Volunteer driven non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing dogs and cats in Northern California and finding their permanent homes. Our mission is to provide support to animals by rescuing, rehoming and helping animals in need of spay and neuter. Through various programs, we will assist our communities’ animals and insure they find safe, loving homes and receive necessary medical care to..
Love the lure of the open road? Love driving long distances in the dead of night? Love meeting new people in lovely destinations like Denny’s parking lots or I-5 truck stops? Love rescuing animals? Then transport may be just the thing for you! If you follow the Dogwood Facebook page, you’ve seen many, many references […]
It’s that magical time of year: kitten season, when it almost seems as if it’s raining kittens. Shelters are packed to the rafters (or soon will be) with every shape, size and color of kittens. And that’s just the kittens we know about! Feral moms are giving birth in bushes, in empty garages and garden […]
Every April in Sebastopol, the community comes together for a Springtime celebration at the Apple Blossom Parade and Festival. This year Dogwood was thrilled to participate at the festival where we we able to share our mission, meet community supporters and sell some wonderful Dogwood items. During the festival, we were blessed to get to […]
A text message that one of my former foster dogs had escaped from her new adopter caused my heart to miss a beat. Thelma is a precious girl who originally came to Dogwood Animal Rescue from an overcrowded shelter after being confiscated from her former owner. When she arrived, nursing 5 young puppies, she was in skeletal condition and very subdued. She was a kind, gentle dog and a wonderful mother and I grew very attached to her. Once the puppies were weaned, Thelma went into another foster home where she could receive further training and socializing while I focused on her puppies. I still saw Thelma frequently over the following month or so. She and her foster mom, Alex, often joined us at the beach or came to visit. Thelma also stayed with me when Alex traveled and I was thrilled to learn that she was adopted into a loving home.
Thelma escaped from her adopter only a few days after she was placed so she didn’t really know him or the area yet. She went missing on a dark, chilly evening on a busy road and her adopter was distraught. Within moments of our post that she was missing, dozens of volunteers were out looking for her but hours of searching in the dark did not yield a single sighting.
Early the next morning we were back at it and finally had several sightings called in from one area a couple of miles from where she was lost. It was encouraging to see how many volunteers and friends arrived to search and post fliers. For the next four hours we walked the trails and paths nearby and drove all the surrounding roads over and over but there were no further sightings.
Exhausted and discouraged, I said to fellow volunteer Janet, who was searching with me, let’s go back one more time and drive through where she was last seen before we head home to rest for a few hours. Lost dogs are often seen in early morning and late evening so we made plans to come back later.
When we got to the place where the last sightings had been I decided to place a couple more fliers in the area. I parked, leaving Janet in the car with our dogs, and took a couple fliers to the walking path. I put one up, then decided to put my last one up a little farther down the path. It was quiet except for a few bird calls and the babbling of the creek nearby. It was beautiful place but my heart ached with sadness. In my experience, these things often don’t end well. I had literally placed an extra blanket in my car that morning to wrap her body in it if we came across it in the road. Even if they survive the busy roads, many lost dogs get into panicked survival mode and won’t even come to their owners.
I had my eyes on a pole I was going to put the flier on when I heard the click of dog nails coming up fast on the paved path behind me. As I started to turn around my heart was pounding and my mind was racing. It can’t be. It can’t be. But there was Thelma racing toward me, joyfully, ecstatically. I dropped to the ground and she was in my lap in an instant, wiggling, kissing, whining and pressing herself to me. I was crying, unable to believe she was safe and in my arms.
My leashes were all in the car so I scooped her up and started walking back toward the road, my cheek pressed to her fur. I was sobbing so hard I startled her and had to pull myself together for her sake. We were soon joined by her other foster Alex who also had a touching reunion with her before she was reunited with her frantic adopter.
The emotional ups and downs of those two days have taken it out of me, but knowing that darling Thelma is safe is worth all the heartache. And seeing so many out searching is a reminder how much people care. Thank you to everyone who helped and all who sent up prayers for Thelma’s safe return.
As a rescue we get requests for help every day, sometimes many times a day. The scenarios are endless and the people calling range from desperate to demanding. We provide rescue and spay/neuter services based on the number of volunteers and resources we have. We are a foster-home based rescue, and we can only take in as many animals as we have homes to care for them. We help as many as we can but we have to say no a lot too.
