For the next few weeks, 4 Your Pets will be highlighting Ruff Start Rescue, a unique, non-profit animal rescue in central Minnesota.

WCCO viewers may remember Jayla from a story we did in January. The Boxer mix was found wandering the streets in Alabama by a vet tech.

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Her fur was almost entirely gone due to mange, she had heartworm was very malnourished. Luckily, Jayla made her way to Minnesota with the help of Ruff Start Rescue.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“There was never any owner found,” Ruff Start founder Azure Davis said. “They weren’t sure what her history was there.”

The boxer mix was given the named “Jayla” in honor of Jayla Rodriguez, 8, who was killed by dogs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 2014. In their grief, the girl’s family decided to open an animal shelter in her memory to help wayward animals, like the ones that took their girl’s young life.

Jayla is currently with Shannon Peterson, her foster parent.

“We began fostering Jayla mid-March,” Peterson said. “We searched for rescues in Minnesota and came across Ruff Start’s website and found her on there. We instantly knew we wanted her then.”

Jayla, who is now just a few months short of 2-year-old, is a much healthier pooch.

(credit: Shannon Peterson)

(credit: Shannon Peterson)

“Right now the only health concern Jayla has is that she is heartworm positive,” Peterson said. “Otherwise, she is in perfect health now!”

Jayla just started treatment for heartworm and is expected to make a full recovery. They plan on officially adopting her once her medical issues have been cleared up.

She also has an animal pal at her new home — a 4-year-old Shepherd/Retriever mix named Luke.

“They get along very well, although we say she is like the annoying little sister to him,” she said. “They love playing together, except she steals all of Luke’s toys from him. She also gets along well with all our family members and strangers she meets, always wants to be petted and is quite the snuggle bug.”

Jayla is a lot of fun to have around the house, but she sometimes gets laughs at her own expense.

“When we open the sliding door for outside, she gets excited and forgets there is a screen door,” Peterson said. “She ends up running right into [it].”

She is also known for her adorable underbite.

“Her top lip gets stuck on it often, and she’ll walk around like that until someone fixes it,” she said. “Can’t help but laugh and tell her how cute she is!”

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Peterson says she can’t even tell that Jayla had such a rough start.

“It has been a very rewarding experience having Jayla around,” she said. “She is just a little love bug to everyone.”

She also praises the folks at Ruff Start, and their huge community of fosters.

“The staff has been there for us with any issues or concerns we have had, and helps us get them resolved ASAP,” Peterson said. “The other fosters in the community have been very supportive and helpful, especially Jayla’s previous foster, Melissa [Kubiszewski].”


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.

But the organization has found a unique way to advertise their work to the public — with pulltabs!

(credit: Ruff Start Rescue)

(credit: Ruff Start Rescue)

“It’s the first animal rescue pulltab game ever!” Davis said. “We are trying to get it into bars and organizations throughout Minnesota to help spread the word about RSR and promote adopting, volunteering, fostering and donating.”

Davis works as a distributor for the company that makes them — Pulltabs Plus.

“We do not get any proceeds back from the game, just the exposure,” Davis said. “However, the organizations who purchase gambling supplies — bingo, pulltabs, etc. — are non-profits themselves and most of them give back to the community.”

A few organizations in Minnesota that have purchased RSR’s pulltabs have already donated anywhere from $300 to $1,000 to Ruff Start.

(credit: Ruff Start Rescue)

(credit: Ruff Start Rescue)

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

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From pit bulls to pet rocks, 4 Your Pets covers it all. If you have a great animal companion story, pet-related event or video that deserves a spotlight, email