Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 46 – Arizona Small Dog Rescue

The Arizona Small Dog Rescue (AZSDR) is a nonprofit organization on a mission to save as many lives as possible. They rescue small dogs who are on the list to be euthanized in other shelters by bringing them to their facility. While caring for the dogs they bring in they make it a point to provide any medical care needed as well as socializing them to better help their chances of getting adopted. AZSDR believes that they are the middle ground from being homeless to finding a forever home, they are the stepping stone to find that loving, forever family.


Welcome to the ARPA, Animal Rescue of the Week Podcast featuring outstanding organizations around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.

The Arizona Small Dog Rescue is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of small dogs who have been abused, abandoned, neglected or have no home. This rescue was started by one person who really wanted to make a difference by saving dogs. One dog turned into two, then ten, and soon there were too many to hold in a single household. AZSDR, provides a safe place for these dogs, along with medical care, and socialization training if needed to ensure they are ready to go to good loving homes.

Hi, Rachel. Welcome to the show. Hi. Thanks for having me. Of course. We’re looking very much into talking to you today about your organization. So you’re the Operations Manager at the Arizona Small Dog Rescue, is that correct? That is absolutely correct. Perfect. So can you kinda share with me a little bit about your organization and what a normal day in your shoes looks like? Arizona Small Dog Rescue is a nonprofit 501(c)3. We’re a no kill animal shelter. We began originally in 2006, as a foster based rescue ran solely out of volunteer homes. We ran operated that way until about 2009 when we moved into the facility that we’re at now. We are currently in a 4,000 squarefoot shelter equipped with a grooming area, large indoor life rooms, outdoor dog runs, play yard, we even have those needed area in the facility specifically for us to work with shy, fearful dogs. They need to learn how to establish a trusting relationship with humans. We are actually coming up on our 10th year of the nonprofit. Okay, so that’s exciting. Yeah, I personally have been with Arizona Small Dogs since April, but most of our staff and volunteers have been with us since the beginning in 2006. Being operations manager, I kind of do literally anything that it takes, day by day often rescue doesn’t have a norm. And you know we have to take things on the fly, and handle situations accordingly. So it’s pretty exciting. I absolutely love my job. I’ve been in animal welfare for about 13 years now, and I wouldn’t do anything else. I absolutely love it. I’m very passionate about my role in the community and helping homeless pets, find better situations by finding forever homes. Wow, that is awesome.

So you had mentioned that you guys like a shelter now, So would you consider yourself more of a rescue or more of a shelter? A little bit of both? It’s absolutely both. So we do have a shelter location where we can house a number of animals. But we also have a fantastic foster base who allows us to save more because then we’re not solely counting on the kennel space available at our shelter. We have the pleasure of actually having homes for these animals. To kind of learned how to be a dog again, and have that home life. So if there is an animal that needs to recover from an upper respiratory infection, just for example, they could do so in a home type environment, so they are able to recover quicker. When an animal’s in a shelter environment, no matter how well we take care of them, it’s stressful. It’s a sterile environment, so being in a home allows them to relax and build immunities and recover quicker. I find that great, and I find it very unique that you guys were able to kind of run as a rescue and a shelter because you know how rescues are usually nonprofit, and shelters are usually they’re funded. So you guys as a whole are a non profit organization. Correct? That is correct. We run solely off of donations and our adoption fees. Perfect. So see, I’m learning something, and I hope our listeners are, too.

So in your title. Obviously, it’s small dog rescue. Do you guys take in any type of other breeds or animals that always adjust strictly small dogs? It is not strictly small dogs. We’re in this for rescue, so if any particular animal needs to be rescued, we will step up. Our shelter itself does not allow us to take in a ton of large stray dogs, basically, just because of space alone, however, we are doing our darnest to get into a larger facility where we can accommodate more larger breeds. Right now, currently, we have large life rooms, and so we could place one to two, depending if their dog friendly, large breed dogs in one of those life forms comfortably, or we can put five or six small breed dogs in that room. So we just have to be mindful of space in regards to who we rescue. Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s great that you pointed out. you guys are in it to rescue, not be breed specific. Everybody knows you do have to, kind of accommodate, to the space that you have. But that’s awesome, that was one of the things that I had wondered when I saw your title and that you guys were rescue, but that you guys have a location.

