Roo Yori: The K9 Ninja Warrior

As a young student athlete, Andrew “Roo” Yori had Ninja-level skills both on and off the sports field. Soccer was his favorite high school sport, although he competed in others too. As a college athlete he held the long-jump record at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and still graduated as the outstanding male senior with a degree in Biology. Whatever he takes on, he puts his full self into the effort.

Today, 41-year-old Roo Yori holds an impressively brainy job in the genome sequencing laboratory at Minnesota’s famous Mayo Clinic. But, true to form, he’s matching brains with brawn as a multi-season competitor on TV’s American Ninja Warrior.


To the uninitiated, the show looks like an otherworldly display of super-human strength and agility. To devotees of high-intensity workout programs like CrossFit – another of Yori’s passions – the show’s competitions are a natural extension of the barrier-busting workouts that have desk jockeys and dedicated athletes jumping, climbing, crawling, and balancing like caped superheroes.

Training for the competition would keep any superhuman fully occupied with workout schedules, travel, and qualifying heats. But Yori is making the most of the exposure, using the spotlight to promote his passion for rescue dogs. He uses each televised competition as a fundraiser, urging fans to pledge a donation for each punishing obstacle he completes.

Photo credit: Josh Feeney

Photo credit: Josh Feeney

Remarkable Rescues

In his 2017 rookie season on American Ninja Warrior, Roo and his cheering section sported matching “Adopt A Dog” t-shirts, as his rescued dog Angus watched from the crowd. The now-departed Angus – a stately black Labrador mix with a graying muzzle and dignified air – served as the representative for the pack of beloved rescue dogs who have called the Yori household home.

It started when he and his wife, Clara, went to adopt a dog from the shelter where she worked. Roo instantly fell for the stately Angus, but his wife, Clara, had her heart set on a dog named Ajax. “We weren’t going to change each other’s minds, so we adopted both,” he remembers. The couple even timed the two dogs’ arrivals in the home to create a harmonious transition. “Ajax was doing well at the shelter, and it was a nice shelter, so he stayed there for about 10 days. Angus came home and got used to the house, and then Ajax came.”

Ajax and Angus soon became best friends, but Roo and Clara have made room in their home and family for other rescues who don’t get along with their dog siblings. With dedication and an abundance of dog smarts, they manage to keep a peaceful and active household no matter what canine characters currently live there.

His most famous rescue is the inspiration behind Yori’s Wallace the Pit Bull Foundation, which has raised more than $100,000 to promote rescue and adoption while tackling breed-related stigma. Wallace was a white and brown Pit Bull who had been slated for euthanasia. Soon after the Yoris adopted him, the muscular and driven dog demonstrated an over-the-top love for catching Frisbees. Under the training and guidance of his athlete dad, Wallace ultimately won the 2006 Cynosport World Games and the 2007 Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Championship for flying disc. He also inspired author Jim Gorant to pen a best-selling book, “Wallace – the Underdog who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls – one Flying Disc at a Time.”

The champion dog eventually succumbed to an aggressive cancer, but his image and story still grace the logo of the foundation he inspired and the line of merchandise that raises money for the cause, including “pawtographed” copies of his best-selling book.

It’s a responsibility. He’s my responsibility,” says Yori. “I need to make sure I’m managing him and his situations...

Smarts and Heart

The famous overachieving Wallace never fully overcame some of his pre-rescue quirks. “People assumed he did well with my dogs at home,” Yori remembers. “He didn’t. We had to rotate and manage at home. But he had a great life. I’d take him out on a long line and work with him and the Frisbee. When he was playing, he was focused. Working with him in the evening, in a big field where you can turn on the flood lights, those are some of my best memories.”

The hard-to-place dog thrived in his adoptive home because his training and competition provided structure, outlet, and Wallace-centered quality time.

“It’s a responsibility. He’s my responsibility,” says Yori. “I need to make sure I’m managing him and his situations, so he doesn’t get into something he isn’t ready to handle. It was a lot of management. I hate to say I was a little relieved when he retired, but I got to relax a little more.”

