Training Tip Tuesday – Your Dog is Having a Hard Time


By: Kelly Erick

The Volunteer Trainers at Ruff Start Rescue have started a new initiative to post a quick and easy tip every Tuesday! Look for a new tip every Tuesday or use the hashtag #TrainingTipTuesday on social media to find them all!
#TrainingTipTuesday with a twist!
You know when you are shopping or out to eat and you see or hear a young child having a meltdown? We know young children don’t know how to effectively communicate or understand why they feel the way they do and dogs are the same!
Sometimes we can’t fix issues with our dogs or fosters but we can manage them and they can still live a fun and happy life, it just may look a bit different. A dog trainer I used for a reactive dog I owned told me once and I never forgot it….”You only get one perfect dog in your lifetime and don’t compare that dog to the others that come through your home”
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.

Thanksgiving Pet Safety

thanksgiving pet safety tips.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, let’s remember to be extra thankful for the furry friends who make our lives better. Here are a few helpful tips to show your pets they are loved during Turkey Day that isn’t slipping them a piece of that pumpkin pie.

Keep the feasting to the humans – unless it’s a treat made just for pets

You might be tempted to give your pet a little bite of the delicious food you have prepared, but more often than not, it’s best to stick to regular pet treats. Avoid giving your pets sugary treats, raw eggs, or raw bread dough, as this will likely lead to a sick pet. Foods to especially avoid are onions, raisins, and chocolate.

Make sure your dog doesn’t say bone-appétit to the turkey.

Though a little bit of boneless, fully-cooked turkey won’t hurt your dog, be sure to keep them away from the turkey carcass and any bones left behind after dinner. The bones can mess with your pet’s digestive tract and cause them much pain.

Keep the trash out of reach of curious noses.

After you eat, immediately clean up all the leftover food and trash. Even the best pets may be tempted to dig into the garbage due to all the yummy smells of Thanksgiving Day. Especially check to ensure you have cleaned up the bones from meat and any raw baking ingredients.

Make sure your pet is equipped for any parties you are hosting.

If your pet gets nervous around people or loud noises, keep them somewhere they feel safe with a favorite toy. Make sure they are somewhere away from doors leading outside, as the increase in stressors might make them bolt.

If you are traveling, take some precautions.

Whether or not your pet is coming with you for the celebration, there are steps you can take to ensure they are safe. If your pet is joining you, make sure you have a plan to get them there safely. Animals joining a car trip should never be left alone in the car and should always have some restraint or harness to make sure they are safe in the case of an accident. Talk with your veterinarian if you are taking your pet on a flight, as each animal will have different needs. If your pet stays behind, make sure you have arranged for folks they trust to check on them and have comfort items nearby.

You know your pet best, which means you know what they need to be safe and feel loved. As you gather around your family and friends today, give your special animal a little extra love and thanks by using these tips and precautions. 

Give to the Max Day 2022

Give to the Max Day (GTMD) 2022 is here, and we’re so excited about this opportunity to raise money for the animals we rescue! Our goal is to raise $100,000 by the end of the day, and if you’re in a position to give, we could really use your help. During early giving, we raised an incredible $43,017!

Now, we have an ADDITIONAL $40,000 match! Can you help us reach our goal?

Since 2010, Ruff Start has saved over 20,000 animals thanks to your support! In 2022 alone, we’re projected to rescue 3,400. We’re hoping you can help us continue our life-saving work by donating to our biggest fundraiser of the year. 

Your gift helps connect animals in need with loving households, and helps keep beloved pets in homes that care about them. Each individual we help, both animal and human, sees immediate benefit from the work we do and the resources we provide them. We strive for a world where every companion animal has a safe and loving home and their family has the knowledge and resources needed to give them the life they deserve. 

Please donate today to help us reach our $100,000 goal!

The Story of Bob Cat

Braving the wilderness alone, with an infected tail.

Bobcats are known to be fierce, fearless survivors in the wild. They’re also known for their short tail, which completes their stout, athletic figure.

