Charlie’s Wish Animal Rescue was established to honor Laura’s first pit bull, Charlie, who was badly abused by his owner. He was later dumped by the person and tied outside without food and water. He was extremely emaciated when she adopted him from the shelter. Charlie had head trauma which prevented him from eating properly. She had to soak his food with water for him. Charlie died 3 years after Laura had him for his old injury. She established the rescue next year to honor him and to remind herself that there are many other dogs that are just like him and need our help. They usually take dogs that other rescues don’t want. Their medical expenses can’t be covered by adoption fees and donations. She constantly pays the bills out of her own pocket. But seeing them being transformed into happy and healthy dogs and have a loving family is priceless. Because of the financial burden, she has to keep this rescue very small. Her mission is keeping dogs “out of harm’s way, one dog at a time.” She can’t save all dogs but the dogs in her hands will receive good care. That’s what she does.
“Welcome to the Animal Rescue of the Week podcast, where we feature outstanding organizations from around the country, that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is probably sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert connects animal shelters with volunteers to do animal transport and fostering. Learn more and sign up for free at www.Doobert.com. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue!
Charlie’s Wish Animal Rescue is a nonprofit organization that was created in the name of the beloved dog named Charlie. Charlie was abused and abandoned by his previous owner. The founders of this great rescue fell in love and adopted him, and he truly became their best friend. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2014 but since then they have been inspired to help dogs get out of harm’s way, one dog at a time.
Hi Laura. Welcome to the show. Hi! Nice to meet you. Oh yeah, nice to meet you, virtually. That seems the way that everybody’s going nowadays. Yes, it’s lovely having you and I’m happy that we were able to get you on the show and, you know, kind of just talk with you a little bit more. You being the founder of Charlie’s Wish Animal Rescue in Ohio, tell us a little bit about your organization and how you decided that this is what you wanted to do with your life? Now I see that it actually sounds like my second job. And in the evening time, yeah, when I’m off my real work. Well, it started with my Charlie because he was my first person. That’s after I watched the show on Animal Planet, In A Dog Town and I saw Michael Vick how he and he’s buddies treated those dogs that they had, I cried from the beginning to the end of the show. And then I decided that I wanted to help some people. I saw Charlie on Facebook and he was available in a Mahogany County Animal Shelter and he was the most pathetic one. I looked at all the dogs, I decided I wanted to adopt him. And then after that, I realized he was abused, badly abused and then later, a few years later, he died from his old injuries that I couldn’t save him.
So one year later, I just felt like I wanted to help more dogs that happened to be in the same situation. I just wanted to do something. So I wasn’t planning this to happen as a non profit organization until I realized that if you wanted to rescue dogs from county shelters, I need to have this status because they won’t let anybody, just anybody, rescue a dog from a shelter. That’s the reason why I have a nonprofit organization. It’s like giving me a license to save dogs. But we save dogs from the other shelters. We also take dogs from owner surrenders or from other situations. So far, we’re very small. It’s more rescue because I want to do that, like our slogan. We want to save dogs, “Out of harm’s way, one dog at a time.”
Every dog, I pay a lot of attention, making sure that the dog is healthy, happy, then the dog is ready to be adopted. I don’t want to take in too many dogs and then lower the quality of my care. So far, we will be in just a little by little. We have saved about 300 or 400 dogs that I can count . Just the best part about maybe dogs is seeing them go to a home. Not just a home, a good home, forever home. That’s priceless. So I see myself as an intermediary person. A dog will come to my rescue, they have a sad history, they have been abused or neglected. But when they are ready to go to their home, their lives will turn 100% different. It’ll be a happy dog. They will leave their sadness behind. That’s my goal, my mission. I love that. There’s so many things that I love about everything that you just shared right now. And I think it’s great that something as horrible as the whole situation with Michael Vick, just, you know, it brought that light to you. Like, Hey, I want to make a difference and you most certainly did. And you know, you didn’t just save him, but it seems like he may have saved you a little bit also. And I especially love that you pointed out that you don’t want to take in too many dogs because you don’t want to take the attention away from any of the ones you have in your care. You want to make sure that you dedicate that time and I think that that is something extremely special. And that’s why that stood out the most.