A recent call came in for help with an elderly cat. A woman was losing her home and had no place she could go with her 16-year-old companion. She was frantically searching for a place she could afford that would allow her to have her cat but had no luck and had to be out of her home within days. While she had a relatives couch available to sleep on, she couldn’t take her cat and was essentially homeless. As much as it’s always hard to find a foster home for one more, and worse during the holidays, I felt that we had to help.
I met with the owner, who I will call Mary, out of respect for her privacy, and her sweet companion, who I will call Kitty. Mary was emotional, sad and embarrassed to be in such a position at her age and devastated to be parted with her sweet Kitty who means everything to her. Kitty and her belongings were passed off to me between many tears, hugs and promises that she would be well cared for while they were apart. It was obvious that Kitty was loved and adored and her food, bedding, litter and bowls were neatly labeled and immaculately clean. A long list of care instructions accompanied her and Mary offered up money for Kitty’s care which was gently declined.
Later as I got Kitty settled into a quiet room, I pondered Mary’s situation. Things can change so quickly and in different circumstances, any of us could be there. I’m hopeful that Mary and Kitty will be reunited soon but we are there for them as long as needed. Helping people and animals takes up so much time and it’s easy to sit behind a computer and point fingers but stepping out and doing something to help takes work. So we stroke and cuddle Kitty as she settles in, and we speak on the phone with Mary and comfort her as best we can. We ponder the spirit of giving during the holiday season and we make room at the inn.
Here’s how it starts. It’s early; I’m sitting by the woodstove, sipping my tea and reading. Often the stove is going, out where I live, near the coast, so I’m cozy. Warm stove, hot tea, book, jammies, slippers; you get the idea. Cozy.
Slowly something starts to disturb this idyllic scene. I become aware that he is staring at me. Of course he stares, it comes with the breed, but usually, at this time of day, he’s a bit more relaxed, even asleep. Not today.
I look up, make eye contact. My first mistake. He jumps to his feet, ratcheting up the Power of the Stare, maybe even adding a bit of vocalization. Nothing so crass as a bark, oh no. Just a chewy kind of yowl.
He’s using his blue eye, his Pilot Eye. According to an old rancher woman I know, that’s the one they use on the stubborn steers or recalcitrant rams. (Also, apparently, on oblivious owners.) The Eye that Gets Things Done.
And you know what? It works. I get up, change my clothes, get the boots on and we’re off.
What is all this about, you ask? For more than two years, we have gone to the same off-leash beach with a large friendly pack of dogs and humans, on the same day, same time, every week. This is that day, and somehow, in the way dogs do, Roscoe knows it.
Roscoe meets up with all his canine friends and runs for 2 hours. The dogs run, chase each other, balls and birds. We humans throw the balls, laugh at the dogs, and hand out treats whenever the dogs come by.
Seals, all types of birds, and the occasional whale or dolphin are our companions. Strange,seasonal sea life washes onto the beach with the changing tides.
Picture it: Beautiful beach, fresh salt breeze, boon companions both human and canine – it’s the best day of the week.
Like having a child, the question when to get a dog can be put off endlessly if contemplated long enough. Is there ever a “good” time to throw ones life into this kind of turmoil? Best not to think about it too much.
However, we got a trial run by pooch-sitting a friend’s dog while she was traveling abroad for two months. He was a smallish, sweet-faced, silver-haired dog named “Otter.”
Among dogs, there are the kind you find and the kind that find you. Otter found my friend Maria by sitting under her car for 14 hours during a rainstorm one winter. He hit what you might call the jackpot. Ever since that fateful day, his life had been a tantalizing itinerary of long walks, chasing rubber balls and excoriating small stuffed animals. He had also been known to get Chateaubriand and swordfish for dinner, along with an endless supply of Snausages. For those of you who don’t know, Sausages are like those little weiners wrapped in cheese-flavored crescent rolls, only for dogs.
This was all news to me, a person who had a lifetime of limited fondness for dogs. Barking, slobbering, incessant sniffing, howling at ambulances, extended periods of shameless below-the-waist personal grooming: these were the hallmarks of doghood.
To top it off, as a child I believed there were basically two kinds of people: Dog people and cat people. This was not as in people who like dogs versus people who like cats, but as in those who act more like dogs versus this who act more like cats. Dog people were human versions of pack-oriented, yapping dung-eaters. Cat people were quiet, sophisticated and independent.
I had members of my family and friends divided into these categories. The bad thing was, I considered myself a cat and most of them were dogs. Dogs can be a lot of fun, but a favorite activity of dog people is treeing cat people. If one would start something, they’d all chime in, barking and growling and doing the pack attack thing. As a cat, you learn to sit quietly and wait for a distraction. Dog people tend to make a lot of noise and often show up as contestants on game shows.
