One Dog At A Time

Each life you touch matters. I’ve always believed in service and finding ways to make a difference in the world we live in. It’s been quite difficult trying to find a way to give back within my lupus limitations however, in the past year, I’ve started fostering dogs from a local animal shelter. I think nurturing rescue dogs might be my new calling. Saving one dog will not change the world but for each dog it changes their life. Not only do I get to save a furry little life but I get to match them to an appropriate family that will provide a furever loving home. Don’t get me wrong, this process isn’t that simple. It truly takes a village to run the operation but it feels good to be a small part of the process.

The rescue I’m currently with is a Not-for-Profit and run by selfless dedicated volunteers trying to save as many lives possible. The goal is to get the dogs out of the unfavorable surroundings, get them healthy, then spayed or neutered and finally, teach them behaviors to become adoptable pets. Their motto is to rescue the mistreated, help the injured, home the abandoned and love them all!! saved over 500 dogs last year. That’s double the amount of lives changed if you include their adopters. Adopters often say “I rescued the dog but that dog saved me”.

Getting dogs out of a shelter or puppy mill not only save their life, but it’s the beginning of the transformation process. The administrators deal with auctions, surrenders, county shelters, transportation advocates that bring the dogs from one state to another and fees. They pay for medical expenses by collecting adoption fees. Spay/neutering and other medical expenses can be quite costly since many of these dogs have never had any medical care and are sick from the terrible living conditions. Fostering is the next step in the process and it has many aspects. The last step is adoption which consists of applications and matching the dog to the correct family by measuring compatibility.

Many of our dogs are rescued from puppy mills where the living conditions are deplorable. The dogs are kept in terrible conditions drinking dirty water filled with parasites, locked in crates, never feeling grass under their paws, eating slop, fighting for food and abused. There’s a special place in hell for people who abuse children and animals (Rant over). Others dogs come from local county shelters because they were picked up as strays or are surrendered by their owners. Wherever they come from they are forever scarred since rescue dogs have been let down by some human in their past. Each dog has its own heartbreaking story whether it be mill, homeless, or abandoned.

Fostering starts by giving the dog a safe place to live and allows them time to decompress from their prior living conditions. Many come to you emotionally broken, physically abused, sick from parasites, starved, hopeless. We usually don’t get many details about their back story however we’re all too familiar with the disgusting tactics of disreputable breeders, they’re tossed aside like garbage. A loving home and security is a big step in recovery. They become MY pet as long as they are with me and will be forever in my heart. Nurturing takes time and patience. I’ve hand fed a dog that didn’t know how to eat from a bowl because she was fed slop. We’ve coaxed dogs that have never been out of a cage because they’re afraid to leave the only world they know. Some dogs are fearful of people from being abused. Others dogs know they’re being saved and cling to you for dear life. It’s heartbreaking how humans have let these innocent creatures down which is one of the reasons we take special care not to fail them.

We love each dog that’s entrusted in our care. A foster mom’s love is similar to a mother’s love, pure and unconditional. For many animals this is their first taste of human love and they learn to trust and love in return. It’s astonishing homeless dogs know they’re being saved, some relax with relief as soon as they’re in your arms. One of the best feelings is when you watch them let their guard down and know they’re safe with you, loved by you and free from abuse. They smile, wag their tails, give kisses and walk with confidence. Their fur shines and their eyes no longer look sad or empty. It’s rewarding to watch their personality come out. Once they feel safe and comfortable they begin to grow emotionally.

We start each dog on a path to reach their potential. We do everything possible to prepare our foster dogs for a successful life with their furever family. As a foster mom, I’m responsible for getting them to and from vet appointments as well as medication administration. Spay/neutering stops the breeding cycle. Once they’re healthy it’s time to start socialization. It helps having others dogs around to teach them how to be a dog! I don’t have other dogs so we socialize with the neighbors dog and go on outings to Bentley’s, Petsmart and Lowes which are dog friendly stores. They have a new lease on life because of you and the Rescue. It’s joyful to watch the dogs grow and blossom, learning skills so they can thrive in a home.

Foster parents are the bridge between dog and future owner. Just like we raise our human children to leave the nest, we prepare our fosters to as well. When they’re ready for adoption, their information gets posted to the website and adoption applications start coming in. Then it’s time to figure out which family is the best fit. The needs of the dog need to match up with the needs of the adoptive family, for instance exercise, activity, and owners time spent outside of the home are important factors. After the decision is made, “meet and greets” begin. This is face to face time spent with potential adopters to solidify compatibility. Once the adoption is complete, there are always tears of both joy and sadness. It’s difficult to let them go, even to the best homes, but selflessness is the key. Even though you’re inclined to keep every foster, especially after you nurse them back to health, you must let them go. It’s painful but necessary to make room for another lost soul.

Goodbye is one of the most difficult things to say to your foster dog yet one of the sweetest, too. The pain of that goodbye is far sweeter than the pain of them dying in a shelter because their days ran out and space was needed. When I see the joy in the eyes of the people adopting my foster I know it’s going to be ok, that they’re giving them a new and better furever life. Pieces of my heart go with each dog I’ve fostered. Tears of joy and some of sadness because you miss your furbaby. Personally, I’m always grateful to get pupdates on previous fosters and watch them grow with their furever families. Furever families are grateful for the fosters time and effort. When we get updates on them living their life filled with love, a love that began in your home and only got better in their forever home, it’s like a dream coming to fruition. That’s when I’m ready to do it all over again. Plenty of tears are shed throughout the process.

Fostering dogs is one of the hardest, most fulfilling things I have ever done. This isn’t for the faint of heart but that’s okay because we need furever homes too. My heart might be broken but it’s full. We foster to give the dogs and owners better lives. Please don’t ask us to keep our fosters because they’re happy in our homes. If we kept out fosters we couldn’t help the other dogs that needs us.

Dogs are the purest form of unconditional love and truly the best companions (Sorry cat lovers). It saddens me that their lives are so short in comparison to humans. Being a foster isn’t easy, however there’s no doubt we’re changing lives. Not only the pup is saved but the adopters too. I Make A Difference… One Dog At A Time

Boycott pet stores!!!

There are too many back yard breeders with dogs living in deplorable conditions. As long as dogs are dying in shelters there’s no excuse for breeding. Statistics show:

•90% of pet stores get their animals from puppy mills.

•50% of the dogs in shelters are euthanized because no one adopts them.

Rescue Warriors Corp. can always use another volunteer if you’re in our area. If not check your local rescue/shelter listings. You don’t have to be an animal expert just someone willing to give a homeless dog some love and attention.

Donations are always welcome.

Save a life. Adopt Don’t Shop. Fill out an adoption application today!

If you’re interested contact:

Follow Rescue Warriors Corp on Facebook!

Rescues love the unloved, unwanted and often times difficult. Some dogs are less than desirable, reactive and abrasive that need a tremendous amount of patience and training like Leon the Poodle. He is a work in progress with a foster mom that has the patience of a saint (not me lol). You can follow Leon on Instagram at He’s an adorable bipolar little poodle who’s trying to win the fight with his inner demons from shelter life.

Michele Palermo

Michele is a retired registered nurse who spent 15 years in Emergency Medicine. That's where she learned there's a fragility to life. Diagnosed with lupus, after going through a divorce, taught her to be a survivor instead of a victim. With her career shortened by illness she turned to books. She fell in love with the written word as a young child. To her, words convey emotion. Her new passion is writing. As an aspiring author, she hopes to inspire others on this roller coaster called life.

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