By Earleen Hinton
Three-month-old Boss could not control his enthusiasm as he jumped over one bar, crashed into another, and then grabbed his leash in his mouth and just flat out ran.
Minutes earlier, Mia, age 5ish, opted to walk around the first jump, but then carefully stepped over the next one before going through the “tunnel” with a lot of encouragement from her six-year-old human buddy, Jace.
That was just some of the canine action Aug. 26 at the first Rescue Rally, held by Bonafied, an up and coming rescue group founded by Melodee Hoffman, of Mt. Morris.
“We are working towards having a rescue group for dogs,” said Hoffman at Saturday’s rally, held at the City of Oregon’s dog park in Carnation Park, along the Rock River. “Rescue dogs are wonderful dogs that need saving. A lot of the rescues are dogs that someone got when they were a puppy and then because of life changes they were taken to a shelter. They can be all kinds of breeds, including purebreds.”
Hoffman said one of the goal’s of her group is to get shelter dogs into foster families to make then more adoptable and save their lives.
“We like to take them from a shelter and get them in to actual homes,” Hoffman said. “One of our members has a farm where we take the dogs and see how they react to goats, chickens, and cats.”
Carol Falconer, director of the Friends Forever Humane Society of Freeport, said foster homes enable shelter dogs to acclimate to real homes to help make them more adoptable.
“There are things that you just don’t know about a dog when they are only in a shelter environment,” Falconer said. “With foster homes we can see how they react with regular household tasks so when someone asks ‘How are they around a vacuum cleaner’ we have an answer.”
Stillman Valley’s Kelly and Shawn Keyster, and their six-year-old son, Jace, are the foster family for Mia, a pit bull and blue heeler mix, who arrived at Friends Forever with a litter of puppies.
“We’ve had her as a foster dog for two and a half months and she’s a very sweet girl,” Kelly said. “She had a litter of puppies when she came in to the shelter as a rescue. We have another dog at home and she gets along with him fine.”
Jace was all smiles as he encouraged Mia through the agility course. “Come on Mia, come on,” he said even entering the plastic tunnel himself with dog treats in hand to lead her through.
“We think Mia had multiple litters of puppies before she came to us,” Falconer said. “Now she’s a happy, healthy, much-loved dog. We would love to find a forever home for Mia.”
Kelly Keyster said it will be hard to let Mia, her third foster dog, leave her family, but if the right family comes along she will have fulfilled her goal as a foster parent.
“We adopted our other dog Conner from Cause for Paws. We’ve grown very attached to Mia and we haven’t had that issue before. It would have to be the right family to have her be adopted,” Kelly Keyster said.
Saturday’s event included dogs that could be adopted and dogs that have already found homes. Vendors specialiizing in canine services and businesses also attended.
Mary Biggerstaff, a resident of Woosung, brought her two rescues to the event, Chewy a St. Bernard and golden retriever, and Mia, a shih tzu. “They are both rescues,” she said as she carried Mia, and Chewy sniffed out the other canines at the event.
Neeko is a 9-year-old Husky who is at Friends Forever because his owner died. Neeko was part of a dog sled team. When the owner of the team knew we was dying, he asked Friends Forever to take his dogs and find them homes.
“He would hook the dogs up and do demonstrations,” Falconer said.
Boss, a retriever mix, arrived at Friends Forever when a Freeport family, returning home from a trip to Seattle, Washington, watched someone dump five puppies at a truck stop in Wyoming.
“They saw a vehicle pull up and dump out five puppies and then drive away,” said Dana Nappi, a Friends Forever board member and volunteer. “They found families for three of the puppies and we got two. Boss’ brother has been adopted so we still have Boss.”
Hoffman said she began training dogs about 10 years ago, but had worked with horses before that.
She said it all began when she took in a dog considered by a shelter to be unadoptable because she was to aggressive.
After working with the dog, Hoffman discovered the animal was merely scared.
“She was never aggressive, she was just misunderstood,” Hoffman said. “She was terrified.”
The experience was also a life-changer for Hoffman.
“I used to weigh 274 pounds and I never left the house,” she said. “Within a year, just working with that dog, I lost 80 pounds. I found my calling.”
Bonafied means “bring out natural abilities found in every dog” and that’s just what Hoffman strives to do.
“It is my absolute passion,” she said. “It’s so rewarding to see the difference you can make in dog’s life. I’m dedicated to it.”
Hoffman hopes the event will help establish a rescue organization and shelter in Ogle County. She said she is currently in the process of obtaining proper licenses for the organization.
“Thousands of shelter dogs are put down each year and the vast majority of them are adoptable,” Hoffman said.
For more information about Friends Forever (Neeko, Boss, and Mia) call 815-232-6164.
For more information about Bonafied, call Hoffman at 815-973-9162.
(Vinde Wells contributed to this article)