The Following Dogs Have Been Featured on
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Meet our very first featured Mutt and our Mutt's Coffee ambassador, Pokey. Pokey's original name was Purdy and she was rescued alongside her sister Elsa in summer of 2019. The two had been reported by employees of a local business after they were spotted foraging the area for food scraps. Pokey was severely malnourished and was bow legged as a result. Almost all of her fur was missing due to severe mange: a skin disease caused by parasitic mites. The photo below is of Pokey and Elsa after being rescued.
Pokey was fostered by FSFP volunteer Ashley and she and her family worked hard to bring Pokey back to good health. Her severe mange required routine medicated shampoo baths.
With some tender loving care, Pokey became healthy enough to make her big trip out to Oregon where she was fostered and eventually adopted (foster failed) by Jaclyn and Mark, founders of Mutt's Coffee. Pokey will never again have to worry about finding food in a forest. She will only ever know a life of love, treats, toys, naps, belly rubs, adventures in the Pacific Northwest and hotdogs, her favorite training treat.
Photo Courtesy of FSFP
Photo courtesy of Ashley
Photo Courtesy of FSFP
Elsa was a little harder to catch than Pokey was. But once she was rescued, she was able to be reunited with Pokey before Pokey left for her 3,000 mile journey out to Portland, OR. Elsa stayed behind for several more weeks and continued treatment in the care of her Alabama foster, Ashley. When she was well enough, she too took her big journey out west. She was reunited with Pokey a second time and was fostered by Jaclyn and Mark (founders of Mutt's Coffee). It was a joyous reunion and the two spent about a month together before Elsa went on to be adopted. You can watch a short video of their reunion here.
Elsa was adopted in November, 2019 right in time for the holidays. She is living out her best days with her family in Portland, OR. Before the pandemic, her and Pokey got together for a playdate and hope to have more in the future.
photo courtesy of Ashley
Photo Courtesy of Ashley
photo courtesy of Ashley
Ringo was rescued in spring of 2020 after spending several years as a homeless dog. At 7 years old, he would wonder the area of Haleyville, AL and rely on kind hearted strangers to feed him. A local resident by the name of Mary rescued Ringo and cared for him until Free State Four Paws had an opening. FSFP foster volunteer Lisa P. took over caring for Ringo until he was ready to make his big trip north to Spot's Last Stop in Twin Cities, Minnesota.
Ringo, a "beautiful boy with chipmunk cheeks," graced the cover of FSFP's facebook business page during the month of May. With one ear standing straight up and the other flopped over and a rather serious expression, it was a photo that became loved by many, including Ringo's soon to be adoptive family. Ringo landed his forever home soon after arriving in Minnesota and is now living his best life as "Murray." He recently had his first big snow day. You can watch the video of Murray's reaction here. Murray will no longer have to survive the streets and instead, will only know a life of love, security, and adventures! Here is to you Murray! You tell that snow who is boss.
Photo courtesy of FSFP
Photo courtesy of Murray's family
Meet Goliath, a 135 pound handsome St. Bernard who had a rough start in life. Goliath, like so many Winston County strays, was abandoned when his original owners no longer wanted him. Without a local county shelter, there is no place for owners to take and surrender their pets so they simply dump them off on the sides of rural roads. Goliath was now an orphan and unfortunately, his presence was not welcome.
Word got out that Goliath needed rescue after a neighbor complained about not being able to feed him and threatened to harm Goliath if someone did not come retrieve him. Free State Four Paws jumped into action and Goliath was picked up by volunteer Kerrie. Johnna (founder of Free State Four Paws) fostered Goliath and was with him every step of the way through his recovery.
Goliath had one of the worst cases of ticks that his vet had ever seen. And if that wasn't already bad enough, Goliath was heartworm positive. Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal disease and can be easily prevented with routine heartworm medication. Dogs who are heartworm positive or who are undergoing treatment, have to stay in rescue longer and need a lengthy financial commitment. This unfortunately is not uncommon as many of the dogs that FSFP take in are heartworm positive.
Luckily, Goliath started treatment right away and when he was healthy again, he and Johnna said a sweet goodbye before he headed out of Alabama and north to New York where he was welcomed by A Good Dog Rescue where a qualified adoptive family had been patiently awaiting his arrival.
Goliath finally has a home to call his own where he is surrounded by the love and adoration of his family. From orphaned to adopted, thanks to Free State Four Paws and A Good Dog Rescue, Goliath has a second lease on life.
