Episode 8 - Speaking Of Dogs Rescue

Corey McCusker  00:03
Hello dog lovers, and welcome to Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Academy Podcast, where we’ll share dog training tips and educational information to help you raise your pup, young or old, so they can be a loving part of your family and your community for life. I’m your host, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach. And today I’m thrilled to have with me, Lorraine Houston, who is the Founder and President of Speaking of Dogs Rescue. Let me tell you a little bit about Lorraine and Speaking of Dogs before we get into what they do and how they help people. Lorraine, as a child, had a passion for dogs which was evident, and she has officially and professionally been involved with dogs for over 40 years. She began her career at Toronto Humane Society in 1980. And throughout the years, her experience has included animal shelter, work and management, Animal Control Officer, SPCA Cruelty Agent, Dog Trainer, Therapy Dog Evaluator, Newspaper Columnist, seminar organizer, and host animal advocacy Board Member, Hurricane Katrina Response Team, canine behavior training and assessments, and dearest to her heart – dog rescue and fostering. Wow, that is incredible. Also, I want to mention that Lorraine is a three-time Maxwell Award winner for the Dog Writers Association of America. Lorraine has penned numerous magazine and newspaper articles in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of homeless dogs, the puppy mill industry, and the rewards of positive force-free motivational dog training. She launched Speaking of Dog Rescue in 2001, when an old friend from the Toronto Humane Society called her to come and meet a dog who was at the Toronto animal service and would benefit from a foster-based rescue organization. Lorraine, I am so glad that you have taken time out of your super busy schedule, as I’ve just read everything that you’ve done and everything that you’re doing now. So welcome, Lorraine.

Lorraine Houston  02:04
Well thanks for having me.

Corey McCusker  02:07
We’re thrilled to have you and I’m a big supporter of rescues, especially Speaking of Dogs, as I currently have Skye, my Manitoba mutt that we got at eight weeks, who’s just a joy to our family. I think I met you years ago, though, when you were running seminars down in Toronto, off of Eglington. And I think that’s where our first encounter came. So, you know, I’m really happy that you’ve taken this time because I really want you to share with us more about the rescue. And tell us how Speaking of Dogs helps dogs in need.

Lorraine Houston  02:41
We help dogs in need, through foster care, primarily foster care, dogs from animal shelters, primarily Ontario and Quebec shelters, although now we have branched out and we are part of a coalition that helps dogs in northern Manitoba. And we also, when we have a space, foster space, we can help owner-surrender dogs. If somebody can’t keep their dog for whatever reason, if we have space, then we’ll help those dogs when we can.

Corey McCusker  03:12
You talk about when owners surrender. I think that you helped, well I know you helped one of my friends – that’s how we reconnected – because a friend of mine contacted me and asked me if she knew anyone that could help her with her mom’s 14-year-old shitzu, because her mom had gone into the hospital. She had a senior dog, a large doodle at home that did not get along well or was stressed when there was other animals in the home. So I reached out to Diane Purser who helps me out and is one of my education managers. And she said, you know get in touch with Lorraine, Speaking of Dogs. They specialize in senior dogs. So we did. We got in touch with you. And you know, this is where the incredible work that you do is. Bailey was picked up, brought into foster care, he needed dentistry, grooming, and he was on heart meds. Everything was taken care of. And I think he was in a brand new home with his forever family, and a 14-year-old that’s like a great thing if somebody is taking that in – but he went into a forever family. Kudos, because I think we all know that when dogs are re-homed it’s not easy, especially as a senior. Now you mentioned that you were affiliated with other rescues, like the Manitoba. So how does that work with other rescues? How do you support one another?

Lorraine Houston  04:34
Well, we’re also a member of Helping Homeless Pets, which was founded in 2006. It’s an umbrella group for rescues who were maybe not large enough to have their own charity status with the CRA. So helping homeless pets has always been a group of like-minded rescuers. There’s a code of ethics, a code of conduct. So we’ve been a part of that since they started in 2006. And we also work with the rescues over the years that we’ve come to know, and we’ve come to align well with. The Coalition for the Manitoba dogs is a more recent partnership, but they’re doing great work up in the indigenous communities, and we are proud to be a part of that outreach and dog rescue endeavor.

