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4 Luv of Dog Rescue, Tom Isern-'Flash Pictures,' MHA Nation, BirdNote

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Are you interested in dog adoption? Come join us on a tour of the 4 Luv of Dog Rescue in Moorhead. Learn how dog rescues positively transform lives. Discover the process of rescuing, rehabilitating, and re-homing dogs, and understand the rewarding yet challenging aspects of adopting a rescue dog.

Additionally, we'll feature a Plains Folk essay by Tom Isern titled "Flash Pictures."

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, the MHA Nation, the Native Tourism Alliance, and the State Historical Society have teamed up for a special storytelling event. We'll also have a conversation with Kiera Fox, the marketing and communications coordinator at the MHA Tourism Department.

Plus, don't miss an intriguing episode of BirdNote, titled "Ptarmigan in Winter."

For Luv Of Dog Rescue Transcript

Main Street
Today, we are thrilled to welcome Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President and a volunteer of For Love of Dog Rescue. Natalie brings with her a wealth of knowledge and a deep passion for animal welfare. For Love of Dog Rescue, founded in 2005, has been a beacon of hope for over 6,000 dogs, providing them with medical care, love, and a path to adoption. Natalie, welcome to Main Street. Natalie, welcome to Main Street.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Main Street
Give us the history of 4 Luv of Dog Rescue. How did it come to be?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
So our founder is Kish Mackin. She started the rescue in 2005, primarily funding from her own pocket, putting vet bills on her personal credit card. As you're trying to kind of establish yourself in the community, get your 501c3 nonprofit number, you know, that's all a process. And then since 2005, we've taken in roughly just over 6,000 dogs.

Main Street
What is your role? You're the president.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Currently, my role is the president. I've had this seat for about three years. I'm a vet tech.

So my job within the rescue is primarily handling medical needs. That is things like wellness exams, getting spay neuter scheduled, working on medical clauses for our dogs that have kind of ongoing medical conditions like diabetes or thyroid conditions. So my role falls into making sure that everybody's medical needs are fulfilled and ongoing care is scheduled before they're ready to be placed available for adoption.

Main Street
And we want to get into everything about adoption and what that means. And I think there's a lot really to understand. Let's start at the very beginning. How do dogs come to you?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
So we get our dogs from a few different ways. First kind of step that we take is pulling dogs from our local and regional pounds.

So we work with pounds in our area, along with the other rescues in our community, kind of who has space, can take dogs in at a time. If a pound needs help, they reach out and ask us to pull dogs that are kind of at the end of their mandated pound stay. Everybody gets a certain amount of business days, depending on the city laws.

And once their stay is up, if they are deemed adoptable, medically, behaviorally, they reach out to rescues and ask if we are able to take them in. Another way that we get them is from, we work with a few regional reservations. So as strays come in, the reservations will look for rescues that are able to help.

The populations are really high on reservations. So we try to take these guys in whenever we can. Lastly is owner surrenders.

Owner surrenders come to us for a variety of reasons. Owners find themselves in financial or health situations where they're no longer able to provide care. They may become overwhelmed with the number of dogs that they have in their care, and they will reach out to us to offer assistance.

If a dog becomes injured, has an accident that needs a lot of medical care, they're personally not able to provide, they will reach out to us to surrender the dog so they can get the care that they need.

Main Street
I bet sometimes you have to say no.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue

We do have to say no. And it's always devastating. You know, when we consider what we take in, it's what we have space for. We can't take every dog in.

We try to help as many as we can. But if there are behavioral conditions that prohibit us from taking them in or space limitations that prohibit us from taking them in, we ultimately need fosters before we can bring these guys in. We do have a space, but it's not meant to be permanent housing for these guys.

Our facility space is meant to be kind of a landing spot for them to come in so we can get to know a little bit more about them before we place them with a foster home.