Coffee Bag Label
Courtesy of FSFP
Goliath on Rescue Day, April 2020
Coffee Bag Label
Meet Merle, a local stray who was found in pretty rough shape. Merle had been attacked multiple times by other dogs and was covered in puncture wounds. Free State Four Paw volunteers Nell and Anita got him off the streets as quickly as possible and brought him to the local vet where his injuries could be treated. Upon examination, it was discovered that Merle had a broken hip which would require Femoral Head Ostectomy surgery the next day. Merle also tested positive for heartworm but would need to wait to start treatment until after he had recovered from his operation.
After a successful surgery, Merle spent several months recovering in the care of his amazing fosters: Ashley and Melanie, which if their names sound familiar, it is because they were the same FSFP volunteers who fostered Pokey and Elsa (our first two featured mutts). FSFP is 100% volunteer based and the work they do is often accomplished by a small team of members.
When Merle’s wounds were healed, heartworm treatment was complete, and he was recovered from surgery, he began the next chapter of his life. He was transported up north to A Good Dog Rescue in New York where he was soon adopted by a loving family.
Merle’s rescue story truly encompasses the depths of rescue work. From hiding and cowering behind a house to living the good life in the company of his very own family, there were key players in each stage of his rescue that deserve recognition. Thank you to everyone who played their part in rescuing Merle and allowing him a second chance at a life more suited for our wonderful canine friends.
Merle's Coffee bag label
Beautiful Merle, photo courtesy of FSFP
Merle's New Life, photo courtesy of FSFP
Merle's Coffee bag label
It’s undeniable what the first thing is that people notice about Dixie Doo. Her Ears. Charlie from All Dogs Go to Heaven, Gizmo from the Gremlins, Yoda from Star Wars, Scooby Doo, Bertrille from the Flying Nun… these are just a few from a long list of comparisons that people will say that Dixie Doo’s ears remind them of.
And having a dog with remarkable ears is bound to win over the hearts of many on social media. Dixie Doo, who has her very own PO box to keep up with her fan mail and has become an internet sensation in recent months on platforms like Instagram and TikTok where her videos have been watched over 6 million times. A recent letter from a fan reads, “Greetings from Portland! Thank you for sharing your dog’s lives with us! Our sweet boy died in June. It’s been tough but following dogs on Instagram has been comforting. [...] Dixie, we can’t wait ‘til you take flight" and included in the letter is a beautiful black and white hand drawing of Dixie.
But behind those larger than life ears and a remarkable smile, is a dog who has touched the hearts of her family for the last 12 years. A dog that can pull off a pretty dramatic “play dead” trick; a dog that likes to sneak bits of POP-TART crust, her absolute favorite treat, from her owner Danielle; a dog who is pretty low key most of the time and enjoys long naps on her dog bed; and a dog who shares her space with a few other rescues: Muta, a 2 year old rescue pitbull and Alfie, a 4 year old chocolate lab.
But Dixie is more than a dog with incredulous ears, she is also a fighter.
Her story began 12 years ago on a cold January winter night, somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia on a farm, where her mother gave birth to a litter of puppies. Not a whole lot is known about the conditions of that night but one thing we do know is that Dixie Doo was the only puppy to have survived the cold: her littermates had all succumbed to the elements. We also know that Dixie Doo’s mom was a german shepherd and that her dad was a bloodhound.
Dixie Doo ended up being taken by a friend of the family around 6 months of age but after a few days, that friend had a change of heart about keeping Dixie Doo and handed her over to Danielle’s brother who was a teenager at the time. Danielle’s brother snuck Dixie Doo into the family home in the middle of the night and a few hours later, Danielle remembers being woken up to the question of, “Danielle, what’s in the living room?” by her father. Full of excitement, 13 year old Danielle ran out of her bedroom and into the living room where she laid eyes on Dixie Doo for the first time. “Dad, that’s a dog. Can we keep her?” she asked.
And as these things sometimes go, one parent is on board with the new, sudden addition to the family, while the other remains ambivalent. And when you have teenagers, that place of apprehension is a place of knowing that you yourself will have to walk the dog, feed the dog, and care for the dog when the “jazz” of a new dog eventually wears off and the teenagers go back to their normal, teenage lives. So for mom it was a hard “no.”
But Danielle was determined to change her mom’s mind. Dixie Doo had come with the name “Dixie” and Danielle’s mom took a liking to the name so Danielle’s logic was that if her mom got to decide on the name, she would eventually come around to the idea of keeping the dog. And she did. Danielle’s mom eventually turned that hard “no” to a soft “yes” and it was official, Dixie was now a member of Danielle’s family. The “doo” part of Dixie’s name came later on as a reference to the beloved cartoon character Scooby Doo, and Danielle says that on most days, she calls her “Doo” more than ‘Dixie."
