Last week, Best Bully Sticks had the chance to talk with Maria Dales, Director & Founder of German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County. This completely volunteer run breed rescue in Southern California has a lot of fire in their bellies and networking abilities to make a difference in many doggy lives. Read more about GSROC in the BBS Rescue Spotlight below. (We think you’ll especially enjoy Maria’s rescue success stories.)

When & Why did you start?
In 1998, we began as a small offshoot chapter of a larger LA-based German Shepherd Rescue group.  We began by transporting one dog at a time from LA to market that dog in Orange County because at that time there were no German Shepherd Rescue groups in OC.  Thanks to the dedication and compassion of our great volunteers, we quickly grew and realized that we needed to form our own organization.  We incorporated German Shepherd Rescue OC in 2005 and have consistently rescued and re-homed more dogs each year.

I personally feel that shepherds are misunderstood and largely underappreciated.  The thought of these incredibly intelligent, loving and loyal dogs languishing in animal shelters is overwhelming. I know that we can’t stop or slow down when so many beautiful shepherds need our help.  Every single dog that comes to us was once a beautiful little puppy full of hope and promise–probably someone’s pride and joy, at least for a while.  We owe it to these dogs to do everything we can to turn their lives around and put them back on the road to happiness.

What’s different about your rescue?
Our volunteers embrace their rescue responsibilities as they would a “paying” job.  We try to set an example for other rescues to follow.  We have high standards for our adopters as well as for our volunteers.  I’m continually amazed by the level of commitment and dedication that our team members demonstrate.  Even as I write this at 9:30 PM, ten volunteers are out searching with flashlights for a missing dog.  A key differentiator for GSROC is that we focus on quality placements, not volume placements.  It is important to us that we choose solid, stable, loving homes for our dogs, and that we take the time and care to make prudent decisions to ensure the wellbeing of the dogs depending on us.

What is the greatest success story or “win” that your rescue has had?
There have been so many heart wrenching and heartwarming moments!  Probably the most high profile rescue that we’ve had was that of “Courage” the dog whose owner was deliberately starving him in a cage in her garage.  Courage was clinging to life when he arrived in our care, but miraculously, our vet team was able to save him.  It took us 3 years to prosecute the person who abused him, but we were finally successful in getting a conviction on animal cruelty charges.  The story of Courage outraged animal lovers throughout the country as the trial suffered delay after delay.  There is a happy ending, however, as Courage has blossomed to become a happy, healthy 100 pound boy who is the apple of his mommy’s eye!

Personally, my most fulfilling rescue story was being able to provide vet care for a dog that had a severely broken leg.  The dog was rescued from the local animal shelter, and when we researched her history, we learned that she was the beloved companion of a non-verbal autistic child.  The family did not have the means to repair their dog’s leg, so they had surrendered her to the shelter in the hope that someone could rescue her.  After many weeks of recovery and many thousands of dollars in corrective surgery, Sasha was reunited with her special boy.  The pure joy that this child who couldn’t use words expressed is something that I will never, ever forget.  He positively glowed, and so did Sasha.

What’s the most rewarding thing about working at your rescue?
It’s amazing to see the dogs transform and blossom once they realize they are safe and valued–that they no longer need to be afraid.  Some of our orphans come in from terrible situations and many are traumatized from their experiences in animal shelters.  They arrive with vacant looks and broken spirits, but with time and lots of attention from our volunteers, gradually the sadness subsides and their personalities return. It’s very gratifying and humbling at the same time to see what a difference affection, leadership and kindness can make in an individual animal’s life.

What can people do to help your rescue? 
We currently have over 90 dogs in our care—that’s about 40 more than we are financially equipped to manage.  We are always desperately in need of sponsors for vet care or training for individual dogs, and for foster homes that can help those dogs that require a little extra TLC. Many people mistakenly believe that rescues receive “free” vet care, when that isn’t the case—we spend approximately 50% of all the incoming funds on vet care for our dogs, and our remaining funds go toward boarding the dogs while they are awaiting adoption.  We need people who are good at fundraising and at public relations to help us keep the wheels turning. Currently, we are collecting used cell phones and smart phones (working or non-working) to be recycled to raise funds.  We have a WISH LIST of items that we especially need, including quality dog food, treats, toys, training collars, flea control and more.

Wish List: http://www.gsroc.org/wish_list.asp

More Ways to help: http://www.gsroc.org/affiliates.html

A big thank-you to all that German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County does in their community: for the care of German Shepherds and educating the public about this great and wonderful breed. Find out more about GSROC on their website or on Facebook.

We have another 1-Day Animal Shelter/Rescue Giveaway TODAY! Vote in our Facebook Poll for your favorite shelter to win LOTS of BBS Product!