If you’re part of my Mailing List or my Street Team, you know I’ve been working on a special article about German Shepherd rescues. I’ve always been an animal lover, and I was inspired to learn more about rescues when I created the character of Tan, the German Shepherd rescue in THE WATCHER, Book 2 in the Crossing Realms paranormal romance series.
One of my favorite things to do as a writer is to talk with people who are passionate about what they do. It’s contagious! I’ve talked with an expert, and heard from many of my readers, who’ve shared their amazing stories about German Shepherds. (Scroll down to the bottom of this post to read them all!) Through it all, I’ve learned, enjoyed, and discovered, sometimes shedding tears, and other times, laughing out loud. But it’s all touched my heart.
I want to thank all of these generous people, who shared their time and experience with me about these truly majestic animals, enabling me to make this article possible.
Without further adieu, this is why she rescues German Shepherds…
The dogs were barking happily when Linda Lamek Healy, long time German Shepherd, and all around animal lover and Foster for Heidi’s Legacy Dog Rescue, answered the phone. She asked me to hold on a minute, and with a few simple words, calmed and quieted them. Instantly, I was impressed with her easy, yet firm manner, and I knew I would have the pleasure of talking with an old hand.
Indeed. Linda, a retired social worker, has been rescuing dogs since she was a child, bringing home strays, and she’s been around German Shepherds just as long. Linda explained why she loves the breed so much. “They’re very loyal, protective, and make people feel safe. Even the calmest one, if they sense a threat, will protect their owners if they are in trouble.”
Linda knows this firsthand, as one of her precious ‘pack’ protected her when she needed it. When she rescued him, Roman had been terribly abused, and suffered health problems from over breeding. But she was able to nurse him back to health. One night, sensing trouble, he shot through her screen door to chase a burglar who was trying to break into her Jeep. Mission accomplished! Way to go Roman!
“I’ve been in love with Shepherds forever,” Linda said. Such a special breed of dog needs just as special of an owner. “They’re bigger dogs, they require patience, and I feel, a more experienced owner,” she explained.
She’s been fostering dogs for Heidi’s for four years, and currently, she’s fostering seven. In addition, she personally has four dogs. Wow! “I really feel it’s what I was meant to do my whole life,” she said.
“The dogs are my life,” Linda said, and I have nothing but admiration and respect for the labors of love she performs daily for these amazing animals. “It’s very fulfilling. I foster a lot of senior dogs with medical conditions, such as mange, malnutrition and hip displaysia. Many have also been abused.”
Her day starts at 5am, and usually, Linda has the dogs settled for the night around 7pm. Over the course of the day, she feeds them, brushes them, provides medical care, and cleans, vacuuming and mopping floors several times a day. “Because I’ve fostered so many dogs, and with the veterinarian’s guidance, I’ve learned so much about the dogs’ medical needs. If it’s possible, we feel they’re better off at home, versus in a dog hospital.”
As one can imagine, the condition many of the dogs are in when they get to Heidi’s is heart wrenching. Many are sick, have been abandoned, abused and severely neglected. Enter the Foster – an angel in disguise, who accepts and cares for these animals at what may be the lowest point in their lives.
Linda feels blessed to share many success stories, which she does routinely on her Facebook page. Saber is one such success story. When he came into her life, he had no hair on him except for on his ears, and weighed a mere 49 pounds. Now, he’s a furry long hair, weighing in at 87 pounds.
A lot of love, hard work and planning goes into each and every one of successes like these. Over the last year, Linda had fostered over fifty dogs, caring for them until they’re ready to be adopted. Obviously, getting them to that point is often expensive, as veterinarian bills, medicine and food is costly. “I go through 120 pounds of food a week,” Linda explained.
To offset that cost, Linda sets up a table weekly at one of the Pet Supermarkets in St. Petersburg. Donations to Heidi’s Legacy are gratefully accepted, and customers receive a discount on their order. It also enables Linda to get some of the high quality food she so desperately needs for her fosters.
As well, Heidi’s participates in, and hosts numerous fundraising events throughout the year. One such event is the annual Gulfport’s Get Rescued event, sponsored by the Gulfport Merchant’s Association, which was just held in late February. As one of the largest animal rescue events in the state, all profits benefit participating non-profit rescue groups. “Not only is it one of the most important fundraisers for Heidi’s all year, financially, it serves to raise awareness, and it’s also a lot of fun.”
Thinking of adopting a rescue? Linda explained Heidi’s application process is rigorous. In fact, some of the organization’s volunteers devote their time exclusively to accepting applications and screening applicants. Part of the contract includes Heidi’s ‘following’ the dogs. “We want to see pictures and progress. And fortunately, some of the owners are close by, and I get to see the dogs in person,” Linda said.
