From Roaming Alone to Forever in a Home: Meet Yogi

A scruffy retriever mix made his way from home to home on the reservation, looking for scraps of food and a place to rest when he felt safe enough. This is Yogi’s routine for the first few years of his life. Our partner LightShine Canine: A Rez Dog Rescue, tried to rescue him during the summer of 2019, but Yogi was terrified of people. Mange wreaked havoc on his skin while secondary skin infections crept in. Yogi felt miserable, and he didn’t know if he could trust those that were trying to help him. The rescue couldn’t find him that winter.

After months of building up trust and slipping him medication, Yogi reappeared in the spring and finally accepted Lightshine’s helping paw in late March 2020. He got stitches for a wound on his head while they monitored his neck and scrotum injuries closely. It turns out people are not so bad after all. Yogi joined other rez dogs on a transport van to Minnesota foster homes, where they soon discovered the joy of living indoors.

Yogi wandering the streets
Yogi rescued in a crate
Yogi at the vet

Yogi seemed so shy, confused, and scared his first few days in his foster home. He wouldn’t look at them for days. Although, it didn’t take too long for Yogi to start trusting his fosters and feel more relaxed. His love for treats certainly helped, and he couldn’t turn down a belly rub.

Distraught, Yogi kept trying to cover his food dish that had leftover food in it. Once his foster mom understood what he was trying to do, she grabbed a towel and put it over his food bowl. Yogi felt content with this solution as his survival instincts were still in full effect. This reaction lasted about two weeks until Yogi finally realized no one would steal his food.

For the first time, Yogi could relax in the sun and not worry about other animals hurting him. He learned what toys are and proudly carried them around the house. He even learned how to perform some commands like sit, shake, and lay down.

His foster mom, Kate, says, “From coming from the reservation with no home, no family, no future, he realized and let himself be loved and cared for. His life got better, and he started to let himself relax and enjoy being a dog.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Your support makes these transformations possible. Yogi is currently enjoying his second chance at life in his forever home.

Yogi paying with his toy
Yogi smiling
Yogi relaxing on his back

Bittersweet Valentine

Miserable from unrelenting allergies, Val (Valentine), patiently endured test upon test to determine why her skin is so painfully itchy. Fosters, Ryan and Jennifer, took Val into their home in October 2019 after her former owner could no longer care for her. They prepared for managing Val’s allergies, except something more severe was happening.

At random, open and oozing sores covered Val’s entire body while her face swelled. These outbreaks puzzled the Ruff Start vetting staff, Val’s fosters, and veterinary consults. For months, they tried new anti-inflammatories, injections, and creams while eliminating any possible thing that could cause an allergic reaction. If anything helped, it was only temporary. The vet bills grew steeper and steeper.

Val continued to be her wiggly and happy self, but you could tell she was miserable as her body constantly trembled from the discomfort. The sweet Pitbull Terrier mix showed nothing but love to her foster family as they transcended expectations for her care.

“She’s still a happy dog, which makes it a lot easier to help her.”

Enough was enough. After a consultation with a dermatologist, Val received a particular blood test to determine if she had a possible immune system disease or lymphoma. We remained hopeful that we could cure her once and for all, then we heard the news.

In March 2020, Val received a positive result for B-Cell Lymphoma and given 6-12 months to live.

This news devastated all of us, especially Ryan and Jennifer, but there is a sense of relief finally knowing what’s causing her pain. They went from fosters looking to find Val a perfect home to fospice (foster hospice) fosters. They prepared themselves to be with her until the very end.

Val sitting on the porch
Val paw allergy
Val laying in her dog bed

Val is currently taking Prednisone and an oral chemotherapy drug. These help keep her in remission and her symptoms under control. If you feel compelled to support Val’s care, here are some breakdowns:

  • $400 covers her lymphoma diagnostic test
  • $100 covers six chemo treatments
  • $100 covers Cytopoint for her allergies
  • $50 covers her monthly medication
  • $25 covers bloodwork before each chemo treatment

We can give Val the care she needs thanks to your support! We are grateful for this opportunity to celebrate Val’s life and help her finally feel comfortable while she enjoys living in her foster home for the remainder of her days.


A Lone Star to North Star Rescue Journey: Russie

Russie is a 16-year-old Pomeranian mix that is all fluff and no fuss. Russie found herself alone in a Texas shelter after her owner passed away this March 2020. Despite how *adorable* Russie is, she has a long list of medical concerns that landed her on the euthanasia list.

