The first 24 hours of an animal rescue

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Welcome to my world.  I operate Dog LoCo Rescue, saving dogs from a high-kill shelter in Palmdale, CA.  My work starts once the dogs arrive in Portland.

Two new arrivals will be here soon — please join me in experiencing their first 24 hours.        

* * *

The dogs are on their way, and I anxiously await their arrival.  I’ve seen a picture or two, but nothing beats seeing them for the first time!

Part of the routine, for the transporter and I, is agreeing on a meetup time and place.  Sometimes — like tonight — she takes pity on me and comes directly to my house.  Here she is now . . .

“Hi Lori, we made good time this trip!” she greets me with a smile.  She looks tired but pleased.   She pulls in and steps out, leaving the engine running while rifling through a sheaf of paperwork to find mine.

 “You sure did!  I wasn’t expecting you for a few more hours.”  I ask if she’s going on to Seattle or if this is the end of the line for her night.

Bentley wears a face common to new arrivals: scared, sad and withdrawn.

Bentley wears a face common to new arrivals: scared, sad and withdrawn.

“I still have about 30 dogs,” she gestures toward the van.  From here she’ll meet other rescues in Blaine. 

Opening the back she pulls two crates marked Lori Cory, Portland, OR.  My doggies!

The streetlight illuminates two cute little shaggy dogs, their long toenails clutching the grates as they gaze through hair falling over their eyes.

“They’re so cute!”  I take each from its crate and, while uncertain, they cling to me.  “Thank you for getting them here safely . . . . Wowza, they smell!” I wrinkle my nose.

The transporter chuckles, nodding.  “I know.” 

I take the paperwork, say goodbye, and head in with a dog in each arm.  “I’ll paypal you the transport fee once I get them settled,” I call.  “Sounds good,” she replies, pulling out. 

I carry my gems in and straight through to the back door, plopping them in the grass to do their business.  They need no coaxing and I swear I can hear them sigh with relief.  A few more squats and lifts and they begin to investigate their new digs. 

Soon my own dogs come out.  Curious about the newbies, a conga line of back-end sniffing forms as acquaintances are made.  My boys eagerly find and mark new smells in the grass.  

It’s late and an upstairs room awaits, ready with beds, blankets, toys, food and water.  They’ll spend their first night there, and while it’s unfamiliar, it’s quiet and cozy, and they have each other.

Calling them to come in, they linger, shifting and shuffling.  They paw at the deck.  They lay down. 

“Hello!  It’s cold!”  I exclaim.  “Come have some num-nums.”  While mine know “num-nums,” our visitors gaze blankly, hanging back just beyond the door. 

Day 2: Bentley is still withdrawn and uncertain...but not for long.

Day 2: Bentley is still withdrawn and uncertain...but not for long.

Crouching to their level, I even try baby talk.  “Come on you little cutie patooties, come on.”  I clap and hold my hands out for them.  Nope.  They gaze back trembling, still unsure. 

One at a time I approach them gently, and though they flatten themselves on the deck they allow me to pick them up.  Inside they scamper and slip across the unfamiliar hardwood floor.  After 17 hours in transport they eagerly drink and eat.

Smooth floors, a warm house, a kind touch, food and fresh water in bowls are all new to them — signaling they’ve been living outside.  I’ve learned the signs from witnessing this scenario over and over (and over) again, and from my rescue partner, who knows their origins.  These beauties came from Los Angeles, the Sunshine State, where excess and self-love collide, yet dogs are made to live outside. 

Naming the babies is part of the job, and these two will be Kingston and Bentley.  Finding they’re unfamiliar with stairs I carry them up and settle them in for the night.  I linger to ensure they’re okay, and after finding a spot, rooting and nesting in the blankets, they are fast asleep. 


Good morning!  Outside we go! 

In the light of day, they discover the two-tiered backyard — fun!  Below is open lawn, inviting them to run free.  Above are trees, old bark dust, and crunchy fallen leaves — perfect for hiding!  The top tier is also good for gazing up at the phone lines, a popular thoroughfare for squirrels.

Some newbies realize the backyard makes a great racetrack.  Those who don’t are happily shown by the residents.  A game of chase ensues, the pups flying across level grass, navigating stones and dirt to the upper level.  They zig and zag, fly across the yard, and joyfully start all over again. 

This game thrills me, as the players actually seem to be smiling… possibly for the first time.

Once the game ends — often when the chasee tires of being chased — the dogs rest, panting, the new arrivals taking in their surroundings.  My eyes fill, as does my heart.   

The dogs play for several hours, wrestling, running, ducking, chasing and playing ball.  Everyone is accepted, everyone gets along.

Mid-afternoon — time to go to the vet.  Grabbing their paperwork, I load Bentley and Kingston into the car.  The rearview reveals that while peaceful in the crate, they’re huddled together in a corner. 

Feeling more safe after a few days, Bentley's true colors begin to shine - he's all smiles!

Feeling more safe after a few days, Bentley's true colors begin to shine - he's all smiles!

Lugging them in, staff greet us eagerly, anxious to see the latest rescues.  “Hi Lor-Cor!” they call happily. 

“Hey everyone!” I reply, setting the crate on the floor.

“And who are these cuties?  Naomi asks.

I make the introductions and Naomi takes the paperwork to start their file.

Waiting in the exam room, I watch the pair emerge cautiously and sniff around the room.  I wonder if they know how lucky they are.  More importantly, how special.  Do they know they are safe now?  I think they do. 

Soon enough, they’ll learn to cross the threshold into the house.  They’ll be confident enough to use the stairs.  They’ll learn to eat from a dish and not the floor.  Soon, they’ll even ask for cuddles and attention when they want them. 

In short, they will learn to be dogs.  

In the first 24 hours, new life begins.

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Lori Cory lives in SW Portland with her husband, Dave, their 4 dogs, and numerous fosters saved from death row.  In her spare time, Lori writes about her many dog adventures and operates Dog LoCo Rescue, a small-breed rescue she founded in 2010.