Although Bob Cat, the housecat, was not born with a shorter tail, the circumstances he was found in helped to determine his namesake. At first unnamed, a stray cat was recently found outside a good Samaritan’s home, eager to help the friendly feline. He was in dire need of a warm, safe place and urgently needed some medical attention. That much was evident at first glance.

The good Samaritans who found Bob Cat could tell he had been alone for some time and noted something strange about his tail’s appearance right away. It seemed to be wrapped tightly with an old bandage, and by the time of his arrival on their front porch, the bandage had adhered to his fur and skin. The remaining segment of his tail was full of blood and puss, obviously infected, and held a horrific smell. His finders knew they would not be able to help with all the medical attention he would need, but they got him started by offering some standard preventative care. Then, they contacted Ruff Start.

Luckily, thanks to a long-time foster willing to open her home to yet another foster animal, we brought Bob Cat in to be examined by our medical team quickly after receiving his plea.

While we can’t say for sure, our best guess of Bob Cat’s history was that he had gotten into a fight with another animal and was found by someone who tried to help heal his wounds by wrapping his tail.

However, Bob Cat’s tail worsened after being let back into the wild with nowhere else to go. His bandaging was too tight and became dirtied by the elements, which caused the remaining half of his tail to become necrotic, essentially destroying it beyond the point of repair. When the injury remained untreated, it became infected, resulting in the tragically painful condition he was found in before he arrived in our care.

But luckily, he had a community of support around him, and we began treating him immediately. After our team assessed Bob Cat’s overall health and wounds, it was quickly determined that their only option would be to remove the remnants of his tail so that the current infection didn’t spread. The team provided him with two different antibiotics and a dose of pain management medication to help him heal.

We are incredibly grateful for our community of fosters, volunteers, and supporters at Ruff Start Rescue. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to help animals like Bob Cat.

If you’re in a position to give, would you consider supporting our Animal Care Fund for Give to the Max Day?

Now that Bob Cat has warmed up in his foster home, he is showing his loving personality! He loves to snuggle, get belly and neck scratches, and play with all the new toys. You can apply to adopt Bob Cat today!

A note from Executive Director and Founder

We are one day away from Give to the Max Day, and I wanted to share some exciting news with our great community of supporters. Since the beginning, we have strived to be an organization that listens to our supporters and works together to create a lasting impact for people and pets in the community.

In 2010, I founded Ruff Start with only an idea, a passion for helping animals in need, and a Facebook page. That first year, as a small, start-up non-profit organization, we were able to rescue 106 animals. As we grew, we called a small building in downtown Princeton home for many years, making do with what we had.

In 2017, we moved into a larger building to have more space for transports, supplies, and, eventually, even a veterinary suite! This move helped us expand our networks and allowed us to assist even more people and animals in the community. That year, we rescued 1,616 animals, and each year after, our goals climbed.

Fast forward to this year. Our goal is to help save 3,400 animals! We also surpassed the monumental feat of saving over 20,000 animals since I started this in 2010. This is not a small accomplishment – this took a whole community of supporters like you.

I am so proud to watch the growth of this organization and its impact on not only the number of animals we save but also the people we have brought together. Going forward, we plan to continue expanding because we know there’s more need than ever from both people and pets. With that said, though, we need more room, more support, and more generous donations to help us reach our continually evolving goals!

Our staff and board created a 3-year strategic plan to help us focus on our main priorities and goals, identifying the most significant animal welfare and community needs. We want to ensure the things we do in the future play to our strengths and will significantly impact animals and people positively in the long term. We wanted to show you, our community, these goals, and the steps we plan to take to accomplish them. I hope that reviewing this plan will allow you to see how we plan to grow Ruff Start and rescue even more animals (and people) for years to come! I present Ruff Start Rescue’s three-year strategic plan: 2021-2023 Strategic Plan.

