We opened our home to Foster Boy Sam the Doodle in the spring of 2008. He was a Dachshund/Poodle mix, he was blind, and his rear legs were paralyzed. He had to have his bladder expressed and did not have control of his bowels. What we didn't realize on that spring day was that Sam would determine how and why we would rescue dogs.
Taking Sam into our home was actually an extension of my "real" work, which is as a case manager for people with developmental disabilities. So I was well versed in advocating for people and now dogs with special needs. But we really had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into.
I remembered bringing my first child home from the hospital and wondering "what do I do with him now?" Same thing, how do we give a blind, paralyzed dog a great life? So we read and we researched and we learned about physical therapy, acupuncture, belly bands, carts, how to let him sleep in bed with us (didn't enjoy random poop and pee in the bed at night) and adaptive equipment but most of all we learned about the love that this boy had to share.
Then we decided that it was time for Sam to show the world that special needs pups could have and deserve a great life. Our first trip with Sam was to the National Dachshund Races in Findlay, Ohio. We were greeted with open arms by the founder, Toni Gossard. We met Butch and Pat Holcomb (talk about a dog nurturer). Pat and I became great friends and Sam and Butch, a cart boy also, became arch rivals racing each other in their carts. Actually Sam never won a race against Butch but it was really fun to watch him try. And they raced many times over the next 3 years.
Sam was named the Rescue Ambassador for Get Rescued in Gulfport, Florida in 2010 to help promote adoptions of pets with special needs. And in Findlay Ohio that fall was named King of the National Dachshund Races.
Sadly in January of 2011, at 8 years old, Sam made his trip to the Rainbow Bridge. Way to soon. But even today he is still advocating for other special needs pets each year with a charity race held in his honor at the WuffStock Festival in Lake City, Florida.
So how did Sam shape our rescue work? We became the house where all of the dogs ended up that had no where else to go. From blind, deaf, paralyzed, dogs with any kind of health issues you could think of. Then we became the home which provided end of life care. Somewhere in this endeavor we gravitated away from our first love for dachshunds and took in many different breeds and have ended up centering our work with cocker spaniels. Long road from dachshunds to cocker spaniels.
We have made many wonderful friends and learned more then I ever thought I would about dog's health, nutrition and care. And yes still advocating for each and every foster which comes through our home. We helped to establish WuffStock, an annual dog festival in Lake City which benefits Covenant Pet Trust and other rescues and charities.
All through this time working with various rescue groups and learning what a good rescue group should look like. Some of us Cocker Spaniel lovers decided it was time to take the leap and form our own rescue. What a job it has been! We are currently taking care of 28 cocker spaniels. More then half of them are seniors and or sick and will never leave their foster homes.
These are Forever Fosters and we will provide for their needs until it is their time to pass. They are loved and cherished, by their Foster Parents, which all dogs deserve. That's why we do what we do. We rescue dogs who would have died alone and afraid. So the question is still Who rescued Who? I feel that everyone who rescues a dog opens their heart to love and then spreads that love in ways they have no idea they are doing. In our world we all need to be rescued in one way or another and that wag of the tail and lick in the face is healing to everyone who accepts the unconditional love offered through rescuing a lost soul. So thank you Sam for rescuing me so we could help so many others over the years.
-Judy Delbene, Save Our Cocker Spaniels, Inc in Lake City, Florida