Great White Heron

heronThere is a lot of controversy about whether the great white heron is a subspecies or color morph of the great blue heron, but that was beside the point the day I was called to rescue a great white heron who had swallowed a baited herring in a canal. White herons are not the same as the great white egret we see all over the US in the summer. White herons are much larger, have lighter-colored legs (great white egret legs are black), and number fewer than 2000 individuals. They live in the Florida Keys and on a few Caribbean islands.

Herons and egrets have bills like ice picks so I always wore my dive mask when I worked with them. A fisherman had left his bait in the canal and gone off for whatever and the bird had swallowed the fish. She (that was a guess) was hooked. I took a dog crate with me and literally reeled in this huge bird (as much as five feet tall with a wingspan of six feet) like a giant flying fish.

This was not a job for the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center. This required anesthesia and surgery because the hook was lodged in her throat. Besides, it was nesting season and if this was a female she could have a nest of babies to feed.

The director, Laura Quinn, and I drove north to Miami to a veterinarian who would do the surgery without cost to the center. We left the bird at the vet’s office and were told to come back in a couple of hours. So we went to a local shopping mall to kill some time.

Before I go further with this story, I must describe Laura Quinn to you. She was an exceptional woman whose whole life revolved around the birds. A retired school teacher, almost every cent she had went to the birds. She bought her clothes at the local Salvation Army thrift store. Her door was always open and all kinds of birds walked or flew in and perched on a couch or kitchen counter. She wore flip flops all the time and I don’t believe I ever saw her take the time to comb her hair. For the three years that I knew her, her glasses were taped together with adhesive tape. Often bits of blood and fish guts were dried on her shirt.

So there we were, walking through the mall. A young woman, probably a high schooler in her part-time job, stopped us in the mall to offer us manicure coupons. Laura was still incensed that the stupid fisherman had left his bait unattended in the canal and she wasn’t in the best of moods. She reached out and grabbed this poor girl by the front of her blouse and yelled, “THE WORLD IS GOING TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET AND YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT FINGERNAILS?”

I doubt I’ll ever forget the frozen smile on that girl’s face. She still had it there as Laura dropped her hands and we walked away.

We picked up the bird and delivered her to the same area where she’d been rescued, just in case she had a nest. The vet believed she would recover quickly.

I was writing a weekly column about the Center in the local newspaper, the “Florida Keys Reporter” at the time, so that week I wrote the part of the story about not leaving unattended baits in the water. This is the first time I’ve written “the rest of the story.”

Incidentally, after I left the Keys the Center grew and moved to a property on the bayside where they built real cages and boardwalks with the help of volunteers, fund raisers, and financial gifts. Laura’s gone now, but the Center moved again and is a full-blown wildlife center with 501(c)3 non-profit standing, a web page (, and a Facebook page, all dedicated to “Keep them flying.”



pelican small0090My rescue volunteering wasn’t always limited to four-legged creatures. I moved to the Florida Keys in 1987 and lived there for three years. Strangely enough, there were few dogs needing rescue. There certainly were a lot of cats, but they didn’t want to live in houses. In a place that’s never cold and where food is lying around at the edge of the water, the cats were feral and plentiful.

But there were a lot of injured birds. The Keys are a fishing mecca and fish line and hooks are dangerous.

I heard about the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center and decided to volunteer. It was a pretty casual thing. A bird-loving woman, Laura Quinn, just started taking care of some injured birds and the situation grew out of hand. Volunteers helped her build cages in her oceanside back yard, literally draping wire over mangrove trees in some cases. It was a great place to build cages because the tide cleaned them twice a day.

The day I volunteered, she was excited to hear that I lived on the south end of Key Largo. She liked to assign areas for volunteers to be available to pick up injured birds. She’d get a call and contact the volunteer for that area. She did not have someone for Key Largo.

Not 24 hours later, she called me. There was a pelican wrapped in fishing line floating in the bay close to a mobile home village. Was I available for pick up and delivery?

I was available, and I immediately drove there. When I arrived, several dozen people were standing at the water’s edge. When I approached, they parted like the Red Sea for Moses. One relieved watcher said, “Oh good, here comes the expert.” I had been a volunteer for about 20 hours and I had yet to touch a bird.

Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and it’s always best to appear confident no matter how raw you are. I waded in, picked up the pelican (it could hardly move, it was so wrapped in line), and strode out of the water like a super hero. I actually heard applause from the adoring crowd.