Corey McCusker  05:33
And I think if I look at my life, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a puppy until I just got my Manitoba mutt – that was my first puppy. I’ve always rescued. And they’ve come from different places, whether it was people, like I worked at a vet’s office and that. So can you share with the people listening that, what is important that people need? Or what do they need to be aware of if they are thinking about rescuing a dog?

Lorraine Houston  06:00
Well, I think it’s important when you come to the decision that you want to move forward with an adoption, you go to the application process, which is, for us, it’s an online application. It’s really important that people are honest and transparent about their lifestyle, their exercise capabilities, or abilities, their experience with dogs, and the other pets that they have in the home. Because we take very seriously matching our dogs to the homes – rather than the homes to the dog. So if you, you know, are really active, and you want a dog to go hiking, then you know what the 14-year-old shitzu is probably not the best match for you. But if you’re you know, you like to go around the block and you just want a buddy to curl up with and maybe, you know, go out in the backyard and have a wander and then go, you know at a slow pace around the block. With some of our seniors, then match up your own lifestyle. So if you read something, oh, doesn’t like cats, and you have a cat. Well, it’s not helpful if you’re not honest. So if you have one , you have to tell us, so that we can help you. We want our dogs to find homes that they don’t have to be bounced out of because somebody wasn’t transparent with their application. So for us, it’s very important that people are being honest with us, for number one, matching up.

Corey McCusker  07:40
And can you share just a story, or two, about just some of the situations that you’ve had that dogs have come into your care where they either needed special needs, or they needed a special home maybe?

Lorraine Houston  07:53
Yes, of course. So some of… lately, we’ve been taking a lot of senior dogs from the shelters. If the people have passed away and nobody in the family or next-of-kin can take the dogs then we will step in. And sometimes, one of our latest cases, was a man who had been experiencing dementia and lived alone. And he didn’t have any family. So the church group, his church group, started to get worried about him because he hadn’t been to church and nobody could – he wasn’t answering his phone. And they were quite worried about him. And they went over to see how he was and he was watching TV. But it was very evident that he was not in a cognitive state to be looking after animals. He could barely, you know, he couldn’t really look after himself. So as it turned out, he had three horses, nine dogs, five cats, all in quite deplorable health and condition. So between, I think it was four or five different rescues – cat rescues, two dog rescues and a horse rescue – we were able to go in and help the man with, well help the animals, which in turn the church group helped the man – and he is now thankfully being taken care of in a long-term care facility. But situations like that come up and we do try when we can, to spring into action and help out. So in that case, the dogs were in pretty poor shape. Their nails were very long and curled. They hadn’t been groomed. So they were very matted. And their eyes, you know, we couldn’t really see their eyes because the hair had grown over. They were, we think that he had probably been forgetting to feed them, so most of the the animals were were quite underweight. Yeah, so situations like that are you know what a rescue deals with, along with, you know, other situations when it comes to owner surrenders.

Corey McCusker  10:10
You know, you mentioned when we talked before this interview, and I think it’s a term that I use when I’m doing dog training, especially with people that have gotten a rescue – slow and steady. Can you talk about that and really what it means? And you know that a lot of these dogs people think are broken. So I just want you to touch on that.

