“I do dog rescue.”  It sounds exciting to the uninitiated, but the reality for those of us who work rescue is that it’s anything but glamorous. Rescue is stressful, difficult, heartbreaking work.

Last week I went to Lee County Humane Society to look at a lab.  Duke, a friendly yellow boy, was picked up as a stray, and his stray hold was up. With no collar, tag or microchip, he was captured by an irate homeowner as he and a canine companion knocked over her trash and destroyed items on her porch.

At the shelter, Duke would growl at other dogs but didn’t seem to be aggressive, so I was asked to evaluate him.  He was a sweet, willing-to-please boy who was in a lot of pain because of hip dysplasia and a severely injured elbow. The growling was an attempt to keep other dogs from jumping on him and hurting him.

While I was there, I also evaluated a large, chocolate Labrador/American Bulldog mix. Petey was an owner turn-in. Unneutered and almost a year old, Petey had been left home alone for 16 or more hours per day.  When he began to destroy things in the house out of boredom, his owners threw him outside for a couple of months, where he continued to find things to do to occupy himself.

When they brought him to the shelter, they were told that it was at maximum capacity and that as there is no “waiting period” for owner turn-ins he might have to be euthanized immediately, but they handed him over and walked away. When I conducted my evaluation, I found him to be happy, friendly, eager to please and good with other dogs. Raised with children and cats, he was an all-around great dog.

I also looked at a 5-month-old lab mix puppy. Cash was another owner turn-in.  The man that brought him in was told the same thing as Petey’s owner, and again, he didn’t care what happened to the dog as long as he didn’t have to deal with him.

Cash proved to be social, happy, and quick to learn.  At 5 months old, he should have a lifetime of adventures ahead of him.

I left the shelter determined to help these three dogs and was devastated when I received a call stating that even more dogs had come in, and there was simply no room to hold them.  Duke and Petey would have to be euthanized, and Cash would get the one empty space in adoptions that remained.

I begged for some time to try to find alternative arrangements for them and got to work. My efforts were blessed that day, as a friend who saw my desperate Facebook plea networked and found a foster situation.

We were able to pull Petey and Cash, leaving the space for Duke so that he could see the vet. Sadly, with severe injuries to three of his legs, there were simply no good options for him, and the kindest option was to humanely euthanize him.

With Petey and Cash, the work continues.  Their foster mom’s fence is only 4 foot high, and Petey decided he could easily jump it and go exploring, so we began to search for different arrangements for him.

He had to be neutered so that he would be adoptable, so I had to find money for the surgery.

Cash, already neutered, is ready to go, but I need to find a home for him quickly as the older he gets, the less desirable he will be in the eyes of many people.  Black dogs are the hardest to find homes for, so I am working hard to find a forever home for this great pup.

This is the reality of rescue. Dog after dog after dog pour into animal control facilities and humane societies.  Some of these organizations, including our own LCHS, do all they can to help these unlucky creatures make it out alive.  Other places I’ve encountered seem to have quit caring.

Behind the scenes is a vast network of people trying to help by identifying the dogs, networking them, moving them, fostering them, raising money to pay for needed veterinary care and otherwise doing whatever they can to help them make it out alive.

It’s painful work, as you know when you save one another will quickly fill his place, and there is no way you can save them all.

But as I watched Petey yesterday, happy and affectionate, I was reminded of what so many others involved in rescue know: that wagging tail makes it all worthwhile.

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years.

Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.