RSR Transport: October 10, 2020

Ruff Start Rescue Transport Ride Along: October 10

Ruff Start Rescue is inviting you to ‘Ride Along’ with us as we transport companion animals from partner shelters and rescues across Minnesota and the United States to Ruff Start through the end of the year. We want you to be able to see our mission in action and give you a sneak peek into the world of rescue.

Over the next three months we’re going to share with you the who, what, where, when, how, and most importantly WHY we do transports.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and/or Instagram to get real-time updates! Each transport will also have their own blog page on our website so if you don’t do social media, you can still follow along!

Before you check out the details of our transport happening this week, we have some exciting news to share with you: after months of fundraising and shopping around, Ruff Start FINALLY has our very own transport van (crying so many happy tears)!

Thank you to everyone who donated toward our new van! We’re so excited to get all the bells and whistles added to make it a super comfortable ride for the pups. We’re going to wrap the van with Ruff Start branding in the coming weeks, too, so keep an eye out when you’re driving – you may just see us!

Our new van’s maiden voyage takes off TODAY! Two volunteers hit the road earlier this morning from our Princeton, MN office, and will return bright and early this Saturday, October 10th along with 23 dogs from Houston, TX!

Some of you are probably wondering, why rescue from out-of-state? While we are committed to making a substantial contribution to positively impacting the lives of animals in need in Minnesota, many animals in southern states often face a more imminent threat. At this rate, every other animal that ends up in a shelter will lose their life. They do not have fosters, volunteers, or nearly as many rescues and help as we do here.

Because of this, Ruff Start Rescue maintains a “rescue knows no borders” philosophy. We will always do what we can to assist our fellow animal welfare advocates and the animals they so dutifully serve, no matter their location. We take in dogs of all shapes, sizes, ages, ailments, behaviors, and medical conditions.
RSR October 10th Transport Team
RSR October 10th Transport Team

So we invite you to “Ride Along” with us as we welcome 23 pups from Houston this Saturday. You’ll get to meet a number of cute pups, including Mario who was less than 2 hours away from being euthanized when Ruff Start Rescue stepped in and said YES to bringing him up north.

We’ll be posting real-time transport updates on our FacebookInstagram, and Blog, so be sure to follow us and “Ride Along” with Ruff Start!

October 8, 2020

Our volunteers are making progress! Several gas stops and quick power naps later, they made their way across the Texas border at around four this morning. The couple will stay overnight in a hotel this evening and load up all 23 furry pals tomorrow to make their way back to the north!

We hope you continue to “ride along” with Ruff Start for more updates coming soon!

Ruff Start’s transport volunteers are all checked into their hotel in Houston, TX, and ready to relax before their big day of rescue tomorrow! Tune in now until Saturday, October 10th, and “ride along” with Ruff Start to see how the remainder of this adventure goes!

Final preparations for tomorrow, happening now! Kennels are going up, and the excitement is building!  Friday and Saturday are big days for this transport, so make sure you continue to “ride along” with us and meet a few of the 23 brave souls and hear their stories.

Our volunteers, a husband and wife duo, are making sure they are taking the proper precautions by wearing their masks and social distancing when they can! It has been a bit of an adjustment, but we are happy to keep these transports rolling, even through a global pandemic!

October 9, 2020

Meet 1 of the 23 dogs getting a second chance.

Less than two hours from euthanasia.

That’s what makes this compact pup’s story so amazing. Mario, a former stray, immediately shut down in the animal shelter, not responding to anyone or anything. He was terrified, landing him on the euthanasia list because countless animals need help, and there’s not enough space or time for them all.

Once Ruff Start’s team was alerted to his possible fate, we asked for him to be dog tested (this means he was taken to an enclosed outdoor play yard with another dog). He did GREAT and became a completely different dog – wagging his tail, running around, and engaging in play. As soon as we saw his transformation outside of a kennel, we knew he deserved a chance at a long and happy life. Tune into Ruff Start’s Facebook page for a Livestream tomorrow morning around 8am to meet Mario and the other 22 pups!


Ruff Start Rescue is committed to doing whatever it takes to help animals just like Mario and we could use your help. Please consider making a donation today to help us say yes to saving even more animals. Together we’re able to do big things. There are 23 dogs on their way to Minnesota right now that proves that as a community, we can make a difference in the lives of companion animals.

The transport room is prepped and ready to care for the animals on this transport.

Transport room
Transport room
Transport room
Transport room

October 10, 2020

The animals and volunteers have arrived! Check out the videos we recorded of the experience.


Nine Lives Needed: Kittee’s Rez Rescue

As a Ruff Start Rescue intake volunteer, Jenni receives a lot of emails. Her position is a hefty one: she oversees the rescue requests from Ruff Start’s rez transport partner, LightShine Canine, as well as international transports for DMT (dog meat trade) pups. As a result, she knows there are a lot of animals in need all over the world that might show up in her inbox at any given moment. Many of them have crazy stories from their past lives; some have no known history at all.

While each animal that needed rescue was special and deserving of a second chance at a happy life, Jenni felt a certain spark when she received a message about a five or six week old boxer mix pup that urgently needed to get off the rez.

Ruff Start to the Rescue

Kittee's gunshot wound

The message Jenni received was a simple request about a not-so-simple situation.

We have a five week old puppy that’s been shot, she read. Either with a high caliber gun or a pellet gun. Can Ruff Start take her on this week’s scheduled transport?

