A few months ago, I had the honor of meeting Razzle at a local shelter. She was supposed to be in renal failure (or have cancer) and was earning a reputation for having a bad attitude. A shelter volunteer who had bonded with Razzle wanted to make sure that she had a chance to get out of there, but based on the strikes against her that wasn’t likely to happen without a rescue stepping in.
The volunteer contacted HKRT and offered to sponsor Razzle’s veterinary care if we would pull her. Unfortunately, we were over capacity already. All we could do was try. So, we posted a request on our volunteer page and I went to meet Raz. The volunteer and I took her to the vet for a nose to tail exam.
We learned that Razzle was not in renal failure but did have a pretty nasty urinary tract infection. She also had several masses all over her body that would need to be biopsied and her back legs were extremely weak. It was obvious that she had been bred multiple times and not well cared for. This poor girl was a Hard Knocker if we’ve ever seen one. When we finished at the vet, we still didn’t have a foster for her, so she had to return to the shelter. I promised her we would get her out and told her to behave in the meantime. By the time I got home, we had a family agree to take her! I got ahold of the shelter volunteer and told her we would pull Razzle in the morning.
Raz was the first foster for the Mathias family. They agreed to bring her into their home sight unseen, and I brought them a lumpy, skinny, snotty nosed, cantankerous pit bull. They loved her immediately and gave her the best days of her life. Razzle loved them, too. When the Mathias’s found out that despite all their hard work and care, Raz had chronic pain and many medical problems that made daily life a struggle for her, they loved her harder and gracefully accepted that it was time to set her free. They fed her steak, and cheeseburgers, and made her queen of the castle for her final days. They bravely attended her final veterinary appointment with me, and we surrounded her with love as she went to sleep. Among many tears, there was BIG love in that room.
I hope that days like today never get easier and that my heart always aches when we have to say “Goodbye” rather than “See you later”. The depth of my sadness reflects the abundance of love and respect I have for the HKRT team. Razzle knew peace and happiness because a group of people pooled their talents and resources to give her a chance. Today, this group is hurting but we are lead by our hearts and will continue to do what’s right, not what’s easy.
RIP Razzle Dazzle
HKRT receives multiple intake requests each day, and more times than we want to
count, we have to say no. The biggest reasons for that are a lack of volunteer/foster
support and funding. The first question we ask ourselves is “Where will the dog go if we say yes?” We take into consideration size, age, sex, and the type of issues needing to be addressed. Surprisingly, funding is easier to find in emergency or urgent situations than foster homes are. But don’t let that fool you into thinking we have funds aplenty. Our number one job is fundraising because without money we cannot responsibly care for our dogs.
When assessing whether we have space for a new dog in the program, we must
consider the fosters we have willing and able to take them. As of now, we do not have a facility or sanctuary to house our dogs which limits who we can take. The handful of
foster families we have are wonderful but there is only so much time in the day and
space in their homes. We simply cannot keep up with the demand without more
dedicated foster homes. HKRT covers all expenses for our dogs while they are in the
program, so don’t let finances deter you from giving it a try. We even provide dog food! Because we focus on the ones with special socialization needs, a different management approach is often needed, which basically means more structured interactions and/or closer supervision. Sadly, our reactive dogs tend to spend more time in isolation or in a crate, but that does not mean they are bad dogs! Frequently, the issue is not aggression but rather a lack of confidence or an inability to communicate appropriately. With our guidance, they will learn, but catch on fastest when given more frequent opportunities to practice.
If you can’t foster, consider volunteering a couple hours each week to help with
socialization. We always need dependable, kind, and fun-loving folks to join our team!
Volunteers can give foster families a break while providing wonderful enrichment for the pups by just taking them for a hike or a sleepover. While our goal is quality over
quantity, the quicker a dog can work through their obstacles, the sooner they can find
their forever home, which opens space for another. We want to save as many as we
can, but a devoted team is needed to make that a reality.
Lastly, funding…UGH. Money goes out as quickly as it comes in. We are fortunate to
have an amazing sponsor in Pet Supplies Plus of Madison, who provides all the food,
treats, and toys our dogs need. That is a tremendous help and we are so thankful for
them! Vet bills are our number one expense. For us to grow into the program we dream to be, complete with a facility for training/boarding/rescue and sanctuary space for the truly unadoptable, we need funds. Monthly sponsors would go a long way towards helping us reach those goals. The donors who have helped us get this far into the journey have been incredibly generous, but we need more consistent and reliable monetary support for future growth. We are always on the lookout for fundraising opportunities so don’t be shy about reaching out if you have some ideas. Our Fundraising Coordinator will be happy to speak with you!
