To The Rescue:Found Dogs With a Mission

by Elise Lufkin, photographs by Diana Walker, Skyhorse Publishing.  $19.95

To The RescueNicely crafted in the owners’ words, 53 rags-to-riches vignettes mix despair and exhilaration while showcasing the incredible role animals can play in our everyday lives. This is all about owners saving pets’ lives and dogs repaying those same owners by becoming solid partners on service-and rescue-dog teams from nursing homes to ski slopes.

Most come from horrid backgrounds, ranging from being dumped in the desert or alongside a freeway to being chained in a backyard without cover for months. One was tied to barn door after its owners moved, another to the front door of an animal-welfare organization with a note attached.

While the focus is rightfully on the dogs’ feats, each powerful story represents a poignant cross-section of what’s good and what’s bad with pet ownership in America today.

Remember the last time you walked through an animal shelter looking for that right dog? Sometimes one will capture you with its body language, facial expression or reaching out with a paw through a kennel-run door.
After finishing “To The Rescue,” I couldn’t forget Triumph’s story, which serves as the touchstone by which all others could be measured.

A Good Samaritan found Triumph, a Siberian husky bleeding by the side of a road in Turkey. Someone had cut off the dog’s back legs, dumped it and left it to die. The rescuer took her to an animal shelter where a veterinarian treated her wounds and kept her alive rather than choosing to euthanize her.

When Triumph’s condition was stabilized, she was featured in a newspaper story, but no one stepped forward to adopt her.  Two shelter volunteers took a liking to her, and contacted a friend in Philadelphia, who put Triumph’s story up on Siberian husky rescue web sites.

Eventually Moe Moeller, retired executive director of the American Red Cross and current volunteer, saw a photo of Triumph and read the account. But when she read the part about the dog being in Turkey, she hit the delete button, thinking there was nothing she could do.

“The next day another person sent me the same photo with the same message: ‘Can you please help this animal?’ And I thought, ‘Maybe, I had better pay attention here,” recalls Moeller.

Six weeks later Triumph was on her way to Nashville, despite the fact Turkish Airlines increased its shipping fee at the last minute from $500 to $2,100 in cash. At the airport, Moeller saw bones protruding from Triumph’s severed hind legs were infected.

After the infection was cleared up, she crafted pads for game dog’s rear limbs, allowing her to stand rather than drag herself about her home. Moeller, who was trained in Healing Touch and Reiki, applied some of those techniques, too, to establish a comfort zone for this “gentle, loving personality.”

At the time there were no prostheses for dogs, but Moeller contacted a friend who manufactures counterparts for humans. He was able to devise a pair that served Triumph well. Later, she heard about a Denver doctor who developed an implant process for prosthetic limbs. He agreed to provide Triumph permanent implants into which the prosthetic limbs could be placed.

Triumph’s story gets even better. Her friendly temperament and disability made her a prime candidate for pet therapy, which Moeller eventually accomplished with the long-distance rescue. “I think Triumph was born to do this work,” says Moeller. “It’s her mission in life.”

The volume also includes chapters by Elizabeth Rivard, director of the Purdy Women’s Prison Pet Partnership Program, and Rachel Wright, Delta Society (Bellevue) Pet Partners program coordinator.