Mandy & Jody, along with Darren & Scott believe that old dogs make great new friends. They started Albert’s Dog Lounge in Wisconsin and share with us the inspiring story of Albert and how his legacy lives on. With the help of their friends, family and community supporters they were able to surpass the goal they set for their first year. Almost tripling their original goal of 50 lives saved, they are impacting not only the lives of the dogs they are saving but the people who support them and those that have joined their team. “Welcome to the Professionals in Animal Rescue Podcast. Where our goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now, on with our show! Albert’s Dog Lounge officially became a nonprofit rescue in 2017 and was started by Mandy and Darren, along with their friends Jody and Scott. They started out with the goal of saving 50 senior special needs and hospice dogs in the first year, and they far exceeded their goals, saving a total of 139 lives. With the wonderful support from friends and family and those in the surrounding communities who also believed in their mission, they were able to raise enough money to purchase a transport van, and now they’re rescuing animals in need from Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas. Hey, Mandy. Hey, Jody. Welcome to the program. Good morning. Hi! So this is the fun part of the program. You guys get to start us off and tell us a little about you. So, Mandy, why don’t you start us off? How did you get into all this? Well, I was not involved in a dog rescue. So I never had any knowledge out of it. About five years ago, some friends of mine, some friends of mine, were fostering, and ah suggested that I get involved in fostering. I tried one dog, and ah, I failed. We still have that. Uh, you have to come up with a better name. People always say foster failure like we need a better name, like foster success, you know? So I was convinced I was a horrible foster parent. Um, and then another gal locally was starting up a rescue and I was one of the first fosters. She asked me to come in, and I said, all right, but if this has gotta happen quick, you know, because I get attached to these dogs, and, um, I had my first successful foster, and then I kind of just immediately was almost addicted to helping these dogs. So I helped her start-up her rescue and was actively involved with that. And, um Ah, in 2016 you know, I was just fostering typical young dogs. And then in 2016 I, ah, a dog ended up on a transport but that shouldn’t have been and didn’t have a place to go. It was a senior Dachshund, named Albert and that dog changed my entire world and lead me on the path to where I am now. So, um, that’s how I got involved. In my normal everyday job. I do security. Um, so we have a far cry from IT security, isn’t it? It definitely is. It definitely is not even close. But, um, it’s become a great passion of mine. And it’s something that I feel like I’ve been able to grab on as meaningful in my life. Very cool. So, Jody, how did you get started? Oh, let’s see. So I was always that kid that brought home the, you know, the little straight animal, the cat on the street. The dog that looks so lonely. I was also that person that always felt so sorry for the little old man sitting at the restaurant alone. And, you know, I wanted to just help everybody and make everything better for everybody. Um, so, I independently rescued for many, many years and then back in, I want to say 2015, I was living in Houston, had been there about 13 years at that point, and I had started kind of on Facebook, just kind of following some different people that did different things with animals. And, um, I saw this picture that somebody who is now a friend of mine had taken of his shelter dog. And he was on his last day. He was, he was just absolutely beautiful. A pitbull mix. And, um, the picture, you could just see the fear in his eyes. And then I just touched my soul and I just started reaching out to these random people on Facebook and, you know, how could I save this dog? What do we need to do? Do I, you know who do you, what do you do in Houston when there’s so many, um, we’re new when you only want this one. So, fortunately, I reached out to a couple of different rescues. Well actually I reached out to many different rescues that I just found doing a Google search and two of them responded to me. One of them told me they couldn’t take him. Um, and the other one gave me a chance. So I went to the shelter to go pick him up. And I actually came home with two dogs that day. I showed up for one and came home with two. I like it. Funny. How that happens. It seems to be a theme for me. Um, but I brought him home and I brought Shay home the other dog as well. And then I just started. I just started fostering for this rescue, as many dogs as I could. As many dogs as my husband would allow. Um and then over time, I just started reaching out to other rescues and seeing how I could be of assistance fostering different dogs. And then I got to the point that I was on a street team, that they would go out and work with street dogs. And then probably Mandy was it 2016 that we met? Yeah. Hooked up with Mandy online. Because she was in Wisconsin. I was in Houston, but we were kind of working with the same group of people. And then in 2017 my husband and I went up to Wisconsin, a visit with Mandy. And she was kind of bringing to actuality this dream of Alberts Dog Lounge. And I went back to Houston and my husband and I said, You know what? When the kids were gone, that’s where we’re going. And I deemed myself Mandy’s rescue coordinator and for yourself, huh? Really Did. She did. So tell me, how did Albert’s dog lounge come about? I mean, I’m guessing that Albert, Albert was a dog, right? Yeah. Albert was, ah, Dachshund that was picked up by Lola’s lucky day in Houston. And, um, the rescue. I was working where he was intended to go to a different rescue. So there was some