You all know that’s not our style.

Our Lone Star to North Star Rescue Relief team immediately tagged this pup to hitch a ride on a bus to Minnesota because all dogs deserve a chance at a loving home. As long as Russie’s quality of life remains intact, she will live in peace and get the care she needs in her fospice (foster hospice) home.

Russie wasn’t doing too hot when she first arrived. Russie tucked her tail, barely ate, and had horrific coughing fits. Our vetting team went to work and got her on a proper medication regimen for severe dental disease and a possible mass near her trachea.

Now she’s a different dog!

Russie getting a ride in a backpack
Russie licking her lips
Russie enjoying a pup cup

It turns out that Russie has quite the spunky personality and can even zip around the house like a 10-year-old pup. Her foster shares, “We have really loved having Russie! She is our first hospice foster, and we were a bit nervous in the beginning about this since her health issues seemed significant. However, we knew we were the right fit for her and could offer a final loving home.”

Russie is deaf and is catching on quickly to the sign language her foster family is teaching her. She loves being in the sun, going for car rides, and joining the family on long walks while she sits in a K9 backpack on her foster mom’s back. She’s even earned a few nicknames, including Russet Potato, Tater Tot, and Russie Wussie.

There are unknowns of how long a fospice pet will stay with us, but Russie’s foster family feels confident that between the safe/calm environment and medications they give her, she’ll be with us for quite a while. When you see Russie play with a toy for the first time in likely years, you can’t help but stop and stare at the joy she is experiencing.

Our foster families always go above and beyond for these animals.

Russie’s foster mom says, “We feel honored that she is with us. She gets stronger and more energetic with each passing day. We’ve bought her a new bed, pet stairs so she can get onto the couch, a doggy car seat so she can sit securely in the car while still looking out the window, and some little toys and treats all her own. She seems to love us as much as we love her!”

We can take on special cases like Russie’s because of your support. To no fault of her own, she ended up in a shelter and scheduled for euthanasia. You made it possible for us to save her, and with your continued support, we are ready to save even more Russies’! If you are able, please consider contributing to this life-saving work.

Rocky and Linda

A Lone Star to North Star Rescue Journey: Rocky and Linda

An animal can feel so confused and scared when they first enter a shelter. Especially when the owner they’ve known and loved for years is no longer by their side. Between the echoing barks and whines of other confused dogs to the fast footsteps of employees; It can be overwhelming to the point where the animal no longer acts like themself.

Some shelters are overcapacity, particularly in the southern United States. Senior Chihuahuas like Linda and Rocky would only have a short window to get adopted before they found themselves on a long list of animals to euthanize. This outcome is not how Ruff Start Rescue wants a dog’s final moments to be.

Rocky (left) and Linda (right) after arriving to their Texas foster home.
Rocky (left) and Linda (right) after arriving to their Texas foster home.

They belong in a home where they can feel the comfort of someone’s love for them no matter how long they have left. So, without hesitation, Ruff Start tagged Linda (Marigold) and her brother Rocky (Drumstick) to hitch a freedom ride from Texas to Minnesota through the Lone Star to North Star Rescue Relief program. After their thousand-mile journey, their fosters scooped them up from the rescue office and brought them HOME.

Both Linda and Rocky are 15 years old and have an old-age ailment, vestibular disease. Linda’s been holding steady since entering the rescue in November 2019. Unfortunately, Rocky passed away unexpectedly in his sleep due to complications from the disease on February 6, 2020. We take comfort in knowing that he was so well-loved during his short time with us.

Linda is thin but still enjoys eating. When she has a tough time finding her food, she will scream (we’ve all been there). Otherwise, Linda doesn’t care much for chatter. Linda often spins in circles (from the disease), is 90% blind, and almost deaf, but she LOVES to cuddle! Her condition is severe enough that Ruff Start placed her in our “fospice” (foster hospice) program. She is in this program to ensure she gets the care she needs for the remainder of her time with us.

The unknowns of fostering a hospice animal can be taxing, especially when we know that her time to leave us could happen at any moment. Linda has had a few emergency vet visits for gastroenteritis. Thankfully, Ruff Start’s veterinary team adjusted her medications and have her on a special diet that keeps that condition manageable and her quality of life intact.

