BLUE EARTH - A couple of years ago, a dog running loose on County Road 16 was captured in a live trap and named Little Oliver.
"Now he's got a good home," said Cassandra Thorson.
Oliver inspired a bunch of dedicated dog lovers to form K-9 Rescue of Faribault County. They have taken in and found good homes for 68 dogs, one going as far away as Michigan.
"You have to have a passion for dogs," said Sue Mensing.
The animals come to them in different ways, usually from owners who can't keep them because they are moving, have a change in financial status or have health problems. Some, like Oliver, are strays.
Although K-9 Rescue is completely independent with no affiliation to any other organization, it does list dogs on petfinder.com and works with breed groups to find homes for the animals.
"We always try to do what's best for the dogs," Thorson said.
With no building of its own, K-9 Rescue relies on 8 to 10 volunteers to foster dogs in their homes. The more foster homes available, the more dogs they can take.
"We're always in need of fosters, especially for the larger breed dogs," Thorson said.
"We ask that they have a loving home and work with us to find them a permanent home," Mensing said.
Their dream down the road is to find "a little place with two stalls," Mensing said, to house those large dogs. "We need a place for emergencies, for short term."
The organization provides food and veterinary care, so there is little out-of-pocket expense for foster "parents." Caregivers need not live in Faribault County, but should be reasonably close enough so that Mensing or Thorson can pick up a dog if it needs to see a vet.
They do try to match dogs to families where they will fit in. And if a foster situation doesn't work, K-9 Rescue will take the dog back.
The group needs volunteers for other work as well.
Mensing and Thorson spend a lot of time at events like the recent Women's Expo, handing out cards and explaining what the organization does.
K-9 Rescue operates entirely on donations and fundraisers, so Mensing and Thorson would like someone who can organize some money-making activities.
The group has Pennies for Puppies jugs out and on Dec. 1 will have boxes in front of the Walmart and Geneva's Grain Ranch and Pet Supply, both in Albert Lea, hoping to get supplies like leashes, collars, dog food and treats.
"On Nov. 30, Sue and I will be at the craft sale in Kiester," said Thorson, who bakes her own dog treats.
Thorson also makes leashes with matching collars and is willing to teach volunteers the recipes and patterns if they want to make some for the group to sell.
One thing Thorson doesn't do is sew, so the duo is looking for someone with that talent to donate some time.
"Cute crafty ideas we can use at a fundraiser," Mensing said.
Donations are needed as well. Money always helps, but so do kennels, pet taxis and gift cards to a local vet or pet store.
The organization's first priority is finding homes for the dogs they take in. Right now, they have a small, shaggy dog named Jack who had a hind leg amputated because of a hip disease; two Eskimo mix puppies and an older Jack Russell terrier.
To adopt, go to email@example.com and fill out the application. Mensing said personal references and veterinarian references will be checked.
"We'll get back to them if we accept or reject," she said.
Mensing and Thorson advise anyone thinking of adopting to consider their lifestyle and living arrangements. If you are a couch potato, you need a dog that's less active. Smaller dogs do better than large ones in small spaces; larger dogs usually need room to run.
"Do your research on the breed," Mensing said. "Ask as many questions as you can think of."
All of K-9 Rescue's animals are spayed or neutered prior to leaving unless they are too young, and the group offers partial refunds if people pay to get their new pet fixed.