The 15th Anniversary of Houston Sheltie Sanctuary: Nov. 4, 1998–Nov. 4, 2013

HappyAppy3 Applesauce–One of our first Rescues
Adopted by Rosemary Hurley

The Miracle of Rescue Work and the Birth of Houston Sheltie Sanctuary

In 1996, my Tri Sheltie, Maggie Mae, died tragically at 26 months of congenital heart defect.  In my grief, I went on line to research the disease and also met many Sheltie fanciers who became friends, including Ann Acuff, director of Middle Tennessee Sheltie Rescue. They said, “when you are ready, rescue your next Sheltie and all the others after.”  I said, there is no rescue group in Houston. They replied, “go to the ASSA site and look.”  Nope; only in Dallas. They said, “talk with Dorothy Christiansen,” the National Sheltie Rescue Coordinator.

After I called her and commented that there was no Sheltie rescue in Houston, Dorothy countered, “Then start one.”  The next thing I knew I was on the national list as Sheltie rescue contact for Houston, and calls were coming in.  What do I do next, Dorothy?  “First, get the dog.”  So I got the dog: the first one I rescued was an 8yo Sable I named Toby. He had been abandoned and found by another rescuer who called me from the ASSA list.  I brought him home, bathed him, put out ads for him, took him to my vet: though he was healthy and beautiful, I never located his owner. I fostered him–and kept him—”failing” my first foster experience as many of us do. Toby lived another 7 years to the age of 12: a lovely senior gentleman who blessed my life.  Rescued animals have that gift.

For the next two years, I received many calls from people who found or needed to give up Shelties and from people who wanted to adopt them: some dogs I re-homed with colleagues at the college where I teach and others with people asking for Shelties.  But it was a slow and exacting process as I was also working full time. Then Dorothy suggested, “work with D/FW Sheltie Rescue and Becky Ramsey to get help with the dogs and organize a program.”  So during those same two years, I met Becky in Buffalo, Texas with any dogs I needed help placing—she never said no to me.  I was learning, helping dogs, and having fun, too, but I still desperately needed help.

Eventually, in 1998, Tracy Crane, also a Sheltie lover, called me: “Do you need some help?” And that is how Houston Sheltie Sanctuary was born. Tracy named the program, started the 501c3 process, opened the charity bank account, and made sure we went to our first dog show: we had a flimsy table, cardboard sign, and our personal Shelties, but we met a lot of Sheltie people and continued to learn.  Soon after, we were called by a church in spring about a terrified Sheltie they could not entice or catch in the nearby woods where he had been dumped, though he was eating food they set out.  We had teams working to rescue “the Church Sheltie” who was eventually caught by the determined Marty who was a seasoned runner and finally chased him down. She took him home and named him Rambler for his exploits; he had a blissful life in his loving home the rest of his days.

Then we rescued our first dog as Houston Sheltie Sanctuary, Nov 4, 1998. I named him KC for Kingwood College where I have taught since 1984. He had Heartworm disease, Cushing’s, and Hypothyroidism. He was underweight of course, had no coat, and was seriously compromised. My clinic, Loop 494 Animal Hospital, took him in as the first HSS Sheltie, and became our first clinic. Dorothy is known for helping fledgling rescue groups: she paid the bill for KC, and said, along with Dr. Herb, what a shame that our first official rescue was so terribly sick, but we would certainly learn a lot by the seat of our pants.  The wonderful Dr. Herb used all his skills and saved KC’s life; Tracy fostered KC: under their loving care he became healthy and beautiful, though he would be on medication the rest of his life.  In a few months we adopted him to a couple who fell in love with him and understood he would need special care. We had our first success and were thrilled.

As more dogs came into the program, Tracy and I recruited people who loved Shelties to volunteer with us. Our first  Email List was a group chat we maintained together until I discovered and set up our Yahoo Group.  Fortunately, through the years dozens more volunteers came on board and helped us continue to build the program.  We all worked hard.  Tracy was the business brains behind the operation the first year and kept us on our feet. I designed and maintained the web site with the kind help of D/FW and Southland rescues who let me use their pages as templates for our own web site. Others planned the dog shows and picnics; worked hard at funding drives; still others donated regularly; and of course the coordinators, rescuers, foster and adoptive homes made it all possible.  