So the prospect of dog ownership while having this little dog visitor, gave me a great deal to think about. One day I walked Otter past a convalescent hospital and the elderly patients sitting out front in their wheelchairs took turns petting him. It had been years since some of them had petted a dog and it seemed to bring them great joy. Otter didn’t excel in the eye contact department, because he was staring longingly at some poop in the planter box, but he scored high marks in the standing-still-while-you-adore-me department.
During our stay together, I observed some other distinctly dog-like things about Otter which impressed me. He didn’t freak out when I put flea medication on him, for example, or stand in the door trying to make up his mind whether to go out. A dog knows what he wants without a lot of hoo-ha. He also followed me around like he was genuinely interested in what I was up to. And he would lie on his back and let me rub his stomach while his mouth gaped open like he was laughing. He could have been saying, “God, no! I hate this! Stop it!” but he looked like he was having the time of his life. He would yawn when he was uncomfortable, and as my son pointed out, his tongue curled up like a piece of bacon.
When I’d walk in the front door, he would excitedly run up to me, as if to say, ”Hi! How ya doin’?” My cats’ attitude, meanwhile, was more: “Where the hell have you been?” He would also let you grab the top of his head and kiss the top of it, which counts for a lot in my book.
One day I took him for a ride in the car to pick up my kids from school and he stood on his hind legs to sniff out the window, which is another really cute thing dogs do. Cats sit on the floor and make a sound like they have a lifesaver stuck in their throat.
“Don’t jump out,” I cautioned him, and he did one of his tongue-curling yawns and looked somewhat hurt. I had wrongly accused him of catlike behavior. At the stoplight, I turned and petted his head, thinking how easily a dog can grow on a person, even a cat person. I also knew that as soon as we got home, he was going to get a Snausage.
Corinne Asturias is a freelance writer who turned into a dog person in 1992. She still loves cats.
The tiny infant wiggles in my hand, eager for her feeding. Her eyes and ears are still shut tight at two weeks of age. Her senses are reduced to the basics. She can feel the warmth of my hands holding her, and will be able to smell and taste the warm milk that she’s waiting for. Her hair is getting longer, the distinct white stripes are striking against the shiny black coat. There is even a little white stripe down the middle of her petite little face. Weighing in at only a few ounces, the baby skunk is a perfect miniature of the adult she will someday be. There is already a slightly sweet, musky odor to her coat, not unpleasant, but a hint of her future arsenal.
I’ve had this baby and her two siblings since they were newborns. They still had their umbilical cords when mom was killed by a car and thankfully a Good Samaritan heard the cries of the babies and brought them to the wildlife center where I volunteer. The first week of round the clock feedings left me exhausted and sleep deprived, but now that they can sleep through the night, I’m as grateful as any new mother. The baby must be stimulated to eliminate so I dip a tissue in warm water and stroke her gently under her tail. She kicks her tiny legs and starts sucking at my skin, knowing that feeding always follows what I jokingly call the diaper change. That chore done, I reach for her “bottle”. The babies are so tiny that they must be fed with a syringe with a nipple attached.
The skunk’s squeaks become almost frantic in anticipation of her meal. She squirms blindly, swinging her head from side to and her cries sound like the twittering of a bird. I guide the nipple over her little pink tongue and she latches on with determination. It takes all my concentration to focus on the seemingly simple task. One hand holds the baby, the other holds the syringe and slowly, drop by drop, eases the milk into her mouth. I have to look at what I’m doing the whole time to make sure I don’t go to fast and choke her, or too slow and cause her to release the nipple and look elsewhere. It can be a challenge to get the nipple back in if they drop it so I have to pay close attention.
By nature, I have a hard time sitting still. I have a super busy stressful job, a dozen hobbies and a family. I have a houseful of rescued pets, usually have ten projects going at once and rarely sit through a movie or TV program. I realize it’s probably good for me to have to just sit still and breathe deep and try to relax for a few minutes every 3 hours while I feed the skunks. Thankfully I can bring them to work with me and feed them between calls. The nurturing that this particular project entails is right up my alley though, as I’ve always loved taking care of the orphaned and broken, the very young and the very old.
