Need to Rehome Your Dog? Here’s How. (Not Judging).

This boy could have been re-homed from the comfort of his own home rather than spending stressful weeks at a shelter, but the owner didn’t know how. Photo by Cheryl Smith Dispenza.


Ideally our pets are a life long commitment, but I believe there’s no shame in rehoming a pet if life throws more at you than you can handle.

People get evicted, lose jobs, develop allergies, get called for active duty, go into nursing homes and even die unexpectedly (and sometimes their grieving kids are in no position to keep those pets). The sad thing is, most people have no idea how to find a new home for their pet. This is one of many reasons why so many companion animals end up in overcrowded municipal shelters.

Several times each year people call and ask me how to re-home their dog. I used to tell them to post cute pictures and a great ad on Craigslist, screen prospective adopters carefully, meet in a public place, spay or neuter the dog first and be sure to charge a rehoming fee (because free dogs can meet gory ends as bait dogs in dog fighting rings). But not everyone knows how to write a good pet bio, is comfortable collecting a rehoming fee, or is comfortable posting on Craigslist.

Last week I attended the Humane Society of the United StatesAnimal Care Expo in New Orleans and learned about an amazing online service from and the Petco Foundation. This service allows individual pet owners to re-home their pets in a safe and relatively easy way (it’s the same service to which only animal shelters and rescues previously had access). Not only that, the service collects a rehoming fee and donates it to the rehomer’s local animal shelter.

Companion Animal Alliance, the municipal shelter where I volunteer in Baton Rouge, took in 56 dogs in three weeks recently, so the need for this is enormous. Here’s the link: I hope you’ll share it on social media.

People in animal rescue have been known to get compassion fatigue, burned out by the sheer number of crappy, heartless people out there dumping pets for what seems like no good reason at shelters and by the side of the road. Sure, there are crappy, heartless people. But I have also fostered a rat terrier brought to the shelter because his family, sobbing as they let him go, had lost their home and was on their way to a shelter themselves. I fostered a shepherd mix whose owner got a job working on an offshore oil rig and would have to be gone for days at a time with nobody home . And I fostered a Pomeranian whose owner died. Her husband couldn’t care for the dog, so he dropped him off at the shelter where the dog had a total meltdown. Freaked out in his kennel and and snapping at virtually everyone, the foster coordinator was going to have to euthanize him but first called and asked if I would take him home to see if he would be different outside of the shelter. Fortunately, the dog took a shine to me in her office. A few hours into his stay at our house, he took a shine to everyone. Wouldn’t it have been great if the husband hadn’t had to put him through the stress of being at a shelter at all? Maybe if he’d known about this, he would have made a better choice.  Here’s the link again:

Thanks for loving all the critters out there, like I do.

Sugarbear Rose

Sugarbear Rose

It was 2012, I don’t remember the month. I think it was around Christmas, since there are only two seasons in Louisiana: Summer and Christmas.  What I do remember was a desperate plea from shelter workers to get one of their favorites, a dog named Sugarbear, out of the shelter. She had been there for months and her time was up.

A black chow mix about 7 years old, Sugarbear had been picked up by animal control in the summer. Someone had reported a dog chained up outside an abandoned house, baking in the hot sun without food or water. Her matted hair, which hadn’t been groomed in a long time, if ever, had turned to bleached dreadlocks. Here’s what she looked like on intake:




With new dogs coming into the shelter every day that hadn’t had the chance to be adopted, it wasn’t fair to give Sugarbear any more time. She was heart worm positive. She wouldn’t go potty in her kennel and was getting urinary tract infections, possibly from holding it for too long (most shelter dogs are lucky to get one walk per day, and that’s only if staff are free to do it or if volunteers come in regularly). But she was such a love; mellow and sweet. She was like a big Zen teddy bear who hung back and didn’t get off her bed when prospective adopters came to check out dogs. Everyone at the shelter wanted Sugarbear to be adopted and have a Happily Ever After. Early on, a couple of volunteers spent hours cutting mats out of her hair and giving her a bath.

I avoided fostering large female dogs at the time because I was worried my two female dogs, Stella and Luna, would pick fights. But I couldn’t let Sugarbear go down. It just feels horrible when an easy-going dog with a great personality has to be euthanized because the shelter is full.