To keep her safe, Linda spends a lot of her time in a big kennel with a washable training pad and a heating pad. Believe it or not, her favorite thing ever is bath time in the kitchen sink! Although she runs around really fast to ‘get away’ from her wet self afterward. Linda’s foster mom loves piling up all of the Chihuahuas in her home and watching junk TV during colder weather. When Linda’s not soaking up sun rays, you can find her upside down underneath several blankets taking the best nap of her life.

Without the Lone Star to North Star Rescue Relief Program, Linda and Rocky wouldn’t have experienced this unconditional love and care. You can support this program by sharing this article or making a contribution. Without your help, thousands of animals wouldn’t have gotten a second chance like Rocky and Linda.


After Years in Rescue: Lucy Lands Her Forever Home

Lucy found herself in a local impound as a stray in early 2017 after frolicking in the wild and weaving through traffic for miles without breaking a sweat. Once her stray hold finished and no owner reclaimed Lucy, she began her hunt for a new family. Unfortunately, the shelter setting frightened her, making it challenging to find her a home when she couldn’t be herself. Ruff Start Rescue happily took Lucy in.

Lucy’s foster mom, Steffani, is an employee at Ruff Start Rescue that specializes in all sorts of severe cases. Lucy has urinary incontinence that’s managed with medication, a high prey drive, all of the skills necessary to escape a backyard, and she doesn’t always know how to act around other dogs. One thing we knew for sure, we do not want to see Lucy running around as a stray ever again.

Lucy liked stealing food off of the countertops, among other oddities. Steffani and her partner Chuck quickly grew to love the 85-pound hound.

“We were always interested in keeping her.”

Lucy smiling
Lucy playing in the autumn leaves

We think Lucy may have partaken in sabotaging her adoption applications over the years because “The longer she stayed with us, and the more applications that we looked at that weren’t the right fit for her persuaded us to accept her quirks more easily.” Shares Steffani.

“We would always say, let’s give it one more month until we make our decision. Maybe the perfect application would come along.”

Ruff Start had Lucy in all sorts of photo shoots, shared her on social media multiple times, and even made her an Instagram account. A generous donor also paid for her adoption fee. There were lots of loving people out there wanting to give her a home, but we wanted to make sure we found a spot that was safe for Lucy and the adoptive family. This Bloodhound loves to run and has a big personality and bark to match.

Over 40 applications later, they still couldn’t find the right home.

Lucy modeling
Lucy playing in the kiddie pool

Not long after Steffani and Chuck lost their beloved pug far too soon, the foster parents decided to become Lucy’s forever parents.

Ruff Start Rescue can help dogs like Lucy, thanks to our partnerships with shelters across Minnesota and from your support. If you have the means, consider contributing to Ruff Start Rescue so we can continue this life-saving work and help more dogs like Lucy get the care they need and find their forever families.


COVID-19 Finds Finicky Cat a Forever Home

Peyton, Peyton, Peyton. The world’s most aloof cat with a mind we can never read. Peyton ran out of time at a local shelter during the summer of 2017, so one of our intake volunteers made sure we took her into the rescue. While she certainly is a gorgeous cat, Peyton didn’t care much for us minions-er-humans unless it was in tiny doses.

Unlike most cats in the rescue, Peyton couldn’t find the right home. We tried her out on the adoption floor of a few PetSmart stores, posted her information on social media, and let people check her out at the rescue office in Princeton, MN. Nothing would stick for her.

Peyton enjoyed controlling our rescue laundry room for several months. She’d judge our every move with disappointed stares while playing with the extra toys we gave to her in an attempt to form a friendship. Peyton would ask whatever poor soul that entered the laundry room to scratch behind her ears, only to retract that request with her trademark sassy yowl immediately. She certainly kept us on our toes.

When Minnesota first began to shelter-in-place, rescue leadership made sure no animals were alone in the building in case we needed to shut down completely. A gracious foster took Peyton into her home, only to be terrorized by the feline. It doesn’t take much for Peyton to get stressed out. Thankfully, a promising application made a timely appearance across our application manager’s computer screen.

“Peyton was everything we hoped for in a cat.”

Peyton standing in the doorway
Peyton sunbathing on the couch
Peyton sleeping

Chels and Tony carefully scoured the Ruff Start website looking for a feline to add to their family. They were intrigued by her honest and interesting bio. Ruff Start staff adequately warned the couple of Peyton’s quirks, but that didn’t phase them. They wanted to adopt Peyton (now Ruby) because of the difficult time she’s had finding the right home, plus they loved how she looked.

