Satisfaction pays the bills for dog rescues


PETS: Research your breed before adopting, volunteer advises.

Kari Thorene, The Bellingham Herald

BLAINE -- Elleny Naslund considers her house a sort of doggy halfway house, part shelter and part foster home.

At any given time, about a half dozen Shih Tzus and Lhasa Apsos (three hers, the rest recovering from abandonment) can be found lounging in her immaculate living room or roaming her gardens.

"There's a lot of dogs out there to be rescued," Naslund explained.

The 18-year Blaine resident is part of an online network of people dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and adoption of neglected pets.

Big Web sites like review shelters to make sure their practices are up to snuff, and introduce pet rescuers to potential adoptive families. The Internet site, which requires a strict review of shelter credentials before listing them, catalogs 85 shelters in Washington state, alone.

Naslund estimates 20 to 30 dogs have passed through her home in the year she's opened it to neglected and abandoned Shih Tzus and Lhasa Apsos. She accepts only those breeds because she's most experienced handling them.

Naslund got started after she bought Miko, a Shih Tzu puppy. She went to the Internet to research the breed, and from there learned about abandoned dogs.

"I just couldn't stand it," Naslund said. "When you have one of these dogs, you'll understand. They are just so sweet."

Early on, Naslund took in a few dogs (and kept one -- Kobi, an abused Shih Tzu from Idaho) through word of mouth and an Internet e-mail service for people dedicated to rescuing Shih Tzus.

Starting last summer, when Naslund started her own Web site,, she has been deluged with requests for dogs and with tips on abused and abandoned ones.

"When we started out, I made a rule that we would do this, but only one dog at a time," explained Rick Naslund, Elleny's husband. "We've been 'one dog at a time' once."

Through contacts across the country, mainly in California, Naslund finds out about dogs left unclaimed and unwanted at rescue shelters and pounds.

"A lot of people see these dogs matted with lacerated eyes and they pass them over," she explained.

Rehabilitating the dogs can require eye surgery and lots of grooming to deal with severe matting, costs Naslund doesn't expect to recover.

SUPPORT SERVICE: Elleny Naslund blows kisses to
one of the three Shih Tzu she is trying to find homes for.

"There is no profit in this," she said. "With older dogs, it can take $300 or more just getting them up. You can't ask that in an adoption fee."

Although the Internet expanded the number of dogs Naslund rescues and the number of adoption requests, it poses some problems.

"When people ask for dogs, the first thing I find out is where they are. Nobody checks to see if I'm in Washington state," Naslund said, laughing.

Naslund requires adoptive families to be in the state, so she can visit their homes before adoption. That's what she did with Niki Wilke, an optician's aide in Silverdale who adopted Lady, a one-eyed Shih Tzu rescued by Naslund six weeks ago.

Wilke heard about Naslund's Web site from her employer after searching the area for Shih Tzus.

"Around here, it's hard to go to a pet store and get a dog," she explained. "It's either the pound or a breeder."

By the time Wilke contacted Naslund, she had a list of requirements for the dog.

"I wanted her potty-trained and I wanted her to be gentle with kids," said Wilke, who has two young daughters.

People thinking about adopting a pet should do some research first, Naslund said. Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu puppies, for example, are cute, but have long fur that require frequent brushings and trips to a groomer. Because of the dogs' bulgy eyes and long hair, special care needs to be taken to protect their eyes from frequent infection. Failure to do so can leave the dogs with lacerated eyes and, eventually, blindness.

That's what happened to Lady when Naslund took her in. Wilke said the missing eye didn't deter her from adopting the dog.

"She really fits into our household," Wilke said. "She's just a sweetie, and her one eye isn't at all a handicap."

That's why the Naslunds say they pour time and money into rescuing dogs.

"We have a great sense of satisfaction by putting a lost little dog in a home," Rick Naslund said. "We get e-mails and pictures all the time from people who have adopted our dogs."

Reach Kari Thorene at 360-715-2290.

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