So I’m curious as to what your community is like. Do you guys get a lot of animals that come in? Or how is it over there? Maricopa county has a serious homeless pet problem. We believe that it’s simply thanks to, for the lack of a better word, ignorant pet owners not getting their pets sterilized. By sterilize, I mean spayed and neutered. They tend to get out and run around town, which eventually creates even more pets end up on the streets, repeating a never ending vicious cycle. So we do our best to contribute to spaying and neutering pets in the community. In 2018, we spent over $52,000 on spay and neuter surgery alone. And this year we are going to surpass that, probably about $10,000 more. So obviously, monetary donations are helpful, supporting us by participating in our many events, adopting one of our dogs, donating food, cleaning supplies, anything to help alleviate our medical costs, or our shelter costs are all the things that you can help us, help them. Absolutely. That’s a large number. Congrats to you guys for being able to provide those awesome services to your community to try to help alleviate that issue.

So while we’re on the path of that, you obviously have a spay and neuter program. Can you share with me a little bit about that? And if you guys have any other programs that you guys offer to your community? We spay and neuter any dog that comes through us, obviously, before adoption, we want them to have that surgery. So again, we’re not supporting backyard breeding and contributing to the homeless pet population. We do not personally have a spay and neuter program for the public. However, we would gladly, if anybody reached out to us, provide them more information on where to go for low cost surgeries. We do offer microchip implant services to the public for $25. It comes with a free lifetime registration. Microchipping is incredibly important because if your animal is to ever get lost, I know we all think “that would never happen to me.” But it does, you know, a gate blows open, or like I mentioned, when a dog is night spayed or neutered, they’re more inclined to get out and find a friend, if you will. So, microchipping services is something that we provide on a walk-in basis. This allows you to be reunited with your pet. This is additional step in regards to, a collar and a tag in a way of identifying your pets. You can actually get them home to you. So they don’t end up in a county open intake kill shelter. Potentially, it could be life saving. Yeah, these are the type of things that I feel like our community as a whole from state to state. These are things that people need to be kind of reminded of because I feel like microchipping, it’s been around for a while, but it seems like more organizations nowadays are really pushing for that. So that way, like you said, everybody always thinks, “well, this isn’t gonna happen. My pets not gonna get out. I have a yard.” And that’s not always the case. Anything can happen. Your dog can dig out. People don’t think about stuff like that.

So how do you guys go about not really advertising your service is. But how do you guys get your the people of your community to know about these services that you guys offer? Well, we are a small rescue. So we’re trying to expand and get our name out there as much as possible. We do have a rather large social media following. For example, we have about 42,000 followers on Facebook, so we do advertise our services there, as well as on our website. Our website is You can find all of the services that we offer, you can connect with us. If you have any questions. It’s just a matter of word of mouth. People who you know, relay this information to their friends and loved ones. So they know, we can have more exposure. Participating in this podcast is you know, a fantastic opportunity for us to be able to do that. And I like that you pointed out word of mouth because sometimes that literally can be the quickest way to get things out there and as well as you know, social media. And when I was looking at your Facebook, I did see that you guys do have a large follow base, which is amazing because that’s so beneficial. And a lot of organizations, and just businesses, in general, are searching for ways to connect with people on social media, seems to be the top answer to help with that.

Program wise, you shared with me, with the spay/neuter and the microchip. Do you guys offer any type of educational programs or anything of that nature? We do have a volunteer program where you can come in and actually physically see what we do day to day and assist us side by side. Like I mentioned you could give us a call, with just a question that you have regarding a particular behavior you’re struggling with with your animals. We pride ourselves on our customer service. We believe that educating the public is one of the most important things that you can do, when your in animal rescue, because as I mentioned earlier with spaying and neutering, a lot of the time, it’s simply just ignorance because they’re unaware of what they can do to help the situation. Nowadays, The cost of spay and neuter are so minimal. There’s so many free clinics, where it’s absolutely no charge at all and it’s a quick drop off, you leave them for their surgery and pick them up a few hours later. That’s all it takes. Yeah, and like you said, there’s a lot of clinics out there that are willing to do that for free, which it can’t get better than that, you know? Absolutely, absolutely.

So, aside from the homeless pets in your area, what is the biggest challenges you guys face as an organization? One of the biggest challenges for us, in particular we have right now, is our shelter facility itself is older. We are constantly getting thrown off by having to deal with costly repairs. We are trying to get better and get bigger and be able to financially support moving into a newer, larger facility. We would like to be in a better side of town even. So, the shelter itself, like I mentioned, just because of the size we can’t necessarily accommodate as many medium to large breed dogs, as we would like to. So I would say that’s a big challenge that we have currently.

