Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 32 – Meridian Canine Rescue

Meridian Canine Rescue is a non-profit, no-kill canine rescue dedicated to giving homeless and owner surrendered dogs a second chance. They have both a facility and a network of foster homes, several staff members, great business partnerships, and a whole bunch of awesome volunteers — all of which help to care for dogs in need. The MCR strongly believes that no dog should walk alone that is why they strive to provide a safe environment and exceptional quality of life for their dogs.


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

Meridian Canine Rescue is a no-kill canine rescue located just outside of Boise, Idaho. They are dedicated to giving dogs a second chance at life. And they strongly believe that no dog should walk alone and their mission is to save lives through storytelling and education. Transparency, individuality, commitment, and empathy are words this rescue not only lives by but they take very seriously when caring for the dogs they take in. With over 200 volunteers and more than 2,000 dogs adopted, this rescue is striving to make a difference in animal rescue.

Hey Jessica, welcome to the show. Hi, thank you so much for having me on your show today. Yeah, I’m excited to have you on the show. You are with Meridian Canine Rescue in Idaho, which is located just outside of Boise. And, I’m excited to kind of start this and just see what you can teach us today about what you guys do. So why don’t you start us off with a little bit about Meridian Canine Rescue and what you guys do there? Yeah, absolutely. So Meridian Canine Rescue is a small 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We operate as a shelter and a network of foster homes in the city of Meridian. We do take in dogs only. So dogs come to us as owner surrenders or transfers from other organizations where maybe they’re out of time or they haven’t had any luck finding adopters. They come into our care, and then we kind of get to work, getting to know them.

We stay pretty small 10 to 15 dogs at capacity, and our mission is to save lives through storytelling and education. So when dogs come here, we are focused on their individual personalities. We are sharing their stories with our supporters. We are trying to, educate the public about their needs and kind of used their stories as a way to spread knowledge and skills about certain topics related to dog handling, and then hopefully we find them fantastic forever homes in no time at all. And then they go home and we get to hear all about them in their wonderful forever home. So we do like to stay in touch with their dogs even after they leave us. That’s pretty much us in a nutshell.

That’s a pretty small nutshell, but I know there’s a lot more that goes into that. So that’s what I’m excited to kind of learn today is peel back some of those layers and learn a little bit more about you guys in detail. One of the things that really stood out to me is that you guys are rescue, but you do have a physical location. And so I’ve talked with a few groups that are in that same scenario, and it’s always interesting to me how that happens. Why don’t you tell me how that ended up? Sure, Yeah, Our organization has a long history with the city of Meridian. We were originally a city shelter doing animal control services. After the city decided to cut those services and work with another bigger statewide organization. The volunteers, who are left, decided to open up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in a tiny little section of a warehouse and start taking in dogs and use the resources and the people that were left over to continue to help the dogs in our community.

So we’ve had a location for a long time. We do tend to align more with the rescue side of this community because we are one species only. We don’t have animal control services or a clinic on site. We have controlled admissions. So we’re, you know, picking and choosing which dogs come into our care based on who needs us the most and who we can help. And so, in a lot of ways, we’re really fortunate to be able to carve out sort of a place for ourselves in our community and have a physical location that people can also come and stop by and visit and say hello to our dogs.

The other really interesting part to me was that you guys are at capacity at 15 dogs. That’s interesting to me. Even rescues typically have more than 15 dogs, right? And so I’m curious about do you limit it at that or is that driven by the amount of fosters you have? And then I want to get into the meat of what you do, and that is the story telling and education. But why only 15? So our capacity for care number is between 10 and 15 dogs. We arrived at that because we were working with an expert and shelter design at UC Davis as part of a grant that we had received from the SPCA. We kind of looked at every single factor. So not just how many foster homes we have, not just the square footage of our building, but also our goals for care for each dog and our human resource capacity, our financial capacity, all of those things.