Danielle is now 25 and has a little family of her own which Dixie Doo is the most senior member of. She says that Dixie has changed her life, not only because Dixie was her first dog and her first major responsibility, but also that Dixie’s gentle demeanor and friendliness towards everyone she meets is a model of behavior that Danielle herself tries to strive for.
We asked Danielle what she would like people to take away from Dixie Doo’s story and this is what she said:
"I would like you to take away that she’s adopted. She has a rough past. We worked through some things but I now couldn’t have a more perfect dog. She’s a mutt and has giant ears. Give the goofy looking ones a chance! Before you go out and buy that [sic]$5,000 glorified mutt that pet stores are selling that came from a puppy mill, go to a few animal shelters to visit and look around. I promise your new friend will be so loyal and you’re saving a life.”
We couldn’t agree more with this sentiment and here at Mutt’s Coffee we too believe that mutts and rescues are some of the very best dogs you will ever meet. As for the other puppies from that litter that didn’t make it? Well, we think about them too. We wonder what the small gesture of allowing Dixie's mom to have her puppies in a warm, safe place would have done. Would they too have had remarkable ears and gone on to touch the lives of everyone they ever met? We will never know but we do know that we are thankful that Dixie Doo made it and she now graces our lives with her big ears and even bigger smile and can be an ambassador for rescue dogs everywhere.
Thank you to Danielle for submitting Dixie’s story to us. If you would like more Dixie Doo in your life, you can follow her on her Instagram Page or on her TikTok @pack_of_crazies
Designed by Jaclyn L.
Courtesy of Danielle
Courtesy of Danielle
Designed by Jaclyn L.
When I first saw a photo of Jada, she immediately reminded me of the dog Chance from Homeward Bound. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a wonderful tale about three house pets who find themselves lost in the wild countryside after escaping their pet sitter’s ranch in an effort to find their real family who they think has abandoned them. The plot unfolds as Shadow, the wise and more level headed golden retriever, Sassy, the posh Himalayan feline, and Chance, the young, trouble making American bulldog work together to find their way home. Chance’s character easily becomes a fan favorite, not only because his voice over is performed by the incredible Michael J. Fox, but because his mischievous, spontaneous personality gets the crew into all sorts of trouble like run-ins with irritated bears and defensive porcupines.
Above all, what I found especially remarkable about this fictional movie is that Chance’s character is a rescue. The little background we know of Chance is that he was abandoned as a puppy, picked up by the county and placed into a county animal shelter. Chance was eventually adopted by a family who gave him a "chance." The movie is in first person (from the perspective of Chance), and throughout it he refers to the dog pound as “the bad place.” Some of my earliest notions of dog rescue came from this movie as I understood even as a child that “the bad place,” or the county shelter, was not a place where all dog’s had good endings; that once in the dog pound, some dogs made it and some didn’t and the ones that did, were at the complete mercy of their adoptive families.
In addition to the movie’s PG introduction to the concept of euthanizing dogs, it also illuminated the beauty of the American Bulldog, and not as a vicious, hardened, teeth bearing, over protective dog, but as a gentle, sweet, and fun dog who unequivocally loves his family and, despite his quirks and trouble making moments, is loved and adored by his family.
Perhaps the hardest realization to make about this movie is that it was released in 1993, which to really make us all feel old, was 27 years ago. And as much as I wish I could tell you that things are a lot different today when it comes to dog rescue and that “the bad place” is no longer a crippling fate for thousands of dogs in America every day, it simply would not be true.
In fact, places like Winston County, AL are without even a single county shelter. There are no local government sourced or funded alternatives either, aside from the one animal control officer who is also shared with the next county over. Imagine if you found a dog walking down your road without tags. What would you do? Would you take the dog home? Maybe you’d post it to a lost dog group or ask around if anyone knows whose dog it is. But when you are only met with “I don’t know” and “it isn’t my dog,” then what? Do you keep it? What if you can’t? Well whatever you do, you can’t turn it over to the county shelter because there isn’t one. The option simply does not exist.
The issue of no local county animal shelter is not unique to Winston County. The issue comes down to money and some states like Tennessee, do not have laws that require every county within the state to have a working animal shelter. This can be felt the hardest by counties that lack the available funding unlike their more metropolitan counterparts. With this in mind, it was no surprise when I saw this petition crop up for Avery County, North Carolina, which according to the author of the petition, is the only county in North Carolina without an animal shelter.