The next time you see a dog in need and go to tag your favorite rescue, consider also
offering to help in whatever way you can. Tag Hard Knocks (@hkrtinc), share the post
with your pledge of assistance, then challenge your friends to foster, volunteer, donate, and share as well. Let’s all do our part! Every little bit helps.
Our area is overrun with unwanted, discarded, and abused animals. How many times have you scrolled through a social media thread regarding an abused or abandoned animal and seen several comments from concerned animal lovers yelling, “Someone, do something!” Hard Knocks Rescue & Training, Inc. exists because we realized that WE are someone and WE needed to do something.
The HKRT motto is Doing what’s right, not what’s easy. We look for the ugly ones, the sick ones, and especially the ones with bad attitudes. We take in as many as we can with the hope of healing them and finding them loving forever homes. It takes a lot of help and resources to rehabilitate these pups, but they deserve a chance. When we take a dog into our program, it is generally one that has been overlooked or can no longer be managed at their current shelter or rescue. Occasionally, we will take a stray or owner surrender if space is available. Our dogs are fully vetted upon intake, on preventatives, as well as working on basic obedience skills and potty/crate training. We rely on monetary donations and volunteer support to keep our mission going.
Running a rescue is a 24/7, 365 days a year kind of gig. It is a lifestyle and a calling. It is not a vocation that will reap great financial gains. You must be willing to accept your car will never be clean again, dog hair is a food group, chew marks are decorative, and poop happens…a lot. Having a dark sense of humor is also quite helpful.
Most importantly, you must recognize that YOU are the someone who can DO something. You just need to try.
As of right now, there are 12 dogs living in my home; 4 belong to us and 8 are fosters. They are in every single room of the house and are managed in 8 different groups to minimize safety issues. Our bedrooms do not have any flooring other than the cement slab, because it’s easier to clean up than carpet. We wash more loads of dog towels and blankets in a week than we do laundry for the humans. Our fence constantly needs repairs and it is nearly impossible to keep the yard cleaned up. We play "Find the Stink" on a daily basis. Basically, we live in a doggie fraternity house.
All of that probably sounds awful to some of you, but I cannot imagine life any other way. I found my joy when we began fostering. Our first foster ended up staying as a permanent member of the family, as well as three others so far. My husband and I still have a fight every time a new foster comes in as we learn the newest routine, but we also still marvel together when a pup has a breakthrough. Hubby’s role is Chief Executive of Play and Handler of All Things Gross, because he’s a master at drawing the shy ones out with play and seems to have no sense of smell or gag reflex. He is saint material. We get all the satisfaction and validation we could ever hope for in caring for our home full of misfits. There is nothing more gratifying than when a traumatized pit bull decides you are pretty okay and proves it by sitting on your head.
But, even for us, 12 is too many. The dogs are doing fine but would benefit greatly from more one on one time and socialization opportunities. We don’t want our dogs to just be “fine”, we want them to thrive!
If you have ever considered fostering, now is a great time to get involved. HKRT has 6 dogs needing foster homes where they can polish their social skills and learn to be part of a family. Hard Knocks covers all expenses to include vetting, food, and supplies for all our dogs while in foster homes. We will work together to address any training or integration concerns to make the process as easy as possible. Feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. We would love to have you join our crew! And, you never know. You may just find your joy, too.
By Lisa Maasen
“What makes HKRT different from other rescues?”
“Why do your dogs stay with you for so long?”
“You should really take in more desirable and easily adoptable dogs.”
These are the three most common questions and suggestions we receive. They come at us almost daily and are valid feedback from our supporters. Because of that, it makes sense that our first blog post answers those questions and addresses your concerns. We understand that our way of doing things is not how conventional rescues work. That is exactly our goal!
HKRT’s mission statement says, “With our individualized, respect-based training and decompression program, we will ensure more dogs find and keep loving homes. We will assist local shelters and rescues in rehabilitating abused and neglected dogs who are considered “unadoptable” due to anxiety triggered behavioral issues. We will provide training and resources for the entire community to promote safer interactions between dogs, their canine companions, and humans. In doing so, we will help reduce the number of dogs euthanized due to fear-based reactivity.”