Main Street
So once a dog then is received, what happens next?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
So we do an intake procedure and what that involves is just vaccinating, microchipping, providing them with flea and tick medication, deworming. We make sure that we have a foster home and then I come in and that's when I schedule vet visits for things as simple as just wellness examinations and heart worm and flea and tick testing or tick disease testing, getting them scheduled for neuters, getting them scheduled for space, kind of taking care of any immediate medical concerns, whether they be urgent or not determines kind of what kind of timeline or appointment that they might need once they have come into the rescue, their medical needs have been addressed. We've figured out a little bit about their personalities.

So we know if they're good with cats, if they're good with other dogs, if they like kids, if they need a quiet house, some of these guys really need a dog friend to make them feel comfortable. Once we have that information, at that point, they're ready to be listed on our website as being available.

Main Street
You've talked about fosters. What are fosters?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Yeah. So fosters are the lifeline of our rescue.

Fosters are people within our community that open up their homes to the dogs in the rescue to provide them a safe landing space while they wait for their forever home. So they're not waiting here. No.

So the most dogs that we'll have in our facility at a time is typically about seven, because we don't have a staff. We're all volunteer. We have to get shifts of volunteers to come three times a day.

And it can be complicated to get people to come during the middle of the day on a work week. And if we're able to get these guys into an actual home, we're able to learn a lot more about them. We're able to help them with crate training, with potty training.

We know their personality a lot better. You can work on routine and structure. The facility is great, and we're really lucky and fortunate to have it.

But a foster home is really the most ideal setting. Is it hard for a dog to be in a foster and then have to go to a new family? It's always a transition, right?

Like any time they're experiencing new things. And dogs are really incredibly resilient. And watching them come into the rescue, leaving either the pound or their family, and being afraid, but then watching them become confident and become a normal dog and play with toys and jump on the couch and do things that dogs do, it's really incredible.

And it is a transition for them when they go from getting comfortable in their foster home to being adopted. But we really try to work with our adopters so that they understand that you need to give them space and you need to give them time to acclimate to you and your family and your routine. We can't explain to them, right?

They don't know really what's happening. And it's a lot of change for them. But most of the time, given the appropriate amount of time to decompress and settle in, they really do quite well.

Main Street
So here we are at the holidays.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue

Main Street
Is the holidays a good time for people to adopt? And I ask that question because I wonder if emotions get in the way of good decision making.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Certainly. So, you know, we all have this Lady and the Tramp vision in our head of like unboxing the little puppy with the big bow under the Christmas tree, right? And for some families, that might work and that might be great.

And if you want to adopt a pet during the holiday, as long as you plan for that and take the dog's needs into account, I think that that's okay. But you should always keep in mind, are you traveling? Are you going to have a lot of people at your home?

Are you going to be gone a lot? These can be a bit complicated when you're bringing a new family member in. So if you are going to adopt and you are going to be busy, making sure that you allow space in your home for the dog to have an opportunity to kind of get away from the craziness, not making everyone in your family meet the dog, like that's not necessary.

Like let them have time to settle in and feel comfortable in your space before you bring in a bunch of other people. They don't really know you yet. So you want to form that relationship and that bond first before you start introducing everybody else to them.

Main Street
What do you tell folks about a dog's breed, a dog's size, their energy level, and how to evaluate whether that dog will fit their lifestyle?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Sure. So we have an incredible team of adoption coordinators and our adoption application is very lengthy and some people say too lengthy, but we do that really on purpose because we want to set the adopters and the dogs in our care up for success. So we talk a lot about how much exercise are you willing to do?

If you want to have a dog that's a complete couch potato with you, that's okay. But we probably shouldn't apply for a very young, very active breed. We try to work as a team to find not necessarily a breed specifically, but a personality that's going to be a really good match for your energy and activity level and what you're willing to do.

Some of these breeds are so smart and they need a lot of mental stimulation as well as physical stimulation, where other breeds are just perfectly content to just lay on the couch and veg and watch TV with you. There are dog rescues across North Dakota. Yes.

