A BEAUTIFUL LETTER FROM JOHNNY
— Leslie R. Dye, MD, Treasurer, NGWPR
After rescuing two GWPs, one through Petfinder and the other through Facebook, I got interested in the NGWP rescue association. There are two main reasons I decided to volunteer for the organization and become the treasurer-the dogs and Suzanne Oslander.
When Diane Turner (a board member) and I suggested starting a blog, we agreed to have a mixture of topics, including those relating to health, breeding, training and other educational issues. But we also thought some of the “softer” stories, like highlighting some of the volunteers, would be interesting to our readers. Starting with the person who is the backbone of the organization seemed appropriate.
“With belief and commitment all things are possible,” are the words that the NGWPR National Coordinator, Suzanne Oslander lives by.”
The 64 year old Connecticut health care specialist says her determination and strength probably come from her childhood. Growing up in a large family, Oslander learned patience and the art of negotiation- two of the skills she uses most often in her work for the rescue.
“As NGWPR’s Coordinator I must be kind to people and never lose my temper, even though sometimes the reasons a dog is being given up make no sense to me. Yet, I maintain professionalism because I fear that a GWP will end up in a shelter or will be dumped.”
The third child born, Oslander had to compete with six brothers and a sister. Her interest in animals came early and she says, “By the time I reached my teenaged years I had brought five stray dogs home, several cats and I had nursed a variety of small wild animals back to health and released them.”
In addition to her “real job,” Oslander spends 20 or more hours working on rescue-related tasks every week. “Most people can’t imagine the volume of phone calls that come in from 8 am to as late as 1 am. And often an emotional and frantic dog owner is on the other end.”
“Sometime owners need to give up a dog because of unexpected life changes. They are giving up a member of their family, and I make a commitment to them to place the dog in the best possible home. I want to be sure that this is the forever home, and the transition will be as easy as possible.”
Medical Decisions are Common and Difficult
Making medical decisions for the dogs in the program takes a lot of Oslander’s time. “Dogs are often in need of medical attention and either the former owner was unaware of the situation or did not disclose all of the dog’s problems.”
And then there are a surprising number of calls from veterinarians.
When owners are out of options financially and a GWP needs expensive and complex surgery, the dog’s vet may call. “That’s when I think of the experience with my own dog, Kaiko. It was that incident that really guided me into rescue work.”
“Kaiko, a Labrador Retriever we had years back slipped out the door as my adult daughter was getting her baby to the car. Kaiko ran into the roadway and was hit by an oncoming car.”
The call from her daughter came while Oslander was at work. She rushed to the vet’s office to be told how serious Kaiko’s injuries were. The dog had suffered numerous injuries, but the most serious was a severed ligament in one of her back legs. The choice was to amputate the leg or to replace the ligament with a synthetic ligament at the cost of $4000.
But the high cost of the procedure prohibited Oslander from immediately agreeing to it. Sitting at her desk with tears streaming down her face as she weighed the options, one of Oslander’s co-workers approached her and handed her $200 and told her to put it toward the surgery. As he left her office he turned and said, “God is good. You’ll figure this out.”
That generous gift and her co-worker’s words thrust Oslander into action — soon she and her daughters were on the phone contacting family members and friends explaining the situation and how much money was needed. Those who knew and loved Oslander and Kaiko agreed to help. Soon Oslander’s adult daughters and grandchildren were doing crafts and making baked goods for a fundraising sale. It was not long until much of the $4000 goal was met.
That experience taught Oslander how kind, helpful and generous people are. And that experience also gave her the courage to be a fearless advocate when it comes to seeking donations and earning money for rescue dogs needing high-cost medical treatments — one of the things that separates NGWPR from many other rescue organizations that do not share Oslander’s philosophy.
Fundraising a crucial part of job
Fundraising has become an important part of Oslander s position. Keeping money flowing into the program is imperative. “Money is raised for each dog that needs medical treatment over and above routine care. We make certain that the foster caregiver for each dog in the program has everything that will help that dog succeed in the foster program and be able to move on to a forever home.
“I speak to owners, shelter managers, veterinarians, and other rescue groups about helping GWPs in need. If a GWP is suitable for our program, I locate an appropriate foster, determine if medical care or training is needed. When the dog is ready to be adopted, I review applications and talk to applicants. I send the best applications to the rescue secretary, Sue Anderson, and she checks references and does a social media search. After the adoption agreement is signed, transport is arranged. In most cases the rescue GWP is picked up by the adopter.”
Other Aspects of the Job
Like all positions, Oslander admits to some difficulties and says, “There are several things that are difficult. I find arranging transportation to be the most difficult and challenging part of the position. COVID has made it more difficult to transport by airplane or to find volunteer transport. The funding is a huge piece as we are 100% donation based. Money is raised for each dog that needs medical treatment over and above routine care.”
“I strive to do the best job for each dog,” and she admits “sometimes I can be sensitive to criticism.”
But she says the difficulties are outweighed by the joys of rescue. According to Oslander, “the best part of the job is getting phone calls, emails and photos from the adopters. To learn that a dog has filled a void in a family or to learn that the dog that has been so sad and shut down, but then has opened up and is happy is very rewarding.”
Oslander says evaluating and responding to each dog’s situation always brings unique responses.