And though Chance from Homeward Bound may be pleased to know that there are no “bad places” in some counties across America, it is absolutely essential that every county has the most basic animal facility available for its local residents. Why? What if you can’t take every stray dog home that you come across? Maybe you took one, and then a month later you took another but eventually it puts a strain on your personal finances so you start driving past that wandering dog, avoiding eye contact as you go along so you don’t have to feel that sharp, piercing reality of a lost animal, desperately trying to find its next meal. And what happens if you find an injured dog? A feral dog? A pregnant dog? Or perhaps you find a stray who hasn’t been fixed? What will happen if there aren’t any local spay/neuter programs available? What happens when with every litter, you now have 3-10 more hungry, homeless dogs? And above all else, what happens when a dog isn’t homeless but isn’t being well taken care of? That is where we circle back to Jada’s story.
Jada was rescued right off a cable. A cable that not only limited her physical movements but also hindered Jada from living the life she deserved: one with decency, predictability, safety, respect and reliability. Her owners surrendered her to Free State Four Paws last year (2020). She was fostered by foster volunteer Marjorie and sent to A Good Dog Rescue in New York.
If you’ve wondered why the dogs that FSFP rescues are routinely sent out of state, it’s because this is an intentional part of the dog’s rescue plan. FSFP worries that if dogs are adopted locally, they may wind up back in similar situations of owner neglect or abandonment and thus would need rescue commitments all over again. The solution? Transport their dogs to out-of-state dog rescues in their network and specifically to places where there is more balance to the people and animal population- places with not only more people and thus more adoption prospects, but to counties that have a better hold on their local stray population.
And if you live here in Portland, OR, how many times have you personally seen a wandering dog? Was it a local stray or an escaped pet? And when your neighbor has kept their dog on a cable or chain all day and all night without adequate shelter from the elements, what do you do? Fortunate for us, our local county animal control facility also has a department dedicated to investigating animal abuse and neglect complaints. So if you see a Jada on a chain in someone’s backyard, you can pick up a phone to report it to and rest easy knowing that the county will most likely handle it.
That isn’t to say that our cities here in Oregon are without issues. Some of our counties are more aggressive at keeping their euthanasia rates lower than others. But counties like Multnomah County have made incredible strides in the last decade to not only drop their euthanasia rates but to really take advantage of Portland’s dog loving, dog friendly culture. Portland after all, is a city where every coffeeshop leaves a bowl of water out for their customer’s dogs and many keep jars of dog biscuits by their pickup counter so you can pocket a treat for your Fido on your way out the door. It’s this general attitude towards canines that has allowed Portland to always make the “Top 10 Most Pet Friendly Cities” often coming in at #1.
And this is really why the Free State Four Paws rescue model works so well: you send a dog like Jada to a place with a strong dog friendly culture and you are bound to find a family that will adopt Jada and love her like a real member of their family. And that is exactly what happened. Jada had a ton of interest! The good folks who run A Good Dog Rescue worked through the numerous adoption applications and Jada was able to quickly find a family that welcomed her, not as a lawn ornament on a chain but as a true member of the household.
We wanted to use Jada’s story as a way to take you closer to some of the behind the scenes looks of problems presented in the dog rescue world. At Mutt’s Coffee, we believe that awareness is everything and we hope that with each story we bring you, you can walk away with one more piece of information that you might not have had previously and perhaps use that piece of information as a catalyst to help continue making this world a better place for all animals.
We encourage you to become familiar with your own state laws when it comes to policies like animal shelter requirements and tethering laws and to research your local county's euthanasia rates. In the meantime, we vow to continue to use these stories as a way to provide additional information and outlooks as to what is happening in the dog rescue communities across the United States.
Jada's Coffee Label
Photo courtesy of FSFP
Jada's Coffee Label
When I look at a photo of Charlie, there is something about him that takes me back to my childhood. Call me a 90’s kid but I can’t help but think of the movie Air Bud. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a made-for-children movie about a friendly golden retriever who is an exceptionally athletic and agile dog and can spring through the air and dunk basketballs into hoops.
The plot has two competing narratives that are pretty common in the canine portraying cinematic industry: one being that the dog has exceptional talents and qualities, in this case athleticism, and the second being the developing bond that forms and grows between the protagonists: a 12 year old boy and a shelter dog that was adopted shortly after the boy’s father dies.