One of Wallace’s canine siblings, Hector, also enjoyed fame and raised money to help other dogs. Hector was one of 51 Pit Bulls rescued from the Michael Vick dog fighting case. The baby-faced brown Pittie overcame his traumatic history to pass the Canine Good Citizen test – TWICE – and become a Certified Therapy Dog. Visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and schools, Hector spent the rest of his life busting stereotypes and winning hearts.

As age and illness closed in on Hector, Yori hung a victorious sign around the dog, who stood gray-faced and peaceful on a picnic table, after seven years of happy life that seemed to have erased his memory of the two he’d spent in the violent world of dog fighting. The sign reads, “Vick, 2. Hector, 7. I win.”

Training for Success

The Yori dogs have since included a rescued Pitties, a three-legged Corgi, and an ever-growing cast of canines with sad histories and sweet dispositions. Nobody in the pack is training for competition like their predecessor Wallace, but Yori continues to find time to nurture each dog’s interests and abilities.

“It’s that quality time,” Yori says. More than accommodation for their disabilities or management for their temperament issues, the dogs need happy, structured play with their favorite humans.

Whether training for competition or just for fun, Yori looks for the games and activities that light up each dog’s disposition. He tries to give his highly driven dogs a playful challenge that approaches the edge of their abilities. Dogs with more physical limitations get less demanding workout sessions, focusing more on mental stimulation and quality bonding time.

“We do whatever the dog enjoys, as long as we remain safe.” The balanced approach keeps dogs injury-free, even while leaning hard into weight-pulling courses or impressive Frisbee acrobatics.

Without canine competitions on their calendar, the Yori dogs’ training time now focuses more on dog/human bonding. Still, they reap all the benefits of more intense training. “They learn self-control, and a tired dog is a good dog. It gives them an outlet and it gives you that time together. That’s exactly it. Those are some of the best memories, the best times.”

One of Roo’s current dogs is a round-faced brown Pittie who slightly resembles his predecessor, Hector. And, like Hector, Johnny is a dog-fighting survivor, with tattered and scarred ears that tell of his abusive past.

On a YouTube video created in his backyard, Yori recreates the American Ninja Warrior obstacle courses with a homemade dog agility course. In the video, a grinning and focused Johnny hops among wooden platforms, scurries under a cargo net, and scales a ramp. In an awesome display of drive and strength, Johnny climbs a platform to grab a knotted robe in his teeth, which he keeps clasped in his muscular jaws while the rope rolls down a trolley line. At the end of the course, Johnny stands victorious on top of the final obstacle and repeatedly pats a big red button with his paw, much like his human’s victorious finishes on the competitive TV show.

The agility video mimics a Ninja episode, down to the gravel-voiced play-by-play that Yori dubbed onto the video. “Aaand he does it! Just like that, Johnny hits the buzzer! To think back to where Johnny came from just a few years ago, found chained in a basement with nine other dogs, rescued, adopted, and now hitting his first buzzer on Canine Ninja Warrior!”

The muscular dog’s tail wags as he pats the red buzzer a few more times. The gravelly narration sums up the story of a Yori canine athlete. “Congratulations, Johnny. You earned it!”

Michelle Blake, Managing Editor

Reader Spotlight - Titan


Note from the editor ~ Nina Kelley reached out to thank Spot after seeing “Saving the Dogs of Kauai” in the Dec/Jan 2017 edition. We thought you would enjoy hearing her personal story within the story, and photos of her beautiful survivor, Titan.

Titan became a part of our family in January of 2017. We met him December 2016 when we decided to participate in the Kauai Humane Society’s Field Trip program.

Their field trip program is a fabulous way for KHS to get their dogs exercise while also getting them socialized. You can pick out just about any dog they have for the day and they give you a leash, some dog treats, and other doggy essentials and send you out for the day. It was during our field trip with Titan that we fell head over heels in love with him. 

We didn’t take him home right away, but were able to work with the Kauai Humane Society and Hawaiian Airlines to fly him to the mainland. We are SO lucky to have him as part of our family!

Nina Kelley, Portland Oregon

Saving the Dogs of Kauai


With its lush forests and gorgeous beaches, the Hawaiian island of Kauai is a tropical Eden for humans. But for some dogs it’s a nightmare. Hunters throughout the islands breed dogs for use in ferreting out wild pigs. Dogs who fail to serve this purpose are often abandoned, or worse.

