Forever home: How one ugly, sick stray found her own perfect Idaho

dog in field of wildflowers

Some humans are raised not to get attached to animals. There’s really no such thing as a “forever home.”

Dogs are workers, utilities to guard the flock, protect the property, or to feed the family.

Dogs live outdoors.

They don’t get cuddles.

My friend Dannette was one of those humans.

Until the ugliest, sickliest bag of bones set her head in Dannette’s hand and opened her heart.

A forever home was found.

Dog needs dog

Dannette’s son, Jon, has a purebred border collie, May.

Left alone as a pup five years ago, she was destructive, tearing up everything around the house.

That changed when an out-of-state friend and his boxer crashed for a while.

“She actually stopped being a little turd for a while,” Dannette says.

When the friend returned home, May went back to her old ways.

Not wanting to keep fixing or replacing furniture, doors and floors, Dannette and Jon knew the way forward was clear.

Find a friend for May.

They started their search, Jon intent on finding another border collie.

That changed when Dannette met Madison.

rescue dog sits in idaho field

Maddie finds her forever home

She was laying on the floor of her Kootenai Humane Society kennel all forlorn.

Dannette stopped and stared at the sad pup for a little while.

When the dog didn’t respond, Dannette moved along, knowing her son had already found a border collie in another kennel.

“She was absolutely quiet and laying on the floor amid all the noise and chaos,” Dannette says.

Shelters can be an overwhelming experience. When humans enter the caged kennel area, many dogs get excited and anxious.

Madison, after being at the shelter for a month, seemed to have gotten used to people looking and passing her by.

She was severely underweight and her skin was pockmarked with infections.

Post Falls police picked her up as a stray, scanned her microchip and called the owner.

The owner didn’t want Madison anymore.

She was sent to the Post Falls pound, a kill shelter, and rescued by the Humane Society shortly after.

And that’s where she stayed to await her forever home.

A single bark changes destiny

Just one bark.

As if to say “get back here.”

She walked back to Madison and said, “Are you talking to me?”

She reached into the kennel, and the dog raised herself from her blanket, walked over to Dannette and, ever so gently, placed her head in the human’s hand.

abandoned dog finds her forever home in north idaho

The shelter workers let out a cheer

Madison, a German shepherd-Chinese Shar-Pei mix, found her home.

When Dannette walked back to the desk to ask the shelter staff about Madison, they couldn’t believe their ears.

Someone wanted the sick, ugly one.

Dannette recalls the crew cheering and clapping.

Vicky Nelson, director of development at Kootenai Humane Society, says the sick, ugly animals often have more difficulty in finding a forever home.

“Age is the biggest issue, because people don’t want to think about their dog passing,” she says. “Medical is probably the second deterrent. It can get spendy if an animal is sick.

“The third one is just the look of the animal. People will bypass a dog if it doesn’t look just right.”

Ah, but there is good news.

Some humans will take a second look.

They look for the dogs with an underbite or a scar or anything that makes their new BFF (best fur friend) unique.

And that helps keep the Humane Society staff and more than 100 volunteers driven to do what they do.

“We tell people that we cry when the dogs come in, and we cry when they leave,” Vicky says

Best dog ever

At eight years old, Madison had all three knocks against her.




It only took Dannette’s eyes to see the dog she was meant to be.

Five years later, “Maddie” isn’t a bag of bones anymore.

She’s a beautiful dog full of life and love.

“She’s protective of my home and my son, but so quiet and gentle,” Dannette says.

And despite any protest you may hear from Dannette, the connection she and Maddie share is clear.

owner and dog playing on ground

“I grew up that you don’t get attached to animals,” Dannette explains. “Animals are partners, like my horses, or food, but never family.”

Maddie was supposed to be a friend for May.

That’s it. That’s all.

Except …

“There is no doubt Maddie has claimed me and my son as her own,” Dannette says. “I know she’ll put herself between me and any danger that comes my way.

“I’ve never seen that kind of compassion in a dog.”

So many of us know it only takes that one dog to open our eyes to how they change our lives, imprinting their paws on our hearts forever.

Dannette and Jon changed the course of destiny for Maddie.

“She’s healthy and happy and she has a soft bed at night to sleep inside the house,” Dannette says. “She’ll spend the rest of her days there.”

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How to help the Humane Society

Rescue work ain’t easy.

We’ve been over that! So, it’s important to give a hat tip to the folks who run and volunteer at shelters and rescues.

Ultimately, it’s a job, giving homeless animals a place to transition while they wait for their forever home.

Humans do it, however, with the greatest love and passion in the world.

“We love every single dog that comes through our door,” Vicky says. “No matter how old or what they look like.”

Every dog has its own “bedroom,” complete with bed, blanket, food and water bowls, toys and treats. Volunteers come by every day to ensure each dog gets a walk and play time.


Kootenai Humane Society presents


a gala fundraiser celebrating the Society’s 40th anniversary

Saturday, October 26

Watch the KHS Facebook page for more details.


The Kootenai Humane Society is housed in an old building on Ramsey Road in Hayden, Idaho. It’s in need of replacement, but everyone just makes do.

“We’re so glad these dogs are here,” Vicky says. “They’re coming from a place where they weren’t wanted or where they were harmed. We’re giving them a safe place where they get lots of love from our staff and volunteers.”

In addition to their annual gala fundraiser in October, the Humane Society is holding an open house on Saturday, July 13, noon to 4 p.m. It’s going to be lots of fun with free hotdogs and ice cream, live music, giveaways, shelter tours and a vendor fair (that includes a Noses & Toes Pet Photography photo booth for your dog!).

Best of all, if you’re looking for your new Best Fur Friend, they’ll have adoptions available.

Be there!

Tell your “forever home” story

Maddie’s amazing story is part of this year’s series about rescue dogs and the humans they’ve saved.

Do you want to tell your rescue dog’s story?

For a small reservation fee of $99, we have a one-hour portrait session, two social media-sized files, and one mounted 8×10. Just the portrait session and 8×10 typically run $169 with me.

I also feature you and your rescue dog in a blog post right here on

Message or call me at 208-618-1630 or click through this button to my contact page for a handy form to fill out.

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