I didn’t have a plan exactly, and I didn’t tell my husband what I was doing as I left for the shelter after seeing “Last Call” for Sugarbear in a private Facebook group for volunteers. I figured it would work out because what I learned early on is that it always does, one way or another.  When I got there, this is what I saw:

Sugarbear Rose


Yes, that’s a smiling Zen teddy bear. The assistant shelter director gave me a huge hug and looked like she was going to burst into tears as Sugarbear and I left. As we got out of the car in my driveway, I dreaded the thought of setting her up in our kennel in the shed, which was what became my plan on the drive home. Sugarbear was on the older side and it was on the colder side. Even though we had a safe space heater out there, I didn’t like the thought of it.

But just as I started to head down the driveway, my neighbor from across the street came over to say hello. The next thing I knew, she was going to let Sugarbear have a sleepover at her house. Two fosters and a few months later, a man named George read about Sugarbear’s heartworm status and stepped up to pay for the treatment. What a guy! He couldn’t adopt her, he said, because he had a crazy beagle named Scout who was totally out of hand and George couldn’t manage another dog. But George loved Chow Chows and that’s what Sugarbear looked like.  He wanted her to be well and adopted.



One weekend, what seemed like a nice family did adopt Sugarbear. But less than 24 hours later, they decided she wasn’t active enough for them and returned her to the shelter. When I told George, he was very upset. I asked him a few questions about the nature of Scout’s craziness, recommended regular exercise for the dog and a great dog trainer and did my best to sway George into giving Sugarbear a try in his home. It was clear to me that George and Sugarbear were meant to be together, and after an overnight, it was clear to George too. He named her Sugarbear Rose and called her Rosie. Sometimes he called her The Dude, a reference to the laid back stoner character in the film, “The Big Lebowski.” Sugarbear Rose had a lot of fans, but nobody loved her more than George and Scout did.



Rose at George’s house.

Rose playing with George's crazy beagle, Scout.

Rose playing with George’s crazy beagle, Scout.


“For three years and twelve days Rosie was a miracle in my life,” George says.

Sugarbear Rose passed away on Friday, at age 10, from complications related to her years of neglect. “I’ll not expect to see her kind again, animal or person,” George says. “She was the kindest, sweetest thing I have ever encountered. Having Rose was a great privilege.”

Meeting George has been a great privilege for me too.  I’m so relieved to know there are people like him out there. Thanks for giving this beautiful being three great years, George! Because of you, she got every shelter dog’s dream.

Rose in all her glory, photographed bye Jeannie Frey Rhodes

Rose in all her glory, photographed by Jeannie Frey Rhodes


If you would like to donate to help dogs at Companion Animal Alliance, the open-intake municipal shelter in Baton Rouge where Sugarbear Rose was housed and adored, please click here:!donate/ctzx

If you would like to help dogs at Friends of the Animals in Baton Rouge, a rescue organization that holds offsite adoption events that Rose attended and now has an amazing Dog Adoption House in Baton Rouge, please click here:

And if you are looking for a senior dog to call your own, be sure to follow Susie’s Senior dogs on Facebook



Only Connect

“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer.”

E.M. Forester


If you were my student when I was teaching Freshman Comp many years ago, I might have asked you to journal on this. Now I’ll just hurl my interpretation of it at you and then get to a great little rescue story that just happened.

Why are we here? Human love. (And dog love. Cat love. Love, love, love!)

What should we connect? The prose and the passion. (Work and passion! Living and passion! Whatever: Just live in your freaking passion.)

Why shouldn’t we live in fragments? Because our work, our passion and our love may miss the opportunity to be exalted.

So how should we work? Together.

Thanks for indulging me.

Very often, people who work in animal rescue do so because they love animals, but they’re really not crazy about people and sometimes they’re bad at working together. Having good people skills, however, means you will inevitably be able to place more animals in loving homes. First, the public doesn’t want to  deal with cranky animal rescuers who make them feel bad about themselves. Second, when people who work with shelter animals get along well with each other, they are able to network animals into many more wonderful, loving homes than they might otherwise.