Fortunately, there’s an underground railroad — with angels’ wings — hard at work rescuing some of these forlorn dogs and flying them to new homes on the mainland.

A bedraggled little dog named Dan-O made it all personal for Rebecca Nance of Salem. After she and her husband lost their Whippet, Duncan, their search for another Whippet led them to Lori Rose of Whippet Spaw rescue in Salem. There they found Dan-O and learned the tragic story of the dogs of Kauai.

“Mixed Whippet breeds are popular with pig hunters in the Hawaiian Islands because they are fast,” says Nance. Hunters breed Whippets with Spaniels, Bull Terriers, and Airedales, and must register their hunting dogs. Those who become aged or injured, as well as unregistered puppies, are often abandoned to fend for themselves. Many dogs discarded by hunters end up withdrawn and wary, often leading to their euthanasia.

Rescue groups in Kauai and the Northwest are working to save these dogs.

“When we adopted Dan-O — yes, in homage to ‘Hawaii Five-O’ — he was terrified,” says Nance. Semi-feral and malnourished when wrangled out of the wild by Kauai animal control, Dan-O could walk only a few yards before collapsing, Nance explains. He now sleeps happily under the covers, snuggling his family’s feet.

Dan-O’s ultimate good fortune defines the mission of both Whippet Spaw and the Kauai Animal Welfare Society (KAWS), with whom Rose works. KAWS is one of several Hawaiian organizations committed to the rescue effort. It takes in these ill-fated dogs, flying many of them to foster homes in the Pacific Northwest.

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KAWS cofounder Dinah Chao, a dog rescuer and special education teacher, has a profound love for animals and children who “aren’t the easy ones.” Chao and her husband fostered Dan-O until he was healthy enough to fly, and Nance says she can’t imagine what would’ve happened to Dan-O without them.

The way KAWS operates, each of the lucky dogs getting a trans-Pacific ticket makes the flight accompanied by an escort, who could be any animal-lover heading back to the mainland. Vacationers learn about the need for help via a poster displayed in a T-shirt shop where KAWS volunteer Marlana works.

Whenever a transport escort is needed, Marlana hangs a poster, and “within a week, she can find us one,” says Chao. KAWS then handles all transport costs and arrangements, meeting the travelers at the airport. Upon arrival to the mainland, the escorts meet fosters waiting to collect the dogs. Transport escorts never need handle a dog.

Dan-O himself traveled to the mainland with a family returning from vacation. In fact, most transport escorts are tourists flying from Kauai to Portland or Seattle.

“I think the escorts really like the experience, as they are able to give something back to the island they have enjoyed so much,” says Chao.

Fosters also treasure their role. “As an Oregon foster home for KAWS, I love seeing the little faces peering through their crates at the airport,” says Rose. “The pups adjust quickly to their new world . . . sometimes with help of a new coat or jammies.”

“Each KAWS foster is my favorite,” she continues. “The Kauai rescues give something special. It’s in their eyes and little hearts . . . their innate aloha spirit melts my heart. Seeing them placed in loving homes is worth every second it takes to be a foster volunteer.”

Other organizations also arrange rescue flights. “My friend Deanna Cecotti, of Greyhound Pet Adoption Northwest, is going to Hawaii early next year,” says Nance, “and both she and her traveling companion will be bringing back dogs.” Cecotti’s volunteers with Oregon Humane Society, which partners with Kauai Humane Society. Different groups partner in their own ways, all sharing the ultimate goal to rescue, foster, transport, and place dogs in loving homes.

If you’re a dog-lover planning a Kauai vacation and would like to help the rescue efforts, why not save a life, too? For more information or to arrange to be an escort, contact any of the organizations listed under “Resources” at the end of this article.

Pups who've found the broken road to home



Henrietta’s shyness nearly earned her a bullet — her hunter owner’s version of retirement. But word of mouth intervened in the nick of time.

“She was so shut down I thought she wouldn’t come back,” says foster Cindy Cabrera. “She wouldn’t move. I had to carry her everywhere, and she would just curl up in a corner — it was so sad. Then, one day she came out of the bathroom on her own and lay on the floor near me. The rest is history.”