You know, I’m curious, so I’m assuming you take in just dogs, correct? Yeah, because some of my dogs that are not friendly so I can’t take it as a rescue dog because we don’t have a shelter. We are foster based. I think you can ask any rescue, they will give you the same answer. The more dogs you encounter the less you like humans. There are so many, so many you see people, how they have treated the dog. I feel so disappointed too. Some people, including some fosters, most of the time I fostered dogs myself. I just want to say it every time when I take in the dog, I take in the dog, I post on Facebook. My friends, those people I have never met in person and I just know them from Facebook, they’re comment is, awe this dog is in good hands. That’s my reputation and they know that I do a good job and I’m proud of that. That’s the motivation. Make me keep going. And I know that once I take in a dog, it’s my responsibility. And I’m not going to let this dog go anywhere until I know that the dog is going somewhere good. Otherwise, I won’t let this dog be adopted. We don’t adopt out dogs quickly. A lot of times the dogs stay with me several months because I’m very picky. But when I look at applications and I start thinking about maybe I’m just over-analyzing, but I just start thinking about, Will this be a good home? My focus is only dogs, not humans, no matter how much they want our dog. If this is not a good fit, I will say no. There are some people who are not happy about me. They think that I’m mean, I’m not professional or some people even say I discriminated against them. But to be honest, I don’t care because I want the dog to be a good thing. If I sense this person cannot provide good care, I will not let my dog be adopted. So that is one of the reasons why we do adopt out several dogs, but I also keep some dogs.
So now in my house, I have 12 dogs. I live in a doghouse, and some of them are not adoptable because they experienced the adopters. But I just worry that if I let somebody adopt this kind of dog that dogs end up and maybe hurt somebody or accidentally bite somebody because the adopter doesn’t know how to protect them. The dog doesn’t know how to handle the situation that caused the incident. And then who’s going to suffer? The dog. So I would rather just keep the dog and then there, so I have a couple of the dogs are hospice dogs. They’re either too old or they have cancer, and I just feel I would rather keep it with me in the day. They have a good home. They know I take care of them and they don’t have to worry. And I’ll just stay with them till the very last day. So that’s how I am, the dog sees my house. Okay. No but I mean, it really seems like you analyze their situation and you take the time to understand their needs and everything.
So, Laura, this kind of brings me down this path of, what is your community like, for those of us that may not be in your local area? Do you come across a lot of animals in need in your area, like abused animals? Sick animals? Share with us a little bit about how your community is like for the people. And also the animals. Or dogs, in this case. The place I actually live in is a pretty good city. It is in the west of Ohio. It is Berman City, outside Columbus. And to people’s view, this is a good place, good community. So I don’t really see any dogs that are neglected or abused. Usually, I get contacted by people. There are people on Facebook that contact me or there are other rescues that contact me, Hey, can you take this dog? So a lot of times, the dogs I get are not really from the Columbus area. They are really from out of the city, from other cities, from other shelters, and I really don’t mind that you drive the distance to pick up a dog, as long as I can do it, I can take the dog. I’ll just take it. In the past we even rescued dogs from Tennessee, from Memphis, Tennessee.
But later we realized that it’s too much because of the distance and it’s harder to find the people to do the transport for that. So eventually, I have to give up. I feel bad, but I have to give up because it’s just too hard to do, rescue dogs. And I would rather just focus on dogs in Ohio, locally, instead of out of state. But if there is a dog, as it happens that really needs help, I can still drive, I have several times, it’s just a couple hours that there’s no big deal. But that’s how I got my dog, my rescue dogs. Most of the time it’s shelters from different counties in Ohio or most of the time, it is from Kentucky.