There’s something in a rescuer that just knows when you, specifically, need to save an animal. Something in their eyes or story that attaches itself to your soul and tugs – hard. Jenni knew this; she’d felt it before and she was feeling it again now. Without hesitation, she reached out to Mckenna Lorenz, Ruff Start’s Large Dog Foster Manager, and Erica Jusczak, Ruff Start’s Senior Medical Manager, to get the okay to take on a little pup with potentially large problems.

“Honestly, I don’t really know what her medical status is,” Jenni said, knowing the rescue was full of tough cases and might not be able to take on another big question mark.

Mckenna’s reply was straightforward and passionate.

“Just get her here.”

A Gunshot Survivor

When Jenni and her daughter picked up the lucky pup at that evening’s transport, she was full of wiggles from her snout to her tail. What a happy little thing, Jenni thought, wondering how dogs could be so full of good when humans were sometimes so full of bad. Her daughter scooped the pup up after her constantly wagging tail had made it apparent she wanted a good snuggle first and foremost from her new temporary family.

“What do you want to name her?” Jenni asked as her daughter admired the small pup, dragging her fingers delicately through their new foster’s tanned fur. She was staring directly at the bullet marks on each side of the puppy’s abdomen.

Kittee being cuddled by a rescuer

The young girl laughed incredulously, beaming from ear to ear after hearing Jenni’s question. “Why, Kittee, of course! Because she definitely has nine lives.” Her proclamation was instantaneous and without any hesitation until she got to the punchline.

“Well, eight, now.”

Nine Lives Needed

Kittee relaxing in bed

After bringing Kittee to the vet for assessment, Jenni waited on bated breath to hear the news of her recovery. Was Kittee going to need surgery? Were her organs impacted at all? Was she going to be okay?

The report that came back from the doctor was mystifying. After careful examination, it was abundantly clear that Kittee had been one of the lucky ones. The bullet had traveled straight into one side of her body and out the other in a completely clean manner. It hadn’t lodged itself into her ribcage or any of her internal organs, although it came dangerously close given how small her little weeks-old puppy body was and the distance at which the gun was probably fired.

It was a miracle to all except to Jenni’s daughter, who already knew Kittee had nine lives to spare.

The Perfect Pup Goes to the Perfect Home

From the get-go, Kittee was an ideal puppy. She never made a mess in her kennel or crate. From big dogs to tiny kiddos, she loved everyone she met. Her favorite things were to play in the yard with a big soccer ball and dash around the house with her foster sister, former Ruff Start alum and DMT survivor Emeree. After she grew more sure of herself, she started adventuring out to several softball games, stealing the show every time and winning the hearts of all the humans who encountered her – including her new family.

Jenni didn’t know how anyone could have shot at a dog at all – let alone one as perfect and sweet as Miss Kittee. Even now, weeks after the adoption was finalized and Kittee went to her new home, she still didn’t really understand it. But she could accept it – at least a portion of it – the way only a rescuer can. That acceptance hit her when she watched the reaction video Kittee’s new family had filmed of her new human siblings finding out the perfect puppy they’d met only a few weeks prior was now their own to snuggle and play with.

“Mommy!” yells one of the twins, an excited five year old running down a hallway, the loud pitter-pattering of footsteps echoing until she reaches the camera’s frame. Her brother follows closely behind, his eyes wide as saucers once he stops. Each holds a plastic air guitar in hand. “What did you get us for a toy?” They both stare at the camera in disbelief as their mom replies brightly and knowingly.

“You got us Kittee?” The girl’s young voice is so sweet it almost sounds syrupy. She flings her air guitar to the side, galloping out of frame toward the young pup. The camera focuses now on her brother, who triumphantly raises the guitar into the air, proclaiming loudly while jumping up and down: “We got a dog!! We got a dog!!”

Kittee saying hello to her dog sister in a basket

“Hey hey hey-” their father says sternly, face out of frame, holding his hands up near his chest in an effort to control their excitement. The video cuts off abruptly as the jumping and hooting continues.

Jenni could accept Kittee’s journey only because whatever happened to the sweet pup in her first life had led her to Ruff Start, and, subsequently, her new family. She gives thanks each day for the fact that Kittee luckily had nine lives, and that she didn’t need to use them all to find her perfect home.

Kittee on a walk

Ruff Start Rescue is passionate about saving animals just like Kittee, who have endured so much in their lives it’s entirely possible they do possess magical powers. The rescue’s ability to save lives is fueled by volunteers and fosters just like Jenni and her family, who give so much to animals that need them.

With each donation – whether it be time, talent, or money – Ruff Start is able to provide care, shelter, and a chance to rez dogs, surrendered critters, and found felines every single day. We offer many thanks to our supporters for helping us do whatever it takes in their honor.

Brushing a golden retriever's teeth

Pet Oral Health

By Brent Honcharenko

When Manny, a senior miniature poodle, was brought to Ruff Start Rescue (RSR) and placed with his foster, Sue LaBore, she said the poor condition of his teeth was the first thing she noticed when she lifted his little cheek. LaBore, who has been a foster for over two decades, said she called RSR’s small dog manager and a veterinarian appointment was scheduled.

“His teeth were terrible and his breath was horrible,” LaBore said. “They had to remove all but two of his teeth.”

According to RSR Veterinarian Dr. Hillary McCulloh, routine oral health care is extremely important for our pets. She said it’s just as important for them as it is for humans.