Main Street
Are there more dogs or more people wanting to adopt? I'm worried that it's more dogs.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Right now it kind of feels like more dogs. I feel like all of us across the country, you don't have to go very far into social media to find that rescues are scrambling and dogs are coming in faster than they're going out. We're lucky in our community that we don't have the stray dog population that other communities have to deal with.

And a lot of our dogs are getting adopted every week, but we do have a lot of dogs that are waiting to come in and owner surrenders that are waiting for us to have space to let them in. And every day there's medical dogs that are needing to come in emergent and the hounds are very full. So I think a lot of us are feeling very overwhelmed that there's only so much that everyone can do.

And it's always the concern of what happens to those dogs that we just can't make space for.

Main Street
What do you tell people about the long term commitments and responsibilities of dog ownership? I'm thinking about exercising, training and health care, especially those folks that maybe have never had a dog before.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Yeah, it's there's a lot for people to think about when you bring a new dog in. And I always, you know, when I'm getting a puppy foster to their adoptive home, I always am making sure that we're having those conversations about this dog is potentially going to be with you for 10 to 12 to 14 years. There's a lot of ongoing medical costs.

If you're taking a baby in, they're going to have a lifetime of training and socialization with adult dogs that have come into the rescue. Maybe they didn't start out with the best background in training and socializing. So you're going to have to put that work in.

And, you know, we have to be really blunt with adopters that if they aren't willing or don't seem able to put the work in, the time in, maybe adopting at this time isn't going to be the best option for them.

Main Street
What about older folks who have trouble getting out and about during winter?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Yeah, certainly. They don't need exercise. Absolutely they do.

And it's really important, again, that we kind of go back to that adoption coordinating team and making sure that we are pairing those adopters with a really appropriate dog for them. So I don't ever want to tell someone who is above a certain age that you can only adopt a dog of above a certain age, but the priority is making everyone feel successful. So if you are physically limited for whatever the reason may be, we should pair you with a dog that maybe has less need for physical stimulation and exercise, and maybe a dog that is going to be more content to do some simple in-home training exercises and puzzles and things that are not so physically demanding of their owner.

Main Street
Is it ever the case, Natalie, that all the intentions were good? The person really wanted to have a dog for all of the right reasons, but for whatever reason at home, it just didn't work?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
It does. It happens. And again, that's one of the reasons our process is so lengthy is we try to make sure that adoptions are going to stick.

You know, no one wants to take a dog home. No one thinks that they're going to be bringing a dog home to have to bring it back. It gets a little bit complicated when people have resident dogs or have dogs in their house or cats already.

Ultimately, the cats and dogs that live in the house really decide if it's going to work or not, right, because they have to figure out how to live together. And, you know, sometimes you bring a dog home and it just doesn't fit. And we understand that.

And we have what we call a return period within the rescue where it gives people a couple of weeks just to make sure that things are going to work out and settle in. And if it's not going great, we try to offer resources. Here's some tips.

Here's what we know about this dog. Here's a couple of handouts for some basic exercises that we have found effective. We try to direct them towards training, whether it be in a class or one on one session, to make them feel more confident in this new dog that they don't really know yet.

So unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't work and it is always really sad for everyone involved. But we try to set everyone up for a successful adoption.

Main Street
We're really enjoying our conversation with Natalie Johnson-Metcalf. She is a president and a volunteer at For Love of Dog Rescue. Natalie, what about mixed breeds?

I'm sure you get many and people might want to come in and I want a doodle. So I want this or that.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
How does that work? I find in my experience that it's not always that people end up adopting the dog that they apply for. You kind of have in your mind what you think you want.

And I feel like it's really important to get out and get to adoption events so that you can meet a bunch of different dogs. So we have every month at PetSmart, we have meet the dog events. The dates are on our website.