Thank you so much for your continued support and for believing in the mission of Ruff Start Rescue since 2010. The past 12 years have been incredible, and we wouldn’t have been able to save the lives of over 20,000 animals without you. So, I hope you’ll join me on the road ahead because the best is yet to come!


Azure Davis

Executive Director & Founder

The Story of Lade

We Asked. You Answered. By doing so, we saved a mama and her puppies.

Last month, we pleaded with our community for help. We saw a sweet, very pregnant mama that needed help. She didn’t have a home and needed to be taken into a foster home so she could live happily and safely deliver her babies.


Fortunately, you answered our plea. With the effort of our expansive community, Lade arrived at Ruff Start shortly after we found her a safe space, only to give birth to her eleven puppies less than 12 hours later!

Despite the comforts of her foster home, taking care of eleven newborn puppies was no easy task, and it quickly took a toll on Lade’s body. A day after giving birth, her foster mom became concerned when she noted Lade was shaking, panting, and refusing to eat. She was also suffering from diarrhea and seemed lethargic.

Thankfully, her foster was able to rush her to the vet, where medical professionals determined this young mama was very dehydrated and experiencing the effects of calcium deficiency. They advised her to take supplements and give her fluids to regain her strength.

Sadly, as it happens more often than rescuers would like, four of Lade’s puppies did not survive due to health abnormalities beyond her – and our – control. Lade’s foster family is understandably devastated to have lost such young babies, but also incredibly grateful that Lade was the best mama she could be and that they were all given the best chance possible at a normal, loving life. This tragedy hasn’t stopped Lade from being the best mama to her other seven puppies, who are healthy, happy, and growing daily.

Rescue is ever-changing, and it’s impossible to predict every animal’s medical needs. We are so happy to have Lade and her babies with us at RSR, and we will continue to update you all on their journey!

Tune in on Thursday, November 17th (Give To The Max Day) to join us live on Facebook to see Lade and her puppies in their new foster home!

We are incredibly grateful for our community of fosters, volunteers, and supporters at Ruff Start Rescue. We are so proud of the impact this passionate group of animal advocates has made this year. Without your support, Lade and her puppies would not be where they are now. Thank you for making this life-saving work possible through good times and bad.

If you’re in a position to give, would you consider supporting our Animal Care Fund for Give to the Max Day? We anticipate our direct vetting expense to exceed $820,000 this year for the 3,400+ animals we are projecting will come into our care this year.

The Story of Chesty & Murph

A story from our Executive Director and Founder – her experience over the last 24 hours.


Last night, I received a phone call from a local vet clinic. They asked if they could give my number to a local who needed help, who had been calling around to any and every place open at this hour, looking for assistance with two puppies. I felt I could help, Ruff Start Rescue could help, and I knew our fantastic staff members could help. So I gave them my number.

Here is what I learned: Earlier in the day, a good Samaritan was driving down a gravel road in the Cambridge, MN, area and witnessed someone dumping two emaciated puppies on the side of the road. The vehicle sped off before he was able to get the license plate because he was too busy trying to collect the puppies and get them to warmth and safety in his vehicle. Fortunately, this good Samaritan was in the right place at the right time.

Fast forward to 9:30 pm, and they were in my basement. My intention of having a phone call and walking them through our intake process quickly escalated to me driving to pick them up and bring them home. The finder didn’t have a heated area to keep them in, and I couldn’t imagine their skinny little bodies being cold all night (they didn’t want that either, which is why they were making call after call).

Our amazing veterinary team at RSR squeezed them in for an appointment this morning. After our medical director and vet techs examined them, they found that both dogs are incredibly malnourished, emaciated, have worms, anemic, covered in fleas, and have stunted growth. Based on their small body size, they look to be the size of 4-month-old puppies, but after looking at their teeth, they are 8+ months old! They are incredibly skinny, have scars all over their bodies, and their nails are SO long. The little tan and white baby boy has dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart), and their bloodwork isn’t happy. We hope that with proper nutrition, love, and some time, we will see many of these issues reside.