Especially now that my own children are grown, I feel the need to baby something. I am fascinated by these tiny creatures in my care. I have bottle raised endless orphans. Raccoons, puppies, squirrels, kittens, lambs, calves and more. Their need for a loving touch, warmth, nurturing and milk is all the same. Paul is forever patient with my dragging home everything I can find. He doesn’t bat an eye at my feeding baby skunks at the kitchen table. In fact, the day that I brought them home he was delighted. Paul loves skunks and thanked me for bringing them in. I looked at him in awe. Where did I find this guy? It made me love him all the more. Our children are wonderful, compassionate people who grew up surrounded by the needy animals that always filled our home but the novelty is gone for them. Their friends would be completely thrilled by the baby animals and my kids would just want to go play because it was nothing new to them.
The baby relaxes in my hand as the warm milk fills her belly. It’s funny how different they are from people and yet so many things are the same. My own babies used to make little noises and kick their feet when they were hungry too. And they would go from almost frantic eagerness to total relaxation and bliss in minutes. I used to stare at my babies faces while they nursed, overwhelmed by the joy and privilege of caring for them. That’s been many years now, but the bliss on the tiny creatures face brings it all back. Eventually, the sucking becomes intermittent, and slowly the skunk flops back in my hand, mouth still open, tiny pink tongue visible, a dribble of milk around her mouth. She is flat on her back in what I call a milk coma, completely content. I stare at her for a moment, taking in the baby soft feet, the tiny paws with the nails that are becoming longer by the day. Someday those nails will dig for insects and rodents.
I stroke her soft rounded belly in awe. We really don’t want the skunks acclimated to people. They will be released to the wild when they are old enough and need to not rely on people forever. Still, baby things must be nurtured or they do not thrive. No matter how well you feed them, if they get no stimulation and stroking, they will wither and die. I have always had mixed feelings about raising wild babies. I rail in frustration that they don’t have their mother to care for them, to show them how to be wild. It’s usually human intervention that orphans them. Cars, loose dogs, tractors etc, disrupting their homes in the first place, so I feel the need to try and make up for it. I have to give them a chance and yet I’m torn. It’s such a struggle to survive even when raised by mom. How will these babies learn the skills they need? Much of their behavior is instinctive but some is also learned. Would it have been better to have put them down at one day of age than to possibly have them starve or be eaten by a predator the first night on their own?
The baby sleeps peacefully as I contemplate her future. The hope with wild babies is that we can find someone with remote property that is willing to feed them out for a while so they can acclimate. Not everyone is willing to have 3 potential stink bombs released on their land, but some people welcome wildlife in need. Skunks are overall beneficial creatures who eat bugs and rodents and are pretty harmless as long as no one bothers them. The hungry cries of the siblings break me out of my musings and I return the sleeping infant to her soft warm incubator and reach for the next one. As with my own children, I can only do my best and after that it’s up to them.
Driving south through the dark of the Central Valley on 99 I look in the rear view. My artist and his musicians are asleep like little 4-year-old boys on a car ride. They had been working day and night, performing at radio stations, doing live on-air interviews and ending the days with shows.
We are headed to Bakersfield and I realize we need gas. We are nowhere near a real gas station like a Shell or a 76 because, well, we are in the middle of nowhere.
I see a gas station sign ahead and I know I would never venture to that sort of old, run down stand alone at night. It is in the middle of the fields with transient broken down housing dotting the side road. But I feel safe with the guys.
I take the exit and the guys wake up. One begins to pump gas while the others shuffle inside to grab a water. I see 2 small brown dogs milling around.
One approaches me with caution as I call out to her, a little female. The male is obviously more feral and keeps a far distance. I can pet the female, and she wags her tail and looks up at me. It is obvious that her eye is badly, painfully ulcerated.
I go into the gas station to ask about the dogs, but no one understands me or cares. I buy a bag of dog food, get a bottle of water and a paper cup and set them out on the side of the building away from traffic.
We leave. We have interviews in the morning and a show to do after that. This is a business, not a rescue mission.
We drive off and as I glance back the female is standing in the middle of the road. Watching. Tail down.
We hit Bakersfield a few hours later, where I check the guys into their rooms, help unload the van and give them an 11:30 lobby call for a 12 noon radio interview. We head off to our rooms looking forward to just a few hours rest before we hit it again.
Exhausted, I toss for a while and know what I am going to do.
I am soon in the van again, alone, wondering where I am going and what the hell I’m going to do when I get there.
So I pray, hard. I didn’t write down the exit number. I knew we were headed south. I didn’t notice any landmarks, except I did see a church steeple in the distance as we drove out. That gives me faith, and I ask God, like the song says, to take the wheel and bring me to where I’m supposed to go.
About 90 minutes pass, and I’m beginning to doubt myself and it is beginning to get light when I see it. A church steeple. I rush off the exit and there in front of the store door are the 2 dogs.