“Plaque and tartar contain a lot of bacteria, and since there is such a great blood supply to the mouth, this bacteria gets into the bloodstream very easily,” Dr. McCulloh explained. “Once in the bloodstream that bacteria affects the overall health of all the major organ systems, especially the heart and the kidneys.”

Simply put, Dr. McCulloh says if your pet’s teeth are left untreated, it can potentially lead to serious health effects including heart and/or kidney disease.

Manny pre-operation

“Oral health care includes regular teeth brushing, ideally daily as plaque reforms on the teeth every 24 hours, and regular Comprehensive Oral Health Assessments and Treatments (COHAT) by a veterinarian,” Dr. McCulloh added. “While your veterinarian will examine your pet’s teeth at each annual exam, a COHAT is a procedure performed under anesthesia. Most pets need their first annual COHAT after about 2-3 years of age, but some of the smaller breeds may need them done as early as 6 months and repeated every 3-4 months for optimal health. At home, routine teeth brushing decreases the frequency that these procedures need to occur.”

Dr. McCulloh is passionate about this type of pet care and further explained that if oral health care is neglected, inflammation of the gums will occur due to the presence of the bacteria. She said as the gums become inflamed they start to pull away from the tooth roots and the exposed roots become infected. This process is called Periodontal Disease and it is very painful for your pet. If left untreated, the disease will continue to progress until the animal’s teeth will either fall out or need to be extracted. In some cases, especially in small breeds of dogs, this can eventually lead to them losing all of their teeth.

The left side of Manny’s mouth, pre-op.
The left side of Manny’s mouth, pre-op.
The right side of Manny’s mouth, pre-op.
The right side of Manny’s mouth, pre-op.
Manny’s mouth, post-op.
Manny’s mouth, post-op.

But don’t forget about the cats. Cats also have a unique disease where the inflammation from the Periodontal Disease, causes the body to attempt to resorb the teeth. Dr. McCulloh said this is a very painful process as it is slow (occurs over several months to a couple years) and involves the slow formation of holes in the teeth.

An unfortunate but real-life example of Periodontal Disease is Manny. When asked how Manny adapted to not having any teeth, LaBore said he ate soft food and had a wonderful appetite. LaBore said she’s fostered senior dogs in the past who have little to no teeth, so this wasn’t a new experience for her.

From who knows where, to an animal shelter in St. Paul, to RSR, and then to foster LaBore’s house, Manny just needed a soft, comfortable, permanent place to land, and he found that with his adopter Marian Norberg. Like LaBore who fosters small, senior dogs, Norberg has a history of adopting senior dogs, and Manny fit that bill.

“I’ve had senior dogs before with no teeth. With the proper type of food, they do just fine. Plus, Manny has a great appetite. He eats soft, canned food and he likes the chicken and vegetable mix. He also likes the salmon, but it really stinks,” Norberg said, laughing.

Here’s Manny in his forever home sporting a blue bandana.
Here’s Manny in his forever home sporting a blue bandana.

Manny was part of RSR’s Seniors-For-Seniors Program. This program lets seniors adopt senior animals for only $65. Norberg likes to adopt senior dogs because, she said, they need a good final home and she enjoys them. She added that senior dogs are easier for her, too, because they’re slower (she laughed) and already trained.

Despite his poor oral health condition, it’s RSR’s pleasure to report that Manny is in a good place with Norberg and is doing well. He definitely found his soft, loving landing spot.

To the rest of us, Dr. McCulloh reminds us to begin a daily oral health routine with our pets. It is that important.

Kids working on RSR animal kids at the dining table

Fun & Educational: Kids Rescue Animal Kits

One of my favorite things about Ruff Start is the fact that it enables me to bring quite a few of my passions to the forefront of my professional life. The most obvious one is, of course, saving the lives of animals in need. But one of the underlying reasons I wanted to create a rescue was because I wanted to use it as a spearhead to further the future of animal welfare. I’ve always thought the best way to change the future is by educating the future – as in, kiddos!

Thus, the Ruff Start Rescue Education Program was born in 2013 – just three short years after the rescue officially launched. The program has blossomed over the years and still has lots of growth ahead of it thanks to the Education Committee’s devotion to this cause which is so near and dear to my heart. However, as a result of the pandemic, many of the activities we put on for local groups were put on an extended hold. As a result, the current committee had to get creative to still make a difference in the lives of pets and kids all throughout the state.

Their solution? Instead of holding in-person junior volunteer events, we’ve been giving families the opportunity to bring those activities into their homes by creating Kids Companion Animal Kits!

Children learning about RSR in a classroom.

Kids Companion Animal Kits are fun kits designed to make it easy for kids of all ages to make toys for dogs and cats at home or on the go. Kits are available for pickup at the Ruff Start office in Princeton for free and are an excellent enrichment tool for the companion animals in our care – or yours! Shipping options are also available for a small fee if you are not local to the Princeton area but would like to partake in this fun activity that benefits both children and companion animals.

While we do not require the completed toys be mailed or brought back to the rescue, the dogs and cats in our care do appreciate receiving goodies after experiencing a ruff start to their lives if the kids want to give back. Sending kits back creates a good learning opportunity for children to understand the importance of rescue and how they can positively impact the lives of companion animals just by being kind.

We also offer our assembly kit instruction PDFs free of charge on our website so you can create the kits in your home after purchasing the items needed. Kit construction is also an awesome activity for daycare groups and scout troops, as well as past adopters – the possibilities are endless as long as littles who want to help animals are involved.

