The National English Shepherd Rescue organization’s president and volunteers arrived in Mount Airy last week to carry out the rescue of a group of 15 dogs, left behind after the owner passed away in late January.
The president of the National English Shepherd Rescue, Nancy Houtkooper, arrived in the area last week, and she was joined by former president and “member at large” Kathi Tesarz, from California. Volunteer Margaret Procter arrived this week from Apex to foster three puppies in the group. Procter has a “mother dog” who will raise and train the puppies.
The dogs are being treated by and housed at Surry Animal Hospital. The care for the dogs is being paid for by the rescue group, with Surry Animal Hospital charging only a minimal fee. Dr. Mark Hauser said that he is happy to help and feels like this is one of the most significant situations he has been involved with since he began working with his father at the family’s veterinary hospital.
Linda Collins from the Tobaccoville area, second cousin of the former dogs’ owner, started the rescue efforts after visiting her cousin in the hospital.
“I knew he had all these dogs. His health was declining, and he was just so worried about them. He signed them over to me on Jan. 31, and the next day he passed away…he was just holding on until he knew everything was handled with his dogs.”
Collins, who described herself as an animal activist, said she promised her cousin that she would care for the dogs and find them good homes. Her cousin lived on a farm, and he was known for loving his pack of farm dogs. According to Collins, he was an “old-fashioned” man and he did not spay or neuter his dogs, so the situation became unmanageable.
“He really loved those dogs — they were even written about in his obituary. His favorite one was Racehorse and we had to have her put down because she didn’t make it without him there. She just laid on the step at his door and went downhill. She quit eating…it was really sad. She was grieving for him.”
After the owner went into the hospital, the dogs took on a pack mentality. Their former owner took on a natural leadership role, the role of the pack leader, so without him there to care for the dogs, they survived the only way they knew how — animal instinct took over.
Collins was determined to care for the dogs and find homes for them. She worked for weeks, contacting local shelters and animal rescue organizations. Two of the dogs had to be put to sleep, including Racehorse, and three were taken to the Guilford County Animal Shelter, where two were adopted by the director’s daughter. The other dog left at the shelter was returned to the group after the National English Shepherd Rescue organization stepped in.
A representative from the organization traveled to the area last month in order to determine if the dogs were English Shepherds. The English Shepherd dogs are a breed of farm dogs that are not “show dogs” — they are working dogs that are known for their excellent herding skills.
The dogs were determined to be close enough to the English Shepherd breed to be assisted by the organization, so a plan was set into motion and pictures were posted in order to find foster homes. Volunteer Margaret Procter said the dogs have been wonderful and they were “non-aggressive” from the beginning. “They just need more socialization and leash training.”
During the next two to three weeks, the dogs will be transported to foster homes, with the transportation provided by the rescue group.
Linda Collins said that it was difficult catching all the dogs, but with the help of the Stokes County Animal Shelter, who provided live traps and equipment, she was able to rescue all of them, with the final dog caught Friday. Collins’ friend, Rebecca Allen, allowed many of the dogs to stay at her residence and mini-farm, including the mother dog and the three puppies.
Collins said she had a hard time finding the puppies, but a neighbor saw the mother of the dogs going toward a cow pasture several times a day. On a cold morning, when Collins finally found the ice-covered puppies, they were “sleeping on top of a cow pie in the field — the mother of the dogs was moving them to the new cow pies because they were the warmest place, with steam rising from them,” said Collins.
Collins, along with her husband, Wade, a neighbor, and a friend who helped feed and rescue the dogs, Savannah Hutchens, gathered at Surry Animal Hospital Monday with the volunteers from the rescue group. They worked with the dogs for three hours, leash training, socializing them and providing much-needed love and affection. All the dogs were given names, including one named Happy Jack, who only had three legs and was described by Collins as the “happiest and most friendly” of the bunch. There was also Old Girl, a “barker” who has since calmed down greatly; Wade, named after Linda Collins’ husband; Pam, also called “ridge runner” who was caught last Friday, as well as dogs named Linda, Cole, Goldie, and more.
The organization’s president, Nancy Houtkooper, said they are working to socialize and leash-train the dogs for three hours. In the beginning, the dogs were very timid and afraid of the leash, but they have made “wonderful improvements” and Houtkooper said she wants to give credit to the staff and veterinarians and Surry Animal Hospital for working with them every day. “Dr. Mark Hauser and his staff have been amazing — we owe so much to them.”
The National English Shepherd Rescue is a non-profit organization that has been in operation for 16 years. They rescue dogs all across the United States, finding foster homes and adoptive homes for the dogs; the largest rescue was 229 dogs at one time, in Billings, Mo. A group of around 30 volunteers from across the United States make up the rescue group.
English Shepherds are close to the heart of the volunteers, said Kathy Tesarz, who grew up with English Shepherd dogs after they were owned by her grandfather and her father. Tesarz said the breed is very intelligent and they have great herding abilities, but they are “not for everyone.” The future owners must invest in training and setting boundaries, because the dogs are so intelligent that they actually try to “train the owner.”
Tesarz said that the dogs are not bred for looks, but for purpose: “they keep the hawks off of chickens, they herd cattle and other animals, they even try to herd your children! They are as close as you can come to a real-life Lassie.”
The dogs have no permanent homes yet, but most have been placed with foster families. Houtkooper said the dogs need more work and training in their foster homes before they will be ready for adoption.
Anyone who is interested in fostering or adopting a dog should contact Amy Dorsch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several donations were sent to the organization over the past few weeks, specifically for this group of dogs, including towels (helpful when transporting the dogs), heart worm medication and crates donated by a humane society in Montana. Anyone else who is interested in donating money for supplies, food and other items can visit the National English Shepherd Rescue website at www.NESR.info.
Reach Jessica Johnson at email@example.com or 719-1933.