva about 2’ long waving behind him as they went. Everyone including Bo was smiling broadly. I heard from them about a year later and they were still just loving him.
#3 was another male so matted we didn’t know male or female until we had him groomed. We named him Jessie. Jessie was an absolute doll. No bad habits, housebroken and young. He was gorgeous and a wonderful dog. He only had one problem in that he was a fence jumper. I had someone come over and work on our fence to make it about 6 feet tall but again Jessie jumped it and raan around the neighborhood. After losing Bella a couple years before I couldn’t take that chance again. So I was telling a lady who was coming over to pick up a kitten we were fostering. She wanted Jessie so she adopted him also. She called us to let us know she had taken him to her sister’s in Seattle. Her sister lived in an apartment so there would be no jumping of fences. She also taught Jessie to pull a cart and she and he walked to the market down by the docks on Saturdays to shop. Everyone got to know him and he loved it all.
Our last Pyr was not a rescue and I purchased Bella from a local farm. She picked me and would not let me leave without her. It was mutual. I loved her so much. She wasn’t the LGD that Bella had been but felt her only job was to guard me! After almost nine years she passed away this spring in my car on the way to the vet’s. It was her favorite thing to do. Again my heart was broken.
I don’t regret a single day with these wonderful beasts. They are sweet, huge and wonderful balls of fur. Someday we will have another one.