We got a dog right after Christmas 2016. It’s the first dog I, a longtime cat person, have ever owned. Mav (short for Maverick) has turned our world upside down, and I am humbled to know first hand what it means to own a well-adjusted, civil dog. I am shifted into an entirely different gear as I learn to carry on with life as I had come to know it, now with our bouncy, hairy baby-with-fangs part of the picture. I suspect my subconscious wanted to re-introduce some good, healthy “crazy” into my everyday. May I still use this word to denote all the schtuff that one deals with, which turns life (wonderfully/awfully) upside down? My teen-age daughter and I have jokingly adapted that old roses and noses saying: We tell each other, “Take time to smell the puppies.”
I subsequently met Robin Herman, owner of Lucky Dog Retreat, located on the near northeast side of Indianapolis, where we had signed Mav up for puppy class. Robin, I soon learned, performs with her springy little mutt, Nano, at Colts football half-time shows, throwing Frisbees to the delight of fans young and old.
I am fascinated by people who 1) find their passion; 1a) recognize it and who 2) find a way to make a living/career out of it. I was eager to learn more of Robin, her story, and the story of her dogs. We met up at a local brewery, where we could be joined by our canine companions (awesome allowance). Our pups soon settled at our feet and Robin began to tell me her stories.
She told me of her childhood, a mixed bag history in which animals played pivotal, healing roles. She told me of her first marriage, and when it was ending, and when in separation mode she was to be allocated the smaller of the two dogs, a one-for-you, one-for-me kind of split.
Robin told me how on one night she happened to have the bigger of the two dogs with her, and that at about two in the morning, there was a knock on the door. She opened the door – something I guess one with a big dog dares to do – and a man entered and asked to use her phone. Being back in the day when rotary phones were still in use. Robin listened to the sequence of spins as the man dialed; it sounded like some long distance call, which made no sense. There was no quick, “will you come and pick me up?” Fear arose and adrenaline was released, permeating her being. Robin told the man to leave. Dylan, Robin’s 50-pound spaniel/shepherd mix, sensed her mistress’s fear. Dylan switched to threat mode and tried to attack the man. He left. The next morning, Robin learned that a man matching her visitor’s description had raped two women at knifepoint. She notified the police to give them her story and then informed her soon-to-be ex that she was keeping the big dog.
Robin, inspired by Dylan’s rescue of her – on many levels, you can imagine – and propelled by the re-launch of her life, embarked on a path that eventually took her to numerous rescue and boarding facilities, where she realized she could do this too. Lucky Dog Retreat was opened on April Fool’s Day, 2006. Robin figured, if it was a good day for Apple Computer to launch anything at all, then it would be a good day for her.
But dealing with canines is only one half of the picture, only one aspect of the care she provides and incentivizes. Robin has been conditioned through her experiences with dogs – oh my, does she have stories – to classify their humans into two categories:
Are you one who leaves the dog at the back door, by the fence?
Are you one who takes the dog with you out the front door?
It is a rather black and white division, but can be defended as a conclusive indicator of what makes up the True North of any person capable of making any independent decision whatsoever. We are all fallible; that is elemental to our existence. And as such, we swing back and forth in both directions in deed – and especially in thought.
What we do or don’t do with our animal dependents, which are optional to our everyday, cuts to the core of who we are.
Robin has had to stomach disproportionate experiences to the negative. Following her heart, she specializes in the rejects of a world where unfettered reproduction only feeds the problematic cycle of abandonment, neglect and purposeful mistreatment. Dogs rank astronomically high on the must-have trend these days, part of a massive for-profit industry. Aside from the wee critters confined to handbags and dressed like dolls, which is its own thing, to put it too kindly, countless dogs exist only as abject cast offs, discarded and abused receptacles for our displaced angers. Take bait dogs, for instance. Do you know what they are? Look it up. These, their kindred former pets, and untold litters of puppies are the creatures rescued out of trash bins and taken from kill shelters by Robin. Sometimes the dogs Robin takes in are discarded for their only fault of being elderly, left behind because someone claimed it would be “too hard” to see them die….
Skyrocketing prices of animal healthcare reflect free market demand, taking costs to impossible, elitist levels. Insurance and payment plans for pet care feed the business, but also feed the pricing. Low-cost, zero frills facilities reflect the dire need for affordable care on the less polished side of that coin, and thankfully so. Our consumerist society doesn’t help the scenario. We are a throwaway culture accustomed to Swiss cheese commitment. Our unions, humans to pets, generally started with best intentions, are all subject to no-fault mind changing, aren’t they? When the cute (which weighs too heavily as an influencer), the new (ease of acquisition fosters boredom) and the convenience wear thin (and with any healthy, vibrant puppy, how quickly does that go out the window?), we tend to view the undoing as a relevant solution, “Best for everyone involved.”
Robin’s rescue dogs have traumatic pasts. They are often damaged, their wounds only one aspect of the many hurts they bear. The dogs she works with are also imprinted with pain, confinement and isolation. Being the animals they fundamentally are, many dogs are difficult, if impossible to completely “fix” behaviorally, and require owners and families with singularly good energies – and patience. The good news, is, those humans are out there too.