miscommunication, and he actually ended up in a transport and had nowhere to go. So the rescue I was working with said, you know, Mandy is going to foster him. That’s fine. Well, we’ll take him in. My husband carried this poor Dachshund and his arms for two hours while we figured out a plan for him. Um, he ultimately ended up with me for eight months before he passed away. Um, and I was just so touched by this. He was a hospice. We knew he was hospice when we got him. Your senior, um and he just made such an impact on my life that, like, my last words to this dog were Bobby, I’m gonna help more dogs like you. You know this is, he just changed my life in more ways than I could ever even put into words. And, um, initially, we had started fundraising with the idea that we would convert our two-car garage into a space for our foster dogs That would allow for decompression and time to settle in as a transition to Wisconsin. And we would call it Albert’s Dog Lounge. That quickly became that we could have started that dream right before Albert passed. And then once Albert died, I decided, nope, this is gonna be more than just a foster space. This is gonna be a rescue. So we worked really hard on it. And out of 2017, we got our 51 C3 status as of January. For 2018, doing full rescue work with a goal of 50 dogs our first year, um, and at the end of the first year, we had saved 140 seniors and placed them into homes. And as of this year, we have already exceeded 140 dogs. We’re actively placing seniors and homes. Sometimes as quick is days of getting them, you know, to Wisconsin. Some of them have families that are waiting weeks to get these dogs there in Houston, and we do the transport and these families know that this dog is coming in three weeks and they’re willing to wait just for this dog. So it’s been a pretty amazing road. Yeah, it’s impressive that you guys did three times what you set out to do in just such a short time. Yeah, and I think it’s important to note that all Mandy and I had was a desire to help these old dogs. You know, she’s an It. I’m a nurse. Um, neither one of us have any kind of business background. We just kind of dove into it because we’re passionate about it. And, um, you know, just asked a lot of questions, made a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the day, we knew we were trying to do the right thing. You know, by helping this subset, you know, there’s geriatric population of dogs that everybody was overlooking, it seemed like. Yeah, and this is just kind of curious is how you guys hold on. I mean that that is an aspect, a very special aspect, actually. I think of rescue because you hear about these sad stories is to older dogs that are turned into these shelters for whatever reason. I mean, how that’s now become your focus and your passion, hasn’t it, Jody? Yeah, very much so. You know, I never did puppies, but I always had younger dogs. Um, and then I took in a senior through different rescue. This was a new Mandy, but Alberts was just still kind of being talked about at this point. Um, and I took in this senior that had, you know, lived his whole life outside on the land, sleeping in the dirt under a beat-up truck, and, and he just changed me. To see him, this old dog, he was 10, um, you know, come into my home. Seemingly never have been in a home before. And to just see him come alive again. And it was for me, like Albert for Mandy, it was life-changing, you know? And then when Mandy said, you know hey, you know, after having Albert that she wanted to do this senior dog rescue, I was like, yes, yes. This, this is what needs to happen, because people are giving up on these dogs. People are turning him into shelters when it gets a little bit difficult. Um, and that’s not fair. That’s just not fair. So I think that, that it just touched us in a way, um, where we just felt like, you know, it’s not enough. Now to foster, we need to actually bring this together and do something. And painfully, Mandy had already been thinking that, so I just kind of fell into the mix. You made yourself the self-appointed rescue coordinator, so… I did. And I didn’t tell her that she said you need me. Yeah, well, it sounds like you guys were destined to find each other. And now you’re partnering together and even as we’re talking before the show, I mean, you guys said you’re connected like you really just understand each other and you work so well together. Absolutely. We really do. Like I said, um, we have a very sister-like relationship. Um, and that doesn’t go without arguments and disputes, but at the same time, just like family members, you know, that’s it. You know, we, we speak our opinions to each other about situations, and then we’re over it, you know, laughing 10 minutes later. So, um, we have an excellent relationship. And I think that the relationship that, excuse me, that we have, helps to build our, is a great foundation for our entire team. We have fosters in both Houston and in Wisconsin, and we really like to think of ourselves as a great big family and have, ah, very family-like relationship and a lot of, um, you know, it’s something that I think is a little different about our rescues, that we, our group does things outside of dog rescue, right? Like we have get-togethers and we go for dinners and we hang out and we have friendships. And so I think that Jody and I’s excellent relationship kind of just keeps that relationship with our group. Yeah, from somebody that’s an IT security and a nurse, and you guys found a common passion. And one of the nICE things about the rescue communities, we’re all so supportive and we try and help each other. Like you said, there’s really, it’s not like you can go to university to learn how to do dog rescue. And you kind of learned on your own and you found each other. And now you’ve decided that this is gonna work for you guys together, so much so, that Jodi moved all the way up here to Wisconsin with where the climate does not