May 20th is National Rescue Dog Day!

By: Ashlie Kuehn

May 20th is National Rescue Dog Day! Millions of dogs find themselves in shelters or rescues in the United States each year. National Rescue Dog Day brings awareness to these loveable pups looking to find their forever homes.

What is a rescue dog, and where do they come from? 
Generally, a rescue dog is an animal seeking a new home through a rescue or shelter. Rescue dogs come from various circumstances, such as owner surrender, homeless as a stray, overpopulated shelter, and more. Unfortunately, many dogs needing rescue are there through no fault of their own. While some may have a sad or traumatic past, with the affection and care of a loving home, rescue dogs have proven time and time again to make wonderful companions!

What happens to rescue dogs once they’re a Ruff Starter? 
Many rescues, including Ruff Start Rescue, are foster-based, meaning they rely on volunteers to open their homes to animals waiting for their forever families. While each person is unique, so is each rescue animal. Foster homes are essential for caring for each animal and learning about their needs to find a great adoptive home! While fostering is free, Ruff Start provides the animal with all necessary veterinary care, spay/neuter, age-appropriate vaccines, supplies, and food while the animal is in our care.

I’m ready to adopt a rescue! What is the adoption process like?

  1. The first step toward adopting a rescue dog is filling out an adoption application. This shows the rescue that you’re interested in an animal and allows you to connect with the foster home.
    2. Next, the animal’s foster home will reach out to discuss the pet you are interested in. They can help answer any questions you may have and schedule a meet and greet. Rescues understand that not every animal is compatible with every home, so conversations and education are essential to learn more about an adopter and work to find a great fit.
    3. If it’s decided adoption is the best next step forward, it is time to complete the adoption contract and submit payment for the adoption fee. These fees support the cost of each animal we rescue.
    4. Finally, you’re ready to bring your new pet home!

How can I help rescue animals? 
One way to celebrate and help rescue animals is to consider opening your home through adoption or foster! If you’re unable to adopt or foster, there are still plenty of ways to offer support.

You can donate your time by volunteering at a local rescue, learning more about animal rescue and educating others, or spreading awareness by tagging #NationalRescueDogDay on social media!  National Rescue Dog Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate these wonderful animals and show the world how great rescue pets can be!

Join Ruff Start Rescue to Celebrate Respect Your Cat Day – March 28, 2023

By: Rachel Davis

Do you have a cat in your life that needs a little *extra* respect? You’re in luck! Join Ruff Start Rescue as we celebrate Respect Your Cat Day on Tuesday, March 28, 2023.

Check out these ideas for showing your favorite feline friend some extra love:

  • If your cat enjoys petting, shower them with extra petting sessions today—but only in the right spots and at the right times! In most circumstances, cats love spending quality time with their humans (especially if your head and neck rubbing skills are top-notch!).
  • Give them a new toy that will stimulate their feline instincts: toy bird or mouse-chasing toys, catnip-infused hunting and pouncing toys, or string and feather jumping toys are perennial favorites.
  • Let them sleep! Most cats sleep 12-18 hours each day (and many sleep more than 18 hours!). That’s about 70% of their life! They are most active at dawn and dusk. Let your cat enjoy his natural instincts and rest up!
  • Know how to treat, handle, and take good care of your cat. Regular vet visits, daily (or near-daily) brushing, quality food, fresh water, access to scratching areas, and lots of love are necessities—and the ultimate shows of respect.
  • Defend your cat! As cat lovers, we know that every cat is a unique and loveable creature with one-of-a-kind qualities, but some people just aren’t “cat people.” That’s okay! But even those who don’t adore kitty companionship can learn to respect the individual worth of animal lives. So stick up for your kitties!