Neither narratives are too far fetched, no matter how dramatized the dunking scenes in Air Bud may be. Most dogs that I have encountered throughout my life are capable of being exceptionally good at something, even if that something is simply being a lazy house pet.
There is just something nostalgic about the golden retriever so when we see a photo of Charlie, we can’t help but to smile. Charlie is the reinforcer for why us dog lovers love dogs in the first place. The quintessential golden retriever has become the unofficial American poster dog: a dog known for his fun and adventurous spirit, sharp intelligence, the regal stance that we see in almost all of Charlie’s photos, and his unequivocal loyalty to his family. The golden retriever is American apple pie.
When I first read Charlie’s story, I became very emotional. It was a few days away from Christmas and I was sifting through stories that had been submitted to us through Instagram and when I reached Charlie’s, I had to stop and take a break. It took me a few days to really process the entirety of Charlie’s story. I have read a lot of dog stories but this one really got to me and it was important for me to understand why that was.
Charlie’s story, the way we know it, began early in the morning on a frigid, winter day in Charlotte, North Carolina on the side of a road where he was slowly freezing to death. We of course know his full story started at least a year and a half earlier than that but that part of his life is largely unknown. Charlie had been struck by a vehicle and though conscious, was motionless. It was clear that he had been lying there for some time as his coat was completely soaked through from the snow that surrounded him. This was not a low traffic road and it is hard to imagine how many cars drove by Charlie, looking his way only to keep going. “He is dead. There is not anything I can do to help him anyway,” they might have thought.
Eventually, two pedestrians walking by spotted Charlie and immediately called for help. They kept him as warm as they could with their sweatshirts and jackets until a driver pulled over and offered to transport them to a nearby animal hospital. It was upon examination that the extent of Charlie’s injuries were truly understood: he was cut, scraped, gashed, and broken. Charlie’s pelvis had been fractured in three locations and would require an immediate and very expensive surgery- around $5,000. The pedestrians who found Charlie had a friend who was an animal rescuer and that friend took on the responsibility of allocating care over Charlie. They set up a gofundme and Charlie’s story took off. People from all around the world were donating money so Charlie could hopefully one day walk again.
The gofundme coupled with local news coverage, social media, and this article from the Dodo allowed Charlie’s story to reach an extensive audience. It was assumed during that time that Charlie’s owners would indeed come forward, wanting their dog back. Perhaps he just escaped the backyard and ran down the road before darting in front of a vehicle? Whatever the case, no one ever stepped forward and Charlie was officially an orphan in search of an adoptive family.
Before we move on from this part of Charlie’s story, we just want to take a quick moment to say this: to the two pedestrians walking by, to the older gentleman that stopped to provide a medical transport, to the friend who took over caregiving for Charlie and facilitated the gofundme and his adoption, to the members at the animal hospital who worked on Charlie, and to everyone who donated to Charlie’s gofundme: thank you. You all are our kind of people. Your kindness towards Charlie worked as a counterbalance to the motorist who hit Charlie and quickly fled the scene, the motorists and possible pedestrians who saw Charlie but never thought to pull over or stop and help, and to the assumed owner who never came forward, wanting their dog back or admitting responsibility for Charlie’s care.
The next chapter of Charlie’s story is Lexie’s story too. Lexie had been keeping a close watch on Charlie’s story, ever since she caught wind of it. She was profoundly moved by Charlie’s unwillingness to give up and his endless ability to smile for every photo taken of him at the animal hospital. When he became available for adoption, she eagerly submitted an application, along with hundreds of other hopeful applicants. Lexie too had her doubts that she would be “the one” so you can imagine her surprise when she was contacted by the rescue overseeing Charlie’s adoption. Of all the applications they had received, they had picked hers! After a two hour interview discussing the ins and outs of Charlie’s needs, they scheduled a meet-and-greet. “It was love at first sight! The moment I saw his smile, I knew this dog would steal my heart and change my world,” says Lexie.
Adopting Charlie would not be easy. He would not be able to walk without assistance and had little use in his leg. He would need to go to physical therapy twice a week, walk on a water treadmill, and have laser treatments. But this did not deter Lexie one bit. She showed up for every appointment and cheered Charlie on with every step he made. Her love and commitment coupled with Charlie’s strength and happy-go-lucky spirit allowed Charlie to overcome his physical limitations. And though the physical scars were healing, Charlie still had emotional trauma from the accident. Lexie worked with a dog trainer to help Charlie build confidence and overcome his fear of loud noises. Every part of Charlie’s comprehensive treatment plan was conquered. It was undeniable: Charlie and Lexie made the perfect team!