Kids Companion Animal Kit
Kids working on Kids Companion Animal Kit

Once you receive your kits, please tag us and use the hashtag #RuffStartRescueKidsKits so we can see your kids in action bettering the lives of our rescue animals!

To date, we’ve had just over 100 requests for these kits and would love to make this a long-term option for groups that want to participate in the future. As a result, we’re always looking for people (including businesses, organizations, and corporations) to sponsor a kit! Supplies are available on our Amazon wishlist if you’d like to donate to the cause. Each kit costs roughly $5 in materials, but the joy it brings our animals and the education opportunity incentive for young children who are involved are truly priceless.

We anticipate these kits will only continue to grow in popularity as families delve deeper into distance learning and colder weather increases our likelihood of staying inside. Get yours by emailing our Education Committee at or visiting today!

Foster-to-Adopt Program

Foster-to-Adopt (FTA) Program

Is the animal you’re interested in listed as ‘foster-to-adopt’? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Ruff Start Rescue is a foster-based rescue, meaning that all animals in Ruff Start’s care stay in foster homes.
  • Animals in the FTA program (foster-to-adopt) don’t have everything they need to be adopted yet, such as spay/neuter surgery and medical treatment.
  • Most foster-to-adopt animals have an arrival date in their name and bio as they are not in the Rescue yet—for example, Fluffy arriving 1/27/21. Foster-to-adopt animals need to be picked up by their foster at the office in Princeton, MN, on this specified transport date.
  • Ruff Start’s foster-to-adopt program helps the animal acclimate faster when they are already in their adoptive home while they finish up what they need before officially being adopted.
  • If the foster decides the animal is not a good fit for their household, we require that they continue to foster them and work with Ruff Start’s application team to review and approve applications to help their foster find a great home.
  • Fosters need to drop-off and pick-up their foster animals to any necessary general vetting appointments and surgical procedures on specified dates at the Rescue office in Princeton, MN.
  • Fosters need renters insurance if they rent their home.

Can’t find an animal to adopt? Sign up to foster! Here are the perks:

  • You’ll complete a virtual training to ensure you have everything you need to successfully foster an animal.
  • You’ll join a community of other fosters to share tips and tricks, ask questions, and post pictures and videos of your foster (our favorite part).
  • Supplies are covered by the Rescue through supply houses across Minnesota.
  • Fosters get to see all the animals that can join the Rescue in a closed Facebook group, so foster families always get to pick the animal they foster.

Foster-to-Adopt Process

Watch Ruff Start Founder + Executive Director, Azure Davis, explain the foster-to-adopt process.

RSR Volunteers Needed

Volunteers Needed

Ruff Start Rescue is a foster-based rescue, dedicated to saving the lives of at-risk animals. The Rescue relies enormously on volunteers and is always looking for more help!

Both onsite and remote volunteer positions are available. Please view our current volunteer opportunities listed below, then complete a volunteer application and indicate which position(s) you’re interested in.

Once you submit your application, our volunteer department will reach out and invite you to attend an online volunteer orientation.

We are looking for volunteers to help care for, play with, and maintain the cats and cat rooms. As a Cat Caretaker for Ruff Start Rescue, you will be required to help out 1-2 hours a week at the office located in Princeton, MN. This is a minimum for hours required. The cats are counting on you so you would pick one day per week and stick with a consistent schedule. You will help keep the cat exploration and cat isolation rooms clean by changing bedding, cleaning the litter boxes, as well as doing some spot cleaning. You will also provide food and water, groom the cats, and play with them. Currently we are seeking volunteers for AM (8:30am or 9:00am) & PM (4:00pm or 5:00pm). You would pick one day and stick with that shift on a weekly basis. Weekend help is also needed.

Specific Job Skills and Requirements:

  • Must be 18+ and have a valid driver’s license
    • Minors 16 and older may volunteer with a parent/guardian consent form on file
  • Ability to work courteously and cooperatively with all members of RSR and the public.
  • Work as a team player, supporting the overall goals of the organization.
  • Strong interpersonal skills – outgoing, patient, professional, and able to get along well with a variety of people.
  • Ability to handle multiple tasks and work in a fast-paced environment.
  • Maturity, good judgment, and professional personal demeanor.
  • Ability to show compassion and empathy.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills.
  • Ability to read, write, and understand English.
  • Proficiency using Gmail preferred, including google drive (was google docs)
  • Ability to take initiative and work with minimal supervision and direction at times.
  • Well organized.
  • Respect for all people and animals.
  • Demonstrate affection for animals and concern for their welfare.
  • Ability to handle stressful or awkward situations with new fosters or RSR volunteers.
  • Understanding of all animals that might be placed within RSR, especially cats and kittens.
  • Familiarity with animals, knowledge of animal behavior, and experience working with animal welfare programs is preferred.

Reports to: Volunteer Manager

Availability: At least 1 day per week. 1-2 hour minimum per week depending on the number of cats occupying each room. Morning or evening shift. Needs to be as consistent as possible but can be flexible if needed at times. If you are unable to make it on your assigned day, please notify the Volunteer Manager as soon as possible. This helps to ensure that the cats receive the proper care in a timely manner.