If you’re looking for fun and interesting reasons to respect cats, consider these fascinating facts:

  • Cats can jump up to six times their height.
  • Cats have 18 toes—five on the front and four on the back.
  • Across the world, there are over 500 million pet cats (and just 473 million pet dogs)!
  • Cats can run up to 30mph. 
  • While most domestic cats live for 16-17 years, the oldest recorded living cat was 38!
  • House cats share 95.6% of their genetic makeup with tigers!
  • Cats have 32 muscles in each of their ears and can rotate their ears 180 degrees!
  • A female cat can become pregnant when she’s just 4-6 months old. Spaying or neutering your cat is the best way to help reduce cat overpopulation.
  • President Abraham Lincoln loved cats and would play with them for hours. He owned several cats during his time in the White House.
  • In Ancient Egypt, members of a family would shave their eyebrows in mourning if their cat died. Cats were also sometimes mummified and placed in tombs with their owners.
  • Although a group of kittens is more commonly called a litter, they can also be known as a “kindle” of kittens.

Throughout history, cats have given humans thousands of reasons for us to love and respect them—and they know it! Now let’s do our part and show them all the extra respect they deserve.

Join Ruff Start Rescue to Celebrate National Puppy Day!

By: Rachel Davis

Have you heard the news? Thursday, March 23, is National Puppy Day! What a perfect way to celebrate the softest, sweetest, and most adorably rambunctious little creatures on the planet.

If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to cuddle and play and rest with these darling doggies, we’re here to remind you. And if you’ve also forgotten what it’s like to survive in a constant state of hyper-vigilance as you follow your pup around to catch any potty-training accidents and ensure that all cords/crumbs/shoes/pencils/pillows/tools/blankets/furniture/boxes/clothes/gloves/snacks/ basically-everything-you-own are under safe care and keeping, we’re here to remind you about that, too.

Founded in 2006, National Puppy Day was created to “focus attention on puppies in need of adoption, and on the abuses found in puppy mills, but also to celebrate these furry little companions.” (1)  And let’s be honest: what’s more fun than celebrating pups? They’re hilarious and goofy and sensitive and rapidly alternating states of crazy and lazy. They’re adorable, dramatic, playful, cheerful, and ready to ruin everything you own.

If you’re considering adopting a puppy, you’ve no doubt considered the brief state of chaotic ridiculousness he’ll bring to your life. But after the fun and frenzied “puppy months” have passed—if you’ve done your homework and ensured all your pup’s needs are met—you’ll have a best friend who (we hope!) no longer hides your shoes and laundry around the house.

The Farmers’ Almanac recently published these fun and interesting puppy facts. How many did you already know?

  • While human infants spend about 16 hours sleeping every day, puppies need up to 20 hours of daily sleep. That sounds like a lot – but they cram plenty of activity and craziness into those 4 waking hours!
  • Hearing and vision aren’t fully developed until puppies are about 4 weeks old. They’re toothless until that time, too!
  • Researchers have found that looking at photographs of puppies can help you focus!
  • Puppies begin vocalizing when they’re around 3 weeks old, with their full canine barks established by about 16 weeks.
  • Most pups have all their adult teeth by the time they’re 6 months old. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be done chewing on your shoes at that time!

If you’re interested in volunteering or otherwise helping pups for National Puppy Day and beyond, the options are nearly endless. Check out some of these ideas:

  • Volunteer with a local shelter or rescue organization. Ruff Start Rescue’s awesome volunteers are the backbone of our organization—and we always welcome more help! Check out ways to help us here, or contact your favorite shelter to learn more about helping them!
  • Adopt a pup—or an older dog! The dogs and puppies available for adoption at Ruff Start Rescue are regularly updated on our website. Find your new best friend today!
  • Provide a foster home! Many rescues—like ours!—don’t have the resources to house and care for large numbers of adoptable animals, so we rely on a network of foster families. If you’re not ready to adopt a new full-time family member but want to help homeless animals until they find their forever families, you can learn how to become a foster volunteer here.

Donate to your favorite local shelter or rescue group. Ruff Start is so grateful for our fantastic network of generous supporters, who provide financial donations, food, towels, toys, and other pet supplies. There are many ways to give and support your local shelters and rescue organizations. Here are some ideas from Ruff Start Rescue.

If you currently have a pup and are looking for some fun ways to celebrate, check out these ideas from Petsies blog:

  • Throw a puppy party.
  • Have a puppy photoshoot of your adorable buddy.
  • Make homemade dog treats to share with your pup.
  • Teach your dog some fun new tricks.
  • Enroll your pup in training classes—the earlier, the better.
  • Get your pup a brand-new toy that he’ll enjoy.