“Depending on the condition they’re in, some fosters stay only days,” Linda said. “Others, I’ve had for months. I have a good instinct about the dogs, and about which one will go best with which person.”
According to statistics posted at Heidi’s, “between 6-8 million dogs and cats end up in animal shelters in the United States each year. (HSUS estimate)
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
BECOME A FOSTER – Clearly, being a Foster is a huge commitment, and Heidi’s, as well as shelters in your area, are always looking for reliable, caring Fosters.
The bottom line for Linda? “There’s always a dog I wish I had room for.”
ADOPT A RESCUE – Straight from Heidi’s website, because I can’t say it any better: “Make Adoption Your First Option! A simple solution to the national pet overpopulation problem…yet effective. If we all adopted just one, there would be very few to save. And talk to others about adopting dogs instead of buying them. Adopting instead of shopping will save thousands of dogs from being euthanized in shelters every day. Every dog bought in pet store or from breeder means another dog in the shelter dies. Sadly, a dog is put down approximately every 9 seconds in the United States.”
MAKE A DONATION – Monetary donations are always needed, of course, but many other items are needed as well. Linda explained. “We always need dog food, used linens, old bedspreads, sheets, towels, paper towels, Clorox, Laundry detergent, Pinesol, Lysol, vacuum cleaners, mops and other cleaning supplies.”
BE A RESPONSIBLE PET OWNER – Plan for the care of your pet. Who will take care of your dog if you can’t? Think beyond the immediate; don’t make an impulsive decision. Get a pet that makes sense for your circumstances and lifestyle. For example, if you’re older, getting a puppy may not be the best choice. Have your pet spayed or neutered. Training, exercise, good nutrition and keeping an ID tag on your pet at all times are also very important. Above all? Love your pet, and you’ll be loved in return.
SHARE THE LOVE – Enjoyed this post? Please share it! Follow your local rescue organization on Facebook and other social media. Share their posts! You never know where it will lead. <<Follow Heidi’s Legacy on Facebook>>
MORE ABOUT HEIDI’S LEGACY DOG RESCUE
From Heidi’s website, www.heidislegacydogrescue.com – Heidi’s Legacy Dog Rescue is dedicated to rescue and placement of unwanted companion animals. Based in Florida, Heidi’s Legacy has helped thousands of companion animals find loving forever homes. These are wonderful loving animals that often only need love, compassion and training to make them an incredibly awesome family member and best friend.
Heidi’s Legacy was established in 2002 as an all breed rescue in honor of Heidi, a marvelous German Shepherd that was abandoned by her original owners and left to die in the country. Sadly Heidi died shortly after her arrival with us but we have dedicated our lives to saving others just as lovable and just as deserving as Heidi was. Read Heidi’s Story.
Founded by Lori Hoffman, Heidi’s Legacy is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization staffed entirely by volunteers that LOVE and RESPECT animals. If a life can be saved, we will do what needs to be done. Our goal is to save as many lives as possible so they can enrich the lives of their new adoptive families as they do ours.
STORIES FROM MY READERS ABOUT SOME AWESOME GERMAN SHEPHERDS
I want to thank each and every one of my readers who took the time to share their stories and pictures about awesome German Shepherds that have touched their lives. Some are happy, some are sad, all touched my heart. You put the cherry on top of this post 😊 Without further adieu, I invite you to read on!
HONDO – story shared by Debby
We had a German Shepherd called Hondo. He worked with my husband and was a state police canine. I am not sure what you would like to know, but Hondo had many quirks and loved his job.
He was a state police dog and was very intelligent and quite quirky. He made up games when he was bored. He would run and jump and try to catch dust from the air reflected by lights. When he was outside, he would run from one of the fence line to the other. leaving a gully in between two built up mud areas at each end. My own dog would come in with her feet wet but Hondo would be covered in mud. He was very possessive of the cruiser and hated to let anyone in. I actually think he would have helped someone rob our house though. He was an excellent tracker and found a four year old boy who had been lost for almost a day. He found many bad guys as well. In fact, he liked that so well, he had to go back to training because what he would do is go into a warehouse and find the guy and bite him and then come back to his handler. The bad guy would think he was safe and the dog would leave. They sent him back in to search and he did the same thing. He did that so many times that the guy gave up. Another time, he was set to guard a prisoner in the cruiser. The prisoner tried to escape and Hondo grabbed him and pulled him half way into the back seat. The guy was yelling for help. He promised not to move after that. He was an amazing dog. He lived with us and was very loving but not when he was in his cruiser. When my husband dressed, he would wait at the door.
DESTINY – story shared by Colleen C.
My family had a long haired German Shepard named Destiny. She was a very loving and protective member of our family. The most interesting thing about her was that she loved to play soccer! That dog would use her paws to bat the ball back and forth and run forward! I had never seen anything like it. She loved playing with that ball daily. Very talented!