So, yeah, we like to stay between 10 and 15 dogs because we found that at those numbers, we can take exceptional care of them in a way that we maybe can’t do is easily when we have twice that. We used to have more dogs. We used to be sort of, you know, filling all of the kennels in our building and trying to bring another dog in. But we learned pretty early on that. That model didn’t fit us very well. Okay. We like to get to know each individual dog and spend more time doing things like the storytelling, more enrichment, more behavior in training. We just don’t have as many people as some of the bigger organizations. Sure. And so it’s been easier for us to kind of manage our numbers and not let go of our standard for care.

You know, you always want to help as many animals as you can. And so you think by and I say you as in like the general public humans, we think that helping animals means you have to take on as many as you can possibly take. And I love that you guys learned and shifted gears to say, “sure, we can hold 30 dogs, but we’re not helping them.” You’re literally just moving them at that point from one shelter to another. And you’re saying let us help the ones to the best of our ability so that we can bring in more. Right. And that had to be a little bit of a hard decision to say that we can no longer take 40 or 50 dogs. We gotta trim this down.

Yeah, it really was. I mean, we had operated. Our first year in this building was 2017. When we moved here, we were so excited about the new location and how much space we’d have. And we definitely had room for 30 to 40 dogs in our care. And so we were thinking, Okay, let’s bring them all in. Right. Let’s get as many as we can fill the space, that was our operating mode. And I mean, it makes perfect sense, right? You want to save as many as you possibly can and as quickly as you can and bring them in and take care of them. And that really just burned everybody out. And we started to realize that because we were doing it that way, there were sacrifices that we had to make in terms of some of our other program goals.

So, as an example, we really didn’t have the bandwidth to do as much post adoption support, and so we might have been getting them into homes. But we weren’t able to follow up and follow through as much as we maybe we had wanted, or as much as we felt like the community might have needed. We also have two organizations nearby that are much bigger, and they have the bandwidth for the large populations. And so we started to figure out that the services that we could offer that would maybe fill a bit of a gap in our area, were more about individualized care per dog and then also taking in some of the dogs that maybe wouldn’t do so well at the bigger shelters and helping with the dogs who weren’t finding placement elsewhere and weren’t getting adopted elsewhere. We could kind of slow down, take them in, get to know them and get really creative in their care and in their adoption marketing and spend the time doing that. And so even though maybe we’re not, you know, adopting out the 500 plus dogs that we were in 2017 we’re still finding homes for more than 300 we feel a little bit better about the ways that we’re doing that. And we feel like the dogs are getting better care because we’ve slowed down.

Yeah, yeah, you have to take care of not just the animals but the people on the team, right? The volunteers and the staff. And you know, those who are in there doing the work with the animals. And if you burn him out, right? Then you’re a one man show and nobody can save animals as one person. It’s just it’s not. It’s not possible. Right. So yeah, it was too overwhelming. I think having so many where you felt the pressure of, you know, trying to get everybody walked and cleaned and fed within a certain amount of time. Sure. And now we just we have more flexibility in our schedules, and everybody’s a little bit calmer and able to drill down into the deeper thinking in the in the slightly harder work because we’ve got that freedom.

So as we get into the story piece here, help me understand or help us understand what that process looks like, Where do you get the animals from? How do you choose? And then I want to get into their time with you. What happens once they’re checked in and they’re vaccinated and they’re getting to that point, walk us through what that process looks? And then I want to get into the storytelling aspect of what you guys do. Well to start at the beginning when dogs come into our care. It’s because we’ve worked with a family here locally who can’t take care of their dog any longer, or another organization that we’ve partnered up with for a transfer. So we get to know the dogs first and really consider their medical and behavioral needs and whether or not we’re the organization to help them or if maybe one of our other partners might have better resources for that particular dog. So we work with families we work with. Shelters were trying to prioritize the dogs who we know we can help, who need us the most and who we feel that we can take exceptional care of and find a great family for.