Laura named the pelican Joy, after me. She was uninjured, but emaciated. She had probably been wrapped in the line for some time and she had been unable to get food. Joy needed a lot to eat, but she regained her health after a few weeks and I had the honor of releasing her back into the wild.

Carrying a healthy pelican is somewhat more difficult than carrying an emaciated one that’s wrapped in fishing line. They flap those huge wings and snap those massive bills. At one point she had my whole head in her bill. Her breath smelled like rotting fish.

Joy was almost back in business, just in time for breeding season. I wished her good luck and bent down to set her at the water’s edge. She scrambled and flapped those wings, I slipped on a rock, and both of us were released into the water. She was able to regain her composure much more gracefully than I. By the time I got back up, she was almost out of sight, flying straight for the mangroves.

I have more wild bird rescue stories. I can tell the story of Oz, the Osprey, or the peregrine falcon I was honored to hold. The story of the great white heron who swallowed a baited hook will probably give you a good belly laugh. I’ll keep writing if you are interested.


It was another of those calls from Indianapolis shelter: “We have a white shepherd who is a resource guarder so he’s not adoptable.” Translation: “He’s on the euthanasia list and you’d better get him soon.”

Kadin had been seized by police in a drug bust. He probably hadn’t eaten in a day before he was dumped in the shelter by the police. He was probably really hungry. He was just a year old and needed his food. He did not have a resource-guarding issue.

We didn’t have a foster available for him, but we pulled him, anyway. Sandra Olsen Braun picked him up at the shelter and was really high on him. I got this phone call when she went on and on about his temperament and his beauty. She took him immediately to a big doggie fest in Hancock County. There he received his rabies shot and was adorable with everyone, even though he had just gotten out of the shelter.

Where to put him? Steve Lackey’s kennel was full. A woman who worked for the local shelter had a kennel near by. The others there knew her, so we boarded him there. Sandra and the kennel owner started calling him “Magnum.”

He went on the website quite soon. Sandra was sure of his temperament and because he was so young we thought it was important to get him rehomed as soon as possible. I got email from a man who was the travel manager for a very well-known celebrity. They had a concert in the Indy area that night and he was interested in Magnum.

I picked up the interested party and drove him out to see Magnum. We had him out of the kennel in the fenced yard when the kennel owner put a boxer out there with us. The boxer immediately went for Magnum and Magnum, being very agile, was able to sidestep the charge again and again. Then, when the boxer realized he wouldn’t be able to get Magnum, he turned to the people. We, Magnum and people, got the hell out of there in a hurry. I think the potential adopter was turned off by the whole episode. He eventually adopted another dog from Echo Dogs.

I was really anxious to find another place for this dog. Thankfully, Susan Fishbein, the former Echo Dogs president, was interested in a dog who could be her training partner. We agreed immediately and set up the transport. Then this kennel manager decided he couldn’t go because she hadn’t met Susan in person. Excuse me? This is OUR dog, we paid his board, and we approve Susan, and you are saying he can’t go?

He went. Susan changed his name to Kadin (means “companion”) but her old border collie said “NO, we won’t be putting another dog in this house.” Susan kept them apart until Kadin could go to Melanie Hoover, a former Echo Dogs adopter, who wanted an agility dog.

Now he’s home where he belongs, training for agility, AKC and CPE registered as Echo’s Mi Amigote, and off to a great life as a companion and working dog. Whew! Safe!
Kadin 2

The Cowboy and the Ivy

I know, that was a feeble attempt at creating an interesting title, and it doesn’t mean a thing to you if you don’t know the lovely carol, “The Holly and the Ivy,” but you have to give me some credit for trying to be creative.

I was called to a southern Indiana shelter to pick up a female white shepherd. They had found her on the local IvyTech campus where the students were feeding her every kind of junk food imaginable. She proved to be a lovely dog, although a little more rotund than the typical shelter rescue.

While I was there the shelter manager brought out a puppy with leg problems. They thought he had rickets. They had taken him to their vet and their vet suggested euthanasia but the manager and employees liked him so much they were hoping we would take him and maybe feed him what he needed. I took one look and realized that the boy they had named Cowboy (because he was bowlegged) actually suffered from a condition called knuckling over, caused by an uneven growth pattern in the front legs. This is seen mostly in large dogs. It can be caused by the amount and quality of the food along with the amount of exercise to strengthen the ligaments and muscles. It is quite reversible if seen early enough, but Cowboy was passed that time, I thought.