Cleaning Duties:

  • Clean litter box
  • Change bedding (as needed)
  • Spot clean room (items below as needed)
    • Sweep
    • Mop
    • Wipe down surfaces
    • Clean windows

Cat Care Duties:

  • Provide food
    • Feeding instruction are found on the kennel card on the door
  • Provide water
  • Brush (as needed)
  • Play / pet
  • Give medications as needed and instructed

Administrative Duties:

  • Review the profile of each cat
  • Read and update checklist and records
  • Keep an inventory of supplies
    • Notify Volunteer Manager when supplies are getting low
  • Report any updates, concerns, questions, etc. to the Volunteer Manager

The Donation Coordinator position will assist the leadership team in coordinating volunteers to transport donations via social media and email. The Donation Coordinator will also be responsible for getting information to the social media team to develop recognition posts when appropriate.

Reports to:

Development Director


  • Respond to donation emails, phone calls and private Facebook messages within 1-2 hours of initial contact from donor.
  • Coordinate transport of donations to the rescue office through social media or email.
  • Send contact and donation information to donation recorders to process receipts and thank yous.
  • Send information to social media team to post thank yous on social media when needed.
  • Work closely with the leadership team and internal volunteers to assist in coordinating donation requests.

Qualifications/Skill Set:

  • Must be very active on social media and check emails several times daily. 
  • Have great customer service skills and promote professionalism at all times.
  • Must own smart phone
  • Excellent organizational skills and ability to track donation requests from start to finish.
  • Ability to multitask
  • Stay up-to-date on supply needs of the organization

Time Commitment:

  • The first through third quarters will require 2-3 hours of work weekly. The fourth quarter will average 5 hours weekly.

As is the case with many rescues, before an animal can be adopted or a new foster can start taking in animals, Ruff Start Rescue requires that a home visit be completed. The following information is designed to provide an overview of the home visit process and an understanding of its importance in the placement of animals.

Why do we require home visits?

People often wonder why home visits are required to adopt or foster an animal. The simple answer is that many of the animals come to Ruff Start Rescue from some very unfortunate situations. We want to do our best to make sure that they are going somewhere that is safe and where they will be loved and well cared for.

How does the home visit process work?

After someone submits an application to adopt or foster there are a number of things that happen behind the scenes. One is the home visit request. RSR has several volunteers who are Home Visit Coordinators. When a request for a home visit is submitted, these dedicated volunteers jump into action trying to find someone to complete the home visit. An email is sent out to volunteers asking for someone to complete the home visit. Once a volunteer picks up the request, he or she contacts the family and schedules the virtual home visit. When the home visit is complete, the volunteer fills out a home visit form electronically via Right Signature, and the adopter/foster moves to the next step in the process which hopefully means being approved to take in the animal.

What is it like to do a home visit?

Home visits are simple and only take about 15 minutes to do the actual visit. For your first visit, we will send an intro email that explains what to do along with the home visit form so you know what to look for and what questions to ask. What we are looking for is to verify that it is a safe environment and that what the potential foster or adopter told us on their application is true.

You will virtually walk through the home with the applicant to check out the areas that the animal will have access to. Where will the animal stay most of the time? Are there plans to keep it outdoors? Is there a fence? If so, how high? Is it in good condition, etc.?

Check out the condition of any other animals in the home. Do they look well cared for? How does the family interact with them? How do the animals react? If there are children in the home, are they respectful of the animals? Would you feel comfortable leaving your pet in the care of the family?

After the home visit is complete, there is the home visit form that needs to be filled out and submitted. The Home Visit Coordinator will send this form via email. It only takes about 5 minutes to fill out and submit. When the form is submitted, it is sent to the Application Manager handling the application to review and finalize the foster/adoption process.

As a Ruff Start Rescue Receptionist, we are looking for volunteers to help greet and assist fosters, volunteers, and the public as they come to gather supplies or find out how they can help Ruff Start Rescue! Receptionists will be at the front desk Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. As a receptionist for Ruff Start Rescue, you will be required to help out 2 – 4 hours a week between the times of 9am and 5pm at the office located in Princeton, MN. Normal shifts would be 9:00am – 1:00pm or 1:00pm to 5:00pm. This is a minimum for hours required. As an RSR Receptionist, you will pick at least one day per week and stick with a consistent schedule. You will be at the reception desk to greet individuals, provide resources, and answer questions, as well as help with miscellaneous administrative tasks.

Reception Area:

  • Assemble adoption folders (cat and dog)*
  • Make sure the open/closed sign is flipped to “open”
  • File vet records
  • Packages – open and remove packing slips. If multiple slips in a box, please make sure to staple together. Bring donations to the back transport room and put away*
  • Record donations (on donations slip) and bring back to the transport room and put away*
  • Cardboard boxes: break down and get to the recycling bins
  • Stuff education committee bags (if there is an upcoming presentation)
  • Clean bathroom – restock bathroom towels. (find nicer clean towels in the transport room to fill back up on the shelf)

Office Area:

(when doing items, not in the reception area, be sure to listen for door ding) 

  • Keep the laundry going*
  • Put away any blankets/towels on the shelf in the transport room
  • Sweep or vacuum if needed (located in cleaning closet with the curtain in the hallway between reception and office area)
  • Load or unload the dishwasher with cat food dishes

Transport Room:

(when doing items, not in the reception area, be sure to listen for door ding) 

  • Organize/put away items
  • Make transport bags (if there is an upcoming transport)


(when doing items, not in the reception area, be sure to listen for door ding) 

  • Water and deadhead potted flowers outside
  • Water tree alongside building (10 minutes)*
  • Clean and bring in any crates left outside.
  • Check and refill bird feeders (birdseed located in the back hallway by Azure’s office in purple tote).
  • Clean out any cat kennels if dirty and have a sign asking to be cleaned.

high priority items

The Transport Coordinator position is a critical internal role, this role will be connecting Ruff Start Rescue transport needs with Ruff Start Rescue Transport Volunteers. The Transport Coordinator is responsible for sending out a bulk email to volunteers willing to help with transporting and also posting a Facebook Post if necessary regarding transport needs. This position will require access to the internet and the availability to be able to check emails multiple times throughout the day and evening. All transportation requests need to be sent out within 24 – 48 hours of the email request.