It doesn’t really make sense, and especially if you know you have other organizations that are willing to work with you and call you and say, Hey, you know, we have this dog, you know, can they take them? And how do you determine how you can take in a dog? I mean clearly space is probably a big thing, but do you focus more on the dogs that are maybe on a euthanasia list or dogs that are specifically, like, they know that they have some behavioral issues, you know, how is your selection process done? For all the legitimate rescues, we have to carry liability insurance but because we are very small rescue and a lot of times I pay a lot of things out of my own pocket, I will just be honest in order to carry a No Breed Restriction insurance policy, the cost is at least $1400, a year. Oh my goodness. Yes, I cannot afford that. But I have to have the insurance to support the rescue. I can only take the insurance that I can afford that is still $850. So right now I can only take in multiple small dogs or medium size dogs. I can not take in any dogs that, you know, those dangerous breeds, which are really, Pitbulls, German Shepards, Doberman, Rottweiler, that kind of dogs, I won’t be able to take it. But I have no objection about those breeds. Personally, I have five pitbulls at my house and they are better than those little dogs. Some little dogs are little Jews. Yeah, but I know those pitbulls are very well, and actually a couple of them are from my rescue, and then they are not adoptable. But I know them. I know that if you care about them, you love them, they give you 100% loyalty and that they love you very much.
So it just, but in general, unfortunately, right now I can only take in dogs that are based on the policy. What’s on my insurance, our insurance policy. And also because I have 12 dogs in my house. I have to watch the harmony in my house. I don’t want to have any dogfights in my house. So the minimal criteria for me to take in the dog is the dog has to be friendly with other dogs. I don’t really worry about it, even if the dog has fear aggression toward humans because I live by myself and I foster. I have to say, at first I foster most of the dogs. Whenever I take in a dog, I think about how the dog fits in my house first. Then if I have a foster then that would be great, but if not, then the dog can stay with me. Then there’s no problem. I have to think about it. If a dog is friendly with other dogs, as long as the dog is a friendly dog, then I’ll take it. I’m pretty good at dealing with fear aggression and especially little dogs and we talking quite a few dogs, little dogs, from shelters and those dogs are very close to being put down. And I had about, I have volunteers contact me, can you take this dog? Because the dog is so afraid in the shelter and the volunteer, the warden will not be able to touch them. And the warden is very close to putting it down. Then as long as it is a little dog yeah, I’ll take the dog.
And the amazing thing is a lot of times when the dog is out of the shelter, his temperament has changed. The dog had calmed down and is much, much more friendly. And there are still some dogs who are very afraid of people. When I take the dog to my house and I have a way to handle them, I usually just leave them alone. I hide them in a crate, until my dogs are comfortable with the dog. Then I open the crate and let the dog decide if the dog wants to come out or not. During that time, I just ignore the dog. I don’t go in there. I don’t force to approach the dog and make the dog make friends with the other dogs. I let the dog just decide when he’s comfortable to come out and then just whenever I see the dog, I just just Hi, how are you doing? And I just a make the high voice and make the dog. I know that I’m friendly to the dog. So usually it takes a couple of days. Usually one or two days and he dog is fine with me. And especially the dog can watch the interaction between me and my current dogs, and then the dog can learn from them. So the peer learning experience helped the dog to calm down. From there, I started taking the dogs to different adoption events and then let the dog gradually meet with the strangers and that they feel that they’re confident and eventually the dogs will be fine.
There are two exceptions, right now, in my house. One is a beautiful Shih Tzu. She is 3 years old. She came from a puppy mill. She couldn’t be touched by anybody. It was from another rescue. I was told that she bit in the past and so I say, Yeah, I’ll take her because the Shih Tzu is one of the breeds that I love very much. So I took her. But to be honest so far, I still cannot touch her. I have had her for about 7-8 months, I still couldn’t touch her. Yes. But she gets along really well with my dogs. I think that as soon as I leave the house, I go to work and she comes out and plays with the other dogs. But when I come home she will hide in her corner. But the thing is, I think she likes me because she wags her tail. But she still it. She just doesn’t know how to interact with me. She just, her little mind just doesn’t know how to click. So I’ll give her time. I’m not in a hurry. And then just when she needs to be groomed, you know growing finished and her nails clipped, she goes to her corner. There’s some kind of settling. I just put a cage there and just force her to walk into the cage, and then I can take her to my vet. And then they will sedate her and then groom, shave her and give her all the vaccines and that kind of thing. So I’ve never been bitten by her. But every time when I feed her, when I’m preparing her food, she knows. She will bark, like,” hurry, she wants the food, she wants to eat. She knows I can give her all the things, she just doesn’t know how to drive with me. This is the most difficult case I have ever seen, so I have a feeling maybe she will stay with me, forever, but that’s OK She’s not, you know, in a harmful way, she’s in a good home and she has dog friends and that’s good enough.