We accomplish our mission in several ways. First, the dogs we typically take in are the ones other rescues and potential adopters have been passing over for a variety of reasons. We are looking for the forgotten and those deemed unworthy by others. Many have been in a shelter environment for months with no end in sight. We ask volunteers and shelter staff who needs some extra TLC and may not make it out. We also receive requests from facilities begging us to take a dog who will be euthanized otherwise. You know, the ones hiding in the corner of their kennel trying to make themselves as small as possible to avoid being seen because people are terrifying. Or, they are the ones barking and biting at the kennel from panic and frustration. We understand this isn’t ideal behavior, but we also understand there is a reason the dog may be lashing out. Our goal is to find those triggers and help them learn to trust and get past their fear so they can live the happy life they deserve.
Second, once we get the dog home, they are given a chance to decompress. They are walked outside to inspect the yard and go potty, then they are given a quiet place to acclimate away from all the hustle and bustle. Some dogs find a crate in a private room to be the most comforting, others prefer free run of their space. We keep the lighting low, provide a regular predictable schedule for feeding and outside time. Calming aids such as peaceful music, lavender essential oil, thunder shirts, and CBD oil are used as needed to help the dog settle in and feel safe. This process lasts two weeks on average; however, some dogs need more time and others need less. We pay attention to what they are telling us with their behavior and move at their pace. Our goal is to avoid pushing them too hard too fast so they will learn to trust us because we show them respect.
Third, we take all our dogs to the vet within the first couple of weeks of intake to ensure everything medically has been addressed. It is amazing how different a dog will behave when they feel healthy! We choose to repeat their heartworm test and get them preventatives, make sure their vaccinations are up to date, they are spayed/neutered, nails are trimmed, anal glands expressed, any infections or injuries are treated as well. Our initial vet visits for each dog costs around $200 but is money well spent. If anything shows up that may require surgery or if bloodwork is needed, we get that taken care of as well. Unless the dog is physically healthy, we have no way of knowing if their behavioral problems are more from pain or fear. Decompression lasts until all their physical needs have been taken care of.
During decompression we are assessing what the dog knows and begin basic obedience training. The dog is taught the commands “sit” and “watch me”. We ask them to do it for everything they want or need. This establishes a bond and builds trust between them and their new handlers. It also creates what we call a “reset button”, meaning those tasks become second nature to them which is essential to any future success with behavior adjustment training (BAT). Also, during this time, we are working to find out what is most upsetting to them, finding ways to manage it initially, and slowly begin to teach them better coping skills than biting and growling. They learn “leave it” and how to walk away rather than lash out aggressively. This happens naturally when the animal feels heard and respected rather than dominated. Until we have built a relationship with open communication, we do not introduce the new foster to anyone outside of the home or ANY animals (including their housemates).
When we take a dog into the HKRT family, we know they will be with us for a while in most cases. From our experience we can usually estimate fairly accurately how long their rehabilitation may take when we meet them. While we have a basic timeline in mind for their specialized program, we do not enforce it strictly. Our main concerns are: Can we manage and care for them in a safe manner for all involved? Are they making progress or at least maintaining their improved behaviors? As long as we all feel safe and the dog isn’t in distress or regressing, we will continue to care for them indefinitely.
Our motto is “Doing what’s right, not what’s easy.” To accomplish that, we must be patient, understanding, and leave our egos at the door. Working with these difficult to place dogs is rewarding, heartbreaking, frustrating, and exhilarating – sometimes all at once. We have been described as doing “intervention work”, meaning we are the ones called in when standard methods and protocols have failed. Creativity is important and not being rigid in our beliefs in key to our success. Our margin for error is small because of the dog’s history. We must be especially cautious about who adopts them to ensure they find a true forever home the first time (as often as possible) because they have already had more turmoil in their lives than most can imagine. We have learned through experience that every dog is different, just like every human. It is not easy or quick to find the hidden gem in some of these dogs but each one deserves a chance.
To date, HKRT has taken in 22 last chance dogs. We have had to euthanize two. We hate that there are two we couldn’t save, but the other 20 are here today because we took a chance on them and gave them time to come into their own. We are their cheerleaders, their caretakers, and their soft place to land. It is an honor and a privilege to gain their trust and respect, and it is time well spent.