Lorraine Houston  10:29
Yes, yes. I’m glad, that’s a great question, Corey. Thank you. So we really advocate going slow and steady with your newly adopted dog and with our foster homes as well. Some of these dogs are shut down. Some of them are… have anxieties from being uprooted from their home. They’re stressed. They don’t know who you are or where they are. So slow and steady, not putting too much pressure on them, don’t have a party, or you know, big barbecue to welcome your dog. Don’t take them, please don’t take them, to PetSmart and wheel them around looking for toys the first day, or even the second day or second week. They need time to decompress. They need time to start to feel safe, and to feel that they can trust and that they can move forward. But they have to do it on their own time. If we try and you know, rush them into things that they’re not comfortable with, or they don’t feel that they can cope with, then we see dogs who will shut down again, or be very hesitant to sort of trust your, you know, what are you doing, your own judgment. So you want them to be able to look to you for good choices, for good decisions. And let’s remember, these dogs are not broken. The dogs are generally speaking, these are dogs – rescue dogs, shelter dogs, dogs who need a second chance – are dogs who are victim of a human circumstance. People move, people have kids, people… they pass away, they fall ill. So you know what these are not anything that the dogs can do anything about. So you know, I think we just need to keep things in perspective. These dogs are not up for adoption because they’re, you know, there’s something wrong with them or they’re broken, or there’s somebody else’s problem. Over the years I’ve heard that so many times. And this is not, it is not the case. So I think it’s important for people to to understand that these dogs are here because of something that’s happened to their human family.

Corey McCusker  12:38
Mm hmm. Yeah, that’s so true. And I mean, as I mentioned, I’ve always rescued dogs. And I mean, they just, they’re just so amazing once, once they get over that, whatever you want to call it, fear, or they’re just not sure. But dogs just love to give love, like unconditional love. And once they get to where they need to be, and they are secure in your family, it’s just so rewarding in them. And you know, if people do look out for rescuing or looking for a dog, you know, and they take the time, and they find the right match, it’s just really, really rewarding. Now you’ve mentioned the fosters a few times. So these are fosters that are taking the dogs in to help them adjust. Maybe the dog needs medical care, or they need time just for you to assess, I guess the situation. Can you talk about the foster program or your fosters and what’s involved?

Lorraine Houston  13:33
Sure. So our foster program is the, basically, the heartbeat of our organization, because without foster parents, we really can’t take dogs. So we don’t have a facility. As you know, many of you probably already realized – we are foster-based rescue. The foster parents are the heart of the organization as I say. These are people who are opening their heart and home to a dog who needs a temporary spot to hang their hat so to speak – or to hang their leash. So the foster parents responsibilities are to keep the dog safe, obviously, to assess the dog, to take them to veterinary appointments and to report any concerning behavior or a medical problem that… maybe the dog is drinking too much, and therefore is urinating too much. So is this a dog who’s really stressed versus a dog who has, you know, a kidney or other issue. And they’re also part of our adoption process. So when the dogs are ready for adoption, they will help us decide which home best aligns for the dog. They have a lot of input. And the rescue does take care of all the medical bills, all the grooming costs. Our rescue has accounts with various vets so that the… we don’t want the foster parents out of pocket. So we prefer to set up accounts with the vets that they’re going to be going to so they can concentrate on the dog and report what’s going on so that the vet can get to the crux of the medical problems if there is any.

Corey McCusker  15:17
So that foster program, it could be short-term, or it could be longer term, like a few months even.

Lorraine Houston  15:24
Yes, and we also have a Forever and Foster Program for some of the older dogs who come in. And maybe they’re not adoptable because they have, you know, a lot of medical problems or their medication is very expensive. Or maybe they’ve been up for adoption for a really long time, and at some point, it’s just not fair to uproot them when they’re 13, or 14, and they’ve been on for adoption. They haven’t been picked or applied for and there comes a point where the Board will make a decision to talk to the foster parent, and ask if they would consider being the forever and foster parent for that particular dog. Right now we have 15 dogs in our Forever and Foster or palliative care. Some of the dogs have manageable medical problems, but as I say, the medical or the medicine is expensive, or they need to go to the vet a lot for tests or diagnostics. And some of them are, as I say, have been passed over so, we just don’t want to uproot them. Yeah.

Corey McCusker  16:27
That’s interesting. So how many dogs, I’m gonna say, give us an estimate in a year that you would have in your rescue, like that would go through the rescue and you find new homes. Like, what’s the numbers?