Then I have another one much better than this. This girl, she’s the opposite. The first time I got her, she let me pick her up. But after that, there she hid in the backyard and I have to put food outside on the deck. She won’t come back to the house. But then eventually, now she accepted me and she likes me, but she still won’t let me pick her up or put a leash or a collar on her. But other than that, she wants me to pet her. She wants me to, she wants to sleep with me. But the problem is, if she cannot let anybody walk her or put a collar on her or pick her up, then I won’t be able to take her to anywhere for adoption events because she will be just too afraid. And this girl is an escape artist. Every time she sees a hole under my fence, she will dig it, dig it more. And she escapes. So now I have a lot of paving stones around my fence to block all of the holes, and I found out that when I tried to get her back, she wouldn’t come back to me and she will stay away from me. But as soon as I sit down, she will come. She will come to me. So this girl, I don’t know when she will be available for adoption, but right now she’s not. Just a lot of time talking and then I wander away. I don’t have no idea what I’m talking about.
I’m wondering, do you provide, when the dogs are in your care or in some of your fosters care, do you guys work with them, like any training? So like, let’s say if they aren’t housebroken, do you kind of help them get that training done? Do you guys do a lot of that with these animals? Or do you kind of just work with them a little bit, but kind of just keep a feel for how they are overall, like how they’re responding to you? Yeah, I think the trust is my focus, instead of house training or other kinds of training. But they are if a dog really has some kind of behavior issue, we do have a trainer to work with. Behavior, the fear aggression, this kind of behavior, I can handle that and I don’t work with trainers. But if a dog is with a foster and then if the dog is too afraid or something, I would recommend, I’ll ask the foster to contact the trainer and the, of course, the rescue will pay for it. And it is not the five weeks or six weeks, that kind of basic obedience training. It is more like a come to the house and do the outside evaluation, give some kind of specific instruction to the foster to help the foster work with the dog. That kind of training. But for my house, I have a fenced-in yard. Also a dog door. A lot of times the new dogs learn from my current dogs and then they use the dog door. They learn to use the dog door almost like one or two days and of course at the beginning, they think that it is fun to go outside, but they don’t associate that with potty. Still potty in the house, but they go have fun outside. But then I started giving them after they trust me, it takes about usually two or three weeks. Then I start saying, “Go potty, go potty” and then my dogs will go outside and then the new dog will follow them. Eventually, the dog gets the idea that okay, go potty means go outside. Go pee or poop. That’s how they learned. But I don’t focus on this kind of training from the beginning. The beginning part is to have the dog trust. That’s more important because if a dog cannot trust me, I cannot trust a person. cannot relax, then the dog will not be adoptable and will not be able to find a home. So trust is more important. If that’s something that works for you guys and you find a great and it’s I mean, that’s all that matters, you know? I mean, you guys definitely seem like you guys take in those dogs that need, you know, a little bit of extra help. And, you know, we don’t know exactly what they went through in their past. You know, it’s always great to give them their own leeway and their own time to adjust.
So I noticed on your website that you guys have a section on there where you show the Happy Tales of past dogs that have been adopted. Do you have any other cool programs that you guys offer as an organization? Whether it’s to help you kind of raise funds a little bit or just kind of keep your community involved? Well, not really, because at the beginning we do a lot of fundraisers but then I realized, not that we don’t really get donations often. Eventually, I just feel tired. It’s a personal thing. I just eventually I feel tired about doing this kind of fundraisers. And most of the time, unless there is a special case that the dog really needs a lot of money and for his medical expenses, then I’ll do the special fundraiser. Otherwise, we don’t really do the regular, like going to the restaurant to eat or that kind of fundraisers. You see a lot of rescues that do a lot of events to collect money, we don’t do that. And maybe that’s because I’m a very introverted person, and I’m not really good at communicating with people. And the funny thing I’m a librarian and I’m not good at it. But I’m really, when I’m off work, I just go home and be with my dogs. I’m just not really good at doing communication with that kind of fundraising. In the past, there’s a care something, that kind of website with the fundraisers. But now we use Facebook.