How many fosters do guys usually have on a regular basis? We usually have, at any given time, approximately 75 different foster homes with our animals in them. Some fosters can take one dog. Some fosters take, you know, a litter of 10 puppies. So it does vary depending on what their household can accommodate. But we absolutely cannot do it, or at least do was much, without them. That’s a great number, to have. I mean 75 fosters is amazing. So it seems like you guys have that foundation built between that many fosters and a physical location. So how did you guys managed all of the animals that are placed within all of those fosters? I mean, it takes a village. Definitely. It definitely does. We have a huge support system of staff and volunteers. We have a foster coordinator in particular that tends to our foster homes. Make sure that they have everything they need. For example, if you take a puppy, we’ll make sure that you’re supplied with puppy pods, puppy food and chew toys for the duration of their stay. We’ll actually provide you everything it takes to care for these animals while they’re with you. We only ask that you provide them a good, loving home, in the meantime. Wow, that’s so great that you guys were able to do something like that. And I feel like fosters are important for any organization because it’s awesome to see the amount of people that actually are willing to bring pets into their home. And if that’s the way that they can help, it helps tremendously. So I love hearing that you guys have such a large number of fosters within your organization.

So how do you guys go about getting some of the animals adopted? Do you guys go to events. Do you guys put on any type of fund raiser that kind of shines light to these animals? I’m curious as to how you guys get some of these animals adopted. We do share them on our website, and other websites, and we post them on social media again, word of mouth. We like to provide great customer service to our clients, so when they come in and they adopt a dog, and they have a great experience and they share that with their loved ones, and then they come in as well. We do also have adoption events, so our physical shelter location is open Tuesday through Sunday, we’re only closed on Mondays. We’re open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Anybody can come in at any time. There’s no appointment necessary, and you can view the adoptable pets that we have here. In addition, we can arrange for meet and greets with our pets that are in foster care as well. On the weekends on Saturdays, we have adoption events. There’s often adoption events, and this is every single Saturday. We have one adoption event inside of the Petco, off of Tatum in Bell Road. And then another inside of a PetSmart Location off Tatum and Shea Boulevard from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Like I mentioned every Saturday. On Sundays, we have another event–adoption event, on the west side of town. It’s located off of 75th Avenue on Bell Road also inside of a PetSmart location. That way, if you can’t make it to our physical location, you have an East Valley option, as being central, and then West Valley option as well. You said that you’re not open on Mondays, but it seems like you guys are super busy and you know, you guys are putting forth the effort to meet your community’s needs. You know, you’re on one side of town one day and the other side the next, and a lot of organizations don’t do that. So I find that great to hear. So that’s awesome.

Do you guys sometimes bring some of the animals from your foster homes out to these adoption events or , is it just the animals that you keep within the shelter? The adoption events, in particular, is where most of our foster animals go. Obviously we can, accommodate either, if it’s were convenient for them to come to the shelter. But it’s actually part of the foster agreement. If you take in one of our long timer adoptable dogs you would be required to attend at least two events a month for that animal to get exposure. I haven’t really had anybody share that little bit of insight. So that’s cool to hear that you guys are making sure that, as well as them fostering these animals that they are committing to helping get this animal adopted. Yes, it’s great. It’s a good time. We’re all a really close knit family. We enjoy seeing our fosters and bringing in their foster pets for the event. You know, they can show it for a couple hours during the event. We do, obviously network these animals that are in foster homes a little more heavily because you’re not here to get the foot traffic from the shelter. So we would do that on our website on social media. Yeah, and you know, that’s important because you guys don’t just have to worry about the animals that are in foster homes. You also have to worry about the ones that are in your physical location.

