In a first, Detroit Kennel Club Dog Show organizers broke with tradition and featured rescued dogs in the spotlight at Cobo Hall. Some of the dogs were abandoned, some hailed from shelters. But last weekend, all had a chance to shine in a venue typically reserved for well-heeled canines. The rescued dogs were not entered in the competition, but were there to act as ambassadors for their peers. Activists say it’s an encouraging first step.
“It’s an opportunity to get the word out that there is breed-specific rescue,” said Colleen Ewald of Lathrup Village, who rescues Dogue de Bordeaux.
Many of the rescued dogs came from puppy mills.
“The puppies go to the pet stores,” said Mary McIver, director of Great Lakes Miniature Schnauzer Rescue. “We rescue the breeding dogs.”
Both are on a mission to educate.
“Almost every American Kennel Club breed has a rescue organization,” said Ewald, who is the regional coordinator for the Dogue de Bordeaux Society of America Rescue club. “Some organizations are more popular than others, but some breeds are more popular than others. A lot of people think the only place to find a dog is at the shelters or Humane Society or animal control.”
She says the rewards of rescuing are immense, and hopes that she and other adopters in attendance at the shows will influence potential buyers to consider a shelter pet.
“When you find that dog the right home, that dog that you nursed back to health, because it came in underweight or came in sick, or it came in fearful because it was abused, and you … watch that dog leave happy and healthy, thrilled to go home with the people you found, there is nothing better,” Ewald said. “It’s the most rewarding thing you can do.”
“Right now, I have two foster dogs,” said Ewald, 44. “They came from a puppy mill, and they are currently up for adoption.”
McIver was interviewed prior to attending, and could not suppress her excitement at the chance to change perceptions about shelter dogs. “I’m ecstatic to be going to the show,” McIver said. “It means that we can educate the general public. Rescue dogs are not broken dogs. Rescues make great pets.”