The founding of HSS happened as so many rescue groups do: individuals who want to help homeless and abused animals–in this case one woman encouraged into rescue work and helped by Dorothy, Ann, and Becky; joined by another woman who was doing this work while raising her daughter but wanted to help. Still more people, including Linda, Connie, Dawn, Jean, Darlene and so many others, took leadership positions, gave of their time, ideas, talent, and energy in every capacity rescue groups need. Tracy left after the first year because her daughter needed her, but I have never forgotten her or her vital role in this program.  Thank you, Tracy: that first phone call from you made HSS possible.

Congratulations to all those working in the program today: the hardworking, talented membership has expanded remarkably and added tremendous funding activities, Facebook page, expanded booths at the dogs shows, dozens of foster homes, beautiful tee shirts, calendars, and more achievements to its success as a professional rescue organization that does them proud.  The result of everyone’s efforts is that HSS has now saved well over a thousand Shelties in Houston since Toby, Rambler, and KC first needed rescue help in those humble beginnings.

Though after my years of rescue work since 1996, I have now retired from its rigors for personal and health reasons, the Houston Sheltie Sanctuary story and the dogs saved will always be precious to me.  I salute HSS’s 15th year and all the people who continue to make it one of the largest and most successful breed rescue programs in the nation. I hope even more volunteers continue to join, support, and donate to HSS for another 15 years and beyond.




–Joan McAninch Samuelson, Houston Sheltie Sanctuary Founder with Tracy Crane


DANGER! Dogs in Hot Cars

Every day this summer, once again, are reports of dogs dying when they are left in hot cars. In fact, there have been two incidents of K9 Dogs dying, betrayed by their own partners–the very cops rescuers are told to call when they see dogs in distress.

You need to know that leaving a companion animal alone in a parked car, especially in warm to hot weather, is animal cruelty in many states. You also need to know how quickly your precious dog might die while you run errands–just because you hated to leave Sparky at home. 

When the temperature outside is in the high 70’s and 80’s (much less the 90’s), a parked car quickly becomes unbearably hot inside within minutes–even in the shade and even with the windows left open a few inches. If the car is parked in the sun, the inside temperature can quickly reach 160 degrees. Leaving the air conditioner on in an idling car isn’t much help as it begins to labor and can shut down the engine. The dog could also knock the car into gear as he struggles to get out. As humane societies, law enforcement agencies, and local media constantly warn pet owners, in just 5 minutes, the temperature inside a car even with the windows cracked can reach 100 degrees or more. In just 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car can reach 120 degrees or more. The dog has a fur coat designed to retain heat, and he cannot sweat when he is overheated. As the inside temperature rises, the dog’s body temperature has also risen, and he may have just minutes to live. If not rescued, he will suffer heatstroke, leading to collapse, brain damage, and an agonizing death. 

Danger signals of overheating, whether from being in a parked car or from excessive exercise in heat and humidity are the following: Obvious distress, staggering, heavy panting to eventually struggling to breathe, excessive drooling, vomiting, glassy eyes, dark red to blue or purple gums and tongue, collapse, seizures, and coma. If your dog is suffering, apply the following first aid: Get him into the shade, pour cool (not cold) water on him or use cool towels to gradually lower body temperature. Give him cool water or ice cubes to lick. Rush him to your veterinarian immediately for a thorough examination.

Another reason not to leave dogs unattended in locked cars, even with the windows rolled down, is that they can jump out to look for the owner and be lost or worse.  Also, dogs have been stolen even from locked cars.  In general, it is stupid and cruel to leave dogs in cars especially in the summer but really at any time.

Generally, except for taking your dog on trips where he is welcome inside, do him a favor and leave him home. Never leave your dog alone in a parked car: you could be cited by the police and pay a fine.  Worse, you could lose your dog.

As a rescuer, if I see your dog in agony in your locked hot car, I will call 911, but if I think he is dying, I will break your window and free your dog, rendering first aid in trying to save him.  And I don’t want to hear one word from you about your damn window.