She sees me and wags a “hello” and shows me an “I knew you’d be back” grin.
Again I go inside and try to ask about the dogs and finally at least get them to give me a cardboard box.
The female is not easy to get, but with the power of beef jerky, prayer and soft words, I grab her. I set a drum set on top of the box to keep it closed but she seems to know this is not a bad thing. She seems to have more faith in me than I do. I go to work on getting the male. Time is slipping by.
I have to get back to meet the guys and I’m beginning to get desperate. I do the only thing I can think of which is to call Shirley. I think I wake her up, but she is calm and logical and tells me what I already know, which is that you can’t save them all. She tells me to call the local ACC and give them all the info I can on the location. I do that and they promise to come for the male. I leave more food and water and drive away in prayers and tears while the female stays quietly in a box under a drum set weight.
I realize I need a plan, so I call the emergency vet in Bakersfield and after promising them my car, my house, my cd collection and all my credit cards they agree to see her and keep her until the afternoon when I can pick her up.
I make it to the hotel lobby on time…. JUST! The guys take one look at me and say, “You went back, didn’t you????”
I’ll wrap this up (although we had so many more adventures!!) by saying the pup made it the rest of the road trip, smuggled in and out of hotels in my carry on bag, riding in a newly purchased carrier wedged between the guitar cases, being as quiet as can be when she was left in a hotel room, knowing a bark or a whine when left alone would rat all of us out!
The Bakersfield Vet office was amazing! Once they realized I wasn’t going to drop her and run they provided all sorts of meds and showed me how to care for her eye until it could be removed.
When I finally put the guys on a plane back to Nashville and pulled into my Sebastopol home, Shirley had already lined up vets to look at her eye and determine the course of action, which was what we already knew-ultimately to remove it.
Kern County ACC promised me they had impounded the male. I pray they did.
My best friend named the newly one-eyed pup “IRIS”!
And on a check up visit my Vet fell in love and now Iris has a vet momma, a new dad and several dog siblings … and her very own little boy whose first words were not ‘momma’ or ‘dada’ but “…. Eyewoss”!!!!
Thank you Shirley Zindler for being the voice of reason in an unreasonable situation and for helping in all the ways you do….” For The Animals”!
“No!!!! No more dogs!”, my husband said. I sighed as I looked out at my new Sonoma County home. It was complete with an acre enclosed by a 6 foot chain link fence. Perfect for a dog or two. But I knew why he kept saying that. Years before we had lost both our 17 year old rescue dogs. It broke my husband’s heart. So “No more dogs” was a normal refrain when I broached the subject. Plus we had lived in San Francisco with a tiny back yard. Not really conducive to having dogs.
But now we lived in the country! So, urged on by one of my new neighbors I contacted her dear friend named Shirley. I was just looking to foster a dog, not a puppy, a dog – one who needed a home for awhile so I could fill that dog urge. And not get divorced! Ha! Because of this I met Shirley Zindler. She had a litter of puppies and a house filled with people and dogs and a few cats – everyone living in harmony.
Shirley didn’t try to get me to adopt a puppy but we spent a great deal of time together after that, walking her dogs around the back field, listening to her stories and telling her mine in the world of San Francisco feral cat trapping and ‘on the road’ dog rescue. We were building a friendship on the shared experiences and our love of animals.
One day I brought one of the puppies home against my husband’s wishes, just to foster until placed. And because of his constant complaining I returned the puppy about 4 times! I’m sure Shirley thought I was a nut case! But I couldn’t get the little guy out of my mind so one Sunday I went back to get him again remembering this was JUST to “foster”.
And that Sunday the puppy sat looking up at my husband as he watched a NASCAR race. Just sat on the floor, looking up, staring up, not moving or making a sound. Until finally my husband picked him up and placed him between his feet on the foot stool and said “Fine! Just STAY there!” Half an hour later they were both asleep as the cars went round and round on the screen, puppy chin laying on a knee and a big hand resting on a tiny white head.
And every night since that dog has sat between Larry’s feet on that footstool. 9 years worth of ball games and races and naps. We now have 2 dogs, HooverDog, the puppy I first saw at Shirley’s house and Elsie May, a pit mix who didn’t have the best puppy-hood. (But she is another story for another time.)
And our house is known to have a foster or two running around now and then because of Shirley. So, Trust me when I say, Dogwood Animal Rescue Project will not be your ordinary rescue. Lots of love and care for every creature who lands there. But then again, who wants ordinary when one can have extraordinary!