So there are dogs, definitely that we have to turn away or refer to another organization. We also try to help families keep their dogs as many times as we can, so we’ll provide some support for families who are looking at surrender but maybe just need a little bit of extra help to take care of their dog and keep the dog in the home. But otherwise, if they’re coming into us from a shelter or a rescue. We have great partnerships in the state of Idaho, in Utah, in California and Kansas, and these are other organizations where they’ve reached out to us and said, “hey, we’ve got a dog. We can’t seem to find placement for that dog,” or maybe it’s “hey, we’re feeling really full these days. We have too many dogs and not enough kennel space. Can you help?” And so we’ll get to know what we can about the dog ahead of time. Behavioral needs, medical needs and then again, just take in the ones that we feel like we can help and the ones that seem to need us most.

And so by the time they come in here, we tend to have a good amount of information on each dog, and then we have a plan ready to go for them, whether that’s a housing plan. If the dog is particularly fearful, for example, then we’ll get creative with their housing situation here in our facility or in a foster home. If they have behavioral needs, we will work with our staff ahead of time and come up with a plan of action to address those needs and to set the dogs up for success in their adoptive home. And then once they’re in here, we kind of just hit the ground running and try to make them adoptable as quickly as possible, whether that’s getting the veterinary care, taken care of with one of our partner clinics, or doing some behavior modification training or letting the dog have some time to decompress before we make that dog available for adoption. So once they come in here, we tend to just be ready to go with their care and have thought through and thought ahead into what they’re going to need in their adoptive home.

I love that even before they reach your facility, you have had communications with the other organizations and you have a plan and you know the steps, right? You know, if you’re gonna be able to help that dog, given the resources at your fingertips, there’s a lot of steps that go into that. A lot of care and attention in details, and I almost feel like that’s the meat of what you guys are doing. I mean, sure, behavior modification and training and, you know, medical and there’s all sorts of stuff that goes into that. But you guys are really doing the research in advance and you’re making wise decisions based on what you’re capable of doing, the resources that you have. And I really think there’s something really special about that. And I’ve never talked to another organization that goes into that level of detail. No matter if they’re looking at saving 10 dogs a month or, you know, 100 dogs a month.

Well, and it’s so easy and I don’t mean that in a frivolous way. But you see, I’m sure you’ve seen all of the SOS please that have been online. There are so many shelters that are overburdened with just sheer numbers, and we are so very aware that our organization is lucky to be in an area where we have more adopters than we have dogs. That is not something we ever take for granted, for a second. We know that that means that we’re in a unique position to help other organizations that do not have space for the dog, that are coming through their doors each day. So we’re very, very aware of that. But it is easy to get kind of sucked into the yes, answer every single plea and request for help and dog that comes across your screen or your phone or whatever.

And we did. I mean, we were taking in a lot of dogs and staying, you know, close to full capacity in 2017. But we really realized the price for that. We have fantastic volunteers. They were getting excellent care. Either medical and behavioral needs were addressed to the best of our ability. They were going for a minimum of three or four walks a day. They weren’t just sitting in their kennels. We have a fantastic network of volunteers, but we saw that that sort of revolving door where they were just coming in so fast and leaving so quickly didn’t feel like the work that we wanted to do. And it didn’t really feel like we were kind of digging into the help that we wanted to provide to individual dogs. Sure.

So we had seen early on that our volunteers and our community members got most invested in the dogs that were with us a little bit longer, and it wasn’t like we were intentionally holding them back from adoptive homes or anything like that. Sure. But the dogs that seemed to need us most that we really had to work to help, the ones that we had to get really creative to market for potential adopters, the ones that we had to brainstorm new ways to house them and handle them and train volunteers how to handle them. Those were the dogs that everybody just got so invested in. Our community loved that they knew them by name. They knew everything about them. Our dogs would have care packages delivered to them by supporters. Oh, that’s cute. Volunteers would come in just to walk those dogs, and it’s not that they love the other dogs that were, you know, here for two days any less. Sure. But we saw that we had a group of people, a network of people who really wanted us to help the dogs that needed the extra help in some way.