Specific job skills and requirements:

  • Must be able to have access to internet
  • Must be able to check email multiple times in a day.
  • Must have basic knowledge of database and spreadsheets
  • Must be detail-oriented
  • Must have good communication skills
  • Must be able to understand the mapping system
  • Follow a checklist and make sure the steps are completed and have follow-through


The time required for this position could be anywhere from 5-10 hours a week.

Detailed Description:

The Transportation Coordinator will work closely with the Foster Managers and Impound Intake Coordinators to get transportation requests done in a timely and efficient manner.  As a Transport Coordinator, you must have excellent communication skills as you will be the person of contact between the transport volunteer and the one who needs their animal(s) transported.

As a Transportation Coordinator, you will be responsible for updating the Transportation Request database with the Ruff Start volunteer that accepts the transport request. The Transport Coordinator will also learn about the RSR mapping system, this will help to see what volunteers are closest to the area that requires the transportation and how to use Rescue Groups to find the necessary information to send out to the volunteer.

The Transportation Coordinator will have to be familiar with Facebook and how to post on the volunteer page, this will only happen if there is no response from the bulk email in 24hrs.  When posting on the Facebook page, the Transport Coordinator will be responsible for keeping track of the Facebook post and email the Foster Manager/Impound Intake Coordinator, the foster, and the volunteer that responded to make sure everyone is aware of the status.

  • Be responsible for sending out a bulk email to all transport volunteers.
  • Be responsible for posting on the Volunteer Facebook page if there is no response in 24 hrs from the email that was sent out.
  • If posting on Facebook, you will need to let the Foster Manager/Impound Intake Coordinator know that the volunteer can do it by sending out the connection email to the volunteer and foster and also cc’ing the Foster Manager/Impound Intake Coordinator
  • Keep an updated database of volunteers that help with transportation.
Botflies: Pepper the Kitten

Botflies: What You Need to Know

By Brent Honcharenko

Cute kittens can sometimes become unwilling hosts to ugly parasites.

Fluffy little kittens are attractive and irresistible. But they’re not only irresistible to us, these cute little fur balls make easy hosts for nasty insects such as botflies. Botflies are abundant and common here in Minnesota and find small animals to use as unsuspecting hosts for their larvae to begin their life-cycle.

A botfly, also known as a cuterebra fly, warble fly or gadfly, uses a live animal such as a kitten, squirrel or a rabbit as a host for part of its lifecycle. How that occurs is a bit unsettling. The adult botfly captures a blood-sucking insect, like a mosquito, and lays its eggs on their bodies. Those egg-covered insects then spread the botfly eggs onto the fur or into the skin of the animals they bite. Larvae then grow from the eggs and burrow into the host animal through that bite opening, or the larvae can enter the body through the animal’s nose, eyes or mouth. Once the parasite is under the host’s skin it forms a cocoon, and to survive the larvae eats the animal’s flesh and forms a small open hole that can be seen from the outside on its host. The larvae continues to grow inside the skin cocoon for a few weeks until it reaches maturity, when it then crawls out leaving an open sore on the host animal. Although unappealing, the effects of a botfly infection doesn’t typically kill the host, and the sore where the larvae’s cocoon was eventually heals.

Here’s Pepper, the kitten with a visible botfly in her neck.

According to Ruff Start Rescue Veterinarian Dr. Hillary McCulloh, she typically sees botfly cases in August through early September, although occasionally as early as late July.

“In our area, I typically see cuterebra cases in kittens,” McCulloh said. “Treatment involves removing the larvae and in most cases treating with antibiotics. Depending on the size of the resulting wound, some wound care management may be necessary as well.”

McCulloh went on to say that the prognosis is usually good for the host animals. She said that sometimes the larvae can be difficult to find, but once located, removed and treated, the kittens heal well.

Graphic video warning. (It’s like watching a pimple-popping video, but worse!)

Such is the case with Pepper. Pepper was brought to Ruff Start Rescue (RSR) after she was found outside a farm home by a field near Stacey, MN.

Pepper is being fostered by Jolene Tourville, who is also a veterinarian, and who noticed Pepper’s botfly infection immediately.

“Most people think these botfly holes look like fight wounds,” Tourville said. “But if you look hard enough you see something moving and then you know what it is.”

Here’s Pepper lounging with her dog foster brother.

Tourville said this is common with kittens who live outdoors. She reiterated what McCulloh said about removing the larvae, cleaning the wound and treating with antibiotics.

“Pepper was pretty sick when I got her,” Tourville, who has been a RSR foster for about nine years, said. “She was host to four botfly larvae and one was really large. And, she also had some ticks.”

