Putting Hearts Together, One Rescue at a Time
In late 2013, some long-time, experienced volunteers of a golden retriever rescue group got to talking about the idea of joining forces and beginning a journey that led to the creation of Retrievers & Friends of St. Louis, a rescue organization based around the use of foster homes for dogs.
The non-profit, no-kill, all-volunteer group, officially founded in January of 2014 has no “brick and mortar” headquarters; instead, it made up of about a dozen “foster” homes, says Chesterfield resident Janet Hass who is vice president of Retrievers & Friends. The group has successfully adopted out over 115 dogs since it’s formation.
Their motto is “Putting Hearts Together, One Rescue at a Time.” They rely entirely on donations from supporters and fundraising events – for example, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, volunteers will have dogs available for adoption at the Pet Supplies Plus store at 15311 Manchester Road in Ballwin. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14, they’ll have another event at Kennelwood Pet Resorts, at 4 Clarkson Wilson Center in Chesterfield. These are among regular adoption events that the group holds.
“The benefit of a foster based rescue is invaluable, because people adopting dogs have the benefit of dogs coming from a home environment, so they can see how the animal behaves in a home setting and can more accurately define the dog’s personality traits – and it makes the transition to their forever home less stressful,” Hass says. “Every cent of every dollar collected goes directly to the care and placement of the rescued dogs.”
Hass says the agency’s decision to concentrate on retrievers is based on the fact that these are popular dogs often over-bred to meet demand via puppy mills, backyard breeders and others.
“As a result, shelters intake more dogs than they can handle and dogs that are in homes where they are determined to be a bad fit face abuse, neglect and abandonment,” Hass says. “Although we focus on retrievers, our volunteers are committed to placing every homeless dog, regardless of breed. These dogs represent the ‘friends’ in the name of the organization.”
In addition to breeders and animal control/shelters, rescued dogs also come from owner surrenders. One dog came to them after a person went to their vet to have a three-year-old dog put down because the family was getting a puppy.
“All of our dogs receive a comprehensive veterinary examination, all the necessary shots (including rabies), micro-chipping, spaying/neutering and are heartworm tested,” Hass says. “Each rescue dog is started on heartworm and flea/tick preventative medications. Any medical conditions we discover are treated before the dog is made available for adoption. Volunteer dog trainers work with the dogs.”
The group’s adoption donation fees are $300 for puppies eight weeks through 11 months old; $275 for dogs 11 months through seven years old; or $125 for older dogs. Donations help offset costs associated with veterinary care, training and day-to-day expenses incurred.
“We focus on highly adoptable dogs, which don’t stay long in foster homes – we often get a dog adopted in about a week,” Hass says. “Adoption stories are heartwarming. People tell us they’re so lucky to get a dog. We’re animal lovers, and it’s so rewarding to help make a match. We adopted out three dogs in the last week that were on “death row,” and we likely now have about nine or 10 dogs ready to adopt out, with about four getting adopted this week. But there are always more coming in. People often reach out to us. We generally focus on finding adoptive homes for dogs in the bi-state area, but we can bring in dogs from Arkansas and other places, meeting them half way. We just picked up an Australian shepherd from Cuba, Mo.”
All told, Retrievers & Friends has almost 30 volunteers, involved with various aspects.
“For instance, we have a group that does concession stand duty at the Family Arena, where we take donations in a jar,” Hass explains.
Hass admits she’s been animal lover her whole life.
“It’s so rewarding to place a dog that is without a home through no fault of its own,” she says.
Her group works with volunteer dog trainers.
“We have some dogs that may need a little polishing with basic training,” she says.
Volunteers are always needed, and there’s an application on the group’s web site. Regular general fund donations help keep the group going – $15 will allow for micro-chipping a dog, $25 will allow for vaccinating a dog, and $50 will cover the cost of heartworm medication for six months, Hass says.
The organization always needs other kinds of donations, such as dog leashes, Kong and other dog toys (preferably made in the U.S.A.), dog food (grain free foods made by U.S. based companies only), dog treats (like Milk-Bone), dog crates (plastic or metal and of all sizes), and pet store gift cards.
Companies are encouraged to use the group as a fundraising opportunity for employees.
Homes interested in fostering should complete the application available on the website. The need for foster homes is huge.
“Foster homes are what allow us to rescue more dogs,” Hass says, adding she even has recruited some of her coworkers at Aegion Corporation in Chesterfield. “Anyone fearing they’ll become too attached to a foster dog should remember that they’re giving a dog a leg up in life – they will get used to the dogs moving to a good home, and fostering is more rewarding than you can imagine.”
To become involved or get more information on Retrievers & Friends of St. Louis, visit their Facebook page or their website at RetrieversAndFriendsOfStL.com, call 314.750.7484 or email GeneralInfo@RetrieversAndFriendsOfStL.com.