And so those were medical dogs. Those were some behavioral dogs. Those were dogs who maybe were a little bit older, or the bonded pair or the one who just wasn’t as pretty to look at as the cute and fluffy that just came in or whatever it is but we could capture their personalities. We could tell their stories. We could find them amazing homes. And then when they found those homes, everybody rejoiced. Everybody was so happy. The adopters had a support system ready to go. It just became one of those things where it started to feel more and more right for us to slow down, to stay small and to focus on the individual dogs. And so we kind of haven’t looked back since. And we feel like we’re doing a better job operating at that 10 to 15 dog capacity because we’re doing everything we wanted to do all along. We just carved out more space for us to be able to do those things.

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There is an evolution to this industry isn’t there mostly for rescues, but it is a lot of trial and error. You know, I feel like when people first start rescues, they want to come in and conquer the world tomorrow. They get in over their skis, and then all of a sudden they’re fatigued and they don’t have help and they don’t know what to do. And then before you know what, they’re close their doors. Before, they were able to make the impact that they wanted to make. So there’s this constant evolution about, “I want to save the world. I’m gonna try to do that. I’m gonna try to find volunteers. I’m gonna get a foster home for, I’m gonna do all of this,” and then you find through conversations and relationships and what you’re capable of, that you have to make these pivots.

And, you know, sometimes it takes people two or three months, and sometimes it takes us a few years, But at the end of the day, that’s what you’ve done. And it really sounds like your community has gathered around you and really supported you. In this approach, you’re learning about what they need and about what they’re drawn to. And you’re going down that path. You’re not only helping yourselves and the animals, but you’re making that bigger impact on the community. And I think that’s what a lot of us in this industry are looking for us to have that bigger impact.

We realize that sheer numbers just wasn’t going to be our path forward. But you’re absolutely right. It just, the one thing that I’ll say that has kind of been steady and true about our organization for so many years is that we’re not afraid to change, which is a phenomenal thing. Yeah. That’s an amazing thing. And so we try things all the time, and sometimes we fail and that’s okay because we’re failing forward like we’re learning from that, you know? And we’re saying, “okay, well, that didn’t work.” Or “and here’s the lesson that we’re going to take away from it and apply to something else.” You know, we all got into this because we love dogs.

When we do volunteer orientation, it’s open to the public and people come in and you know we’ll have conversations and say, “why are you interested in helping us here?” And 99% of the time, it’s because they love dogs and they want to spend time with dogs. Sure. That’s fantastic. But the thing that we need to keep remembering is that people are part of that equation, too, and we need to take care of ourselves so that we can stay here right and not get burned out and close our doors. But also so that we can help the families that are gonna be responsible for the dogs after they leave our custody. And so that was a big learning curve for us when we thought “okay, yeah, we can take in more dogs. We’re never gonna run out of dogs that we could help, probably.” Right. There will always be dogs.

But what’s gonna happen if we say yes to 10 more? And we lose volunteers because they’re tired and they’re overwhelmed and we’re exhausting them? And then that’s even more of a workload on the people who are left behind, right? And so we had to just kind of some boundaries for organizations they know this is what we’re good at. This is what resonates in our community. We know that we can’t do everything all at once for everyone. So let’s prioritize the well-being of our dogs. Of course, first of all, our people as well and really prioritize their needs, too.

I love what you guys have been able to do with that. And so was the story telling always something that you guys knew you wanted to do. I mean, I feel like people take pictures and videos of animals, and some organizations do it better than others. But just in looking at your website and just scrolling through Facebook, you guys to a phenomenal job with capturing the personality of the animals and was that always the path that you guys wanted to take her? Did that just evolve with this process? I think that really just evolved over the past few years. I’m struggling to think about sort of at what moment I could pinpoint and say “that’s when we knew that we should tell stories,” and it wasn’t like that. It was sort of a gradual change where we started to share more and more posts about individual dogs.