What are some of the challenges that you face as an organization and then also, I mean, I know that that’s gonna kind of tie in to how this whole COVID 19 pandemic has been affecting you guys. Can you share a little bit about the struggles you have been facing? The struggle is definitely money because, like I said, I don’t do fundraisers that often but dogs still need their vaccines, and need their surgery, no matter what. And they also need their heartworm prevention, all kinds of things. And then we’re usually taking all the dogs and a lot of time they need dental.. I cannot say just, Oh, right now I don’t have money, So that’s a way. That’s when a hold of the dogs appear. I have money. It’s impossible. They need the help and need that care, they need the treatments. So most of the time I just use my own money. I put in a huge amount of money to take care of the dogs. Since we’ve had this rescue in 2013, I have refinanced my house and got a second mortgage, twice. in order to get more money to do the work. I cannot just keep borrowing money so the hard part is I have slowed down. That’s why I also make this rescue so small because I can’t afford to rescue too many dogs. But whenever a dog really needs help, I will step in.
And the dog fosters not just fosters, I need committed fosters. The reason is I think there’s also problems for other rescues. There are people that are willing to help, and the days they all have a foster dog, then after an amount of time the fosters say I cannot do that anymore, and you need to take the dog back. When people say this, they don’t give us time to make arrangements. Usually it’s like you to take this dog now. It’s like I have no place for the dog. What am I going to do with this? When the dog is in the shelter and people will lobby for the dog, they will try to help the dog, but I assume the dog is out of the shelter with a rescue. People usually think that the dog is safe. We don’t need to worry about that. So when the foster backs out it is harder, much harder to find another foster for the dog. Then finding a foster for a dog that’s still in shock. So that’s like another problem.
And the thing right now, this COVID pandemic. I got more contacts about wanting to foster our dogs. But I’m worried because right now people don’t work. They cannot work, so they stay at home and then they realize they have free time. They can help to foster the dogs, But I’m worried. My worry is when they are ready to go back to work, are they going to ask us to take the dog. I’m very nervous about that. That’s why I am limited to small dogs. So just in case even people change their mind, I can still take the dog. But if I open two big dogs, then I’m in trouble. I have no place to find a foster for them. I had a really, really bad experience with a dog. Likely, the dog was adopted after the third foster.
The dog we rescued from Memphis, Tennessee. And then the dog was badly, so badly abused, almost like a skin and bone. And also, her tail was closed to be amputated. And also because of the abuses, she was very afraid of people and that she was not friendly. She was not friendly to dogs. So I had a foster. Then the foster did not workout. And then later, I had another foster. Then later I found out this foster, I don’t know why, she had her personal reason, that she stopped giving the dogs food and then made the dog skin and bone again. So I took the dog back, but immediately I took the dog. But then I don’t have any fosters. I have temporarily put her on boarding. Even though our vet has a boarding place that they gave us. It is like only $10 a day. But this dog, because of her situation and also because of her skin and bones, she has to be hospitalized. And also she was And then this dog was bored for three or four months. So you could do the math. For 3 or 4 months, $10 a day. That’s just for boarding. That’s a huge amount of money. And I tried to do a fundraiser for this dog. I only get about $100. And then also she needed treatment for her initiation or so later spay. This dog, then later a lady was willing to foster her. But then this woman, I did the interview. I was reviewing her. I did a background check. Everything, everything looks fine. But then when I met with this lady, she loved this dog. But she is some kind of person, they’re very difficult to deal with. And, you know, some people, they’re just very picky. The dog, she has not been spayed yet. Then she was in heat. Then she complained, the dog has blood over my house. Then the doctor farted, she said it smells so bad that she needs better food. I already gave her good food. And then she complained about this, complained about that and I gave her more support than regular fosters I supported.