Ftr-KauaiDogs Shyler.JPG


Some dogs put in years of service to hunters, and then are abandoned due to age.

“We adopted Shyler from the Kauai Humane Society almost four years ago,” says Valri Kriner. “She was a pig dog that was dropped off at the shelter at nine years old.”

Health issues led to a splenectomy and removal of Shyler’s right eye last summer, but Kriner says, “She is my furbaby.”

Shyler's broken road really did lead home.

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Mayzie and Angel

Some dogs, like Mayzie and Angel, travel that broken road home on three legs.

James Benkert’s adopted dogs Mayzie and Angel were both discarded hunters. And both are missing a hind leg. Mayzie’s leg was dangling and infected when she was found, and Angel was thought to have had a hunting injury that the owner "fixed" himself. Both dogs have torn ears, scars on their chests, and broken teeth. But they are now home, safe and loved, and Benkert says, “Both are super dogs.”



Kimberly Goldsworth rescued Jax, a Whippet/Hound mix “with eyebrows that everyone loves.”

Once shy, Jax now bounds along busy sidewalks, accompanying Goldsworth to work in San Francisco. “He’s our official office comedian,” says Goldsworth. “Now he’s snuggling with his favorite co-workers and even ‘protecting’ us from office visitors.”

“Apparently many boar hunters starve the dogs, feeding them only once every few days to entice them to go after the boars, which I believe was the case with Jax,” Goldsworth says. “He was skin and bones when I got him. I imagine he was dumped since he’s such a passive, shy dog — definitely a lover, not a fighter — and thus not a great boar hunter. But he’s got so much love to give and wants nothing more than to snuggle and drape his entire body over mine and his family . . . never mind that he weights close to 50 pounds!”

Something of an Instagram star, Jax has nearly a thousand followers at “jax.the.hound.” Here this boar-hunting reject educates people to the plight of the dogs of Kauai.

“I’ve been encouraging anyone who will listen to adopt a dog from Kauai,” says Goldsworth. “They’re universally sweet and loving, and all so damn cute. And they’re just so grateful to be rescued.”


Kauai Animal Welfare Society (KAWS)  |

Kitsap Humane Society Rescue Me Program  |  360-692-6977 |

Oregon Humane Society Second Chance Program503-285-7722  |

Kauai Humane SocietyAloha Escorts Transfer Program  |

Lori Rose  |  |  on Facebook

Christy Caballero.jpg

Christy Caballero writes from the heart about all things pet-related, from a couple deer trails off the beaten path, typically juggling a cat (or two) on her lap as black kitty AsTar teeters on her shoulder and Mojo the retired Greyhound quietly calls for reinforcements!!

service cats repair spirits


You know those pithy bits of wisdom we love to hate when we’re having a bad day? Like the saying about a silver lining on every cloud? Three Portland felines don work vests and traverse area highways every day to prove those sayings true.

The feline siblings, Pixie Cat, Dixie Belle, and Sylvan Jinx, show local motorists that a flat on I-205 or a dead battery in the Gorge needn’t ruin a day. They roll with Jesse Dorsett, owner of Jesse’s Roadside Rescue, whose job is changing tires and jump-starting batteries. The cats’ job is cheering the sidelined motorists.

“They really are part of the team,” says Jesse, who has taken his cats along since they were kittens. They were just a few weeks old when he moved to Portland from California. “On that road trip, I realized they do really well in a car,” he says. By the time he’d started his business, Jesse’s cats were pros on the road. “I decided it was my business and I could take them along if I want.” The cats wear yellow vests and leashes on the job, and their images grace the company’s logo and advertising.

Originally an accountant, Jesse’s roadside business follows a long family history. “The Dorsett men working in the transportation business goes back to my great-great-grandfather who, with his brother, ran and operated a stagecoach in South Texas. I am an accountant who likes to rebuild cars.  I studied the double entry system of accounting about the same time I studied ignition systems.”

Dixie Belle posing in front of the Bridge of the Gods

Dixie Belle posing in front of the Bridge of the Gods

Early on, Jesse found the cats helped do more than pass the time on the road. “There was one lady with a flat near the fast lane on I-205, by the grass median, and traffic was heavy,” he recalls. “She was crying and really stressed out. I said, ‘Hey, do you want to meet my cat?’” Sylvan Jinx visited with the frazzled driver, comforting her with his slinky black feline coolness. Soon the woman’s spirits were repaired, right along with her tire.