So instead of posting a dog once online for adoption on our Facebook page and on our website, we would do multiple posts, which isn’t anything new. Organizations do this all the time, but the public responded really well to that. And then from there it was “okay, well, let’s dig into their personality and their temperament and all of the things that we know we love about these dogs,” throw that in the bio, throw that in the post and so that way the community members who haven’t met them can at least kind of get to know them virtually and decide whether or not that dog may be their next family member. And so it sort of snowballed. We took baby steps. We saw that our volunteers liked it and it began to grow and grow and grow. And then it was a few dogs where we realized “oh, wow, their story got bigger than we ever anticipated. We’re really onto something here.” Sure. And that sort of solidified it for us that we were on the right track with telling their stories because the community responded so very well. And because the dogs, through their stories, were able to teach people knew things, open their eyes to animal welfare and ultimately find their families in their homes because so many people had eyes on their stories online. We’re sharing their stories with family members and friends. So yeah, it was a gradual progression for us, but we love it. We love it a lot.

Yeah, people really gravitating towards something that they’re emotionally connected to. We need to create those stories. Those feel good moments for people to be compelled to help. Right. If right, you’re not compelled to help, and all you do is see these SOS and these emergency and urgent posts, you’re not compelled to help because there’s nothing connecting you to that specific animal. We can’t help 5,000 animals today ourselves. We can’t do that. But we’re compelled to help one through a story or through something that we heard or saw. That’s the impact and so—. Well, and it changes the way that you think about the other 4,999, if you’re overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. But if you’ve got one dog that you can learn about this through that you can support that, you can get to know it’s almost like it’s easier to see why that attachment and that care and that concern matter. You can focus on that individual versus the dozens or the hundreds of other dogs.

So we had a dog and he was the most severe case of separation anxiety that we’ve ever had. Okay, so he was like he had gotten adopted and my—I don’t mean in a happy way, but my favorite story of his was that he had actually taken the Air Condition unit out of the wall of the house to escape the house, to escape the house. Oh my goodness. Because that’s how much he needed to get with people. He went to the neighbor’s house and stopped as soon as he found a person that was awful, right? Like this poor dog had so much anxiety when he was left home alone. We didn’t know that in a shelter setting. It didn’t manifest here in the way that it did in the home environment. So it wasn’t until he got adopted that we won’t, “oh, no.” And he got return for that reason. You know, he looked to be a bully mix. He had cropped ears. Sure. He wasn’t so good with other dogs. So he had, like, all of these little strikes against him, and we were like, “oh, man, how are we gonna find a home for this guy? You know, he’s got separation anxiety.”

Sometimes it helps to have a dog buddy he at home. Well, we can’t do that. So we need somebody who’s got to be able to stay home all the time. But who is that person? Because in the home from which he got returned, that person was a stay at home parent and was home 99% of the time. So we had tried that. But here’s the thing. This dog, his name was Prince. He snored the loudest of anybody here. He snorted his way through life, absolutely loved food. People were his jam. He adored children like this was the dog that you would want to take to school to meet all of the kids at school. So we started to focus on his attributes. And through him, we had people come in and say, “you know, I’ve always been scared of dogs that look like this. And now I’m not or thank you for opening up my eyes to separation anxiety and why anti anxiety meds are okay and not such a bad thing. And I should talk to my vet.” Or different things like that.