But I knew Echo Dogs can do anything and this pup was so happy and adorable I couldn’t leave him there.

It was a fun 2-hour drive back to Indianapolis with Ivy snoozing in the back seat and Cowboy licking me on the neck and right ear all the way. Both dogs were happy to be out of the shelter, but I must give the shelter a high grade for how they took care of their charges and worked at finding rescues.

Carolyn Wineinger had agreed to foster Ivy, and after she got her, she informed me that Ivy was “the perfect dog.” She was kind, quiet, good with cats and kids, housetrained, and everything else you want in a dog. Strangely enough, she wasn’t sought after by adopters. She was on the website for quite a while before she was adopted to a great home in Chicago. Her “dad” tells us periodically how wonderful she is. The day she arrived he took her to the pet store to let her pick out her new bed. He sent us this picture:

Cowboy, on the other hand, didn’t have a promised foster. I dropped him off with Sandra and Dennis Braun. In the meantime, Terry Demag talked with Gretchen Knittle, who agreed to foster Cowboy. Here is Cowboy at Sandra’s house.
cowboy's legs

Sandra took him to her vet and worried herself sick over his front legs. He went on a transport to Gretchen, who worried herself sick over his front legs. Finally, an orthopedic vet suggested wraps and no surgery and, while he would always be a bit bowlegged, he would be able to manage his weight quite well.

Cowboy was finally adopted to his forever family in Florida, but not before Gretchen was really, really sure it was a fit. He was terrified of men and this potential adopter couple included a man. Gretchen made them drive NINE HOURS to her house to meet him. They had to stay nearby for four days and, finally, after a sleepover when it was obvious Cowboy had bonded with both of them, she let him be adopted. He has a whole page of his own on their business website:

Click on the “A Story of Love and Rescue” tab to see a more recent picture of Cowboy.

My Chicago vet once told me that, while it wouldn’t save the world, “one dog at a time” was still a good thing, and this was twice that, so I guess it was twice a good thing.


Deeoghee and MooHis owner had died and he was being cared for by her niece and family. They wanted us to take Deeohgee (as in D.O.G.) because their smaller dog didn’t like him in the house. Susan Fishbein, former Echo Dogs president, did the evaluation for us and fell in love pretty much instantly.

Deeohgee is a senior dog (over seven years old) and had a couple of medical problems. Susan noticed his limp, which turned out to be a partially torn cruciate ligament. To make matters worse for him, he was attacked by his first foster’s Pyrenees. He also had significant bladder stones.

His heart, though, is full of love, and everyone who meets him sees that right away.

He first went to a new foster, but when he was attacked by her Pyrenees, he went right to the vet’s office. There he got the surgeries and wound treatment he needed. He spent well over a week at the vet’s getting over the bladder surgery. He just didn’t bounce back right away.

Then he went to Carolyn Wineinger’s place for R and R and lots of love from Carolyn’s nephew, Isaac, including nose rubs, which he especially enjoys. Look at that smile!
Carolyn brought him to the Indy Pet Expo where he charmed thousands. He was a wonderful ambassador for white shepherds and Echo Dogs.

Then, an advocate for senior dogs adopted him! In a recent email, Jennifer wrote the advantages of adopting a senior dog. She mentioned how nice it is to get a dog that is already housetrained and doesn’t chew up inappropriate items.

So, Deeohgee left all his admirers behind and went north. He took along a little piece of my heart.

The story of Jasper

Jasper FB
The email from Indianapolis shelter talked about a “stunning white shepherd” who was friendly, but a resource guarder so he was not adoptable. He had been turned in by his owner because he kept jumping their three-foot fence and getting loose. I knew Steve Lackey, the behaviorist who is a good friend to Echo Dogs, could train him out of resource guarding, and I knew that the shelter often made mistakes about that particular behavioral problem, so I said Echo Dogs would take him.

I was not in Indy at the time so Melanie Roberts picked him up at the shelter and took him to a vet’s office for shots, heartworm test, and overnight boarding. Like so many white dogs, his name was “Casper.” Melanie changed it to “Jasper” so it wouldn’t be so common.

The employees of the vet’s office complained loudly about the wild, crazy wolfdog. My heart sank. Indiana is known for doing a lot of wolfdog breeding, and we’d accidentally had a couple of them in the Echo Dogs organization. So often the dog is nervous around people, hard to contain, and so anxious at being left alone they can be very destructive. People often think it is “cool” to have a dog that is part wolf, and they buy one (sometimes they pay as much as $2000) and the poor animal, unfit for domestic or wild, ends up being euthanized in a shelter somewhere because they don’t know how to care for it.

