one year later: What it’s like evaluating dogs for a rescue

In November of 2019, Second City Canine rescue asked me to become an Intake Coordinator for their rescue. Intake Coordinators are responsible for handling the admission of animals into a rescue’s program. Generally, they go to open-admission shelters to evaluate animals and “pull” animals that fit what they’re looking for.

When SCCR asked me to become an Intake Coordinator, I was volunteering at Chicago Animal Care and Control walking dogs and socializing cats for almost a year. SCCR was looking for help with evaluating and “pulling” dogs into their program. Since I was pretty familiar with the dogs at Chicago Animal Care and Control, it made sense to evaluate dogs for them because it meant getting dogs out of our city shelter.

I primarily work with Pit Bull type dogs at Chicago Animal Care and Control. For many reasons, these dogs are the most at-risk in our shelters for euthanasia. They’re the ones that really need rescue. I was eager to sign on with SCCR and use my dog walking time as a volunteer to help these dogs even more.

Unfortunately, things didn’t get off to a great start. Right before Christmas 2019, I pulled a dog named Journey who was the most smushy, derpy, beautiful pittie mix. I loved her so much and so did her foster. Journey was adopted, returned, and then bounced around quite a bit leading Journey to become weary and stressed. She was no longer adoptable and in the end, the world was just too stressful for her SCCR decided it was best to let her be at peace and euthanized her.

Run free sweet Journey girl

As you can imagine, this weighed heavily on me. I felt guilty and responsible for the pain she and those who loved her went through. It felt like I had failed the rescue, the fosters, and most importantly, Journey. I started to question whether I knew what I was doing when pulling and evaluating dogs. That’s when I got a phone call from the Director of SCCR, a woman who I had respected for a long time for her no nonsense attitude. I braced myself, thinking I’d be told I was no longer going to be doing intake. But instead, she told me how important it is that I continue, that this shouldn’t stop me from doing intake. And so I listened.

Since Journey, I’ve helped pull more than 100 dogs from local city shelters for Second City Canine Rescue. I’m proud to share that more than 30 of those dogs were Pit Bull type dogs, a major increase from previous years. Of course, it’s not just me evaluating and pulling these dogs, far from it. I have a teammate named Lauren who came on board last September and totally transformed our local intake. Beyond intake, there are incredible fosters, medical, training, and foster support volunteers and staff. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to pull any dogs. Out of the 100 dogs we’ve pulled, I have plenty of good stories.

A few of my favorite pulls…

Rocko – This boy was at Chicago Animal Care and Control for longer than he should have been. When we finally met him, he was so sick and just looked at me with the saddest eyes. His leash tests and handling skills made him a perfect candidate for SCCR. After a few weeks in an amazing home and a short stay at the Adoption Center, this boy found his forever family.

Bo – This big oaf was nothing but chill and gentle when we met him at CACC. Another new pittie foster trusted us and now she’s a blocky-headed lover too. Bo is a fantastic ambassador for Pit Bull type dogs wherever her goes!

Klein – This baby boy was a bit wild at CACC but I loved him. He came in with another dog and our policy is to always take dogs that come in together. He was hard to find a foster for because we don’t have a lot of fosters willing to take a Pit Bull type dog, let alone a more energetic one. Luckily, someone opened their home and now tells everyone he was her favorite and easiest foster. A wonderful family adopted Klein.

Chico – A pair of senior Pomeranians came into CACC as owner surrenders. They were adorable and likely hospice so once I got the approval from our medical team, I picked them up and dropped them off at their fantastic foster’s home. Thankfully, it’s a foster that loves and cares for all our old, small pups in need. Sadly, Chico’s sister passed away shortly after we rescued her, but the little old man is as sweet as can be. His foster mom dotes on him all day so he is in great hands.

Reggie – We pulled Reggie for a brand new pittie foster. We had just convinced him to try out Pit Bull type dogs and Reggie was the perfect pup for the job. This wiggly, happy, goofy dude made people smile wherever he went. Reggie totally sold this foster who has fostered three pitties since. A lovely man with some cats adopted Reggie and they’re bff.

Diablo – We met this senior boy a few hours after he came into the shelter. He could not walk or eat and seemed so stressed in his kennel, it was clear he needed to be put to rest. There was no way we were leaving him behind, so, we pulled him and Lauren took him for a ride with cheeseburgers and Cheese Whiz and then to a private vet where she held his paw and said a final goodbye to release him from pain.

Cheza – This perfectly-sized lady was at CACC for a few months before I fell in love with her. She had a rough start at the city shelter where she came in as a stray. Everything was terrifying to her, but after a few weeks, she settled in and started to become confident. That’s when we met her and loved her and pulled her. Cheza was a staff and volunteer favorite, so pulling her just felt so right. She had some difficulties at first with strangers and new people. She was nervous and weary but loved her foster mom. After working with her for a few months, this precious baby is now available for adoption. You can find more info on her below!

I could go on about more stories about why it’s so important to pull local dogs that need rescue. These dogs might not have all been the easiest, but that’s who needs us, that’s who needs rescue in Chicago.

I don’t take this role lightly. Intake Coordinators have an immense amount of responsibility and it’s something I often struggle with. When a dog I pull is put in a foster home, I worry how it will settle in, how their personality will translate from the shelter to a home. It’s nearly impossible to predict and I try not to put so much pressure on myself, but I do because there’s just so much at stake. Especially for our pit bull type dogs.

Over the course of a year as Intake Coordinator, I’ve experienced emotions from elation to desperation and of course, plenty of frustration. It’s not an easy role, but I absolutely love doing it. I’ve experienced few better feelings than pulling a dog from a shelter, seeing it settle into a foster, and then fall in love with its forever family. It makes the stress worth it.

Thank you to Second City Canine Rescue for giving me the opportunity to help more dogs and thank you to the fosters who open their homes. I’m also thankful to the medical team, training team, volunteers, and everyone who comes together to get just one dog out of the shelter. Here’s to year two and 100 more dogs.

The Rescue:

Cheza – You met her briefly already but let me tell you why you need her. She is slow to warm up to new people, but once you’re in her inner circle, you won’t want to leave it. This smaller lady loves other dogs and plays so well with them. Since she’s a bit of a scardy cat, she’d do best without small humans to scare her. Oh and speaking of cats, she’s not a fan. Cheza is totally house and crate trained and sleeps like a dream. She’s smart, food-motivated, and loves car rides. Let’s get this girl into her forever home!

The Style:

Ah, back when coats weren’t necessary and I didn’t wear a mask everywhere I went outdoors. Such different times. You can find the boots here, skirt here, and top here.



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