Unsung rescuers

People who foster animals ought to be recognized for their kindness

The author, a longtime Chico resident, is a former editor of the CN&R.

My wife, Denise, is a nurse, and like most nurses she has a warm heart, for animals as well as people. She especially loves dogs, and we’ve had a parade of them through our house over the years. I like dogs, too, but not in the way she does. I may be the one who feeds them every day, but she’s the one who loves them deeply, and they know it.

The dog who’s been with us the longest, 10 years, is Charlie, a rat terrier who’s 14 years old. He’s deaf and half-blind and weighs less than 10 pounds, but he’s got that innate terrier fierceness and a growl that’s downright scary. The big dogs don’t dare try to eat his food.

We also have a standard poodle mix named Baxter who once lived in a meth house and a blind German shepherd named Ben. Like Charlie, they were both bound for the pound until Denise found them on Craigslist. Now they’re a team, with Baxter serving as Ben’s seeing-eye dog when we go on hikes in Upper Park.

Many of our dogs come to us suffering from mistreatment or impairments. I remember especially a little poodle mix named Dooney who was blind, epileptic and brain damaged. We got him from a woman of Persian heritage who runs a rescue operation for Iranian dogs, believe it or not. He was a goofy little dog who constantly bumped into things, but he was happy with us and showed it by jumping up and down while turning in circles.

Unfortunately, one day he started having seizures, one after another, and there was nothing anyone, including our vet, could do to stop them, so we had to put him down. It was a sad day.

As we’ve learned over the years, there are thousands of dog rescuers out there. Some are affiliated with rescue organizations (Google “German shepherd rescue”); others, like Denise, are simply dog lovers who go out of their way to help misplaced animals find homes.

These people augment the invaluable contribution of the folks who work in our often overwhelmed animal shelters. They are highly conscientious, making sure their dogs are healthy, spayed or neutered, and up-to-date on shots and that the dogs’ new owners are responsible and kind people. Dog rescuers provide a valuable service that goes largely unnoticed. They deserve our support and appreciation.