Lorraine Houston  16:39
So, over the years, it’s grown. At this point in time, we’re probably helping close to 200 dogs a year. When we, you know, when we first started, we, you know, took in maybe 20 dogs, and then it just kind of grew and grew and the need, and the outreach, and the networking and having all the partnerships with, you know, various shelters and getting… We’re 20 years old – so, you know, vets know about us that they might want to tell their client to give us a call if they’re, for some reason they can’t keep their dog or the dog needs a new home.

Corey McCusker  17:19
Yeah, interesting. So you’ve talked about the care, you talked about the fosters. We know that it’s expensive to have a dog, I’m going to say just with my toys, the toys that I’ve spent alone are just ridiculous. But no, but there’s food, there’s the care, there’s the medicine, there’s going to the vet, and this costs a lot. I know that we are trying to do –  for Muttz with Manners™, we’re trying to help as much as we can. So we have a fundraiser going right now. We’ve got two donation boxes, like big boxes, and our clients are great. They’re bringing in you know, toys, everything, crates, leashes, blankets. So we also are selling pupcakes this month. One of our Co Op students with us is doing pupcakes because her mom’s a baker. And you know, we’re just having fun with it, but it’s also really good for the clients too, because they want to give back. So can you just talk about the fundraising and what it takes or what you need people to help you with?

Lorraine Houston  18:20
Yes, thanks, Corey. And thank you so much to Muttz with Manners™ for all your support and for putting out the boxes, and for you know letting people know that you’re here for the rescue dogs and to be helpful. We do totally rely on donations to help our cause and to have toys and to have crates and food and treats for the dogs as they go into the foster program. As a new foster goes into the home, we give a package that  includes the food and toys, and we match up the leash and the collar. So thank you so much for that. We’re really grateful for your team and their support. As far as fundraisers go – yes, it is a constant fundraising mode that we’re in, because let’s face it, it is expensive. You touched on the vetting alone is expensive. And when we take old dogs, older dogs, they get dentals, they get their blood work done. They they may have like you were saying a heart condition or diabetes or something that is an ongoing thing. And just diagnostics alone is expensive – X rays and ultrasounds. So all these kinds of things do add up. And we have a walk-a-thon, called, Step up for the Pups, which has been quite successful. People seem to really like walking in their neighbourhood, or getting a couple friends together and going for a trail walk. Because we have so many of our foster parents, our volunteers, our supporters are sort of spread out everywhere now. We did start as a Toronto group, but we’re sort of all spread out across the province now. So we started the Step up for the Pups, so that people could sort of have their own walk-a-thon in their own location and make some fun, make their own fun with it. So go for a trail walk and then maybe go back to someone’s house and you know, have a barbecue in the backyard with the dogs. Or have a have a walk-a-thon around your neighborhood, and collect your sponsors. That’s been a great fundraiser. We also have – every week -we have our Facebook auction on our Facebook page. So we’re always looking for donations that people might like to bid on. So new items, or gently used items, or dog-themed items are always a big hit on the Facebook auction. And that really helped us over the last couple of years. So we’re going to keep it going. 

Corey McCusker  20:50
Do you still do the calendar each year? 

Lorraine Houston  20:52
Oh, yes, yes, yes, that’s right. So every year since, for about 10 years now, we’ve been doing a calendar. And most people might think, ‘Oh, who needs a calendar?’ Because we have our smartphones, or we have it right at our fingertips. But you’d be surprised how many people like to have the calendar hung up in their office or in their work or in their kitchen. And so it’s still going strong. I’m glad you brought that up. So this year, we did another calendar, and it was another home run on the calendar. So that was good. And we do hockey tickets. That was another great response. So we’re always trying to think, we’re really lucky, like very lucky, because we have great friends and donors and supporters who give us you know, Leaf gold tickets and Facebook items, all kinds of things. So it really keeps us moving forward. Because if a dog comes up to our attention, please, speaking of dogs, can you help this dog and then we read, the dog is 13, needs bedding, needs X-rays and bloodwork, and they need expensive dental. I think it’s important for us to know that we have the money to say yes. And we don’t have to try and put a GoFundMe page up or something. 