Tourville is happy to report, however, that since Pepper was found and treated, except for some minor scaring, she’s healed up nicely, growing fast and is a rambunctious little kitten waiting to go to her forever home.


Finding Felix’s forever home

By Brent Honcharenko

Felix had his ticket punched and was cleared for his transport from Houston, TX, to Princeton, MN. It was the end of March and it was going to be a new beginning in a new place for him.  But then he developed a cough. Precaution processes were followed and Lindsey Maresh, who had been fostering Felix in Houston, took him to the veterinarian to have him checked out.

“I had him for about two weeks,” Maresh said. “He was a typical puppy. He was playful and we were working on potty training, crate training, leash training, all the things he was ready to learn.”

Maresh was also preparing for a trip out of town and was working to secure a temp-foster for Felix when his cough developed. Thinking it was a case of kennel cough, she took Felix to the veterinarian to have him checked out and was sent home with some medicine.

Maresh took Felix and his medicine to the temp-foster on a Wednesday and left on her trip. However, just three days later, Felix was at the emergency veterinary clinic. After landing at the airport on Saturday, Maresh didn’t even go home first, she went straight to the clinic where Felix was.

“His breathing was so bad,” Maresh explained. “They ran several tests and had him on oxygen.”

Maresh said poor little Felix was diagnosed with “everything”. She said he had Distemper (a contagious viral disease that affects respiratory, gastrointestinal and the central nervous system), K9 Adenovirus (CAV-1: liver infection), and K9 Coronavirus (CCoV: intestinal infection). But, Maresh said luckily he did not have “parvo” (K9 Parvovirus (CPV-2): A widely-spread infection that affects the gastrointestinal system, lymph tissue, and bone marrow).

“Felix was in the veterinary ER clinic for about two weeks before I was finally able to take him home,” Maresh said. “By then he was acting normal but was still coughing a bit.”

Felix feeding tube

Fosters typically have rescues for only 10-14 days before they go to their forever home. But in Felix’s case, Maresh now had Felix for the better part of five weeks. Because of her travel schedule, Felix was transitioned to another foster in Houston for the last few weeks of his recovery.

Felix was part of Ruff Start Rescue’s foster-to-adopt (FTA) Program. FTA was implemented about two years ago, and according to FTA Placement Coordinator Lindsey Monroe, “The program has become huge.”

How the program works, Monroe explained, is that dogs rescued in Texas are put into foster homes there while they’re made available for adoption in Minnesota. Then, when they’re transported to Minnesota, they’re delivered right into the hands of their adopter. “It’s one less step in the process and one less stop for the dogs,” Monroe said.

While the rescued dogs are being fostered in Texas, pictures and biography descriptions of them are posted and potential adopters can apply for them. Monroe said the goal of the FTA Program is to have the dogs adopted before they even arrive in Minnesota.

“The success of this program takes a whole team of people,” Monroe said. “From the fosters to the adoption coordinators and those who facilitate the vetting process, to the bio writers and the social media and web support folks, it’s a process that takes a lot of work from a lot of people.”

Monroe said the FTA Program started with just five dogs on the roster and now there are between 25-35 dogs, twice a month.

Under the current circumstances, the potential adopters complete their adoption program interviews and training virtually. Once that is complete and successful, and when their new four-legged family member is about a week away from transport and arrival, the adopters are contacted as to when and where they can meet their new pet.

Since this is the first-time in-person meeting and the dogs are released directly to the adopters, the adopters and dogs are given 10 days to acquaint and ensure that they are a good fit for one another.

Monroe reiterated that Felix was originally scheduled for a March transport but was pulled due to his unexpected health set-back. Due to his on-going condition, Felix’s transport date kept getting pushed back. He was finally cleared for transport on July 9 and arrived in Minnesota on July 11.

Felix resting with cone

“Felix was actually rescued in March and adopted in April,” Monroe said. “I kept in touch with his adopter, Malori (Paplow), and we put her in touch with his foster, Lindsey (Maresh), in Texas. Thankfully Malori was understanding and patient. It was amazing that she kept waiting and remained willing to adopt Felix. Malori and Lindsey developed a relationship focused on Felix’s recovery and that really helped.”

Monroe was quick to offer a grateful shout-out to Maresh, too, who went above-and-beyond and continued to provide Felix with a comfortable, loving home while he recovered. Maresh has been associated with fostering rescued animals since she was a child. She said she was raised in a family that fostered, and except for a few years she was on her own, she’s always fostered. She fostered over 20 animals just last year.

Monroe also acknowledged RSR Large Dog Foster Manager McKenna Lorenz who took over Felix’s case after he arrived in Minnesota, just in case anything went wrong. But luckily it didn’t and although it took him nearly four months to get to Minnesota, he arrived safely.

Felix photoshoot

Felix now has a happy home with Paplow and she said despite the extended foster process and his turbulent health adventures, he is a happy, rambunctious, active young dog and is doing really well. She said he still has a little bit of a “click” in his breathing but it doesn’t seem to affect his demeanor or his personality.

“We’ve taken him paddleboarding and rollerblading,” Paplow said, “and he likes to go on walks, runs, and hiking with us. He also has a little kitty brother who he loves very much.”

Paplow was quick to say that all of the credit for Felix’s successful recovery and safe arrival goes to the Maresh and to the RSR organization.

“I didn’t do any of the hard work,” Paplow said. “I can’t thank the fosters and Ruff Start Rescue enough. They are the ones who made this happen.”