Pure magic lies in dogs’ ceaseless ability – and desire – to please their people. 854 dogs later, placed in loving rescue homes, and with single digit “return rates” that so far have netted even better, if not perfect matches the next time around, Robin and her compatriots at Lucky Dog are able to also feel hope. They have proof that the front door exiting mensch also exists. At puppy training class, we had the honor of meeting and playing with a few of the dogs from her rescue menagerie, who were brought in to participate in the playtime and low-gear, positive reinforcement training. One adult dog had a bare, bright pink ring around her neck where her in-grown collar had recently been surgically removed. Two puppies, ivory lab mixes, so beautiful and regal, had been rescued from a field where their mother still hid, too afraid and too protective to be taken in. Click here for more stories on these lucky, Lucky Dogs.
“Tricks,” like designer duds n bags for dogs, are not really the goal. Human civility and the ability to give is the goal in us, to be manifested in our pets. So let us do what we can, let it start at home, and let us practice what we preach in what we do and by what we support.
Robin mentioned at the brewery how we also write our own karma through our pet ownership. Agreed. So now, when I am extracting my lovely shoe from Mav’s little T-Rex jaws, deftly but gently and without anger, I do it because I realize he just doesn’t know any better, which makes it no big deal – or at least less a big deal than it might have been before. I too am learning.
All photos by the author or by Robin Herman and property of Lucky Dog Retreat
A sampling of Indiana based facilities follows with contact info, provided by Robin. Please, feel free add your info as a comment, or to re-post/share and add your rescue facility info. You may email Lucky Dog Retreat at firstname.lastname@example.org
From IACC Rescue’s Facebook page:
A Critter’s Chance – Plainfield, IN email@example.com
Canine Castaways Rescue - Fountaintown
Cat’s Haven – Indianapolis, IN firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-925-7001
Every Dog Counts – Zionsville, IN EveryDogCountsRescue@gmail.com
Foster Application: http://www.edcr.org/
FACE Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic – Indianapolis, IN
Foster Application: http://facespayneuter.org/get-involved/fostering/foster-application/
Happy Labs Rescue http://awos.petfinder.com/shelters/happylabs.html
Heaven After Hell Rescue http://heavenafterhellrescue.org/Volunteer.html
Helping Paws, Inc. – Indianapolis, IN email@example.com
Homes for Huskies – Indianapolis, IN firstname.lastname@example.org
Foster/Adoption Application: http://indyhomesforhuskies.rescuegroups.org/forms/form?verify=abc123&formid=1277
Hope Marie’s Fund – Franklin, IN http://bargersvillevet.com/
HoundSong Rescue http://www.houndsong.com/fosterapp.php
Humane Society of Indianapolis – Indianapolis, IN email@example.com or 317-872-5650 x 1111 Foster Application: http://indyhumane.org/independent/foster_application
Indy Great Pyrenees Rescue – Indianapolis, IN Foster Application: http://www.igpr.org/foster/foster-survey/
Indiana Cocker Rescue – Kokomo, IN firstname.lastname@example.org or Nancy: 765-432-0982
Indiana House Rabbit Society http://www.2ndchancerescueinc.org/volunteer-application.html
Kentuckiana Pug Rescue – Indianapolis, IN http://www.kentuckianapugs.com/fosterap_IN.htm
Love of Labs – Indianapolis, IN email@example.com Foster Application: http://www.lolin.org/fostering/fosteringApplicationForm.shtml
Lucky Dog Retreat & Rescue– Indianapolis, IN firstname.lastname@example.org
Misty Eyes – Brownsburg, IN email@example.com
Needy Claws https://www.facebook.com/NeedyClawsSanctuary/
Northern Lights Sled Dog Rescue, Inc. – Greenwood, IN firstname.lastname@example.org Send email to request application
Partners for Animal Welfare Society, Inc. (P.A.W.S.) – Greenfield, IN email@example.com or 317-318-9483 Foster Application: http://pawsin.rescuegroups.org/info/file?file=s1082m5077.pdf
Paws Rescue – Franklin, IN firstname.lastname@example.org Foster Application: http://www.pawsrescuefac.com/foster-application.html
Rescue Farm – Poland, IN email@example.com or 812-986-3102
Sheltie Rescue of Central Indiana – Indianapolis, IN http://www.sheltie-rescue.org/index.php?option=com_contact&view=contact&id=19:melissa-and-dee-gartner&catid=11&Itemid=114
Southside Animal Shelter – Indianapolis, IN firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-882-4080
Tails and Trails Rescue – Greenwood, IN http://www.tailsandtrails.org/contact-us/ or 317-865-6003
Wags Stray Animal Foundation – Fortville, IN email@example.com or 317-335-7354
Waldo's Muttley Crew – Indianapolis, IN firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-643-2442
Woof & Books – Noblesville, IN email@example.com or 317-339-8236