Dogs that are appropriate to be there and appropriate just means PetSmart has rules about them being spayed and neutered. They need to be dog friendly to be at these events. But it gets you a bunch of dogs in one space.

So you can kind of see different personalities, meet different breeds. There are restrictions in people's housing that they can't have particular breeds. They can't be above a certain weight.

So there's a lot of reasons why people come in and there's some people that just want the doodle, right? And we do get the doodle in, but we also have, you know, 55 other wonderful dogs on the website. And if it doesn't work out, I always tell people, don't limit yourself to one thing because you might end up with a breed or a size that you never thought that you would have in your home.

Main Street
Is that how people generally select dogs is through an event like that or through personal discussion with you?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue

I feel like people most of the time just do it based on the pictures.

Main Street
The Website?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Well, yeah, exactly. Or our social media.

We try to highlight all the new dogs that are going to be available that week. We'll put out a post like, these are the new kids on the block. These are our new dogs that are coming available this week.

And I always tell adopters that if you, you know, there's certain dogs that are really popular, like everybody loves the little fluffy dog. If you miss out on one, there's always every week going to be new dogs that come out and just keep checking the site, keep watching our social media. You're not limited to just the dog you put on your application.

So if that doesn't work out, you can always request to meet other dogs once your application has been approved.

Main Street
What are the most common misconceptions that people have about dog rescue that you might want to address?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
I feel like we get a lot that we are making it too hard for people to adopt or that we're in it for the money or that we're making profit off of adoptions. And for us in particular, I can't speak to every rescue, but our adoption fee for an adult dog is $250. And on average, we're spending about $650 per dog.

And if in medical care, spaying, neutering, wellness, vaccinations, microchipping. And if you do the math, like profit's not happening. Like that's not why we do it.

Our application process is extensive, but we do that for the benefit of the dog and the adopter. It's important that it get them thinking, oh, you know what? I don't exercise that often or, oh, I only am willing to go for one walk a day.

And based on that information, we can really help find a good match. Or maybe it will make people realize that, oh, I'm gone 12 hours a day every day. This probably isn't the right time for me to bring a dog in.

But I think that's kind of the two things that we get the most, is that we're just in it for resources and that we make it impossible for people to adopt. But there are expenses. There are expenses.

That is a waste of money. We have an amazing fundraising team. They work so hard.

So we have, typically the first week in November, we have our annual silent auction at the Holiday Inn. Every year we have sponsors. People donate physical goods so we can make baskets.

And the community is so incredibly supportive of us. We are very, very lucky. The last few years, Giving Hearts Day has been incredible for us.

It's easy, I think, for our donors and volunteers to get involved that way. We do a lot of local events at different breweries. Restaurants will do Dine to Donate.

We have a lot of very simple things that are kind of out of the box that people love to jump in and support. You know, we do the regular things like merchandise sales, but it's the partnering with businesses within the community that really has been a very effective fundraising tool for us.

Main Street
What mistakes do adopters make that you would like them to think about in infants?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue

Sure. So I think it's that knee-jerk kind of reaction, like, Oh, you're so cute, God, yes. Or I want this puppy.

And, you know, I think that it's a lot of commitment. And with any dog, adult, senior, if a dog is on a lot of medications that can be very costly, you know, we don't want to always think about that. We just love this dog and we want to bring this dog home, not thinking that there's extensive bills every month that come with providing the medication that they're on.

So I think just reminding people to just kind of slow down and go through the process and listen to the fosters and listen to the adoption coordinators because they know better than anybody what that particular dog's needs are.

Main Street
At home, generally, what decisions do people need to make about their home, about preparing their home for a dog?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Sure. It's not that different, I don't think, than like baby proofing. I had a puppy once that came into the rescue that I fostered that had chewed an electrical cord and found himself in the emergency hospital.