BUDDY – story shared by Ryan Jo Summers
I have a bittersweet GSD story. My family had two when I was young, though they both died before I could form any strong memories of them. I knew some from the local police force and admired them as incredible, beautiful animals.
I spent many years as a veterinary technician and working in a boarding kennel, later buying my own boarding kennel. I was privileged to know several great shepherds when I could borrow them from their owners.
My bittersweet story is this, going back to late 1980’s. I was working as a vet tech at a Michigan clinic. An older couple brought in their new GSD puppy, Buddy, for his first vaccines and check up. He was a lovely black and tan pudgy bundle of fur. He was going to be an enormous dog when he matured. His owners were smaller in stature and strength. They carried Buddy in a plastic tote bag. The vet and I advised them to start training Buddy now to walk on a leash and develop manners, as he would grow quickly. Oh, they couldn’t put a leash and collar on him, they insisted, he was too small. Might I point out he was already, at six or seven weeks old, a healthy and stout fifteen pounds at least. We gave them literature about training puppies and reminded them he would grow and needed to learn manners while he was small. Oh no, they insisted.
Three weeks later, Buddy and his parents returned. This time he was in a basket, and barely staying inside. He wanted out. He was a robust 25-35 pounds now, and growing fast. He had no manners yet, fighting us over being held still for exam and vaccines. Again, we both urged the owners he was growing, and going to be a big boy. Now or never.
Three weeks later, Buddy came back on a leash, and fighting it. His owners hated it. It was horrible. Dreadful. He yanked them all over the sidewalk and waiting room and exam room. He had no clue what any commands were when the vet and I tried basic obedience words. Again, we implored the owners to enroll him in obedience classes. No, those were cruel places, can’t have that.
When Buddy was six months old, he dragged his owners in and we had him neutered. The hope was to settle the rambunctious pup down.
Two months later, Buddy returned. His owners wanted him euthanized, put to sleep. Aghast, I asked why. He was rowdy and never listened to them. They could not walk him or handle him or do anything with him.
I begged to take him, stating I could work with him. I offered to buy him, how much did they want? I implored them to reconsider.
They were firm, he was out of control and needed to be put to sleep. I begged the veterinarian to not go through with it.
Alas, the form was signed, the money paid, the owners left and the doctor and I sadly put a healthy, friendly, outgoing, rawboned, beautiful, intelligent Shepherd youngster to sleep. His only crime was having stupid owners.
That was nearly thirty years ago and I still remember Buddy. I still see him, cute as stuffed bear, riding in that plastic orange polka dot tote bag. I remember pleading for his life to owners who had ignored six months of pleading from the vet and I. I remember the rage and helplessness I felt as I held this great animal and watched his young life slip away for no reason whatsoever.
Ever since then, in my storied career of working with dogs and people, I have retold Buddy’s tragic story, and used it as an instrument to urge others with similar breeds to train early, train consistently, and educate themselves as much as possible. I knew one gentleman, who after I suggested he research the origin of his breed, was amazed and finally understood why his Labrador Retriever was always finding balls and sticks to bring back to him. I would like Buddy’s short life and unfair death to be useful to help others avoid the same fate. Knowledge is power, and sometimes knowledge is a life-saver.
DUKE – shared by Beverly Laude
My childhood friend & neighbor had a German Shepherd named Duke (popular name back in the 1960’s for a GS). An elderly lady from a very prominent family in town came to their house to visit.
When she went to ring the doorbell, Duke decided to snap at her. When he did, his teeth got caught in the lady’s girdle. We watched the whole show from across the street & were ROFL.
Duke was notorious for things like this. Thanks for reminding me of fun times with Duke!
PRINCESS – shared by Linda
I grew up with German shepherds. Actually crawled into their den and played with the 6-9 pups (according to the year, the number was never the same) when we were “pups”, my brothers and I.
We were raised on a ranch in Montana, back in the days when a ranch was a ranch, and next to the foreman’s house, there was an old dog hutch, that used to be on the back of a pick-up, where the two guard dogs slept. Their straw bed was changed when the calves’ was, and it was always an event when the bitch bore her pups. She also accepted us toddlers as part of her pack of pups, and we would squirm in the straw bedding with those delightful puppies whenever we managed to slip Mom’s distracted surveillance. She must have had a helluva time getting all the dust and straw out of our clothes and our hair!
My little brother, always the one to taste something new, even ate dog food, the dry crunchy kind, with them to be like Princess. He showed the puppies how, I guess, and Mom would certainly had fits if she’d known! He would have been between two and three years of age, and I between four and five, since this was the time period when our youngest brother was born, keeping Mom busy…
Can remember her once recounting, also, about a time after sunset, when she was taking a quick walk along the path/road in front of the foreman’s house, and heard an almost silent thumping gallop coming at her from behind. Realizing that our German Shepherd guard dogs might not have recognized her at once, she stopped and started speaking softly, “Good boy, nice girl” to them as she turned around slowly. As soon as they realized who she was, they immediately stopped the hunt-mode and started bouncing and wagging. However, she always said that they would probably have downed her silently, no fuss or barking, just business, if she hadn’t spoken. Excellent guard dogs! So loyal to family!
