Big Dawgs Rescue was started in May 2009 by founder Joanne Rivero. The organization saves the lives of unwanted and abandoned dogs, that are either due to be euthanized in inundated shelters around California, or are surrendered by owners that can no longer care for them.
Once in the rescue, the animals live in real homes with foster families rather than in cages, and are shown the love and attention many of them have never known. The sick are made healthy, and those with behavioral issues stemming from neglect or abuse are shown compassion and understanding as they learn to trust again.
All pets are spayed or neutered in an attempt to combat the devastating pet overpopulation problem that results in millions of animal euthanasias in shelters each year.
Since 2009, in under four years, Big Dawgs Rescue has saved literally thousands of lives. Although we don’t have an easy way to keep track of the exact number, 4,000 dogs would be a good estimate.
Joanne runs the rescue entirely on her own, with the help of her husband and her network of fosters and supporters. She does not have a shelter or facility (though one day she dreams of having the funding to buy a plot of land to build her sanctuary), and operates the rescue out of her own home.
At any given time she may have up to ten adult dogs and a handful of puppies in her “pack”, and many more in foster homes around the bay area. Most of these dogs are large breed, including pit bull mixes. Although her rescue started out for “Big Dawgs”, it has since branched to all breeds, mixes, and sizes- even a few cats! Joanne has quite literally dedicated her life (and house) to her rescue, but it isn’t an easy job.
It is extremely stressful and emotionally trying, attempting to rescue dogs that often only have 24 hours to live — and having to cope with the reality that you can not save them all.
Many, if not most, of the animals that are rescued from shelters are in need of medical care beyond basic vetting (vaccinations, spay/neuter, etc.). Although we do not have the figures available yet for 2012, in 2011 Big Dawgs Rescue spent approximately $58,000 in veterinary bills alone!
Big Dawgs Rescue does its best to take in pets that may otherwise be turned away and left for dead. The rescue has taken dogs with everything from common kennel cough, to broken bones, to severe demodex, to the often deadly parvovirus.
Recently, Big Dawgs Rescue took in two eight-week-old black lab puppies from Kern County Shelter, which has a high kill-rate. Within a week both puppies showed signs of kennel cough and parvo. Both puppies were taken to Sage emergency clinic for 24-hour care.
Parvo is known for being a particularly aggressive and brutal virus, and even with veterinary treatment it claims the lives of many infected puppies. As everyone prayed for their survival, the two puppies were appropriately named Faith and Hope.
After three days of 24-hour care, Faith was much improved, and was sent home for at-home treatment. Hope was not as lucky. Her kennel cough was suspected to have developed into pneumonia, and her health rapidly declined. As a last resort the vet gave Hope a blood transfusion from one of Big Dawgs Rescues’ other dogs that had survived parvo earlier in life.
The hope was that the antibodies to the virus in his blood would give Hopes immune system the boost it needed to keep fighting. She seemed to improve a little, but after five days in the E.R., Hope crashed and finally succumbed to her illness.
In the end the rescue was left with a vet bill totaling just over $4,000. After an emotionally and financially draining battle, the only comfort came in knowing that the rescue did everything they possibly could for Hope. Before her sickness she had a few days as a normal happy puppy, with a loving family, and without concrete bars. Her sister Faith made a full recovery, and is now looking forward to a bright future. She will be ready for adoption in about a week.
As a non-profit organization, Big Dawgs Rescue relies solely on their adoption fees and public donations to cover their expenses. Even though the rescue spent thousands of dollars on vet care, Faiths adoption fee will be the same as every other puppy- $275. The rescue needs the support of the local community to continue to provide the best veterinary care possible, and to save the lives of puppies like Faith that would otherwise be euthanized for their illnesses.
Thousands of dollars may seem like a lot to spend on one rescue puppy, but consider this: what if it had been your dog that was rescued?
You would want someone to save his or her life so that you could bring them home. Faith will become an irreplaceable member of someone’s family, and for a rescue, that is what makes it all worth it. We never want to have to make a life or death decision because of money. We want to be able to say "We did everything we possibly could".
Stories like that of Faith and Hope are sadly not uncommon.
Each year the rescue routinely has vet bills totaling upwards of $2,000 for emergency treatment of single puppies with the parvovirus. For all of the puppies they have lost, so many have also won their battle, and go on to find forever homes. They just needed someone to take a chance on them, someone to not lose hope…Big Dawgs Rescue wants to be there for those pets that others have given up on.
Currently, Big Dawgs Rescue is fundraising for the two parvo puppies, as well as for a Great Dane currently in their care. Atlas was severely emaciated due to owner neglect when he was surrendered, and he has a cherry eye needing surgery. He currently weighs 110 pounds, and is still at least 50 pounds underweight. He is a sweet and gentle boy, and is steadily regaining his strength. The rescue has been given an estimate of $800 to perform his neuter, gastropexy, and cherry eye correction once he is healthy.
"We never want to have to deny a rescue pet veterinary care due to funding. PLEASE consider making a donation to help offset our costs, and to allow us to save the next animal that needs us.”
Below are the links to both fundraisers:
Foster & Adoption Coordinator
Big Dawgs Rescue