And his adopter, potential adopters, I came to their house and I just had to point out to them that this is a puppy that chews things. And so they had to go through and essentially baby proof their home to make sure that things were appropriate to bring a puppy in. So baby gates to have areas of the house secluded off if you don't want the dog in the bedroom, making sure that everyone is shutting doors, being cognizant of going inside and outside, especially when you have children and letting the dog sneak out past you because accidents, unfortunately, can happen.

So I think just the physical space and the doors and fencing and fences are not required. But if we rely on a fence, just making sure that it is secure. Dogs are very good at sneaking out of small spaces.

So just, you know, I will go in people's backyards with them and just like, let's make sure that everything is secure and kind of looking at it. If you've never had a dog before from a different perspective with babies, they say, get down on the floor and see what a baby sees. And it's kind of the same for a dog.

If you're someone that likes to keep your food on the counter and you get a big dog who is capable of counter surfing, like making sure that you put things back or put things in cupboards. So if you haven't had a dog before, it's just kind of readjusting your lifestyle to be appropriate for these guys.

Main Street
What post adoption guidance do you provide?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
So in the two week refund period, we are happy to email back and forth with we have a group within the rescue that is our behavior team and they most everyone on our behavior team has some additional training within dog training. So if someone is struggling with crate training or they're struggling with introduction to their other dog or to a cat, or if the dog has been nervous around the kids, our behavior team tries to offer them resources to help make those transitions just a little bit smoother. Do you have a great success story you want to share with us?

I'm sure you have so many. So my kind of niche of foster is I typically take in dogs with ongoing medical needs and I had this incredible little dog. His name was Matthew and he was a…

Main Street
Can I ask a quick question? Yes. Who gets to name dogs?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Ah, fosters typically. We always kind of joke that if a foster picks up a dog or agrees to take this dog, that they get to pick the name. If we have litters, the fosters have a good time theme doing the litters.

Our intake team sometimes has to come up with on a whim with coming up with names. But most of the time, fosters get to name their dogs.

Main Street
Back to your story.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Yeah. So Matthew was about a two-year-old mixed breed little dog that had been running loose on a reservation in North Dakota for quite some time and they had a difficult time catching him. A team at a dentist office actually worked to catch him.

He came into the rescue and we found that he had a heartworm disease. He had a diaphragmatic hernia, which means he had a hole in his diaphragm. So his organs in his abdomen were pushing up into his chest and he had been, for whatever reason, had been shot, had BBs in him and he had severe dental disease.

So he was in my home for about eight months and had to undergo surgery, emergency surgery for his diaphragmatic hernia. He had to be treated for a heartworm disease and he had a dental procedure and a neuter and he went through all of this. And on the other side, he was just the most incredible, resilient, happy, silly dog who has an amazing adopter.

And she sends me on Christmas every year, I get an email and it's about six years since he was adopted. But I always think of him and what the rescue was willing to do for this one little fluffy dog who just was so incredible and so deserving. And that's the amazing thing about For Love of Dog Rescue is where other places might say no, For Love of Dog Rescue will say yes.

And they will take in very extensive medical cases and we say yes and then we figure out how to fund it later. We just believe that they deserve a shot and they deserve a chance. And we have the community that supports us.

So we're able to provide that care for them. Even with the support.

Main Street
Natalie, what's your biggest need? Foster homes.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
We need foster homes. We can have all the resources in the world, but if we don't have places to put these guys when they come in, we can't. We can't take them.

We need foster homes.

Main Street
Your hopes and dreams for For Love of Dog Rescue?

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Yeah, I hope we don't need to be around forever. Right? Like you hope that someday that they don't need us anymore and that all of these guys will get a home.

But as long as there's dogs in need, we're going to be here and we're going to be working to provide a space for them.

Main Street
Natalie Johnson-Metcalfe is the president and volunteer of For Love of Dog Rescue. Thank you.

Natalie Johnson-Metcalf, President 4 Luv of Dog Rescue
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.