She did well on the car ride home from the rescue office. And moments after opening her kennel door, you could tell Peyton knew she was home. In only two hours, she jumped up on the bed and sat right in between Chels and Tony.

“We were so surprised!”

“She absolutely loves the open windows she gets to nap and sniff out of. She also got a 6ft tower that she loves keeping us entertained with. Her favorite toy is a little orange feather she tore off from another one of her toys, and the way she carries it around some times is so cute.” Shares Chels.

“She has been a great addition to our quarantine household, and I bet she can’t wait for us to go back to work so she has more alone time. She sleeps with us every night and has just been a very bright light in these dark times.” Remarks Tony.

Stories like these always keep us motivated to achieve our mission of saving at-risk animals. Peyton nor her adopters wouldn’t have experienced this joy of being together without your support. If you have the means, consider contributing to Ruff Start Rescue so we can continue this life-saving work and help more cats like Peyton find their forever families.

Houston Rescue Dogs

Houston here we come!

April 24, 2020

During the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, puppies and dogs continue to need our help in the southern United States. Minnesotans have once again proven to be champions of animals, clearing out many rescues and shelters across Minnesota. With this reality being far different in Texas, Ruff Start Rescue jumped in to do what we do best: help alleviate overcrowding in shelters by safely transporting at-risk animals to loving homes in Minnesota.

With the cancellation of Ruff Start’s fundraising events and trying to balance cost-saving measures with our life-saving mission, we couldn’t say yes to those at-risk animals without our communities’ help. On Thursday, April 23, we posted our plea to help pull around fifty dogs out of shelters in Houston, Texas. You quickly answered with financial support and well-wishes that moved us to tears.

Our intake team is working in overdrive, getting everything ready to make this happen. We’ve lined up two vans and have found drivers and ‘co-pilots’ for both! Our volunteers plan to leave for Texas Wednesday, April 29, and arrive in Minnesota on May 2. Stay tuned for more updates. We can’t wait to show you what your donations have made possible!

April 27, 2020

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the animals YOU helped us save! The pictures aren’t perfect, but the animals sure are!

Our teams are gearing up for the journey to Texas in just two short days. We can’t wait to get on the road to save lives. We are still SO thrilled about the amount of support we have received over the last few days, especially during this uncertain time.

Updated pictures and information will be available on our website Tuesday, May 5.

April 29, 2020

Team Rescue Machine is the first to leave the rescue office in Princeton, MN, this morning! We are all wishing our mother-daughter volunteer duo luck as they make this long trek to save lives.
Team Rescue Machine is the first to leave the rescue office in Princeton, MN, this morning! We are all wishing our mother-daughter volunteer duo luck as they make this long trek to save lives.

April 29, 2020

Team Homeward Bound is not far behind! Check out this update from the father-daughter volunteer pair.

April 30, 2020

Teams Rescue Machine and Homeward Bound arrived safely to their hotel last night for some much-deserved rest! They have about 8 hours to go until they reach Houston tonight. We’re getting SO close to seeing those sweet pups that you helped us save!

Wayde (pictured below) went from being a Texas stray, to a dog on a euthanasia list, to a Minnesota foster dog, to an escape artist who ended up on 35W South. He’s now heading back to Texas to live out his life with the woman who first saved him from being euthanized. Wayde and his Texas foster mom (soon to be forever mom) share a bond that spanned the country! They are hours away from being reunited.

Teams Rescue Machine and Homeward Bound

Team Homeward Bound made a memorable stop once they arrived in Houston. Check out Wayde’s reunion with his forever mom here.

May 1, 2020

Team Rescue Machine and Team Homeward Bound are on the road back to Minnesota with our emergency transport pups!

Here are the steps we take to safely load up animals for transport during the COVID-19 pandemic.

May 2, 2020

Houston rescue teams

Teams Homeward Bound and Rescue Machine were given a warm welcome from staff and volunteers as they arrived safely to the rescue office in Princeton, MN! Check out the live videos here: first live videosecond live video.

Watch our latest videos on TikTok (username: ruffstartrescue) for stories from Team Rescue Machine.

Thank you for joining us on this journey to save animals!