So I’m assuming that you guys have volunteers, because you said that you guys have the volunteer program. What are some enrichment programs or enrichment things for the pets at your facility that you guys offer? We actually have a full enrichment program where they get new enrichment activities every single day. It’s something that I care very deeply about and I’m extremely passionate about because, like I mentioned before, no matter how well we take care of these animals, they’re still in a sterile environment. There’s still lots of sights and sounds and heavy foot traffic, and it becomes stressful, so to be able to provide them enrichment is very special. They get to go out of our facility. They go to the parks for walks. They’ll go to Starbucks to get a cappuccino. We will do like frozen treats in the summer to help them cool off. We’ll let them play in play pools. We’ll blow bubbles. They really love the bubbles. It’s so cute to watch. We like to play classical music for them. We do nose work where we’ll do scented different scents on their toy, or they’re bedding, or well hide like a cinnamon spice in their sheets so that when they get into their ‘kennel, it’s new and exciting. “Oh, what is this? Something to explore?” Wow, that is awesome. I’m totally with you. I love to see how excited pets get. I mean, it’s kind of like watching a kid. They really get excited in the bubbles. I think that’s so sweet. You guys offer some really neat things for the dogs that come into your care. I mean, some of these things I have never even heard of. I’ve never heard of other organizations doing that. So that is extremely awesome and so special. And it truly makes you guys stand out as an organization that you guys actually take that extra initiative to find out the different fun things that you could do for these animals while they’re in your care. Because, like you said, they’re in an environment where they’re probably scared. They’re nervous, they don’t have that loving one on one time with people like if they were in a home. So I find it amazing that you guys offer them so many different enrichment programs. Big thanks actually, I have a staff member in particular that that is her job title. She is the shelter enrichment coordinator, so she takes that very seriously. In addition to that, the rest of herself and all of our volunteers participate as well. Shelter enrichment is so easy. Sometimes you can just walk around with a spray bottle that has, like a vanilla scent, for example, and just spray the room. The dogs have very sensitive noses, so they find that intriguing and it’s new. It doesn’t smell like all the other dogs. Yeah. And the head tilt what we get when they’re so curious to see a bubble for the first time. I mean, it’s just heartwarming. It is and I mean, if you could see me right now, I have, like, the biggest smile on my face because I love to hear about how a pet is just truly enjoying their time, especially in that shelter environment, because, like I said, nine times out of 10 they’re scared and you don’t really get that curious, fun, sweet personality out of them. And so that’s awesome. Yeah, no, we definitely have a great time here.  It’s also great for our staff and volunteers to participate like they enjoy it. I enjoy it. It’s so much fun. Also, enrichment really helps with keeping animals in their new forever homes. For example, if the dog house issues with separation anxiety, if you play calming music and give him a nice chew toy, that’s–or like a Kong, for example, that’s full of peanut butter. You can even freeze that and get a couple extra hours of chewing and keeping them busy on something productive that they’re allowed to chew on versus getting themselves into trouble. So that is also a benefit.

So, Rachel, you had mentioned that you have been in the animal wolf fur industry for quite some time now, and aside from the enrichment programs that you shared, can you share with me any memorable stories that you have or one that stands out in particular? That kind of got you started down this path? Would you mind sharing something like that with us? There is so many and again that’s absolutely why I do this. To be able to change the animal’s life, there’s nothing like it, one in particular that I’ll share with you. Her name is journey, and as we’ve discussed previously, we don’t typically take in large breed dogs because of space constraints. But we were alerted that there was a pregnant stray pupper at our local county shelter and we felt compelled to save her. We did not want her to give birth at a local kill shelter in a stressful environment. It’s just absolutely not ideal. So we rushed over, We picked her up. We brought her into our facility. We did then have her checked out by one of our veterinarians. And it turned out that she was not even pregnant after all. Oh, my goodness! She was actually fighting a deadly case of Pyometra. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus, that causes a lot of animals to fall gravely ill. It is absolutely life threatening if not treated. Had Journey been spayed, none of this would have ever happened to her. So again, please spay and neuter your pets. Anybody listening and it’s so very, very important. She was then rushed to an emergency veterinary center for emergency spay surgery. She’s getting the infected uterus out, was treatment and that she was able to make a full recovery. And she is now considered what we call a foster failure because one of our fosters failed to bring her back. She is now a forever member of her foster home. Who was actually an Arizona Small Dog Rescue staff member. So we get lots of updates, photos, visits regularly. Oh, that is so sweet.

This is probably one of my favorite parts of the podcast because you hear about these stories and they just touch your heart and to hear the outcome and how they’re making that recovery. And I find it crazy that she wasn’t even pregnant, I mean–. Yep, it was definitely a surprise. we just put her into a foster home for a few weeks for a quiet place to have her puppies, and then we quickly figured it out. She had elevated temperature. Her bloodwork was off the charts, showing that she was fighting a gnarly infection. So we did an ultrasound, which is how we discovered the pyometra. And it was just awful. The whole situation could have been avoided if she was spayed. Yeah, it’s always going to go back to that. You know, certain issues if they were spayed and neutered. It’s so crazy to me how it’s such an easy thing to fix. But people in the world they don’t have that mentality. I find it great that you guys were able to take her in and give her a good life, and I always find it ironic that they’re considered foster failures. But it’s such a great success. Exactly, because it’s like she found her loving home. She’s meant to be there. She still got that great life, so that’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that with me.