It’s been 4 years since Charlie was hit by a car and fast forward to now, he has had quite the life! Just a year after his accident, he set paws on the beach for the first time. That was a memory that Lexie holds close to her heart: watching him run up and down the beach, chasing waves, and having the time of his life, knowing that just a year prior he could not walk. Charlie currently resides in Iowa with Eisenhower and Timber (bernese mountain dogs), Kansas (a chihuahua mix, and Gus, a horse! He loves apples, peanut butter, and hikes in the snow.
Charlie’s story has a good ending and I know most of you would be mad at me if it didn’t. So why was Charlie’s story especially hard for me to write about? Well, to me Charlie is Apple Pie. He is the quintessential good boy; the loving, devoted, regal, loyal, intelligent, best friend, super sidekick. He is the Air Buds and the Shadows (see last week’s story) of the world. When Charlie was struck by that car, he deserved respect. When people saw him and kept going, he deserved dignity. What could have been understood as an unavoidable accident when an animal suddenly darts across the road, was instead understood as an abandonment of personal responsibility. What some people saw as an injured, scared animal in pain, others saw as an obstacle of getting to work on time.
Perhaps emotions run high when you have your own pack of dogs. You read a story like Charlie’s and can’t help but imagine your own dog lying on the side of the road, scared, panicked, unable to move, and unsure of what to do, meanwhile, people passing by without hesitation. It begs the question, what can we do to get people to care more? How do we get people to stop and help?
Charlie’s story is similar to many stories in that we see the one act of a bad person, outnumbered by the many actions of several good people. For every dog abandoned in Winston County, AL a member of Free State Four Paws swoops in and pulls that dog off the streets. That dog then goes on to be loved and well cared for, for all its remaining years.
But after a while, it begins to feel like a cycle with a specific format: injured, abandoned, or neglected dog is rescued, dog is rehabilitated and brought back to good health, dog is adopted, dog has a good life now. It’s a story with a sad start and a feel-good finish. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could break that cycle? What if we could chip away at that format and remove the bad start to every rescue dog’s story? How?
Change. A change of heart. A change of mind. A change in attitude. A change in laws. It would take a whole lot of change on both a local and universal level. It’s turning apathy into empathy; selfishness into altruism. It’s as complex as reshaping our cultural understanding of human to canine relationships and as simple as helping the lost dog find its way home. It’s a lot of things but none of them are outside the bounds of possibility.
One dog at a time. One cause at a time. One story at a time.
A special thanks to Lexie for allowing us to share Charlie's story and photos. You can keep up with Charlie, Lexie, and their whole crew of rescues by following them here.
Charlie's Coffee Label captures bout his spirit of adventure and his fearlessness
courtesy of Lexie
courtesy of Lexie
Charlie's Coffee Label captures bout his spirit of adventure and his fearlessness
It was not once, not twice, but three times that Jubilee made her way over to a neighbor's house, no small feat for a puppy who was only several months old at the time. And each time she did, the neighbor reluctantly helped Jubilee back to her home, frustrated that her owners weren’t keeping a better eye on her. Each time she was returned, her owners shrugged off any concern at the thought of a young puppy walking freely without supervision. Their apathy towards Jubilee eventually turned into an owner surrender: “we don’t want her,” they said.
The neighbor was relieved that little Jubilee wouldn’t be going back. It was cold and she was so small. It was really a wonder that she made her way around at that age, the way she did. They got in touch with Amber with Fighting Chance Ranch and Rescue, a local animal rescue just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and without hesitation, Amber took Jubilee in. It didn’t take long for Amber to learn that Jubilee was both deaf and blind. Knowing this, it was even harder to imagine how little Jubilee made her way around at such a young age without any help or supervision. Of all the places she could have wandered off to, it is incredible that she fell into the right hands- someone who genuinely cared about her well being and safety.
Amber immediately began working hard to acclimate Jubilee to a household shared with six other resident dogs. The first few nights were hard for Jubilee- she was understandably scared- but she quickly found a warm, safe spot that she claimed as her own, right next to Amber’s husband on the living room couch.
Amber began training Jubilee the basics like “sit” and “down” using touch and Jubilee was quick to learn them. Jubilee was finally starting to feel at home at Fighting Chance Ranch and Rescue: a sanctuary for horses, miniature ponies, and goats, some who were slaughterhouse rescues.