Then one day she called me and she said she’s in the hospital, at the ER,she cannot take care of the dog. She asked me to come to the hospital, pick up the house key and pick up the dog. It was like seven oclock in the night. Boarding places are all closed. Where am I going to find a place for this? And it was a snowy day and I had no place. But thank God there was another lady that she mentioned that she may be able to help. And so immediately I called her and really I will literally beg her. Can you foster the dog? And she talked to her husband and she said Yes. So I was able to get this dog to her house and then finally got everything settled. But the funny thing is, after that, this lady fell in love with her and then eventually they adopted her. So it was a happy ending and I was very, very, very happy indeed. I was so happy for this dog. And I’m so grateful for this family that adopted this dog. But the whole process scared me. First it’s because so much money and I couldn’t get any donation and dealing with a couple of bad fosters. It just makes me, really this experience, lose some faith about humanity, about certain people. The dog I also paid for the heartworm treatment later and then she got spayed, and now she’s very healthy. And her mom said that now she looks like a people. It’s a very, very good ending, the process you’re so disgusted and so angry about. I don’t understand why they treated this dog this way. This dog had a really bad history already, and I don’t understand why they even wanted to keep fostering this dog from the beginning.
Yeah, it’s tough out there, you know. And ultimately here, right? I don’t know the full story behind those animals. But we do know that clearly they came into your care for a reason. And you can usually tell how they’re acting and everything. But you know, you gotta do what’s best for the animal. And ultimately you are absolutely right. She didn’t find a good home, that they love her and she’s being cared for. And, you know, she looks like a hippo now, so you know that she is very well taken care of. And I’m sure she’s extremely happy. And, you know, those are the stories that make this whole thing worthwhile, you know, Is that happy ending for that animal. And Laura, I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you today and learning more about your organization and how you really take the time to know all of your animals. And I want to kind of help and just kind of ask you if anybody is in your area and they’re looking to help out your organization, whether it be to be a foster or to donate or just to, you know, go and check out some of the animals you have for adoption. How can they get in contact with you? E-mails will be the best away, is Charlieswishanimalrescue.org. I check very often and the worst of communication methods is the phone. Because I work full time and when I go home, you know 12 dogs taking of them. Yes, that’s our Yes, it’s like a 12 taking care up top. And so I’m not really good at talking. And any communication, I like to have a record, so email will be the best way to keep a record. And then it reminded me that so and so contacted me. I have to respond back and so email is the best way. Otherwise the text is fine and I return the text. So that’s it. OK, No, that’s great. And you know, like to kind of take that any consideration. And, you know, you mentioned that you would like to get some more fosters. So if any of our listeners are in your area and they’re looking to foster, hopefully they feel comfortable enough to reach out, make a difference.
So, Laura do you have anything else that you’d like to share with us today before we wrap things up? No, I really appreciate that you gave me the chance to talk about my experience and to talk about Charlie’s wish, and I just hope that it doesn’t matter if you’re fostering or even sharing the dogs online and then let the people be the voice. I wish people could be the dogs’ voice because a lot of the time, the abusers make up stories about them because dogs can’t talk. So they make up stories about how bad dogs are. But the truth is that the dog has nothing. The dog is innocent. When an abuser does something and they try to make themselves look good, so they blame the dog. They blame the dog before or the dog is aggressive with the dog is bad or something. It’s not. A Lot of time the dog bit somebody. It can be that a kid is just being ruthless and then that causes the dog to react in the defense. If the parents can watch the kids and then supervise the interaction, nothing will happen. So it is a very simple thing. The foster will be wonderful. Donations are great! But even just to educate and to learn how to interact with the dogs will and also with the person. You think you have a problematic dog. Give the dog some time and a chance, the dog will turn around. We’ll that’s good. It’s impossible that you get a perfect dog when you adopt a dog. A perfect dog isn’t. You work with the dog and you learn from each other. The dog learns how to make you happy. How to please you, how to become the perfect dog that you are in these times and that needs time in that you cannot make the dog read your mind. And then a lot of time we get dogs because people want a perfect and then when a dog is not perfect, it’s a human error is not a dog. Yeah, it’s a tough one, but I agree. We gotta stay educated and what’s going on and be that voice for the animals. So you’re doing your part in caring for those animals and just keep up the good work and we look forward to catching up with you soon. Okay, thank you very much.
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