winter. I did. And, you know, right now everybody’s yelling at me like I’m the one that brought all this heat up here. Yeah. You know, um, it just kind of worked out. I still run the Houston end of things. Um, I thought that was in Mandy, kind of. You know, we, we talked together, and it was like, you know what? I still need to just kind of stay in charge of that because that’s, that’s my spot. I know those people. I know the community. I, you know, I have so many contacts down there that, you know, in order to continue growing in helping dogs. Um, no matter where my location, it was just important for me to continue staying on top of that end of things. Um, Mandy has, um, been in contact with groups. Even outside of Texas, though. And we have been able to bring dogs to Wisconsin from other states and we’ve had dogs from Tennessee, from Kentucky. Think we had one from Alabama if I’m correct. Yeah, we’ve had a couple from Alabama. Uh, yeah. Um, Illinois, of course. Um, but that it’s been very, very humbling to see the growth of Alberts over the last year and 1/2. I mean, it’s been phenomenal and we are just touched that there’s so many people that are so accepting of these older dogs and want to give them in many cases, lives they never had. And even knowing that it’s where it could potentially be for a short period of time. You know, there’s no guarantee when you adopt a 13-year-old dog. I mean, for somebody to come to us and say I love this dog, I will take the stock and I will give it a good life and maybe it’s months. Maybe it’s a year, but you know that time is very limited. And so, as Jodie said, it’s just so humbling that there’s just such an amazing group of people willing to do these things for these dogs. I mean, like I said, we just had no idea. We thought, ah, we were discouraged by people like, do you have any idea of the cost of seniors? Do you have any idea how long they’ll sit in fosters? This is why rescues don’t typically do seniors on a lot of people, you know, would say things like that to us and, and that just that discouragement kind of just gave us more fire to do it and, um, prove them wrong. I mean, these dogs are getting great homes, and I think we’ve been very successful at it, and we’ve got great support with our followers and people who love our rescue and what we do. And thanks to those people and the doctors, it’s just been a great success for us. Yeah, and I think you guys have really developed your, you know, your style and how things work. I mean, we’re talking before we started recording about how Jodi just writes these amazing, you know, Facebook posts that really kind of draw you in with these captivating pictures, really make you want to adopt these dogs and feel, feel the passion for these animals in their stories and their personalities. You know, I often say these dogs are free people. They just don’t have words. But if you’ve ever had a pet in your home, whether it’s a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a guinea pig, they all have very distinct personalities. Likes and dislikes. And, I think that if you can in some way relate people to that, you get it and they want to be a part of this dog’s life. You know, like maybe say even sometimes if it’s a month, um, we’ve had dogs that have passed away very soon after adoption. Um, and thus the circle of life. I hate to say that, but people are accepting of that. People want to give of themselves, um, to, to give these dogs such fantastic things. And if some silly little bio that I write can play a part in that then, then I’m willing to make kind of a fool outta myself, sometimes. It was some of the stuff that I come up with because it’s important. At the end of the day, these dogs deserve it just as much as a puppy, just as much as a two-year-old dog. A dog that is 10 years old and has health problems and his gray in the face. It still wants to be loved, still deserved. So I’m always saying, I think that we want to mention that Albert’s is not just about senior dogs. We also do, do special needs dogs. Yeah, that’s really important for you guys to mention, because those are also more difficult, right to adopt out of shelters. And as you’ve mentioned before, a lot of rescue groups just don’t focus on them because they’re harder to adopt. It may take a little longer to adopt them because you gotta find the right person. Right. We have right now for some of our special needs dogs. We have ah, two dogs who are in wheelchairs. We have two dogs who have ah, cerebral hyperplasia, which is a neurological disorder. Um, we have had dogs, we have a dog with no eyes. She is a senior. Ah, but she had to have both eyes removed. So we have dogs with missing limbs, you know, whatever. If the dog really has a, basically what you said, uh, more difficult time being adapted, regardless of age, it’s kind of our wheelhouse. Um, basically wanna help the underdog. Those dogs that typically are the first to be euthanized in the shelter situation or the last to be rescued. Those of the dogs that we are wanting to help. Yeah. And it’s not just the shelter dogs as well. Um, thankfully. And I do say, thankfully, we do get owners surrenders. I’m glad that they reach out to us instead of turning their dog into a shelter. That, that in and of itself could be so traumatic for these older dogs. But we do also occasionally take the street dog. Good story is of Lazarus. Um, about a year ago, we pulled him off the street and he was horribly emaciated, hairless, near death. He was standing there on a street corner in the hot summer sun. When somebody happened to find him, and I’m sure he would have been dead within 24 hours had she not found him and then notified us. Come to find out he had diabetes. His blood sugar was up in those six hundreds where it should be done around, you know, ah, 100 ish. And he also was almost blind. His diabetics had caused cataracts in his eyes. Um, so he couldn’t see. Interesting to note, though, he’s