Amber and her husband have been running their rescue since summer of 2020. In less than a year's time, she has taken in and adopted out around 50 dogs, most of them local strays, owner surrenders, or pulled from local shelters. Her devotion to helping animals is undeniable.
And like so many people we meet in the dog rescue communities, Amber tends to gravitate towards the more special cases and some of those special cases go on to become permanent members of the nuclear household. It was no surprise to learn that Jubilee became an official member of Amber’s family, or what we like to call a “foster fail” in the rescue community.
In the dog rescue world, some dogs are just harder to find commitments for. Albeit misconceptions, cultural taboos, or general worry of the time and cost of special care requirements, some dogs wait longer than others in hopes that someone will come along and look past the color of their fur, their age, their missing limb, their physical disability, or their visual or hearing impairment. The excuses range from “black dogs are bad luck” to “I just want an easy dog.” And though we would be doing a disservice to try to convince you that dogs like Jubilee are like every other dog, we also acknowledge that dogs like Jubilee are no less capable of loving and are just as deserving of being loved.
Jubilee is 100% puppy. She is spunky, adventurous, curious, quizzatory, affectionate, and intelligent. She does what most dogs do best: she is making discoveries about the world around her through her nose. Jubilee is not the exception in that she won’t be able to navigate the world without human intervention and oversight- even dogs who can see and hear their world will follow their noses, even if their nose takes them straight into a busy street because the neighborhood cat is nearby. Canines rely on olfactory sensory information as much as humans rely on sound and sight. Dogs have extraordinary noses and those noses have gone on to do extraordinary things: search and rescue, bomb detection, and even the ability to smell cancer in humans, just to name a few.
Living with a blind/deaf dog does require special considerations. Jubilee may never have quite the same range of freedom to roam the ranch as some of the other dogs-if she were to become lost, it wouldn’t be a matter of calling out to her for her to find her way back. Then there is the consideration of places in the house like stairs and ledges that could be dangerous to a dog who can’t see them.
One of the major differences is how hearing and sight impaired dogs interact with other dogs. In general, canines rely significantly on being able to read one another’s body language: the positioning of their tail, ears, head, eyes, and mouth send important signals to other dogs. A dog that growls while looking away might be “avoiding” or telling the other dog they aren’t interested in engagement. A dog that makes a play bow and has a loose tail moving side to side is motioning to the other dog that they are interested in play. For a dog who can’t see or hear, cues like bows and growls could therefore be easy to miss resulting in crossed boundaries or misunderstandings.
Differences aside, the most important thing to remember about Jubilee is that she does not know she is any different. “Dogs with special needs don’t know they are different,” says Amber. “It might be more of a challenge for us but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a chance.”
Jubilee’s name means “celebration” and when we think of dogs like Jubilee, we think of exactly that, a reason to celebrate. We celebrate the seniors, the tripods, the black dogs, the misfits, and the underdog. We celebrate dogs like Jubilee who keep us grounded and remind us every day that different is okay. Different is good.
At Mutt’s coffee, we have a saying: Misfits Make the Best Fits. We believe that taking on those special canine cases can be among the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. We believe that the bonds we have with our dogs are sacred and that all dogs are capable of a profound companionship with humans. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes it takes patience. Sometimes it is pushing ourselves past the culturally shaped and constructed definitions of words like “normal” and coming to an understanding that there is no such thing. It’s the understanding that every dog is one of a kind. A bond after all is that distinct ability to look at your dog and say, “that’s my dog.”
Finn starts his day with an early hike, one of his absolute favorite things to do! This allows him to burn off some early morning energy by running around and sniffing away at everything in his path. He then returns home and is given a quick bath so he is nice and clean. Next, he takes a nap so he is well rested and recharged. When Finn wakes up from his nap, he knows the day is about to become extra special because Tessa, Finn’s owner, has prepared a special outfit for Finn to wear: a matching Superman collar and leash and a red vest that slips on over Finn’s head and lays across his back that reads: “PET ME!” Finn becomes excited because he knows where it is he is about to head: The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) located in Los Angeles, CA.
It is a Saturday and the airport is buzzing with passengers and airport staff. People are coming and going, some are arriving, some are departing, and some are there to simply connect the two by offering airport services like security, shuttling, and airline support. LAX is the second busiest airport in the U.S. and the third busiest in the world: in 2019 over 88 million passengers passed through LAX with nearly 700,000 aircraft operations.