Mr. Jinx enjoying the ride on the dash

Mr. Jinx enjoying the ride on the dash

Dixie Belle, a gray and white patched Tabby, performed a service miracle for another customer. “She had a flat tire, and she expected a tow truck,” says Jesse. “I didn’t come to tow her; I just came to change her tire. She was a little grumpy about that.” But Jesse says the woman’s mood changed when he asked if she wanted to visit with his cat. “She was happy right away,” he laughs.

For customers who find themselves stranded, Jesse’s cats immediately lighten the mood. Sometimes people have waited an hour or more, growing more frustrated by the minute, and when cats come to their rescue, “it can really make their day,” he says.

Customers agree, posting reviews like: "Best roadside service cat ever!"

Pixie and Mr. Jinx (Haylee holding him) at the Casino in Warm Springs during the eclipse.

Pixie and Mr. Jinx (Haylee holding him) at the Casino in Warm Springs during the eclipse.

For Jesse, who’s on call 24 hours a day, his feline coworkers keep him healthy and sane. “They know what’s up,” he says. “They know when I have people sign their paperwork and I give them a copy, the job is done. And then they know we get to go for a walk. We find a place with trees and we go for a walk.”

Few tales of businesses give so many reasons to smile. “My predilection for auto mechanics, driving, helping people in need, and spending quality time with my fur babies have all come together very conveniently in this business I have worked my way into. Needless to say, I keep good detailed books and do my own taxes.”


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.

Homeless Cats Displaced by Hurricane Harvey Arrive in Oregon

The Cat Adoption Team takes in cats from two Texas shelters to help support Hurricane Harvey relief efforts

Glitter recently arrived at CAT from a shelter in Houston

Glitter recently arrived at CAT from a shelter in Houston

[Portland, OR – October 16, 2017] — The Cat Adoption Team (CAT), a feline-only shelter located outside Portland, Ore., is taking in close to 30 cats displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

The first 22 cats and kittens arrived on Sunday, October 16. A second group of 4 cats is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, October 17. The cats come from two shelters in Houston that are making room to assist animals and people in Texas who have been devastated by the hurricane’s impact.

Working together with these Houston shelters, CAT is taking in cats who were in foster care prior to Hurricane Harvey, and are now ready for adoption. Transferring the cats to CAT will free up space and resources at the Houston shelters for cats who are now homeless or who became lost during the storm and whose families may still be looking for them.

“As soon as the hurricane hit, we knew that shelters in Texas would need support and we offered our help,” says Kristi Brooks, director of operations at CAT. “Now that these cats are ready for transport, we’re grateful to be able to bring them here for adoption.”

CAT’s medical team and shelter staff will provide full physical exams and health evaluations for the new arrivals. The cats will then go through the usual intake process, which includes vaccinations, treatment for parasites, microchipping, and spay or neuter surgery if needed.

“Cat Adoption Team regularly takes in cats and kittens from other shelters and rescue groups in our region,” says Karen Green, CAT’s executive director. “Animal shelters throughout Texas have been working hard to provide care for the hundreds of animals affected by Hurricane Harvey, and we’re honored to be a part of these lifesaving efforts.”

The Houston cats will be available for adoption later this week. If you are not able to adopt a cat at this time, consider making a donation to help defray the cost of rescue efforts like these and to provide care for all of the cats and kittens at CAT. Later this month, CAT plans to take in cats from California who have been displaced by the wildfires there. You can also send your donation by mail to: Cat Adoption Team, 14175 SW Galbreath Dr, Sherwood, OR 97140. To make a gift and to see cats available for adoption, visit


The Cat Adoption Team (CAT) is the Pacific Northwest’s largest nonprofit, feline-only shelter committed to finding a home for every cat it takes in. CAT’s mission is to save the lives of homeless cats and to work with our community to provide feline expertise and quality programs and services for people and cats. CAT has found homes for more than 42,000 cats and kittens since opening in May 1998. As a 501(c)(3) publicly supported charity, CAT relies on the generous support of individuals and organizations. For more information, visit

Farmers sends support, therapy dogs to Houston


A Farmers Insurance® Mobile Claims Center (MCC) has been deployed to Victoria, Texas to assist customers affected by Harvey. In addition to expedited claims processing, hot meals, sundries, internet and phone access, customers who visit the MCC relief site will also have access to Pet Partners specially-trained therapy dogs for emotional support.