We ended up throwing him a tea party, a royal tea party. Cause his name was Prince, with toddlers in the area who all dressed up in crowns and gowns and the whole thing because that was his jam. He wanted to be around kids all the time, and so we got creative with ways to market him. But Prince was unique and he gave us such a gift by being just who he was and by being here. And we could just tell his story and from his story people could take better care of their dogs at home or have conversations with their family and friends about why animal welfare matters and why breed stereotypes should be discussed and kind of brought out into the open. And so it was really some dogs in particular dogs like Prince where we thought, okay, if we focus on them individually and we build that connection with our viewers with our community members, we used to have people coming in almost got to the point where we’d have to make appointments like they would come in just to hang out with Prince.

So they walk in and we’d say “hey, how can we help you? Thank you so much for coming.” “Oh, I just want to see Prince.” And we’d say, “oh, my gosh. Are you interested in adopting him?” “No, I just want to cuddle with him.” We have people coming in every day. This dog was on demand and even though they couldn’t adopt him, they’d come and bring him care packages. They’d make donations, they’d come and volunteer because he was the lens through which this whole world opened up in front of them. Sure. And that’s just been an incredible process for us to learn that we could use storytelling and use individual dog stories in this way. Yeah. To kind of open up animal welfare and our needs as a community to the people around us.

That is a pretty cool story about prints. I definitely appreciate that. I want to know, you know, a little bit more about what you guys are doing with the community and education side of things. We’re okay with change. We like to learn new things. As an organization, we like to share what we’re learning with our community. Let’s start with our volunteers, give them the skills, give them the knowledge, and then go from there. So we’ve been offering workshops and training sessions and classes to our volunteers, and they loved it. They come to these classes, they want to know more. They’re asking great questions. We have a private Facebook group where we all kind of share ideas and communicate back and forth about what we’re learning. So that resonated really well internally. And now we’re starting to expand.

So we have classes that we’re doing once a month for the public. These are on topics like dog and child interactions, and how to be safe in a home, managing a multi-dog household or introducing your dog to new dogs. We have one coming up in October that’s called Ditch the Problem Color. And it’s led by two certified trainers about force free handling techniques and, you know, kind of advocating for positive reinforcement training methods and explaining why aversives can be so risky when you’re handling and training a dog. And so we sort of gradually eased into this. And based on the feedback we were getting from our adopters, our volunteers, our donors, we realized that more people wanted to learn more things.

So we’ve just been kind of picking topics from the responses in the messages we’ve gotten from people. What do you want to know more about? And they’ll tell us, and we’ll try to put together a class and a workshop. We hope that this program expands were looking into doing this more frequently in 2020 but for now we’re feeling pretty good about being able to provide that service to our supporters. I really like the educational aspect of what you’re doing. I love that you’re saying to your community “tell us what you want to know more about,” and then you’re building programs and conversations around what they want to know. So I really think that’s another unique thing about you guys. Thank you for thinking outside the box and being involved in wanting to better your community.

So one of the other things I’m always really curious about is volunteer programs, and how can people get involved? So you did mention that you have a volunteer orientation class. I want to talk about what opportunities are there for volunteers, and what does it take for them to get going with you? Yeah, sure. So we do have an active volunteer program. We hold orientation. It’s an open session on the fourth Saturday of every month so the public can come in, spent about an hour here and learn about our organization. Learn about our mission, our values, our believes, the type of work that we do, the volunteer positions that are available here and then they can kind of just say, “hey, it’s for me” or not and that’s fine or “hey it’s for me but I think I have this skill set to bring. Do you have an opportunity here?” And we’ll say, “Yeah.”

So we have handlers, right? The majority of our active volunteers are dog handlers. They want to work with the dogs directly. So we have a really active program there. Volunteers and dogs are organized into different categories based on handling difficulty. So we have kind of a tiered system, and volunteers can choose to become more advanced in their handling skills and their training skills if they want to. But sometimes people don’t want to do that. We’ve had people come in and say, “yeah, you know what? I don’t really want to work with the dogs. I want to just help on the back end. I want to do some admin work. I want to be a committee member. I want to do this one particular type of project because I heard you needed it.” And that’s fantastic.