Despite their neglected past, they are in good spirits, and their tails don’t stop wagging. They are the sweetest boys ever! We will do everything we can to get them healthy and on the road to recovery. We have secured foster homes today, and they are headed there as I type this.

Since my fiancé got to help in the rescue efforts, I asked him to name the puppies. He is a Marine and Veteran and had a great idea. In honor of the Marine Corps’ birthday tomorrow, and Veteran’s Day on Friday, we have named these dogs Chesty, after Chesty Puller, a Marine Corps Lieutenant General, and Murph, after Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy. They will be available for adoption once we get them healthier and settled.

We will update you as we know more, but please keep these two sweet boys in your thoughts.
What can you do to help? Educating and spreading awareness about Ruff Start Rescue and the hundreds of other MN rescues is critical. No animal should be dumped and left to fend for itself. We have resources. We are here to help in any way possible.
Further x-rays and testing will be needed, and we will need funds for their veterinary expenses. Please consider donating if you can. I appreciate your support and for making our mission possible.

The Story of Phillip & Milly

Dumped on the side of the road with nothing but each other.

Last week, a Ruff Start Rescue foster was driving her regular route when she spotted something in the middle of the road. As she got closer, she saw ears – pointed, with a small flop, but rigid and fluffy. There was no denying that this was a young shepherd puppy. But what was it doing on the road?

To her surprise, another set of ears popped up out of the grassy ditch. As she got closer, she realized that these didn’t look like your typical healthy puppies. Both shepherds had a defeated look in their eyes. They were extremely skinny and looked like they had been on their own for a while. The finder knew that temperatures in MN would soon be dropping, and she would need to gain their trust quickly to get them into her vehicle and to safety. She gave her best shot at a friendly “puppy voice,” and those defeated eyes quickly turned into hopeful eyes. The pups slowly but surely came to her, tails wagging and eager to accept love. The immediate sense of relief from all parties was palpable.

The finder took the two pups home, gave them warm baths, fed them, and made them a cozy space to lay their heads. However, even though they were now in her care, she was worried about them after seeing their condition up close.

The dogs, now named Phillip and Milly, were both at least 10 pounds underweight and had extremely splayed feet, a condition where the toes are separated, usually with a noticeable gap. (Splayed feet can be extraordinarily painful and cause balance issues, poor circulation, or even broken bones.) Knowing that many times, the cause of this ailment is due to long periods spent in grated kennels, Phillip and Milly’s caretaker needed some assistance in determining the best way to provide the dogs a chance at a new life while also healing them of past trauma. That’s when Ruff Start took them into rescue.

Phillip and Milly’s finder, now their foster, continued to care for the puppies as their stray hold came and went. Unfortunately, we have learned that this isn’t the first time there have been reports of neglected German Shepherd puppies found near where Phillip and Milly were discovered. Combining that information and the fact that these two sweet souls were found with severely splayed feet and multiple other ailments, we are incredibly concerned that these puppies may have been dumped by an unethical backyard breeder or puppy mill situation when they needed care the most.

The person that found Milly and Phillip has absolutely fallen in love with these sweet loving pups and their story and hopes to eventually adopt Milly once she has a clean bill of health. It’s probably safe to say that Milly has found her forever home and will finally receive the medical attention she needs while in Ruff Start’s care. 

As for Phillip, he has since been transferred to a new loving foster home. Unfortunately, quickly after arriving, he started acting very lethargic and began vomiting. His foster grew worried and promptly got him into an emergency clinic to get him checked out as his symptoms worsened. Today, he was diagnosed with Parvovirus. Parvo is a highly contagious viral disease of dogs that commonly causes acute gastrointestinal illness in puppies and can quickly become deadly despite the best treatment. Upon diagnosis, Phillip was given fluids and sent home with anti-nausea medication, antibiotics to help fight the virus, and further fluids to keep him hydrated. Luckily, his symptoms were caught early, and we will do all we can to ensure Phillip can fight off this nasty virus and live the life he rightfully deserves.