"Farmers Insurance understands that beyond the physical devastation, the emotional toll can often leave a lasting mark on victims,” said Keith Daly, chief claims officer for Farmers Insurance. “We want our customers to know that when they see the Farmers® team, they know help has arrived.”


Anyone can foster a canine trauma survivor

Sixteen year old Ryan kneels on all fours. He has a ball in one hand, moving it back and forth, slowly then quickly like a small rodent, enticing Alex to play. Alex tracks the ball with his keen brown eyes, and after several passes, pounces. Ryan keeps ahold of the ball as Alex gnaws away, and coyly reaches around to place a gentle hand on Alex’s back leg.

“It’s the first prolonged contact I’ve had with him,” Ryan says. He moves slowly with Alex, trying to pet him now and then to help him get used to contact with people. Ryan sets up opportunities for Alex to gain confidence, but mostly he lets Alex make the first move.

Despite some of Alex’s fox-like physical traits he is not a wild animal. He is pure canine: a Jindo mix. But he’s not like the other dogs in Ryan’s house — he’s not from a local shelter. He’s from an organization that raided a dog meat farm half a world away in Korea. Five thousand air miles and 650 miles by road is a long way to travel, but letting Ryan rest his hand on Alex’s back leg is further than he has ever gone before.

“I know he trusts me,” Ryan says. “He follows me around, and he’s at a point where he’ll let me pet him more consistently — for five minutes or so.”  

Ryan let Alex stay in the safety of a crate in his bedroom for the first week he was in the house in order to shelter him from the ruckus of his American dogs and the chaos of family life downstairs. Ryan gave him incentive to explore his new world by moving his food bowls first outside the crate, then a little farther from the crate every day,

“He won’t go down the stairs though,” Ryan says. “He looks at me with a ‘Come back!’ look, but he just can’t do it.” One day he will.

Alex isn’t the only dog in the household who hails from a Korean meat farm. Ryan and his mom Dawn committed to foster-to-adopt Alex through My Way Home Dog Rescue, but when a flight delay caused Alex to miss the scheduled monthly transport, they agreed to foster Jack, who arrived early, and also take in Alex the following month.

Jack, like Alex, was rescued by Nami Kim and Save the Korean Dogs Organization in Gimpo City, Korea. Nami has been negotiating with illegal dog meat farm owners for over five years to take their dogs and re-home them in the US and Canada with the help of international organizations. Nami partners with START Rescue in California, which transports the dogs to shelters and rescues like My Way Home outside Portland, Oregon.

Dog meat has been consumed in Asia for centuries, it has only been in recent years that the industry has received worldwide attention — revealing not only its brutal methods of slaughter but the inhumane conditions in which these animals live. And while the consumption of dog meat is not illegal in Korea, it is unlawful to treat any animal inhumanely. Animal protection laws prohibit some of the cruel methods by which the dogs are slaughtered. Because of a belief that adrenaline makes dog meat tenderer, dogs are often hanged, electrocuted, and skinned alive — in front of others. While living in those stacked rusted wire cages, it is likely Alex and Jack witnessed many dogs executed this way — some their own siblings.

Dogs from meat farms do not know a kind human hand until the rescuers come for them; they know nothing of toys and dog beds, a morning jog with a human companion, a leash to keep them safe on walks, or the feeling of home, snuggling by the warm glow of a television set.

They have lived their lives with other dogs, stuffed into cages, some quarters so cramped that they cannot move. They eat, sleep, and defecate all in the same space. Their only contact with humans is to be thrown food, knowing that same hand will one day take their life. The idea that a human may want to stroke their fur and show affection is something these dogs have never fathomed. For them, humans are a species to be feared.