So what does the future look like for your organization? I know that you guys want to move to a newer location, but do you guys have any other plans for maybe some new programs or events or any type of thing for your future?Every single day, we’re always welcome to getting feedback on how we can help the community better. We’re always trying to participate and engage with our community and network. We’re definitely open minded on anything that can help us improve. As we did discuss previously, we are trying to get out of our current facility into a new, larger place where we can accommodate more intakes. We can accommodate larger breeds. We can do what we’re doing now, but on a grander scale. So that is the biggest goal. We do have a number of events coming up. We participate in lots of the events. Actually, you can count long at least 2 to 5 each month, For example, on Sunday, December 8th, we have a home for the Holidays art show it’s out a desert passion studio and gallery where they send their photographers into our shelter, and they took beautiful photos of some of our AZSDR rescue pups. Those photos will be displayed on their feature wall and available for purchase for a donation for that rescue. So that’s one example. On Saturday, December 14th we’re having our annual Santa Paws Event. We hold these at the OHSO location, which is pet friendly. You’re welcome to bring in your more like it for babies to the OHSO brewery. This one in particular, is located in Paradise Valley, Arizona, and then you would have your photo taken with Santa by a professional photographer. It’s a free event. We do request donations but it’s absolutely free to attend. It’s so much fun. We do it every year. We absolutely enjoy it so very much.

In the new year, we’ll be participating in an event called The Relay for Rescue. That’s happening January 25th. It is basically a fun scavenger hunt. It’s even a bit of a bar curl, where local animal advocates, local animal rescues, (there’s nine organizations that are participating), we all get together all entry fee registrations, all donations, all raffle ticket proceeds get pulled together and it split amongst the nine organizations. So it’s just a fun way for us to give back with the community, and, have fun, and provide education, and enjoy ourselves while doing it. And again, it helps support our mission with the donations, that is our livelihood, and we cannot do it without the help. Yeah, and I’m so happy that you share some of those events with us that you guys have coming up. If any of our listeners are near the Phoenix Arizona area, there’s are some great events coming up that they have. I kind of wish I was in Arizona right now. so I take my pets to the one with the pictures.It’s so much fun. It is! It is great and so much fun. But you can get all of our event-particular information off of our Facebook page, in particular, under the events tab. That way, if you are in town, and you would like to join us, you know where the addresses are and the dates and times. We’d love to have anybody, just wanting to come join us. Absolutely. And I hope that this gets out there and you guys get some more people there and just help come out and support your guys’ cause, because the animal welfare industry is such an amazing cause, and I feel like it’s sometimes undermined a little bit. So I praise you guys, and I think it’s great that you guys have a passion for what you’re doing.

So if anybody was interested in being a volunteer or a foster or just coming out to check out some of the animals you guys have, how can one go about getting in contact with your organization? We have a number of different avenues. Obviously, you guys are more than welcome come into the shelter itself. Like I mentioned, we’re open every day, except for Mondays. You can contact our shelter directly. Our shelter phone number is 602-944-2440. You can contact us via Facebook page. I personally managed that, and I can respond to your message with an hour or two max. I’m usually pretty good about that. You can go onto our website, again that’s, for more information. Also, if you’re interested in fostering, in particular, you can email us. So the email for posturing is For volunteering. It’s if you just want general information, we have info We have one for adoption as well, which is I bet you can guess it–

And again, we invite you to call us or come into the shelter. We are almost always here, and we’re always willing to help. Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that with us. Is there anything in particular that you would like to share with us before we get things wrapped up today? I just want to extend our gratitude to you and say thank you for inviting us to participate today. I’m absolutely grateful to have an opportunity to highlight our organization and share some of Arizona Small Dog Rescue’s information with your listeners. So thank you. Of course, and like I said, I was so eager to learn about you guys. I came across your website. I loved it. It stood out to me. And those are the things that I look for–is If I’m intrigued, I reach out. I loved talking with you guys and I hope that some of the things that your organization is doing can be shared to another organization. Because at the end of the day, we’re all working towards the same goal, and–. Absolutely. I love that you had pointed out that just because in your title you guys are a small dog rescue. you guys, still, you look at that rescue aspect and you guys are willing to help out whenever you guys can. So thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today, Rachel, and sharing with us a little bit about your organization. It truly was amazing. Thank you so much. I really sincerely appreciate it. If anybody has a question or wants to contact us for more information, please do. Again the phone number is 602-944-2440 Or, if you’re in town, come visit! Awesome, thank you Rachel. Thank you.

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