Paplow said the four months it took for Felix’s arrival really didn’t seem that long because of the wonderful communication job that Maresh and Monroe did. “They kept me updated and communicated with me regularly, and I am so thankful for that.”

Maresh is also happy this adventure has a happy ending and added, “Dealing with Ruff Start Rescue is fantastic. It’s been great seeing what this organization does and how they do it. It seems like they always have a plan in place and work together to achieve a goal.”

Speaking for Felix, he agrees and is happy that no one gave up on him; not Maresh, not Monroe, not Ruff Start Rescue, and especially not Paplow.

$100,000 Holiday Wishes Grant Campaign 2020

Share your story to help us save more lives!

2020 Holiday Wishes Grant Campaign

The Petco Foundation has launched its Holiday Wishes Campaign once again. This means that we need our amazing adopters to share their incredible adoption stories with the Petco Foundation. If your story is selected you win a Furrtabulous Petco shopping spree and Ruff Start Rescue could win $100K. You read that right: $100,000!

Whether you are an adopter yourself or a foster who can pass this along, we need your help. It will take a little time and effort on your part to complete, but the result could be a game-changer for the animals. Submissions allowed through Noon CDT on September 23rd.

How to Submit your Story:

  1.  Follow the link to the application:
  2. Click on the Submit a Story Tab
  3. Click on the Apply tab. If you do not have a Survey Monkey account you will likely be asked to register as well.
  4. Follow the steps to complete the application. You will be asked to write a 500-word story about your amazing, one-of-a-kind RSR alum. Make every word count! Now is your chance to put all the love you have your pet into words: All the ways, big and small, that your adopted pet brightens your life. Share your story, along with photos and/or videos, illustrating how your pet brightens your life each day. You can see examples of past winning stories here for inspiration.
  5. You will also be asked to provide info about the rescue. Here is what you need to know:

Submissions are due at Noon on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020. We appreciate your contribution to this effort, as do the countless animals who could be saved with $100,000!

Sir Thomas Nubbs

Kindness Goes a Long Way: The Story of S.T. Nubbs

“Can you help?” asked the good Samaritan, holding a small orange tabby, clutching gently to keep the cat from wiggling out of her arms. “I found him on the side of the road, and I think he may have been hit by a car.”

Luckily, Alexia – a certified veterinary technician – was working at the emergency vet clinic that evening. As both a foster and Vet Tech for Ruff Start Rescue when she wasn’t at the ER, she was hopeful she could give the little kitten a fighting chance – but first, she needed to assess his condition to see exactly what she was dealing with.

Sir Thomas Nubbs' tail

The little kitten, probably around 10 weeks old, had decent vital signs. It was clear, however, he was dehydrated and in quite a bit of pain. After unwrapping the towel that surrounded the young cat, Alexia discovered two things: he had some mild abrasions, consistent with road rash, and his tail was a long, stringy, blackened strip. What once had probably been a lively tail full of soft ginger fluff was now entirely hairless. The skin and fur had been completely peeled back, exposing the muscles and tendons beneath.

Alexia and her fellow coworkers quickly got the friendly kitten hooked up to some IV fluids, rehydrating his tired body. They also began pain management and antibiotic medications to stabilize him and bring down his pain level. From there, the next portion of this little cat’s journey began: figuring out who would provide him the rest of the care he needed to survive.

A Ruff Start, Now Rescued

Despite everything he’d been through, the orange kitten was still in good spirits. Purring continually and rubbing up on the staff assessing him, Alexia knew this little cat deserved a chance. She contacted her coworker, Erica – Ruff Start’s Senior Medical Manager – and asked for permission to take him into rescue as a foster.

After a brief chat about the kitten’s medical needs, it was official: Sir Thomas Nubbs was being given a new life, courtesy of Ruff Start.

The Journey Continues

While the care Sir Thomas Nubbs was given at the emergency clinic stabilized him and provided him a good start on the road to recovery, he still had some pit stops to make on his way to being 100% healthy. After an assessment, it was decided that Nubbs would have surgery to completely remove his degloved tail, giving him the little nubbin that would soon become his namesake.

After the little kitten pulled through surgery, Alexia was cautiously optimistic that Nubbs’ hardships would be over – but there was a reason she was wary of celebrating too early. With any tail injury, there is always a risk of nerve damage that can extend all the way up to the rest of the body and cause issues with defecation and urination. Alexia waited patiently to ensure Nubbs would use his litterbox throughout the weekend, fully acknowledging how silly it probably seemed to be wishing so adamantly to clean up poop.

Sir Thomas Nubbs happy

A Loving Home

Luckily, Nubbs recovered. He used his litterbox continuously and made himself wholly comfortable in Alexia’s home. After he had been medically cleared, her children would swoop him up and carry him throughout the house on his back as he purred his affections for them loud enough it sounded like a freight train was passing by outside. He would roll on his back, exposing his belly, and then curl up with what looked like a smile on his face as he slept peacefully. 

Sir Thomas Nubbs sleeping peacefully

This, after all, had been his disposition since the day Alexia first met him. She had seen his potential from the moment he was presented to the emergency vet. Despite all the things he’d been through, he was still a young kitten, eager to live.

Sir Thomas Nubbs was sent to one of our adoption partners to find a family of his own and was promptly adopted. His story, which could have ended tragically, ended on the happiest note possible – all because of the kindness of one person who thought they could make a difference for a small creature in need.

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)!

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Ruff Start Rescue