So it is not just a new country that Alex, Jack, and others like them are acclimating to. Their entire life and all they’ve ever known is in upheaval as they slowly accept that they are safe from pain and horrific death, and that the humans with them now mean them no harm. 

Jack goes to work with Dawn, a vet tech. He is surrounded by others of his kind, and there he witnesses humans helping animals, not hurting them. Still wary of strangers (even of Ryan), he’s slowly learning to trust. Alex has found his forever home with his trusted human Ryan. Jack, however, is still looking to find his own human guardian.

From all outward appearances, Alex and Jack are like any pair of canine friends, playing and romping. Although they never played at the meat farm, it seems that play is an innate gift imbedded in the heart of every dog. Their common history creates a level of understanding and trust between them that we humans can never truly grasp.

Cheryl, founder of the foster-based My Way Home Dog Rescue, is fostering two Korean dogs herself: Lady, who arrived with Jack, and Ella, who accompanied Alex. They, too, are learning to adapt to this new, loving life.

Lady is a five year old, white Jindo mix. Although shy, her old soul has adapted well. She’s learned a lot from her American housedog friends. She no longer fears for her life every second of the day, but is still cautious of strangers. Cheryl has been able to pet her, but Lady would rather adore you from afar than cuddle up beside you. Looking into her soulful eyes you wonder if she’s figured out the mysteries of the world and would tell you if only you spoke dog. Lady enjoys the company of other canines, and would like to find a home where she can just be herself: a quiet, introspective member of the family. 

While Lady’s peaceful soul and wisdom have helped her adapt, Ella’s innocence is the foundation of her strength and beauty. At only eight months old, she’d like nothing more than to play with her new American canine friends. Having endured the same traumatic past, she still will not allow anyone to touch her except Cheryl. Also a Jindo mix, she will most likely grow into a contemplative adult like Lady, who chooses one person to call her own but will always enjoy the company of other dogs.

Fostering or adopting a dog who has spent her life in a cramped cage on a meat farm is a lot like fostering or adopting a breeder dog from a puppy mill. Although puppy mill dogs are raised for human commerce and not consumption, their living conditions are equally appalling. They too often live in stacked rusty wire crates in warehouse-barns full of the barks and cries of hopelessness. They are forcefully impregnated, give birth, and raise puppies over and over again with no concern for their medical needs or welfare. The rescuers who come for them find beautiful souls hidden beneath matted fur — dogs who have never experienced grass beneath their feet or the touch of human kindness.

The call for animal protection is growing louder. People are fighting in courtrooms and congresses to create legislation, while others fight on the front lines, physically removing victims of cruelty from their horrific conditions. With every mission that succeeds — whether it be large-scale operations in the US with puppy mills, in the Asian dog meat trade, or local victories of animals being saved from hoarders or dogfighting rings — the need for help becomes greater. Our job doesn’t end when the slaughterhouse is shut down or the hoarder goes to jail. Each and every victim of these traumas need us to heal and rehabilitate them.

Those considering adopting a dog typically imagine the many heartwarming milestones: when he recognizes his name; when he masters Sit; when she comes when called with an urgency that she cannot live a single second without you. You think of waking up with a dog at the end of your bed, and of hiking in the mountains together. But when you adopt a dog like Lady or Ella or Jack, a dog with a traumatic history, those moments may not happen right away — or at all. But you get something else.

Before she learns Sit, you’ll get that moment of pride as she descends the staircase for the first time. Before she recognizes her name, she’ll choose to lie across the room and gaze at you instead of hiding under the bed. Maybe one day you’ll hike together, but first, the moment she willingly lets you clip on her leash for a walk is a day you’ll remember forever.

Fostering any dog is a journey of discovery. Being a foster dog parent is decompressing a dog from his or her prior life. Some are easier than others. You teach them their name and some skills, but mostly you teach them what it is to know human love and kindness. In this, being a foster for a trauma dog is the same. It just takes a little more patience and time.

These dogs have experienced the worst of humanity. Yet every day, they give us an opportunity to prove that we are not. Despite all they have been through, there is a seed of hope within their hearts that not all people are bad; that maybe, just maybe, humans are inherently good.