So, now that I’m off my soap box about wolfdog breeding (incidentally, “wolfdog” is the accepted term, not “wolf hybrid”), I’ll get back to Jasper.

He went to Steve’s place, and they bonded very quickly. Surprisingly, resource guarding was not an issue. His picture went up on the Echo Dogs website, and we were very honest about his possible breeding and the difficulties adopters could face. He was adopted twice. His first adopter left him alone in a privacy-fenced yard and he ate wood to get out. He ended up in emergency veterinary care and Echo Dogs had to pay to get him out. His second adopters tried very hard to provide a home for him, and loved him very much (still do, actually), but he got out through a window and caused some neighborhood havoc.

In eighteen months in Steve’s kennel, he was in homes only twice, a week at a time.

Meanwhile, I moved to Montana, a place where wolfdogs are not illegal. I decided to adopt him, but Montana is far away from Indiana and the weather was never right through the winter to put him on a flight transport. Paula Sabo, who adopted the mama (Emma/Ziva) to my ten foster puppies, decided on a road trip and actually drove Jasper to us. They arrived the last day of February this year.

He was very bonded to Paula after that trip. But Paula went back to Ohio and he was stuck with us.

We’ve not been forthcoming about declaring Jasper’s breeding until this blog, and we don’t know for sure that he is a wolfdog. Most vets and lots of people see it in him right away. But wolfdogs are common in NW Montana, and the vets here will treat him like any other dog, although I always list him as a shepherd/husky mix because I really don’t know what he is. The vets here tell me that medications (and anesthesia, if necessary) are interchangeable, in spite of what you may hear in other parts of the country.

Nicole Wilde’s books about wolfdogs have been very useful to us, just in case we needed that help. Most of you know about his escapades, taking off and running through the forests. He now wears a Tagg pet tracker GPS just in case, but he’s settled in nicely now and he’s pretty much like any other dog, although we have to be very careful about keeping him from taking off on a joy trip. We had a difficult time getting him housetrained. We worked very carefully through the separation anxiety problem. David takes the three big dogs for long walks every morning and he often takes Duke (golden retriever) and Jasper for trips to the local lake. Duke swims, of course. Jasper watches. Consequently, Jasper has become David’s dog and looks to me only for food, bedtime, and butt scratches.

I could do a DNA, of course, but I’d rather be able to say we really don’t know what he is, he’s just the family dog (who, with a look, can do more as a watch dog than most dogs can with a bark).
Jasper Face


CindyShe came to Echo Dogs with her daughter, a pup named Mindy. Mindy was heartworm negative and got a new forever home right away. Cindy, though, like so many dogs brought into rescue, needed heartworm treatment. Since one of the few vets around who had the heartworm treatment medication is in Indianapolis, Mindy went to Carolyn Wineinger’s house for fostering.

Cindy is a sweet girl, but, boy is she protective! She could be the Wikipedia illustration for Watch Dog. Carolyn’s young nephew had friends in the neighborhood, of course, and the boys would run in and out of the house without thought for the four-legged Glock living inside. Carolyn handled it as long as she could, but it was obvious that Cindy needed some professional help.

Steve Lackey, the behaviorist in the Indy area who is such a good friend to Echo Dogs, agreed to help Cindy. She went to Steve’s place and learned a lot about people coming and going and playing with other dogs. One of Cindy’s closest dog friends was Jasper, who will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog. They played a lot.

Lisa Vest met Steve at a local function. He introduced her to Cindy, and the Vest family adopted her.

It wasn’t easy! Cindy immediately bonded to Lisa and didn’t want anyone else near her, including family members. Lisa’s husband was not immediately allowed to come in to his own house! But things got better, and, since the Vests live near Steve, he continued giving them help. It wasn’t long before Cindy was sleeping in people beds.

One of the things Cindy needed was a friend. So Lisa agreed to foster a pup. Remember that litter that broke with parvovirus right after they were pulled? One of the pups didn’t get parvo, and needed to be separated from his littermates immediately. So Ruger went to be Cindy’s buddy and was later adopted by them.


Rugar, now about nine months old, is very black and Cindy is very white. They make a great pair. Lisa says they play almost constantly.

Cindy’s protectiveness is not completely corralled. She is a work in progress, but the Vest family is committed to helping her relax and enjoy company. She is in the right forever place!