When Finn and Tessa arrive, they head to a designated spot where Finn will officially start his 1-2 hour shift. Almost immediately, a small crowd forms as everyone patiently waits a turn to pet Finn who has plopped down in the center of the terminal, anticipating the long line of belly rubs that can be expected. Around him, there are other dogs at work as well: service dogs who are assigned to individuals, other therapy dogs, and airport dogs who are specially trained to detect illegal paraphernalia. It really is magical, if you think about it. A place that we only ever think about when we need to travel somewhere, is also a place where these really special moments happen when dogs like Finn take to the terminals to make the idea of flying or being away from home, just a little less stressful. It’s a place where the expression of companionship between dogs and humans are both vivid and vibrant.
Tessa knew that Finn would be a good fit for therapy work from the time he was a puppy. She would take him to work with her and all of her co-workers would always stop by her desk so they could spend a quick break petting him and playing with him. Finn loved the attention! From an early age, he was also able to experience noises and structures (like elevators) that helped him become confident. Tessa knew that this confidence coupled with Finn’s seemingly endless desire for attention would make him a good candidate for therapy work.
Tessa and Finn are certified by Alliance of Therapy Dogs: a nationwide organization that just celebrated its 30th Anniversary. They volunteer as part of the Pets Unstressing Passengers program which now has over 100 teams. The focus of this program is to provide support to passengers who are feeling nervous, stressed, anxious, or scared about their flight.
I’ve always been fascinated by airports because every single person who walks through one has a unique story. Why are they there? Where are they going? Are they going somewhere fun? Is it for work? Are they visiting family? Returning home to family? Regardless of why someone is at an airport, we do know that every passenger has at least one thing in common and that is that they need to physically be moved through space and time from one place to another. Flying on an airplane can be a notion that brings about a lot of fear and anxiety for people.
Afterall, we are putting a lot of trust in technology, aerospace science and a small team of humans who we trust to push all the right buttons and levers and get us to where we need to go safely. Perhaps for some, it’s the feeling that once you step into a plane, you are surrendering all control and whatever happens is completely out of your hands- you are quite literally stationed in a giant metal tube, surrounded by strangers, and about to fly over entire states, countries, and even continents, as well as lakes, rivers, and oceans. It’s no surprise that aviophobia, or the fear of flying, is something that millions of people will experience in their lifetimes.
And for some, it may not be the flight that causes them anxiety as much as the events they know will take place once they land. Is it a stressful business meeting they are about to attend? Are they about to meet someone for the first time? Are they on their way to say goodbye to a loved one? An airport is undeniably a place where emotions can run high and “what ifs” can run untamed. So imagine the absolute delight when you see a beautiful dog with long golden locks of fur, and a tail pointed high, wagging back and forth with a giant “PET ME!” logo on his vest.
For many, in that moment of fear, nervousness, anxiety, stress, or uncertainty, Finn is exactly who they need to offer them just a little bit of comfort and a brief pause from what it is they are experiencing. Tessa says that everyone she and Finn have ever encountered have been truly appreciative of them being there. This Tessa says, is what makes the work so rewarding.
What I find fascinating and what I believe is very important to keep in mind is that Finn has his own agency that he can express during his work day. Tessa says that “just like humans, [therapy dogs] might not be feeling it on a certain day.” Tessa is trained to pay special attention to how Finn is feeling and acting in the event that she would need to cancel his work shift or head home early. Just like humans, Finn is allowed to take a day off from work. It’s important that the work that Finn is doing is fun for both him and the people who visit with him. I believe that many working dogs are exceptionally good at what they do because they thoroughly enjoy doing it. They are good at their jobs because it is rewarding for them as well.
We asked Tessa if there was anything that we could say to help clear up any misconceptions about the work that Finn does. Tessa wants everyone to know that Finn shares his space at the airport with many other working dogs, all with a variety of jobs. The dogs are not allowed to meet and mingle with one another and so if Tessa is in one area that another working dog like a police K9, bomb detecting, or another service dog enters, she will purposely relocate to another area so Finn and her do not interfere with the important jobs that they are doing.
If you are interested in getting involved with therapy work with your own dog, Tessa says it’s important to not rush the process, take time to work with your dog on obedience and mannerisms, and get to know them well so you can come to understand what personality traits they may have that would be a good match for different styles of therapy programs. For Finn, airport therapy was a good match because he enjoys having his belly rubbed which means people can sit down on the ground with him.
Thank you to Tessa for submitting Finn’s story and for allowing us to have an inside look at what it is like to be a therapy dog at one of the busiest airports in the world. You can keep up with Finn by following him on Instagram
(All photos are courtesy of Tessa).