Some dog folks just can’t help themselves — in a good way!
By Pat Nordquist, President/Founder of Gundogz Rescue.org
Some people just can’t help themselves. My mother was like that. When she noticed an obvious stray dog that looked like it had missed a few meals, she would scrape together some leftovers and lovingly put it out to feed it. It was just one of many fond memories, important life lessons, that she unwittingly taught us through actions not lecturing.
Looking back, with 67 years in my own rear-view mirror, I have come to realize and appreciate ever more my mother’s intrinsic generosity and compassion. For a sergeant’s wife with seven little mouths of her own to feed, she never allowed economics to determine her values.
Clearly, the proverbial apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. In spite of having six hunting dogs of my own to feed and care for, four years ago I decided to start a registered 501(c) 3 “hunting dog” rescue organization - Gundogz Rescue Not necessarily for a particular breed or two but, more specifically, for all real hunting dogs, the ones that actually hunt. Just like the ones you and I own. This is not a case of dog snobbery. I sincerely applaud all dog rescue efforts, period. However, true gundogs in need of re-homing are different. Very different. They think and act differently than your average “pet.” Most of them actually thrive in challenging circumstances where more is demanded of them than to just sit, stay and come. They often demand and require activity, structure and training to feel fulfilled. And when they don’t get it, they can become restless and often develop bad habits strictly out of boredom.
I hear it every day from frustrated dog owners that realize they greatly underestimated the commitment required to own and properly care for their well-bred bird dog. As a result, the more noble-minded owners realize that they and their beloved pet would be much happier if their dog lived in a home of experienced hunting dog owners. A home where they actually get to do what they were bred to do — hunt.
We have also discovered there is an entire segment of active hunters that have, through no fault of their own, had life-changing circumstances that unfairly impact their beloved hunting do.
Surprisingly, we have only encountered two dogs in four years with “baggage” that affected their being adopted.
Moose, an adopted 5-year-old Chocolate Lab with service dog certifications, is very experienced in hunting waterfowl as well as upland birds all over the country.
One found the perfect new owner and the other is still living at my home while the search continues. Take the time to read the testimonials. They go a long way to explain why we are experiencing so much success in what we do. Another important factor is the number of willing volunteers that contribute to our nationwide efforts.
As a member of NAVHDA, I have experienced first-hand the willingness of different chapter members all around the country, to step up and help out. Much like my mom, they just can’t help themselves!
One NAVHDA member in Georgia happens to be a Delta pilot. When he learned we had a hunting dog in our system with registered service dog qualifications that we were trying to get transported to Washington state, he personally contacted a friend, another Delta pilot in Seattle, who went out of his way to fly back to Atlanta on a red-eye flight with space available, then board the next available return flight with the dog on a lead in the cabin and flew back to Seattle and met me at the arrivals area to deliver the dog. All on his personal time for free. He actually thanked me for letting him be a part of Moose’s journey.
Some help by fostering and evaluating the dogs. NAVHDA members with hunt test experience are a perfect fit for this important feature of our program. Still others can help with transporting, while some prefer to help by making tax deductible donations to the Rescue. It all has come together to make Gundogz Rescue very successful at what we do. We have not had a single failed adoption in four years. Over time, we plan on sharing heartwarming stories with VHD magazine that will bring a tear to your eyes and leave you shaking your head in amazement.
One recent Gundogz experience will explain how a nine-year-old autistic boy had his life forever changed by Willie Nelson. Another will detail the emotional recovery of an avid hunter that completely gave up hunting after the loss of his beloved hunting dog, that is, until Maddox came into his life. And stories of how some senior hunting dogs provided the perfect fit for senior hunters that needed experience over youthful enthusiasm to continue as active bird hunters.
Our mission statement contains the goal of providing deserving dogs and their owners with practical solutions where everybody wins. I myself won by permanently adopting Tessa, a 7-year-old pointer that is a dog of a lifetime. It certainly never hurts to practice what you preach, thanks again Mom. My only regret was not starting Gundogz Rescue sooner. Visit gundogzrescue.org for more.
This story originally appeared in the January 2023 edition of Versatile Hunting Dog Magazine.