Anyone can say they rescue dogs. They take in a few dogs and try to rehome them. But after a decade of volunteer work at various shelters and animal sanctuaries in several states, Becky Dilba knew that she wanted to do things right, and open a legitimate rescue by the book. In 2016, she and her business partner Cheri Mulligan did the necessary work and founded a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Misunderstood Mutts Rescue (MMR). They started out in Olympia, Bellingham and Portland, bringing dogs over from Eastern Washington and now hope to recruit more foster homes and raise awareness here in Becky’s town of Olympia.
Their emphasis is local. “There are a lot of groups now that bring dogs in from other areas, even other states and other countries,” Becky says. “But we want to help unwanted dogs that are already here get in a secure, forever home. Our motto is ‘Local Rescue Helping Local Dogs.’”
As a geologist in her day job, Becky travels to Yakima often and would almost always come across stray or abandoned dogs. After catching and returning what dogs she could, she found that in many cases the owners were apathetic or uninterested in keeping their animals any longer. Becky knew something had to be done about these “throwaway dogs.” but also wanted to help the abused and neglected ones. After operating now for over a year, MMR has found the unwanted pet problem to be true in Bellingham and Portland area and she believes it’s also an issue here in Thurston County.
Housing Crisis Affects the Two- and Four-legged
One of main issues facing these areas is the housing crisis. “Thurston County is headed into a housing crisis and we already have a lot of huge homeless crisis,” Becky explains. “When someone loses their home, they often don’t know what to do with their dog. Many times they just turn them loose.”
When circumstances change and families cannot keep their dogs, many want to do what’s right, but run into a wall. Shelters charge for relinquishment and financial circumstances prevent some from paying the fee. Instead, they put an ad on Facebook or Craigslist and hope they find a good home. Sometimes dogs do, sometimes they don’t. That’s where Misunderstood Mutts comes in. As a legitimate nonprofit with a transparent website full of information, Becky and Cheri are not only there to help dogs, but to help people find resources, too.
Once they have a dog in their care, Misunderstood Mutts ensures they are examined by a veterinarian, spayed or neutered (when medically sound), socialized, vaccinated and have any other medical or behavioral issues addressed. This can include paying for a professional trainer when needed. “We strive to place the right dog with the right family and our process requires not only an application, but a home check, references, a meet-and-greet with a representative from Misunderstood Mutts performing proper introduction techniques,” explains Becky.
And, their support doesn’t stop when a dog is adopted. “We just got a call about a dog we adopted out a year ago,” Becky shares. “He is having some health issues and the owner wasn’t sure what to do. We helped them out by connecting them with a specialist. We are here to assist them any way we feasibly can for the life of their dog.”
Becky half-jokes that she owns 62 dogs. That’s the number they adopted out during their first year of operations and in her eyes, they are all still a part of her family.
“We get calls daily here in Thurston County from people with dogs, but we can’t take any until we get fosters. So, we need fosters…like now!” exclaims Becky.
Fosters for Misunderstood Mutts are not simply given a dog and left on their own. “We support our fosters fully, from the time they take in their dog until they are adopted out,” Becky says. This includes providing all basic needs of the dog, including food, vet visits, grooming and training, leash, collar, etc. Foster dog parents can purchase these necessities or beds and toys if they wish, but are never obligated to.
“We are here for the dogs, but we want the people to be happy too,” says Becky. “So for example if a dog ends up being too much energy for a foster, we will pay for day care or a walker to come and give them exercise, to support the foster while we look for a better match.”
Potential fosters fill out an application, including two personal references and a vet reference (if available), then participate in a home check. Typical commitment is a month – about two weeks of assessment and getting the dog ready for adoption and then roughly two weeks for the dog to find a home. “It’s great for people who want a dog but can’t commit to a full lifespan because they move around a lot or may not be able to afford the care, like military families and college students,” Becky suggests.
Since Becky and Cheri are volunteers, taking no money for driving even to Yakima to facilitate a rescue placement with a local foster, all monies donated go directly to caring for these dogs while in foster care. Even if you can’t foster, you can help local dogs by donating money or in-kind items such as food, new beds, blankets, toys, collars and leashes.
For more information about becoming a foster, visit the Misunderstood Mutts Rescue website or connect with them on Facebook. Donations are always welcomed via PayPal or Combined Fund Drive, and volunteers are always needed. Your perfect dog companion, for a month or a lifetime, might be waiting for you.