Donations For Our Rescue Dogs

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The following is a guest post by Nancy L. Houser, editor at, who together with her sister Sandra runs a dog rescue for elderly and unwanted dogs and also has founded Nebraska Pets Meals on Wheels for struggling pet owners:

Getting donations and help and making the most of them for our rescue dogs and a few cats and kittens who are dumped on the nearby highway is a daily ongoing process, helping to maintain a dog rescue of 24 dogs – and a few squirrely cats – in south central Nebraska.

With a small financial budget, providing adequate care to our animals is only made possible through generous donations of food and supplies and local help. We are not a non-profit agency that receives help for the care of our dogs. We survive on what money, food, and necessary products we can gather. (When we first started, we were told by state officials if we lived closer to larger cities we could possibly receive some assistance.)

However, for eleven years we have lived on this small one-acre place out in the country where unwanted or elderly dogs have slowly entered into our life. They are free to run and play and we are free to rescue who needs help. At times, it feels as if the arriving dogs and cats are God’s messengers sent to us for safekeeping until they go home to him. Over the years, not only have we been able to care for our own dogs but have started Nebraska Pets Meals on Wheels for struggling pet owners in this troubled economy, and recently merged with the national organization Pets of the Homeless for Nebraska pet owners.

Cartoon by Nancy Houser.

The needs of our dogs

The feed requirements for our animals are approximately 200 pounds of dry dog food and 50 pounds of cat food a month, plenty of fresh meat and two to three cases of canned meat per week. We add vegetables and rice for nutritious purposes, diet requirements, and flavor. Medicine is purchased on an ongoing basis for whichever dog is in medical need. We use about 20 bales of prairie hay for doghouse bedding every couple of months for the larger outdoor dogs, each having a 6 x 10-foot pen and a 50 x 50 foot exercise pen. The hay is placed on their individual run floors so they do not have to stand in ice or snow during the winter.

We have several dogs with bad or no teeth, and according to our vet are too elderly to survive surgery. They require softened dry food mixed with meat that they easily consume, something many of them have never had before. When many arrive here, they have various levels of malnutrition with health issues, parasite problems, and rotting teeth. It is our job to make sure their nutritional needs are met with the correct diet.

We start all our dogs with their own bowl of food and fresh water every day, each dog having their own necessary diet. Some use their bowls as chew toys so we need to keep a spare in addition to the rope toys and balls they enjoy. Others couldn’t care less … each dog is their own dog and we treat them accordingly.

Donations of food and hay

To provide plenty of fresh meat for our dogs, we go onto our Yahoo Group through Freecycle for donated out-dated game. We put out an online request in Yahoo groups for nearby towns (you need to join your own town’s group to participate and be accepted) and people call us up and ask if we want deer, pheasant, fish, elk or duck that is about a year old, as they are getting ready to hunt again. Sometimes the donation consists of outdated beef, as they are getting ready to butcher again. We boil the meat and add the rice and vegetables, along with some dry food. Otherwise, the meat we buy in canned dog food is through 4Health, a natural canned food that is similar to Blue Buffalo, through our local feed supply store who keeps an eye on specials for us.

Dry dog food is purchased through a commercial company in Kansas through our neighbor, who has her food brought in. She pays the shipping for us and buys bulk for us to keep our prices down. We used to pay her every time we would get one of our bags, but recently we have been lucky enough to pay for all 200 pounds at once. We buy a dog food that has no corn or soybeans in it, a natural dog food that is mixed with a 4Health dog food (exceptionally healthy for our dogs). We save about $720 a year as compared to shopping at local stores.

Sufficient hay is absolutely necessary as without it our dogs are not warm enough in the winter or dry enough in the rainy season. One small bale in the feed stores will usually run anywhere from $10 to $15 each, an unaffordable price for us to pay. Many bales are broken or covered with too much snow, which we are able to pick up at a discount. But we needed a steadier source, so we began calling around for farmers who did their summer hay in small bales … which are very few. Most bale in the large wrapped rolls for cattle and horses throughout the winter, or to use in silage for cattle lots.

We had friends who also began calling and emailing around for us … kind of like a friend chain letter… and eventually we found a gentle and very kind middle-aged man who lives about 45 minutes away. He offered us small bales of prairie hay $4 each for our dogs, plus he would deliver it and unload it for us free in our hay shed. He told us the prairie hay was better for our dogs than wheat hay as it was not loaded with mites that would affect our dogs. His mother lives north of us about 20 minutes and the hay money he receives from us pays for a special dinner for them both. We save $7 or more a bale, which means every load we save $120 plus gas and labor. Without him, I do not know what we could do.



Lowered rent money for our rescued dogs

We pay very little rent money for our place, mainly because it was to be dozed down before we moved in. That first year my sons’ friends came out and fixed it up for us … saving us lots of money in the end. One could do electrical work, another could do flooring, and another could do roofing. Those boys I had helped raise as children were now paying it forward by helping us out.

In a jiffy, we had moved into our “farm house.” When we shared with our elderly property owner that we did rescue work with elderly dogs, he reduced our rent $50 a month to put toward the dogs – a savings of $600 a year. In fact, this past week he is also putting a new roof on our house and has trimmed/carted away old trees out of the dog pens for us, a task we had been dreading.



Lowered vet money for our rescued dogs

We have a wonderful vet about half a mile down the road who works with us all the time for our old dogs. Many times he gives us medicine at cost or does not charge us for a visit. He knows the work we do and is always there for us with the highest quality of work at the lowest prices. He has become our right-hand man and is vital to the old dogs we have.

Donated maintenance labor

For several years, my sons would put out the word for help and everyone would come out on my birthday to work on large projects we needed done for the dogs. Over the years they’ve put up a long privacy fence so kids could not drive by and throw beer and pop bottles at our dog, they put up extra pens for me, they built dog runs for exercising, and repaired wooden sheds for hay storage. The strength of these young men was invaluable for us.

As you can see, we receive donations in many ways, and there is not one tried-and-true method that alone will work, but without the help of so many generous people we wouldn’t be able to care for all our animals! We wish to thank everyone who has entered our life over the past 11 years and donated in every way possible, making our life better by increasing the quality of our dog’s lives … where every little bit means a whole lot to those who had so little.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from our four-legged charges and their two old caretakers!! ☺

Together with her sister, Nancy runs a dog rescue for elderly and sick dogs – and some kittens too! She writes about dog related issues at Way Cool

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