Puppies are one of life’s greatest joys, and they deserve a day (a week! A year!) to be celebrated. How will you be celebrating your pup on March 23? We’d love to hear from you!

Written by Rachel Davis, with inspiration from 5-month-old Rocco, who has clearly made himself at home (when not wrestling his 6-year-old dog brother and trying to befriend the 4-year-old cat who wants *nothing* to do with him).

A Day to Celebrate America’s Patriotic Pups

By: Brent Honcharenko

Monday, March 13, is National K9 Veterans Day. It’s not a national holiday, yet, but it is a day set aside to recognize and honor dogs that have been trained to serve our country. The day commemorates the service and sacrifices of American military, police, and agency K9s that valiantly served alongside their human handlers.

The initiative to recognize this day can be traced back over 80 years, when an organization called Dogs for Defense was founded to train dogs to be sentries for supply depots. Then, on March 13, 1942, the program was approved by the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Army K9 Corps was established.

Training dogs for military service is certainly nothing new. In fact, the practice can be mapped to ancient Egypt, as far back as 7000 – 4000 BC. The Saluki, a favorite breed of the Egyptian pharaohs, is a perfect example of this as they were used both in battle and for hunting. The admiration for these dogs is even recognized in hieroglyphics on tomb walls.

Fast-forward several millennium where it is documented that trained K9s assisted the U.S. Marine Corps in recapturing Pacific islands from enemy forces during WWII. This is also known as the Pacific Theater. During the Vietnam War, approximately 5,000 trained K9 scouts served alongside American troops. K9s remain an important part of the military and serve in many capacities. Some are guard and patrol dogs and some are trained specifically to locate explosives, mines and traps. Others are trained as transport, or pack, dogs.

In our local communities, municipal and state law enforcement agencies often have K9 officers on their forces. These K9s assist in criminal apprehensions and help locate contraband. K9s are also used by federal agencies at airports and at large events to help keep the public safe. Some special K9s are trained for emotional support and can help defuse a tense, escalating situation. While other K9s are simply used as good will ambassadors. Each plays a very special role.

K9’s are also very effectively trained and used for search and rescue missions, not only on snow-capped mountains after an avalanche but most notably at Ground Zero after 9/11 when the twin towers in New York City were destroyed. Several dogs from several agencies from all over the country were brought to the site and worked tirelessly to help find survivors as well as those who’d fallen. One witness said the dogs stood out like diamonds amid the rubble. Many of the 9/11 rescue K9s have since been recognized publically and even memorialized.

Surprisingly, however, prior to 2000, there were no protections in place to ensure military working dogs, specifically, had a safe life after their service. Sadly, in the case of the U.S. military, these specially trained K9s were viewed and officially categorized as “surplus equipment.” An unfortunate consequence of this is when American troops left Vietnam between 1973 and 1975, many of the military trained dogs were euthanized when the troops departed, and the others were just simply left behind.

The concept of K9 Veterans Day was initiated by Joe White of Jacksonville, FL. White was a Vietnam War veteran and a K9 handler and trainer. Because the U.S. Army K9 Corps was officially created on March 13, 1942, White chose this day to recognize and celebrate the service and contributions of America’s military working and service dogs. After his death in 2009, White’s wife, Sally, has continued the effort to make this a national holiday.

While White lobbied to honor the service of K9 veterans with a national holiday every March 13, others have worked to protect the lives of military working dogs. This began about 23 years ago after a former military working dog handler petitioned to adopt his dog, Robby, after he was retired from service. His request, however, was denied for unspecific reasons and Robby was instead euthanized.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) introduced a bill on September 27, 2000, to help change the fate of military working dogs like Robby. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law in November 2000 and it became known as Robby’s Law. Robby’s Law requires that all military working dogs deemed to be suitable for adoption should be available for placement after retirement from service. Additionally, Robby’s Law gives priority for adoption to former handlers and to law enforcement agencies.