“I received a call from a veterinarian in Maine. The veterinarian explained that one of her long-term, elderly clients named Helen owned four GWPs. Helen was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack and undergoing heart surgery. The prognosis was not good, and a foster was needed for the senior GWPs.”
“The dogs were Helen’s only family. A friend had agreed to take one of the dogs but the other three dogs — Commander 11 years, Cookie 12 years and Onyx 13 years all needed foster homes.”
Oslander drove to Maine and picked up the trio. “John and I fostered Onyx and Commander, and a friend, Stephanie Shafer, agreed to take Cookie, who had mammary gland cancer.”
“A couple of weeks later I received a call that Helen was in Hospice. John and I made the decision to drive Commander and Onyx to Maine to visit Helen.”
Once there, “Commander immediately jumped on Helen’s bed and put his paws on each side of her head. He leaned his cheek against hers and Helen had tears running down her face. I explained who I was and told her how all the dogs were in loving homes. John, the dogs, and I spent the afternoon visiting.
“The next morning, I received a call from the Hospice Director. Helen had passed away, but she died with the knowledge that her beloved GWPs were safe. And letting the dogs say goodbye made it worth every moment of the 11-hour drive.”
A Letter from Johnny, a Grateful Rescue Dog
Please, have the tissues ready. This letter came in to Suzanne as we were finalizing the story about her.
October 22, 2020
Dear National German Wirehaired Pointer Rescue Group,
My name is Johnny, and I am a German Wirehaired Pointer your group rescued on October 19, 2019 from a shelter in Watertown, South Dakota. I was found wandering around town, with no tags or microchip. I was taken to the local shelter, where I spent several months. I was very timid and was attacked by a couple other dogs in the shelter. I quit eating and had given up hope.
One day my luck changed. Someone from the National German Wirehaired Pointer Rescue Group, walked through the shelter and saw me. She reached out to Suzanne Oslander, and like she always does, she immediately started working to find me a foster home. It took some time.
On October 19, 2019, a man by the name of John (how ironic) showed up at the shelter to get me. What a great day-I was headed to my foster home. This was going to be my “temporary” home, until the rescue group could find a permanent forever home. Little did they know, how bad my health really was. I was full of worms, in kidney failure, teeth broken off (vet said I was probably kept in a cage and tried to chew my way out), and a tumor from an untreated disease. The vet said I needed special food and IV’s. Buying “time” she said.
So, what did I do with the time I had left? First, I met the entire foster family. It included several teenagers, all their friends, and two other German Wirehaired Pointers. Zeus-they got him as a puppy-looked like me. And another rescue this group saved-Eros. They lovingly referred to him as the “biter.”
We went on walks. Lots of walks. At first, we went three times a day looking for birds. I still had a great nose for birds and rabbits. We went for lots of car rides-I quickly established my spot in the car by the air vent. That way I could nudge my foster mom/dad’s arm to pet me the ENTIRE time I was in the car. I loved going through Starbuck’s to get a puppachino and McDonald’s for a cheeseburger.
I quickly became a favorite among all the teenagers that came to visit. I would plop down in the middle of them for attention. I refused to be in a kennel, and found comfort sleeping in my bed beside my foster mom. Of course, Zeus had to have the actual bed, but that is ok because Zeus looked out for me. He would wake my foster mom up in the night and let her know I needed to go outside. He always let me eat first, go out first, get in the car first, and wait for me to return to the house. We went to lots of soccer games and PetSmart.
As my health deteriorated, we went on fewer walks. They bought me a dog stroller and we went on long bike rides. Zeus and Eros would run with them. I was still able to take in all the smells and felt loved. In the summer, my fosters would sit in the grass with me, or on the deck in a big comfy chair and pet me. I loved how I never felt alone.
On October 22, 2020 I took my last breath, in the arms of my foster mom. It was hard to watch her cry. I tried to comfort her, as I laid my head on her chest.
To the lady in Watertown, SD-Thank you for reaching out to find me a loving home. To Suzanne Oslander-Thank you for continuing to rescue dogs like me. To all the volunteers in this group, who donate time, transportation, homes and money-Thank you
Because of people like you, I did not die alone in a shelter. Maybe I did not get the loving home I wanted as a puppy, but in the end, I got the loving home every dog deserves. In the end, I had a great life. I owe that to you. Thank You
Truth is…There is just never enough time with the ones you love.
National GWP Rescue is a nationwide rescue program whose volunteers work tirelessly to provide funding, foster homes, medical care and training for GWPs found in shelters, animal control facilities and to those GWPs whose current owners are unable to provide a suitable situation.
Working hand- in-hand with governmental and local shelters, NGWPR provides a safe and responsible home for GWP’s in need. Placed with an experienced GWPCA member, fostered GWPs that have been neglected, untrained or have medical issues quickly blossom as they are readied for their “forever” homes.
Prior to releasing our rescued GWPs for adoption, volunteers provide obedience, manners, and house training. We hold to the philosophy that a mannerly dog has a better chance of fitting into a new household.
NGWPR believes that Wires were designed to hunt and unlike some other rescue programs, we are happy to place dogs with field experience or bird instinct with potential owners who enjoy hunting behind a Wire. However, NGWPR insists that any rescue dog first be a house dog and companion, then a weekend hunting partner.
Please go to our website to learn more.
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