You know, we always need people to help, kind of behind the scenes. So we have a foster program. We have a couple of active committees. We are always more than willing to brainstorm other projects, certainly members who come in and say, “hey, I’m a genius at WordPress. Do you want some help?? And we’ll say, “oh, my gosh. Thank you. Thank you.” Right? Oh yeah. We have a lot of, you know, predefined volunteer positions here and the structure and the support for those. But we’re also pretty flexible. If somebody walks in and they want to help, we want to say “yes, thank you,” and get them involved. So that’s sort of how we approach our volunteer program. Everybody has something to bring to the table. And you just have to take a little bit of time and have a conversation with them and have that open dialogue to understand what their passion is. Just because they don’t want to spend times with dogs doesn’t mean that they aren’t valuable someplace else.

So one of my favorite sections in this whole conversation, Jessica is memorable stories. So you shared a really great one about Prince. Do you have another one that you want to share with us? Yeah. So we were about a month away right now from our garden party. It’s sort of annual celebration that we do. This year, the theme event is focused on Ruby. Ruby was an interesting dog for us in a lot of ways, because she helped us sort of dig even deeper into who we are and who we want to be in the dogs that we want to help, because she wasn’t doing well with strangers coming to her home. She hadn’t been doing well with a small dog in the home. And the family who was out of state, you know, got connected with us and said that they couldn’t take care of her anymore.

So we took her in and she got adopted by a very wonderful gentlemen locally. And we ended up hearing back from his family in the winter of 2017 about a year later. And they said that they were having a hard time with her and that he wasn’t able to care for her due to his failing health. And so she came back into our care. She’s fully deaf. Well, she’s mostly deaf. We swear she could hear sirens sometimes, but she’s deaf. Intense ball drive, just lives for the tennis ball, but when she came into our care, she was so scared she really had a hard time making connections with new people she had been through in her past, some aversive training methods that soon to have exacerbated some of her issues, based on what we know. And so when she came to us, it was like, “okay, well, here we go.” We haven’t had a dog like you before. I mean, we’ve had her previously, but sure is a different version of herself. You’re a situation that we haven’t waited through together. So what do we need to do for you, Ruby?

And so housing became creative, the way that we introduced her to new people, we had to get creative. We learned her signals and her triggers and what worked for her and what didn’t work for her. And so we were so focused on behavior. And then she ended up staying with us for a really long time. And as she got older, we found more health issues. And so she develops seizures. She developed a thyroid condition. So then it became “oh, my gosh, we need to now expand your care in these ways and try to get creative.” And this was where our volunteers and our staff just really stepped it up. We would spend the night here with her to track her seizure activity and keep an eye on how frequently that was happening. We worked with several different vets to try to figure out a medical program for her. And then all the while we were also trying to figure out what her ideal home would look like. And she was in reactive dog class with us every weekend and learning new skills and trying to become quote unquote more adoptable.

And then we were trying to find creative ways to market her. So she was part of a huge campaign where we were thinking outside of the box, we have T-shirts made with her face on them. We got the community involved when her favorite duck went missing, and that was her favorite toy. And so we went on a duck hunt to find her new dog. And like she was just the most amazing dog ever. And she’s now happily living in the home of two of our most dedicated volunteers who foster failed her eventually. But it was through Ruby that we learned new techniques. I think that most of us an animal welfare can agree that the dogs are the ones that teach us things, right? Sure. And so you come across a new dog and you learn something new every day and through Ruby, we really we learn more about medical needs and behavioral needs and ways to creatively market a dog, but also just what we needed to do and how we needed to be flexible in order to take the best possible care of one of our dogs.