Another win for K9 service veterans occurred on June 1, 2015, when the Military Dog Retirement Bill, sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and supported by the U.S. War Dog Association, was introduced. The bill passed in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Barak Obama. The law stipulates that military working dogs may no longer be deemed “equipment.”

Currently, there are about 3,000 military working dogs deployed alongside American troops all over the globe. K9 service dogs are loved and appreciated for their work. Unfortunately, however, despite the recognition they receive and the laws that have been passed to protect them, there are still some that do get left without homes after their service ends. There are adoption agencies that specialize in pairing people with retired K9 service dogs and arrange for their adoptions. A few of these organizations are Patriot K9 Rescue, Pets For Patriots, Warrior Dog Foundation and Mission K9 Rescue.

Take just a moment on March 13 to think about the service K9s and all of their contributions. Then take another moment to give your dog a hug, a quick belly rub, and an extra treat in honor of National K9 Veterans Day.

Sources: – Joe Wallace – Amy Buschatz

American Humane – Cory Gunkel

American Kennel Club – Mara Bovsun

Training Tip Tuesday – Stranger Danger

Training Tip Tuesday – Stranger Danger

By: Kelly Erick

Stranger Danger happens. It’s ok that your dog doesn’t like everyone. I know I don’t like everyone I meet. The idea is to reduce the stress and not let your dog get over their threshold so it can be more easily managed.

Management of Reactivity to Humans

What is Stranger Danger? It is a fear towards unfamiliar people. It can cause your pup to run and hide or react aggressively.

How to help

  • Engage/Disengage: This is a technique where your dog is rewarded with a delicious, high value treat for looking at a trigger. This is the “engage” part. Over time, people become a cue for her to look at you for that reward. This is the “disengage” part.
  • Look At That (LAT): This is a technique that simply rewards your dog for looking at the person. She looks at a stranger and gets a treat – simple as that! Over time, we change her emotional response to people from something negative to something positive.
  • When in Doubt, Distract: Distractions can be helpful to get you out of a tricky situation. Sometimes when we are out for a walk, people can surprise us, or situations eliciting a fearful reaction are unavoidable. Bring some high value treats with you on your walks to have on hand!
Blog and graphic by Kelly Erick, one of Ruff Start Rescue’s volunteer trainers, who focus on supporting our fosters and helping create successful dogs.

The Story of Tott

Tott, the 8-month-old border collie, recently became a brand-new Minnesotan.
Although a bit shy initially with the new, snowy environment, Tott slowly started showing his foster family his friendly, happy, and curious personality. After a long, 20-hour car ride from Texas, it’s expected that an animal will need a few days to re-energize and get comfortable in their new life. The foster family knew that Tott would need some time, so they gave him plenty of space to rest and relax.

Once he had some time to get his bearings, he started to shine. His first reaction to snow was to investigate why and how this cold, wet, fluffy stuff was all over the ground. He loves playing with toys and thinks making new canine friends is a blast. He enjoys his new humans, too, especially using their socks and sweaters as a warm place to lay his head.

Although Tott was starting to warm up, his family noticed that even after five days he still seemed a bit lethargic and uninterested in some of the things that had recently given him so much joy.

Although initially intrigued by the snow outside, Tott began refusing to go out, and even started nodding off while walking around the yard. He no longer had the energy to greet the passerby dogs or even walk to his food and water bowls. While relaxing on the couch Tuesday evening, his breathing became very rapid and sporadic, even while he was fast asleep. These symptoms alarmed Tott’s family, so they called the 24-hour emergency line. They determined it was in Tott’s best interest to visit one of Ruff Start’s partner clinics yesterday morning to resolve what was happening with this sweet, curious boy.

The doctors quickly started to examine the loveable pup to get to the root of the problem. They noticed he had low oxygenation and immediately put him in an air chamber. They also took x-rays to see if there were any artifacts in the lungs, which had no conclusive evidence. The doctors continue investigating possibilities to ensure this loveable, intelligent, energetic pup gets the life he deserves. Tott returned home yesterday afternoon with his foster family while they wait to hear the diagnoses.

