Lisa Rasmussen and Becky Nordquist met while working for a dog rescue organization. Animal lovers, they were both keen on helping out, but it bothered them that many rescue organizations only took in one certain breed of dog, turning away others to uncertain fates.
They decided to do something about it and were part of founding Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving dogs of all breeds, colours, shapes and sizes.
While Nordquist serves as executive director, overseeing the daily operations of the rescue and doing the fundraising, Rasmussen serves as foster co-ordinator, lining up the help of nearly 50 other volunteers who take in dogs and puppies.
With no shelter or facility, all dogs taken in by the organization are fostered until they become adopted. Earlier this month, the organization celebrated its first anniversary, having saved 384 dogs in its first year of operation.
"We formed this organization just seeing the need for so many dogs that were freezing to death and starving and abused and the lack of shelters," said Nordquist, a 32-year-old full-time student and mother of three, with a fourth on the way. "We wanted to focus on all types of dogs. I felt like I couldn't stand by and watch all of these dogs getting turned away and dying every year when we had the smarts and ability to do it. It started out slowly, but now we're getting very big."
The majority of dogs taken in by Manitoba Mutts come in as starving strays from aboriginal reserves, where dogs are regularly killed in an effort to reduce the formation of dangerous dog packs. Those dogs are brought in by volunteers or flown in from remote locations, thanks to the generosity of Calm Air.
Nordquist said Manitoba Mutts also takes in dogs relinquished by their owners and some from animal shelters at maximum capacity.
It's Rasmussen's job to find temporary homes for the dogs, which can sometimes prove stressful, particularly when she gets mother dogs with their litters or a large group of puppies all at once, but overall she said it's been a very satisfying venture, allowing Rasmussen to tackle an issue very close to her heart.
"I absolutely love it and I completely believe in it," said Rasmussen, a 30-year-old resident of old St. Vital, who by day works at her family's printing company, Rasmussen Printing. "I see what's happening every single day on reserves, in rural areas, in the city, on the streets. People buy puppies from pet stores and just basically throw them out sometimes. We see some pretty rough stuff and I can't turn back now."
Many of the newest puppies being taken in come from the Washagamis Bay reserve near Kenora, where Rasmussen was able to connect with a resident who welcomed the organization's help in saving the dogs, which run as strays. To date. they've rescued about 20 pups from that reserve, including four suffering from kidney worms, a rare and almost always fatal disease treated only through the removal of one of the kidneys.
The organization relies on donations to cover all veterinary bills, including the surgeries for those affected by kidney worms, so Nordquist said the organization is always looking for new volunteers to assist with fundraising events and adoption days, which take place at community events and in space provided by local businesses.
Also required are volunteers willing to foster the dogs. A Winnipeg bylaw allows three dogs in each household, but dogs younger than six months don't count toward that total, meaning households already at their limit can still take in a puppy.
For more information on Manitoba Mutts, please visit www.manitobamutts.org. To become a foster volunteer, call Lisa Rasmussen at 204-801-8125 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you'd like to help out but cannot volunteer or adopt a dog, monetary donations and donations of dog food and supplies are gratefully accepted and can be arranged by calling Becky at 803-8114.
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Erin Madden at email@example.com.