“We definitely have a connection,” says Ryan. “Might seem like a one-way connection, but it’s a connection.” Ryan has grown attached to Alex, and while it’s subtle, Alex is clearly attached to Ryan.  Alex doesn’t jump into Ryan’s lap, but he looks to him for all things — for comfort, for knowledge, and for love. Alex has never had that with any human being.

Opening your home to a trauma dog involves opening your heart and mind. They might have unusual quirks, but despite their history they are dogs: resilient and ever-hopeful. For some of them, it will be your own dog who does the true teaching. For others, you will be their one true advisor. You need no special skills to foster or adopt a trauma dog. The human heart already comes with the necessary components: love, patience, and devotion.

Please consider opening the door to your heart and your home. Dogs who have suffered trauma might be hesitant at first, but they will eventually come in. They need you, and you need them: to show you the resilience of a soul; that hope never dies; and that patience and time heal all.

If you (or you and your dog) are interested in adopting or fostering, please contact My Way Home Dog Rescue. You can also learn about volunteering through START Rescue, which coordinates travel and placement, and about Nami Kim and her work at

Those outside Oregon and California can help as well. Contact your local shelters and rescues who have taken in dogs from puppy mills and fighting rings. Research the organizations taking in dogs from the meat trade or hoarding situations. Contact them and let them know you would like to help.

Prove the dogs right: that we, as a species, are not a lost cause. For every one person who causes them harm, there are thousands more ready and willing to heal them.

Stephanie Wescott is a freelance writer whose mission is to save animals’ lives through story. Although based in Burbank, California, you’ll most likely find her on the open road with her canine partner Tucker, searching for trails to hike and stories to tell. You can follow their tracks and read their tales at

Nonprofit celebrates saving 10,000 homeless pets...positions to save even more

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1,000 Miles in 24 hours

Every Sunday around midnight, a bright red schoolbus bearing photos of pets pulls into a parking lot filled with people holding leashes and empty pet carriers. The bus, which has been outfitted to safely carry as many as 225 pets, has been driving all day and night, and this is the halfway point. Staff and volunteers hustle to unload animals that had come dangerously close to being euthanized but are now safe thanks to one California man.

Rescue Express founder Mike McCarthy started the free transport service with the goal of giving abandoned pets a second chance at life. “California shelters are forced to euthanize 40,000 animals a year,” says McCarthy, “while there is a shortage of adoptable animals in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia.

The organization’s first transport took place on Valentine’s Day, 2015. One bus running every other weekend quickly turned into a fleet of three buses and weekly transports after requests from California shelters quickly multiplied. This June, the number of pets rescued —including dogs, cats, rabbits and even pigs — surpassed 10,000. The nonprofit hopes to another 12,000 this year. 

All for free

Smaller rescue transports traveling the country are funded by fees charged to the rescues that utilize them. McCarthy chose to offer Rescue Express’ lifesaving service free of charge to prevent shelters’ and rescues’ lack of funding from resulting in needless euthanasia of adoptable pets. Each transport spans over 1,000 miles between Los Angeles, CA and Burlington, WA; weekly transports cost $3,000-$4,000. The organization operates exclusively on funding from donors and grantors such as Maddie’s Fund and the ASPCA.

Due to the high demand for rescue transport, Rescue Express recently expanded its operations with a second location in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. The organization is currently recruiting sending and receiving rescue partners in order to coordinate a second rescue route along Interstate 15, transporting animals from Southern California to Las Vegas, NV, Salt Lake City, UT, Boise, ID, and Montana. 

Why transport?

The bulk of pets abandoned and surrendered to shelters and rescues in the northwestern US and Canada tend to be large dogs and older dogs and cats. Demand for small dogs, puppies and kittens in the region has skyrocketed in recent years. When potential adopters don’t find these animals in shelters, they turn to pet stores, breeders and all too often, puppy and kitten mills. The pets they purchase are most often fertile and go on to reproduce. By transporting animals from the southwest, groups like Rescue Express are saving thousands of animals a year, giving NW residents the opportunity to adopt, preventing support of animal mills, combatting pet overpopulation, and raising awareness about the importance of spay and neuter.  

The organization’s story has been featured far and wide, by print, broadcast and digital outlets.

Rescues interested in being added to the list for upcoming information can contact for information.