Meet my friend, Jodi (she’s the one on the right, I’m on the left):


Jodi and I are both Crazy Dog Ladies, Yankees in Louisiana and moms with three kids. We do not share hair type. We do not share politics. We have sparred on Facebook in the past about Big Issues. But we also crack each other up and we have a deep appreciation for each other’s good heart.  Jodi and I have each other’s backs —  not  including the time she almost cut off my finger at the shelter while showing me how to groom a matted Shih Tzu while we sparred about the upcoming Presidential election. We both actually think this is really funny, so we share a twisted sense of humor too.

So when Teddy arrived in Boston a couple of weeks ago and his adopter’s sister fell in love with him and said, “I want a dog like Teddy too!” All I had to do was look at Jodi’s Facebook page to see that she was fostering this guy, Rasta, who  had come into the shelter a dreadlocky mess with a terrible cold. The shelter vets fixed him up with meds, the assistant shelter director, Paula Shaw, did a beautiful job on him with the clippers, and he came out like this:



I asked Jodi what his temperament was like and she said calm, sweet and snuggly.

Sounded like Teddy.

Looked enough like Teddy too. Am I right?


I messaged Teddy’s mom, Claire, and shared his info with her. She shared it with her sister. We were honest that Rasta is not yet house trained, but that being recently neutered would help. As would a magical contraption called a “belly band.” Like Claire, her sister is amazing and this was a non-issue for her.

She adopted Rasta by phone. She booked him a trip on the Rescue Road Trips bus. Jodi is going out of town this week and needed  help, so Rasta is here at my house for the next 48 hours, and then he’s on his way to New England to be a Yankee who loves Louisiana. Like me. Like Jodi. Screw the fragments. Only connect.


If you would like to donate to help dogs at Companion Animal Alliance, the open-intake municipal shelter in Baton Rouge where Teddy and Rasta once lived, please click here:!donate/ctzx 

And thank you! 

Toshie & Friends (part 2)


Another guest blog from my friend, Lily: 

I am very happy to report that Toshie is stronger than ever! Today she hits 3 weeks old and I have very high expectations for this little girl. I began syringe feeding her wet food mixed with formula. The first attempt was successful, but a lot messier than I imagined it would be. Even with a towel in my lap, this was the state of my clothes after feeding! At this point, she will even try and eat on her own, typically dunking her entire face into the bowl of gruel.Image

She has also graduated to her “big girl” crate, since she became so adept at climbing out of her nesting box. She has gained another possible breed distinguishing characteristic: little spots on her white socks! So Aussie? Border collie? Time to start playing guess Toshie’s breed!

Toshie has met a bunch of friends along the way at adoption events. They are a little easier to see now that her eyes have fully opened, but you don’t need good eye-site to chew on someone’s finger! And call me crazy (because I probably am!), but Toshie has two new siblings. Two baby kittens that didn’t quite know how to eat on their own came into the shelter at only 3-4 weeks old. I took them to the home of the founder of Project Purr, Peggy Polk, to try them on two momma cats. One was completely insulted by the assumption that she would take care of them while the other, while not as overtly nasty, showed complete indifference. And that’s how they came home with me. One is a Himalayan that was pre-adopted the very first night I took them home. I am not even quite sure what gender that one is because it is such a little fluffy thing! It is the sister I sympathize with. An adorable little thing with gigantic eyes that would typically get her noticed by just about anyone is immediately passed over next to her gorgeous sibling. I have named her Umeko (patience in Japanese) because she is patiently awaiting someone that will be able to withstand the allures of a fluffy kitten and love her! They are both surprisingly social for little babies and are also transitioning to wet food. Bubbie, my Boxer/Bulldog foster who is still looking for his forever home, loves to  assist me in gently “cleaning” the babies in between syringe-fulls.



I know it is blasphemy to advocate for the kitties on a blog titled “Dog by Dog,” but once again I send out a desperate plea for bottle babies fosters, especially for kittens. A lot that come in just need a little education on the marvels of wet food and are all set to eat on their own. It is the season and everyone can do something to help. Please email me if you would like to give it a try at:


Thanks again for following Toshie’s story. Along with all the wet food, milk, and fingers, she is eating up all those positive thoughts!