JOE – shared by Pat Moore
We had a stray German Shepard that took up at our house. Our sons were about 10 & 13. They were outside playing under our oak tree. They named the dog Joe. I was washing dishes and looking out the window that looked out over the back yard. Our neighbors (lived up the street) had a German Shepard that they kept on a thick chain. When I looked I saw their dog at the back of our yard. He saw the boys and charge them. Joe jumped up and attacked the other dog (who was bigger than he was). I ran outside at the same time an insurance salesman jumped out of his car in our drive-way. He grabbed the boys baseball bat (sitting next to the garage door). He attacked the dogs to get them away from the boys. He drove off the other dog. I was so thankful (sending up prayers the whole time) that he saw what was happening as he drove down the road.
I doctored Joe and made sure there weren’t any serious injuries. He had a lot of blood on him but it was from the other dog. Needless to say, Joe had a home for life. That afternoon our neighbor came down & demanded we pay the vet bills for his dog. My husband told him there was no way. That his dog had charged our children. If it hadn’t been for Joe he would have hurt the kids. He also told the neighbor that he better be glad we weren’t filing a lawsuit against him for endangering our children when he had a vicious dog on the loose. Furthermore, if the dog had hurt our children we would be owning everything he owned. The man left in a huff, never spoke to us again. No big loss there. It wasn’t long before we noticed their dog wasn’t there anymore.
When we had to move we gave Joe to my mother’s friend. She was a widow and she wanted Joe for protection. He lived out the rest of his life as her companion and “lap dog”. He slept at the foot of her bed and no one was allowed near her unless she told him they were ok. My children are now in their 40’s and we all still love that dog and have fun feelings for his protectiveness. I thank God he was with the boys that day. The other dog only saw the boys & didn’t see Joe. He was laying about 3 feet from where the boys played.
BRAVO – shared by Natalya Khamone
I had a gorgeous German Shepherd named Bravo. We had him as a puppy when I was about 5 years old and he grew old with us. I loved that dog. My favorite memory of him was on a hot day when my dad would spray him with the water hose and he would run across the yard trying to hide but he secretly loved it. A minute later, we’d see him run across the yard to hide on the other side but held his head up in the air as the water sprayed him. One day, Bravo stepped on a nail in the garage and was limping for days. I remember laying on the floor crying because I felt so bad that he was in pain. He was such a loyal dog. When I was a teen, Bravo was getting too old and sick. My father gave him to a cousin and he told me he went to a house with a bigger yard so he would have more room. I never knew what became of him but I will always hold him in my heart. German Shepherds are the best, most loyal, honest animals on this Earth!
German Sheperds are wonderful pets. Also I found that strays are even more protective than most pets.
‘BOY’– shared by Vicki Burton
Many year ago, as a private investigator, I visited a residence out in the country. These folks had several dogs. All were happy, healthy, and well-fed except one; the shepherd. He was chained in the sun with no shade, no food, and no water. You could count his ribs. I cried. Later that day, I went back and asked these people why the dog was treated so. They just looked at me as if I’d just sprouted a third eye in my forehead. The woman told me I could have him if I wanted him. I loaded him up in my little compact car and traveled over 30 miles to my home in another city. I fed him, and fed him, and fed him. He gained weight. I bathed him almost every night in the bathtub. He had full run of the house. Unfortunately, he was a problem child. When I entered the house after a long day at work and called his name, he would cower and pee on himself and whatever piece of furniture he was on. But we managed. I can say that I gave that boy a few good years in life.
MINCA, HONEY AND OREO – shared by Steven Epstein
I went out for coffee and there was the North Shore animal league truck with all these dogs and cats on it. Since Killer died 2 days before my wife was heart broken. I went on the truck (December 9, 2015). I walked to the back of the truck and I locked eyes with this beautiful gorgeous adorable puppy named Minca who was 9 weeks old. She looked at me with her huge puppy dog eyes. Another man was debating whether to adopt her but I jumped right in and said to the assistant please give me the papers to fill out. I paid for her and brought her home to meet the wife and my other dog Oreo, who is a pointer pit bull mix age 7. They hit it off right away and 13 months later are the best of friends. We renamed Minca and call her Honey. She loves the name and responds on command! Honey is a German Shepard, Ridgeback, Dachshund mix who came from the Cayman Islands. She was born October 1,2015.
Enclosed are a couple of pictures of Honey and my other dog Oreo.