Keeper: A Story of Rescue

I saw what you did that morning a few months ago, right before the holiday weekend–guess you were going out of town and thought you would do the deed as one last “preparation” to free yourself for your weekend. You were driving a late-model red Honda: I saw you stop, saw the door open, saw the dog put out. And I saw you drive off.  She watched you, too–sitting there stunned and motionless. Then she started running after you, and that’s when I jerked the car over and started running after her.  Though I was late to work, I couldn’t leave the desperate Sheltie you had abandoned.   

 As a rescuer, I always have leashes, collars, treats, and bottled water in my car, because of course there are many people just like you. Gradually, I won her trust and got her into my car. After I had her safe with me, I was able to examine her: though she was thin and had fleas, someone in her family had  clipped hair around the hot spots on her back, and had placed a red collar around her neck, though her tags were left behind or discarded so she could not be traced. As I discovered during the two weeks I kept her, someone had  taught her to play ball and shake hands; she had learned a little basic obedience, and she was housetrained–a lady through and through.

She was very grateful to me, giving me lots of kisses; but I saw the faraway look in her eyes, watched her pace, sometimes spinning the sheltie spin in her agitation and confusion. She missed whoever had taken care of her; so, hoping I had been wrong about what I saw that morning–perhaps she had been stolen or was the victim of domestic dispute–I tried from the first day to find her owner.  I put up signs; I called vets, shelters, rescue agencies, sheltie clubs; posted her on the Internet web sites; had her scanned for a microchip.

You must have seen the signs.  

What did you think would happen to her when you dumped her? What chance did you think she had where you abandoned her? There was no shelter, no water, no food–only the hot Texas sun and speeding cars. If you didn’t want her any longer, why didn’t you try to find her a home?  Failing that, why didn’t you do a little research to find a rescue group?  Why didn’t you drive her to a shelter?  Why didn’t you at least give her a chance to be adopted, rather than dump her where she could have been hit by a car or shot by another heartless person, or where she might have died of thirst, hunger, or illness?    She didn’t deserve that. No one does.

But Keeper was lucky: there are individuals and rescue groups who daily pull dogs and cats from roadways and try to help them so they don’t die in front of a speeding car or from hunger and thirst. I named your dog “Keeper” because she is a keeper, not a throw-away. She stayed with me until I was able to place her in one of our foster homes and eventually an adoptive home. She  blessed her delighted new home with a full and grateful heart. Fortunately for rescued dogs and cats, there are many more people like Keeper’s angels than there are like you.

Oh, and here’s the coda to the story you began writing for her those many months ago.  After we got her cleaned up, vaccinated, treated for the Heartworm disease you let her contract; after she put on weight, and her damaged coat grew out, she is beautiful–gorgeous in fact.  Her new mom saw the intelligence and possibilities in Keeper: here is a Sheltie who clearly wants to work, which you probably never knew because you know nothing about dogs, especially herding dogs. She is in agility classes, which she loves, has earned her Canine Good Citizen award, and is now training to become a therapy dog.  Her new mom plans to take her to hospitals and nursing homes to cuddle with and entertain young and old who might need a little comfort.  Because Keeper understands just what that is all about, and despite your cruelty to her, like most dogs who suffer at the hands of cruel masters, her heart is large, and she still loves people

You, however, must live with your cold heart and the effects on you all your life from what you did to this little dog who trusted you. You may never give her another thought; you also may never understand what’s hit you down the road in your own life.

But, here’s a hint: Karma, too, is a cold-hearted bitch.

Keeper at Home

Rescue 101: In Praise of the Older Dog


“Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.”
– Sydney Jeannne Seward

In 1999, the winner of Westminster Best in Show, beating out over 2500 other gorgeous champions, including a beautiful blue merle Sheltie, was a tiny, four-pound Papillion who captured everyone’s hearts, including the judges’.  Filled with energy and showmanship, little Kirby danced away with everything, riding around Madison Square Garden with grace and joy in the Best of Show Winner’s Cup. This top show dog in America was 8 years old. Kirby lived another 8 years, crossing over February 2007 at age 16.