We are grateful for the person that found these puppies and reached out to us to provide them medical care and a shot at a loving home. Without our expansive network of foster homes and the donor-driven ability to fund his medical needs, we wouldn’t have been able to so quickly help Milly & Phillip when they needed us most. 

If you are able, can you help us with Phillip’s care and other animals like him? Support our work this #GTMD22 and help make a difference in the lives of people and pets.


A generous donor has come forward to triple the impact of the first $7,500 donated to Ruff Start Rescue for the Give to the Max Day early giving!
Give to the Max Day (GTMD) is Minnesota’s giving holiday. The 24-hour online give-a-thon supports Minnesota nonprofits and schools, including Ruff Start Rescue, on November 17 this year.
The animals at Ruff Start need our community of supporters (hint: that’s you!) to help us reach our $100,000 GTMD goal! At Ruff Start Rescue, it is our goal to save over 3,400 animals in 2022.
Give to the Max Day is HUGE for Ruff Start, and you don’t have to wait until November 17 to make your gift! Early giving starts now, and all contributions made from today through Give to the Max Day on November 17 will be counted toward our goal! Donate Now!
In the days and weeks ahead, we will be sharing how contributions from generous animal lovers like you make a difference in the lives of thousands of animals each year. The stories and photos you’ll see are a direct result of your support.
This year we are celebrating the giant milestone of rescuing 20,000 animals – and there’s no slowing down! So, from the entire Ruff Start Rescue team, THANK YOU for being part of these efforts. We truly couldn’t save them without you!
Make a Difference on GTMD
Want to make an even bigger difference in the lives of people and pets this Give to the Max Day? Please help us spread the word about the spectacular work we’re doing together!
Make your own fundraiser.
Encouraging your friends and family to support Ruff Start is one of the most effective ways to make a difference on GTMD. Sharing the organizations you support on social media has historically been a very successful way our supporters fundraise!
Get step-by-step instructions on how to set up a social fundraiser and other ideas about what to share on our GTMD resources page.
Please donate today and help us fulfill our mission of Connecting People and Pets!

The Story of Rosabella – One Year Later

An update on Rosabella – One year later.

Hearts broke around Minnesota last December when Rosabella was abandoned in a city alleyway in a wire dog crate. With not much time left in the frigid temps, she was found by a Ruff Start volunteer and taken to safety. Read her story here.

It’s been nearly a year since that day and Rosabella is living the life she deserves. We recently received this happy update from her adopter.

“After seeing her sad story on the news, I knew I had to reach out to see what I could do to help her. Luckily I was chosen to possibly adopt her. Rosabella was brought to my home for us to meet each other along with my pit mix Lucy. We needed to see how “THE GIRLS” (as they are now known) would get along before the adoption process could start. Lucy and I fell in love with her right away. She is such a sweet girl, so happy and curious about everything. She follows us everywhere. She has definitely grown a lot, she’s healthy and very active. Rose enjoys going for walks in the neighborhood, the dog park, and especially the Dairy Queen for pup cups! Always wanting to go in the car to see where her next adventure takes us. Lucy and her play together and will wrestle until they wear each other out. Then they are off to nap where they snuggle and give each other kisses. Sometimes even with Scotty the cat. 

It has been fun to have Rosabella in my life. She has such a sweet spirit which is amazing considering her background. Now she gets the much-needed love she deserves in her forever home!”

Thanks to our supporters, Rosabella received the medical care needed when she arrived at Ruff Start Rescue. This #GTMD22, please donate in Rosabella’s honor, to ensure we have the needed funds when our next emergency arises.

It's time to shop 'til ya drop!

Our Annual Online auction is live!

You'll find all sorts of donated goodies in the auction including gift cards, baskets, homemade goods, pet supplies, and much more. It's the perfect opportunity to shop for the holidays - whether you're shopping for yourself or a loved one (human or animal)!

This will close in 0 seconds

Ruff Start Rescue