For the next few weeks, 4 Your Pets will be highlighting Ruff Start Rescue, a unique, non-profit animal rescue in central Minnesota.
Rocky is a Dutch Shepherd who wins the heart of any animal lover he comes across, and he enchanted many WCCO viewers who first met him in November of 2014.
Much like Sylvester Stallone’s legendary underdog character, Rocky has been fighting his whole life.
He was born in a high-kill shelter in Texas with a rare medical condition called megaesophagus, which causes him to throw up his food due to esophageal swelling.
He made his way to Minnesota at four months old with the help of Ruff Start Rescue, and Tonya Burk became his foster parent.
“As Rocky being my first and only ‘full time’ foster thus far, I couldn’t have asked for a better home for him. Although we wanted to adopt him ourselves, my resident cat couldn’t adjust to him and we had to pull our application as we adopted the kitty first,” Burk said.
Rocky only had one adoption application come in for him at Ruff Start, but it would turn out to be destiny.
Burk said his current owner, Moriah, was immediately drawn to his photo on Ruff Start’s website.
“[She] told her husband she wanted to adopt a ‘special needs’ dog,” Burk said. “He thought she was crazy, but she fell in love with him the second she saw his image.”
Rocky is now called Hawkeye, after the beloved character on M*A*S*H, and he lives with his “forever family” in Duluth.
Besides using a specially-made “high chair” to eat, Hawkeye is now at a healthy weight and runs about five miles a day with Moriah!
WCCO first learned about an adorable Chihuahua named Waffles in March of 2013.
Angie Weum, Ruff Start Rescue’s intake coordinator, says Waffles came to Minnesota from a shelter in Missouri, where he was first found roaming the streets at about 4 months old.
“After being with me for only about two weeks, I woke one morning to him being completely lethargic and partially paralyzed on his left side,” Weum said.
Waffles had a massive seizure, and after a trip to the veterinarian, he had another one in the parking lot.
“They would run more tests and observe him over night. I got the call the next morning that the little guy had had multiple seizures overnight and that morning,” she said.
After a battery of tests, the vet suggested putting Waffles to sleep. Weum drove to an emergency vet clinic, where a vet said he would need around-the-clock care for seven to ten days.
“I looked at her and said, ‘Done.’ I think she thought I was nuts, but I was not giving up on him,” Weum said. “I took him home and cleared with my work to work at home for the next week and half. He was never out of my sight.”
Waffles started to lose his hair and developed mange due to the meds he was on, and his nails began to fall off. But he started to come around after a several days.
“In a few weeks he was back to running and playing with the other dogs,” Weum said.
His blood work was still a point of major concern, but after lots of love and care, Waffles finally regained his health after about nine months.
“It was at this point I knew I could let this little guy go, so I adopted my fourth dog. The two of became so attached,” she said. “I am now happy to say that after a year of being seizure-free, he is off all meds and has no issues at all.”
Waffles’ medical bills exceeded $2,000. Ruff Start founder Azure Davis says in 2014, her organization spent $185,000 on vetting expenses alone.
“That’s definitely one area where we get hit hard,” Davis said.
Supplies such as dog food, kennels and blankets are typically donated.
If you would like to make a donation to help Ruff Start, become one of their volunteers, adopt, foster or sponsor an animal, click here.
WCCO has already done several stories that featured Ruff Start Rescue. Click here to check them out!
~ Stephen Swanson