Tott likely still has unknown needs ahead, but Ruff Start and his loving foster family will be with him every step of the way. Donate today and support the care of this adorable little fighter and others like him.

World Spay Day – February 28, 2023

By: Cris Raiche

World Spay Day falls on the last Tuesday in February every year. This year, World Spay Day falls on February 28, intending to bring awareness and support to the spaying or neutering of animals.

Spaying or neutering offers multiple health benefits, the most significant being extending life expectancy. It also helps animals live healthier lives by eliminating many types of cancers. It eliminates the risk of ovarian, uterine, and mammary cancers for female pets. In male pets, it removes the risk of testicular cancer and has been shown to lower the risk of prostate problems. In addition, it helps keep both shelter and stray populations down by helping to decrease animal overpopulation.

There are also multiple secondary benefits. Decreasing the number of animals born, in turn, impacts the number of strays in communities that need care and support from frequently overburdened animal rescues and shelters. It also decreases the chances of more animals being surrendered due to having too many pets to provide adequate care and support. It helps reduce your pet’s urge to roam, decreasing their risk of contracting diseases or getting hurt if they wander off.

In general, spaying or neutering is a good thing. Ruff Start Rescue provides trap/neuter/return resources for our local communities through community cat spay/neuter grants and our barn cat program. If you have or know of cats that can partake in this program, please email us at

World Spay Day is also perfect for donating to a favorite animal rescue. If Ruff Start Rescue is your favorite, we always appreciate donations. It helps us continue to offer programs and services to all the animals in our care. Please consider donating today at Ruff Start Rescue – General Support (

National Love Your Pet Day – February 20, 2023

By: Cris Raiche

National Love Your Pet Day is Monday, February 20. Pet owners love to pamper their pets, and there is an official day providing an excuse to do just that.

On February 20, bring on the extra pampering and treats! A surprise treat, an extended snuggle, or just one more belly rub may delay you from getting out the door on time, but it’s worth it. The day becomes YOUR day, too, as the love you give has a way of bouncing back to you.

Pets give love unconditionally and bring joy into our lives. On February 20, let’s take the opportunity to return the favor! There are plenty of treats or toys to purchase, but you don’t have to spend money to celebrate the day.

Low-or-no-cost activities you can do to spoil your pet include:

  • Baking homemade pet treats
  • Teaching them to play a new game
  • Giving them your time and attention

You can find many treat recipes on the web. If your pet has a special diet, check with your veterinarian to confirm your pet can safely consume the ingredients in your chosen recipe.

It’s always fun to invent a new game. Pets are like people; their minds need stimulation. They enjoy games that involve finding a toy or treat or include exercise. You can also make homemade toys; there are ideas online to make toys with things you have around the house.

Time together is what your pet craves most. Treat them to a longer walk, engage in playtime with a new game, or pamper them with a belly rub, scratch, or snuggle. All interactions create a sense of trust and love between you and your pet, strengthening your bond.

Use #NationalLoveYourPetDay to post your pet love on social media. 

National Love your Pet Day is perfect for donating supplies or financially donating to a favorite animal rescue. We hope Ruff Start Rescue is your favorite! We appreciate all donations – they help us offer ongoing services to the animals in our care.

The Story of HorseRaddish

HorseRaddish was found last week partially frozen in a snow bank, covered in excrement, and unable to move due to excruciating pain. When he was discovered, he was brought to Ruff Start by a Good Samaritan and immediately rushed to our vetting team. This poor 5-month-old kitten arrived with frostbite on both ears, tail, and scrotum. Our vetting team ran a urinalysis and discovered he had a bad UTI – likely from the feces collecting around his rear. They decided to place him on antibiotics for his UTI and to prevent infection at the frostbitten sites, dewormers and probiotics for his loose stool, and pain medication for the severe UTI/swelling of his scrotum. Our foster community quickly stepped in, and he was placed with a Ruff Start foster family to heal.
Earlier this week, HorseRaddish came back to Ruff Start for a recheck. His right ear has fallen off from the frostbite (this was expected), and his diarrhea is improving. He will soon lose his left ear and the tip of his tail. Our team is monitoring the area around his genitals to see what it will look like when the frostbitten skin falls off. It’s hard to say how deep the frostbite went and what future care will be needed. Next week our team will recheck his urine to ensure the UTI has resolved.

