How do you let go of a dog that you nursed from birth and fed with a bottle?
For one Coeur d’Alene-based mama with a big heart, you don’t.
She once tried finding a home for one of the dogs from her rescue work. But when the adoptive family struggled, Trish took her baby back with open arms.
“The intention when you’re bottle feeding is always to adopt them out,” Trish says. “These dogs usually have so many health problems that I insisted to myself that I wasn’t latching on.”
Then came Minnie.
Getting into rescue work
Trish would have a whole house full of dogs if she could.
It’s one of the biggest risks in rescue work, especially for a kind-hearted soul like Trish.
She loves a big family and, when everyone is together, she has it in spades.
You see, Trish lives in North Idaho with Minnie and Ginger, along with her teen daughter and son. Trish uprooted the family from her husband Cory, so her daughter could play hockey at the Coeur d’Alene Academy.
Sidebar: The whole family is from Alberta, which created an instant connection between me and Trish over such Canadiana as hockey, beer and maple syrup. You know … all the good stuff.
Cory stays at their home base in Houston, Texas, with his two dogs—Jasper, a Yorkie and “total chick magnet,” and Val, a Chihuahua mix—and a cat.
When they left Canada for Cory’s work in the oil and gas industry, Trish gave up her career as a licensed practical nurse.
Trish turned to animal rescue work in Houston, learning how to bottle feed newborn puppies. Both Ginger and Minnie were less than two weeks old when they entered her life.
Their eyes weren’t even open.
Ginger, a Jack Russell terrier mix, fit in the palm of Trish’s hand and her little tongue was paper-thin. She also had mange and some back leg paralysis.
“When she was nursing, she was sucking on her own mouth, not the bottle,” Trish says, her brow furrowing with concern at the memory. “She almost didn’t make it.”
Trish got her through it.
And failed as a foster.
She’d put too much love and work into getting this little puppy to live and thrive to let her go.
Along comes Minnie
Minnie was one of five in her litter. Trish bottle-fed her and persevered until Minnie was ready to move to a forever home.
Within days, it turned out to be a huge mistake.
“She bit and growled at her new family,” Trish says, to this day surprised at the sweet puppy’s change in behavior.
The experience convinced Trish that Minnie sabotaged her own adoption so she could return home.
“It didn’t make any sense,” says Trish. “She’s great with people. She loves people. I think she just wanted to be with me.”
The call came on a day when Trish and Cory were heading to a company gala. All dressed up in her evening gown, Trish demanded they retrieve Minnie from any further stress.
Once home, Minnie’s stress from being away turned into extreme separation anxiety.
“I can’t leave her alone in the house,” Trish says, the conflict written all over her face.
“I don’t need her. She needs me.”
Through the camera lens, the love between these is two is clear.
And with love comes a certain amount of need.
Spend a few hours with Trish and you’ll quickly learn she does everything deeply and passionately. Whether it’s uprooting half of her family to support her daughter’s hockey career or raising a puppy from birth, Trish has a bombastic and incomparable lust for life.
That means her emotions run deep and, she admits, she requires closure.
“I wanted to give Minnie a loving life with another family but I feel like I damaged her by giving her away,” Trish says. “I need to know everyone is OK. I needed to know Minnie was going to be OK and it broke my heart when I found out she wasn’t.
“I can’t just give dogs away and not know that I didn’t do the right thing.”
A life of helping
Minnie’s distress compounded Trish’s grief over losing her heart dog, a Shiba Inu named Buddy, who died at the age of 17 just days after Minnie went to her new home.
Still dealing with that loss, Trish couldn’t rationalize the Minnie she knew from the Minnie the adoptive family was talking about.
“They were saying she’s aggressive, she’s this, she’s that, and it wasn’t anything I had known or seen about her,” Trish says.
“It was heartbreaking.”
Her nursing career may have fueled her need to rush over and collect Minnie, but she’s also realized how hard animal rescue work can be.
“Not everybody can do it,” Trish says. “I had to leave it behind. I can’t do it. It’s one thing to feel like you’re helping but when you feel like you’re hurting a dog by doing that, I just can’t.”
Rescue work isn’t for the faint of heart
That’s the truth, says Caitlin Knight, who operates the Spokane rescue Path of Hope.
Caitlin says her new career, launched about a year ago, is a dream come true, one that comes with its bonuses and its endless tears.
“All the little noses, toes and puppy kisses are magical,” Caitlin says. “But every day is filled with challenges. Potty training, crate training, constant supervision, and teaching basic rules and boundaries are an ongoing and never-ending task.”
Her puppies often arrive at Path of Hope with challenges. Caitlin has treated viruses, parasites and other medical problems, like Trish’s Ginger.
“They come to me with the deck stacked against them,” Caitlin says. “I have cried countless tears over babies we couldn’t save.”
She also has had to develop a thick skin, forced to turn down applicants who want to adopt her puppies. Caitlin keeps stringent rules on who can qualify as a furever family.
“Despite all of this, the good days outnumber the bad,” Caitlin says. “I know we are making a difference and saving lives. We will keep working until every dog is wanted.”
A quest to save lives
Trish carries in her heart the spirit to save every dog, despite her reluctance to go back into rescue.
Instead, she’s considering a career as a veterinary technical assistant.
“Minnie showed me that I have this passion for animals that I didn’t know I have,” she says. “It’s hard to save lives and then adopt them out, so maybe this is how I can keep helping.”
Trish isn’t sure why but she’s confident Minnie chose her as her human.
“I have sobbed and sobbed and sobbed since I realized what happened,” Trish says. “I feel like I broke her. She had no reason to be anxious before.”
Every time Trish leaves the house, Minnie freaks out. Or when they get in the car, Minnie drools “like a maniac.”
“I think she thought I was taking her somewhere to give her away again,” Trish says.
Even Ginger realized something was up. The little one welcomed Minnie back home, placing her paw on the bigger dog’s back.
“It was like Ginger was saying, “don’t give away my best friend ever again,” Trish says.
Trish is working hard with Minnie, trying to ease her anxiety in a variety of ways. She takes her floofs everywhere she goes, hoping Minnie will start to understand it’s OK to be in the car without fear she’ll be left somewhere.
They’re enrolled in behavior training so Minnie can learn to be more social with humans and other dogs besides Ginger.
Most of all, Trish gives her all the love and attention any dog should be given.
“I just wish they could talk to me,” she says. “We could understand so much more if they could.”
What’s your rescue story?
Trish’s incredible 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 that comes with two social media-sized files and one mounted 8×10.
I also feature you and your dog in a blog post right here on NosesandToes.com.
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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All around the circle
Photographer’s choiceis the topic for this week’s worldwide blog circle. Trish’s story about her rescue work and her dogs fit perfectly.
I’m looking forward to reading the blog posts from other dog photographers. Let’s start with Cahlean Klenke, the Minnesota dog photographer. Read her post at About a Dog Photography, then click the link at the bottom to get to the next one.
Travel through the circle and when you land back here, you’re home.
Right where you belong.