probably only about five years old. Um, yeah. So we were able to, he actually was fostered by my husband and I. Um, and we were able to treat him, get him healthy. He also had heartworm disease. So we had to take care of that as well. Um, but then last on the list was figuring out how to get this blind dog to see again. And we were actually able to, through the gift of a coworker’s mother. Um, we were able to take him and have his cataracts removed. And he has been adopted here in Wisconsin. He can see, um, his diabetes is under control and he lives a fantastic life. That’s a great story. And that’s, that’s the reason why we do this right? Is we want to help them to live a life released. As you pointed out, even if it’s not years and years, you know, we want the end of their life to be better than maybe where it started. Or maybe along the way and just giving them the love and the respect and the attention that they deserve. Agree. Agree. I guess. Mandy, what’s next for you guys? As you start looking forward, I mean, you’ve had so much success and you’re growing mean. What’s the next step for you guys? You know, we have lots of ideas. Um, the one thing that we’re looking at in the very new future is potentially our own building. Um, not we’ll never be a shelter. Um, we’ll always be 100% foster-based, but a building to help coordinate our transports and do storage. Maybe small event type things for fundraisers. That’s for looking in at. We also are hoping that at some point we can save up enough money to purchase a second van. We’ve been able to purchase one van that we own and that van is used locally here in Wisconsin. And, um, when we do our transports from Houston, we meet a van in Arkansas. But we’re on the Houston side of things. We’re having to rent a van every month at this point. So, um, that would be a money saver for us in the long run, but as far as the actual sq, we just know that we continue to grow. We love the path that we’re on. Um, and we just hope that we can continue to save more senior and special needs dogs. That’s the only thing that, um, is their primary focus. I know people can go to albertsdoglounge.org right, And you guys were very active on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Um, is there anything else, Jody that you wanted to mention before we wrap things up? I think that I just want to let everybody know that this really has been personally just such a gift to my life. I had a foster tell me not too long ago, she said, you know that fostering for Albert’s Dog Lounge has made me a better person, and that makes me a better wife. That makes me a better mother, that makes me a better friend. And she just told me how grateful she was. And it’s true. You know, when you reach outside of yourself and you, you realize that there is so much out there that you can be a part of to make something better for someone. Whether it’s a person or a dog. Um, it really does improve your life. It really does make changes that are good. And this, this little rescue of ours has been that for me and for my husband. It’s been a great journey. And like Mandy said, we love the path that we’re on. We’re meeting new people every day that feel as we do. And it’s nice to have that community of people that are brought together over all dogs. Yeah, I absolutely love that. And they loved the impact that you’re having both on the dogs and on the people. And then I think that’s one of the most important aspects of animal rescue is the people that we help along the way as well. So, Mandy and anything else you have? Um, I would just like to add that, you know, we talked a lot about the street dogs and the shelter dogs. And, um, you know, you mentioned the impact of people. Something that I just like the personal touch on is just that our, our impact people. So now all of our dogs are not from a shelter. Um, like Jodi, mentioned we do a lot of owner intakes. And what we see a lot of times with older dogs, that we get involved in people’s lives who maybe have a health issue, right? Like, um of somebody, with Parkinson’s disease and had gotten to the point where the dog had become a health risk because it was under their feet, and it was hard as it was for them, it was their only option. So we love being an instrumental part of not only assuring them that their dog will be, you know, safe from a shelter environment and in somebody’s home. And we’ll find a better home. But also, we help, um, local, ah, people who are low income from time to time with dog food that we get extra donations for. Um, and we also have done, um, fundraisers to help people who maybe have an older dog, and that dog’s not getting, necessarily getting the care it needs. We’ve also helped fundraise to support them so we don’t have to take their dogs. That’s not our goal, right? We don’t want to go take somebody’s dog. But all that dog needs is a groom and a dental will fundraisers and will help that person so that they can keep their dog. And the dog can continue to have its good life with its owner. So we have other ways that we impact our community besides, just, you know, helping these old dogs and pulling these dogs from shelters. And so I think that’s important that I mentioned that as well. Yeah, you know what? I’m really glad you did. I mean, I think this is just a testament, Mandy and Jody to what two people can do, right? I mean, you both were, you both kind of stumbled into this on your own paths, and then you found a common interest and look at you guys now and look at all the amazing things you’re doing. So I, I’m so glad to learn about your organization, and I’m really glad you guys came on the program today. Well, thank you for having us. Yes, very much. Thank you, Mandy. Thanks, Jody. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, join the ARPA to take advantage of all of the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign-up with Doobert.com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.