Preventing cat fights

Preventing Cat Fights

Things may be going great for your cats, but changing routines and underlying health conditions can disrupt a peaceful household. If your sweet cat is suddenly acting aggressively, you should take them in to see their veterinarian and make sure they are not experiencing any health ailments. If your cat receives a clean bill of health, then there may be something at home that is causing their behavior changes.

Typically when cats fight, they are not on the same page when it comes to playtime. Tending to each cat’s enrichment needs will help prevent unnecessary scuffles. There may be other triggers that cause unwarranted fighting as well, including when they both want attention from you, when they become territorial over the best resting places in the home, or if they see a cat strutting nearby for example. Be sure to observe your cats closely to see what may be triggering them to fight.

If the fighting becomes incessant, causing a cat to become incredibly stressed or stuck in hiding, separate both animals into separate rooms providing them with the necessary items. These items include food, water, a litterbox, a comfortable place to rest, and comforting interaction from members of your household for at least one hour per day. Separating your cats helps calm them down and may take a few days or weeks for them to reset, pending the severity of their fighting. While your cats are on a timeout, you can take that time to make adjustments in your home to prevent this behavior in the future. Some ideas include:

  • Making sure your cats have enough resources such as boxes, beds, food and water dishes, litterboxes, toys, access to natural sunlight, safe hiding spaces, and scratching posts to share. The right amount varies with each household.
  • Figuring out the right amount of time your cat needs your sole attention each day.
  • Covering a portion of your windows with a window covering if that pesky outdoor cat wanders by often.
  • Teaching your cat to come when called. It is possible, especially when treats are involved! Calling your cat when they become anxious will help redirect their attention.

Reading cat body language can be tough! The more you understand what your cat is saying through their behavior, the more you’ll be able to help them. Signs to look for when cats become anxious include dilated pupils, growling, staring, tense body posture, and a flicking tail.

It is up to you to determine when to reintegrate your cats, pending on the severity of their fighting. It could be a few days or a few weeks later. When you reintroduce them, make sure you can keep an eye on them. There will likely be hissing and walking away when they see each other again, which is regular communication for cats. What we want for your cats is for them to listen to each other’s behavioral cues and have healthy outlets for playtime.

You may also utilize synthetic feline pheromones like Feliway. Some cats respond well to the pheromone, which helps relax them while some cats may act the same. You can scoop up this product, and others like it at your local pet store or Amazon.

Integrating cats may take some time and trial and error, but it is worth it for a peaceful household. If you have any additional questions, please reach out to us at info@ruffstartrescue.org.

Cats cuddling

Introducing a New Cat to a Multi-cat Household

Cats are like potato chips; you can’t have just one! Sometimes those potato chips don’t get along, especially if you don’t properly integrate them. When introducing a new cat into your home with other cats, it is essential to remember that this is likely an unsettling transition for all pets involved.

Ruff Start Rescue recommends placing your new cat into a safe room where they have access to food, water, a litterbox, a comfortable place to rest, and comforting interaction from members of your household for at least one hour per day. Your new cat should hang out in this new, secluded space for a few days or weeks. Doing this allows your cats to take in each other’s scents and feel less threatened when you finally introduce them. You can assist in the scent exchange by gently rubbing each cat’s cheeks on a towel and giving the towel to the opposite cat a few days in. How each cat reacts to the scented towel will be a good gauge for their first in-cat interaction.

When you are ready to let your new cat explore the home, you can swap your cats by placing your new cat outside of their room and the resident cat inside the new cat’s room. Both cats will have A LOT of exploring and sniffing to do that could take several hours. When both cats look relaxed in their new spaces, you can take this opportunity to let them see each other for the first time through a baby gate or propped door. It is important never to push your cats to interact with each other. They will let you know if they are interested in communicating. You can expect hissing, intense sniffing, and growling. They may even like each other right away! You should repeat this process until your cats see each other as pals or the very least, acquaintances. You may reward your cats with treats when they are near each other and behaving well.

Make sure to pay attention to your cats’ behavior. Signs of stress or anxiety include hiding, aggressive behavior, decreased appetite, or excessive vocalization. If these signs persist for more than a week, it may be time to consult your veterinarian. It is common for cats to experience some stress when transitioning into their new home.

Integrating cats may take some time and trial and error, but it is worth it for a peaceful household. If you have any additional questions, please reach out to us at info@ruffstartrescue.org.

Ruff Start Rescue