Despite his hardships, HorseRaddish is the cutest, sweetest, most affectionate cat there ever was! He loves pets and gently grabs your hand with his paw and pulls it to his face for cheek rubs. He loves everyone: men, women, kids, dogs (even giant ones), bunnies, and guinea pigs. He has already put on a much-needed pound of weight during his time in rescue.

HorseRaddish still has a long road to recovery, but Ruff Start and his loving foster family will be with him every step of the way. Donate today and support the care of this adorable little trooper and others like him.

February is Dog Training Education Month!

February is Dog Training Education Month!

By: Kristin Johnson

Our dogs enrich our lives in countless ways—companionship, playfulness, emotional support, snuggles, goofiness… The list goes on! As their caretakers, we offer our canine companions a meal, a warm bed, exercise, and unconditional love, but it’s important to remember that our dogs also depend on us for structure and guidance. A trained dog is a happy dog, and this February, we call attention to this crucial part of our co-existence.

Why train your dog?

Though there are many benefits to training, there are two key reasons to train your dog:

  1. Safety: Training ensures that our dogs are kept out of harm’s way. Since they can’t always see what dangers the world presents, it’s up to us to make sure they understand what we need them to do to stay out of danger or a sticky situation, such as: “come here,” “don’t touch that,” and “friend-not-food!” 
  2. Confidence: When your dog knows what’s expected of them, they are naturally more comfortable and confident. They seek a pack leader (that’s you!) to offer them guidance and structure so they can explore, play, and learn within the boundaries you set for them. This also strengthens your bond and establishes trust between the two of you.

How do dogs learn?

When training your dog, it’s important to understand how they learn so you can teach them what you want them to know without confusing or frustrating them, ultimately making training more successful. This will make the process more efficient, fun, and hassle-free for both of you!

There are two main ways dogs learn: 

  1. Classic Conditioning: This form of learning is by association and produces an involuntary response to a stimulus. For example, your dog sees you grab his or her leash for a walk. They get excited and run to the door. They’ve made the association that the stimulus (the leash) means they will go on a walk, producing the involuntary response of getting excited and running to the door because they love walks. Classic conditioning happens all the time regardless of if you’re trying to teach something. 
  2. Operative Conditioning: This form of learning is by actions leading to consequences, which is either a reward or a punishment. It is intentionally taught and produces a voluntary response. It is A (stimulus) + B (action) = C (consequence). For example, you’ve trained your dog that he must sit before you let him outside. Your dog learns A (command to sit) + B (sitting) = C (going outside). 

There are four principles of operant conditioning: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. It’s important to remember that positive doesn’t necessarily mean good, and negative doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Rather, it means:

Positive: Something is added.

Negative: Something is removed.

Reinforcement: Increase likelihood of behavior.

Punishment: Decrease likelihood of behavior.

How do I participate in Dog Training Education Month?


Here are some great ways to celebrate this month: 

  1. Sign up for a new training class. There is always something to learn at every skill level!
  2. Teach your dog at least one new command. Want to teach your dog a new trick? Or maybe something that would make your life easier if your dog knew how to do it? The options are limitless!
  3. Commit to learning more about how your dog learns. Below is a list of free, helpful, informative resources to learn more about dog training.

Free Online Resources

Pawgress is an online learning resource that provides a wealth of information through blog articles as well as resources such as online courses, private lessons, group classes, workshops and seminars, and product recommendations. 

The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)’s Dog Training Handbook is a free e-book that includes step-by-step instructions for basic commands, body language exercises, and more. 

Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution is dog trainer Zak George’s YouTube channel, which provides hundreds of instructional dog training videos. His video on teaching basic commands is a good start.

Positively is an online learning resource by Victoria Stillwell, world-renowned dog trainer and star of TV series It’s Me or the Dog. On Positively, you can find helpful information in articles and videos on everything from basic cues to behavior problems.

Ruff Start Rescue