In 2009, there was a particularly strong display of outstanding dogs in all the breeds.  When it was over, Stump, a terrific Sussex Spaniel, won Best in Show.  He had come out of retirement to take it all and accepted the honor with happiness and dignity: Stump is 10 years old, the oldest winner in the history of the Westminster.

Daisy and Shelby  
Daisy with her comical Shelby

Members of  our rescue program, who adopt as well as foster, have learned to love and even prefer senior dogs. Beth adopted Roscoe at age 12 after his family abandoned him on a foggy night to the local animal shelter because they “wanted to travel after the kids left home.”  He became one of our program’s ambassadors for rescue and lived to almost 16.  Linda adopted Robin also at age 12, and he, too, lived to 16.  Robin had also been abandoned and came into the program thin, flea infested, and coated in mud. He was one of the most gorgeous and beloved Shelties in our program’s 11-year history.  Applesauce found himself tossed into a shelter at age 10 as collateral damage after a divorce. We flew him to Chicago and his new mom, Ro, also a rescuer who had fallen in love with him on our web site.  He lived another 6 years and became famous in rescue circle nationwide. All of these seniors were sweet, adorable dogs who delighted us every day with their grace and good humor. 

Roscoe lounging (with Sassy in foreground)

We have also adopted seniors who did not live as long as we wanted them to: Wayne and Sue lost their precious 12 year old Magic after only a year.  He had been found wandering the streets and was the tiniest Sheltie at 8 pounds we had in our program. His little feet rarely touched the ground as everyone wanted to cuddle him. I lost 10 year old Shelby also after only a year, but I smile every time I think about the joy she brought our family.  No rescuer in our program would trade even only a year with our adorable little guys for anything.

Magic the Adorable with his Mom

We love puppies and younger adult dogs; however, raising and training puppies and young dogs is a lot of work, and not every owner has the time or energy for that job. Older rescued dogs bring with them maturity, intelligence, mannerly behavior, dignity, and, yes, great fun. Many of these seniors are just comical; and even when we lose them, the memories of their antics make us smile. All of our older Shelties were abandoned rescues; all but the terminally ill became healthy, happy, and absolutely gorgeous in our care, and all gave back far more than any of us could have imagined when we first rescued and adopted them.  

People ask us all the time why older dogs end up in shelters.  Sometimes Seniors find themselves in rescue because their humans can no longer take care of them or go to a nursing home or even die. But often these guys, and so many more like them, are abandoned, dumped, cast aside for only one reason: they got old. When this happens, it is a complete failure in responsibility and compassion and empathy on the part of the people these wonderful dogs trusted all their lives. These should be their golden years, enjoying long naps, good food, warm mornings sunning their tired bones on the patio or deck, evening walks and cuddles in the protective love of their grateful families.

Instead, too often their loyalty and companionship are repaid with a cage in an animal shelter, on the list to be euthanized as ‘unadoptable’–because they grew ‘too old.’ Or sometimes the dogs are abandoned because the kids those very dogs were originally purchased for as companions grew up and left  home. They leave their old sidekicks behind along with their childhoods, and to parents who now want to live their own lives and don’t see the dog as part of their plans any longer. And, even more reprehensible, sometimes these senior dogs are cast aside simply because the family wants another puppy, and the current dog is now expendable in their eyes. In a society that over-values youthfulness and neglects older citizens, it is not surprising that some owners take the same attitude toward older dogs and cats; but it is not right, nor is it fair. 

So, in rescue work, the preponderance of animals needing help are older. Like all living beings that survive babyhood and youthful indiscretions, they grew older.  Sometimes they get a touch of arthritis, suffer a bit of vision or hearing loss; they slow down as we all do. But their love doesn’t slow down; nor does their loyalty abate with age. Older dogs are endearing companions who have years left in them to give love and service to their attentive humans; in fact, adoption into a loving home often re-energizes these dogs who amaze their owners with how young at heart and active they really are. Like Kirby and Spunk, they, too, are top dogs.

And Applesauce

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