And people loved her online, and she had a blog series, and anyway, everybody loved her, and she is now doing fantastic. We’re so happy to say that her health is improving. She’s continuing with her training in the home. Everything’s going fantastic. But it was a big community effort, collaborative effort involving a lot of us. Everybody was just invested in taking care of this girl, and that was really heartwarming for us to see. Yeah, every dog does teach us something. Sometimes it’s easier to figure out what that is, and other times you really have to look and just kind of sort through the muddiness of it. But there is a lesson to be learned for humans from every animal, not just dogs, but from every animal that you encounter. Everyone has a different personality and a uniqueness. Great story. Two really great stories about Prince and Ruby. So thank you for everything you do for the animals out there it’s just incredible.

So one of the last things that will touch on here is we wrap things up. Is the future for you guys. Tell me what the future looks like. This is something that I can’t talk about without grinning from ear to ear so you can’t see my face, but I’m smiling. Oh I love it. So we are in a facility, and again, we’re super happy about our location. We’ve only been here two years. We love it. But as we’ve sort of gotten to know ourselves in our organization, our community, and what we want to do, we’ve realized that our future doesn’t look like our president. Okay. So we are thinking about a capital campaign, very early days. This is not something that we’re putting out, you know, in any official way right now. But we are planning for a different looking organization in the next five years or so, when our lease ends.

We want to be able to provide an environment for dogs that is as close to a home environment as possible and to help the dogs who don’t do well in a kennel environment. And so instead of maybe having like, we have an office dog right now, for example, and so he has alternative housing, and we do provide low housing and all of those words. But we want to provide a new environment where dogs are living in home like spaces. So that’s not gonna be a series of kennels that might be operating with a whole bunch of tiny houses, that might be little cabins, that might be a converted apartment building of some kind who knows all the possibilities are in front of us right now. But we recognize that because we really wanted to focus on individual dogs and stay small and help the dogs that aren’t able to find placement anywhere else, which more and more dogs are coming into the shelter setting that are challenging in some way.

We felt like housing was something that we could address. And if we can remove the over-stimulation and the stress from a kennel setting, take that out of the equation and have dogs in something that’s so much closer to what they’re used to and what they’re going to, then we can begin to really do more b-mod to really get to know them and how they’re going to be in a forever home to let the public in on that, to let adopters see that, and experience that and then to just take exceptional care of the ones that are gonna end up waiting a little bit longer to find there forever homes. And they won’t be waiting in the kennel. So that’s what we’re shooting for.

I love that you don’t have all the details figured out, but you know that that is the path you want to take. We get that we’re shooting for the stars with this absolutely. We’re not the organization that’s gonna have 1,000 dogs adopted out every year, it hasn’t resonated with us. It hasn’t resonated with our community. We know what we’re good at. We know what we want to get better out. And if it’s going to be smaller scale and if it’s gonna be more time and attention per dog and also, if in this country were seeing fewer dogs coming into the shelter setting, but the ones who are, they need a little more work or they may be needed a little bit more help from us in order to be adopted or whatever the situation is, those are the dogs that we get excited about helping anyway. So why not set them up in an environment where we can provide even better care for them? And you know what? The dogs don’t love kennels. Right. We do the best we can, but they all want to be at home on the sofa or whatever. You know, that’s a better situation. And so unless we wave a magic wand and have 1,000,000 fosters at our disposal, at all times we figured we would get even, kind of provide a home like environment for everybody. So that’s what we’re shooting for.

Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Well, Jessica, I have truly enjoyed my time with you, and I’ve learned a lot about what you guys are doing and what you stand for. And I’m excited for your future. Is there anything else that we may be missed that you want to bring up before we close this out? I would just say that we could always use more volunteers. We could always use a few more people to share our dog stories online. So if anyone’s interested in looking us up online. Please feel free to do so. We’re on Facebook. We’re on Instagram Meridian Canine Rescue. We have a website. You’re welcome to check us out and reach out. If you’re in the neighborhood and want to come and visit our dogs and say hello, we would love to have conversations with more people. So thank you for giving us this opportunity. We really, really appreciate it. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Jessica. Thank you.

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