Corey McCusker  22:15

Lorraine Houston  22:16
So we’re very responsible that way. And our Board wants us to make sure that, that if we speak for a medical case, that’s going to be costly that we have the money. And we’ve just you know, we’ve had a fundraiser, we’ve got the money. Let’s take that dog. Let’s help that dog.

Corey McCusker  22:30
Yeah. And that’s great. That’s great. And I just wanted to talk about your process because I was really impressed when I went through to put my application in for Skye that we had. Now, I mean, yes, there was, you knew me, from the dog world and that so I mean, but what I was really impressed was the process. You were very thorough, you made sure even though I was a dog person that, you know, my references were called. My vet was called. I went and met the pup. You wanted to see what my home was like to make sure that I had the right, you know, fenced-in area so my puppy wouldn’t get out. So I was really very impressed with the thoroughness that Speaking of Dogs went through and making sure that you know, these dogs that go into your care are going into the right home because you did mention, you know how people should be honest and authentic. And I’ll even say me going through it, I was like, ‘what if we don’t get accepted?’ I’m just like, ‘I’m so nervous’. But no –  but we have her now. She’s wonderful. And I just can’t say enough about the work that you and your teams do. Because I mean, you are just doing wonderful work for these dogs that really need a home. And and I just want to thank you for taking the time today. If somebody wanted to know more about Speaking of Dogs, or wanted to find out what dogs are available, or the application, what’s the process?

Lorraine Houston  23:51
Okay, great. The process of for adoption or for being a volunteer, and may I just take this time to add when you were talking about the adoption process, I just want to say how blessed we are to have so many amazing volunteers on our team in general, but also on our adoption team. We have screeners, we have people who call the references, we have a great process as you’ve said. Now, if you want to get in touch with us or want to know more about us then our website is speakingofdogs.com. If you want to visit the dogs, you can also go to that website, speakingofdogs.com, and you’ll see Adoption Dogs. Just click there and then you can see our dogs. Or if you want to visit our Forever and Foster dogs, you can also see them at that same site. We have a newsletter you might like to look at. We have a donation page and the girls, again, great volunteer team of folks take care of our website and they really jazzed it up. So I hope that your listeners will visit us when they have time.

Corey McCusker  24:56
For sure. Okay, that’s great. And what I’ll make sure is in the show notes for this episode that we will put those links there so that they can go there. But, you’ve mentioned a number of things, donations, not only monetary, but there’s things that you’re always looking for to help with the dogs coming into your care. Volunteering is another way. Fostering – if you qualify, and you’re the right fit, and that you could help out the dogs. And then even just having these fundraisers or going to these fundraisers. Purchasing the calendars. I mean, there’s so many ways that people can help. And I think you know, it just whether it’s your time, money, or your donations of material things, it just, it goes to the cause. And I just want to thank you, again, Lorraine, for what you and your team do at Speaking of Dogs. Because I do think it’s a great thing. I mean, all the shelters and rescues out there. I mean, there’s so many dogs that need a home, or need care. And you know, you’ve mentioned just the re-homing, or the seniors that go into a nursing home and they can’t take their dog. So, you know, just thank you so much for what you and your team do. 

Lorraine Houston  26:02
And thanks so much for having us. 

Corey McCusker  26:04
Yeah, so I just want to thank everybody for joining us today. And if you want to know more, or listen to other podcasts, you can visit our website at www.muttzwithmannerz.com. And if you need to get in touch with us, if you have any questions you can email Corey, myself, corey@muttzwithmannerz.com. So thank you for joining us today. I really want to thank Lorraine for sharing with us what Speaking of Dogs does, and the dogs that they help and what they’ve been all about. And just thanks, everybody and have a great day. Thanks, Lorraine.

Lorraine Houston  26:42
Thank you.


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