Montana Rescue Dogs

Operation New Beginnings Dogs at the 2014 NY Gathering
It's been five years since the ONB dogs journeyed away from their temporary home in Billings. Throughout the United States they meet again. Do they recognize each other? We think so. It is so rewarding to see these healthy, happy, and productive dogs. English Shepherd lovers are a  strong community of caring people who focused on changing the lives of these dogs. Thank you!

Operation New Beginnings 2013 Reunion
What's more fun than a dog with a brand new squeaky toy? Thirty English Shepherds chasing each other silly at the Animal Lodge in Laurel, Montana, while their people watched, picnicked, chatted and bragged about their dogs. The occasion was the 4th annual reunion of the ONB graduates. These dogs were part of a group of 200+ English Shepherds rescued by Yellowsone County, cared for by Montana volunteers, and brought into the National English Shepherd Rescue in 2009.

This picture of Jaye Butler surrounded by 7 sitting, politely begging, and leashless ONB's would have been unimaginable at the time of the 1st reunion in 2010. Unbelievable progress had already occured with less than a year in their forever and foster homes. My own dog, Sparky, is a good example of the progress that continues with these dogs.

Once virtually a feral dog, he put the past behind him as he particpated, unleashed, in Barb Berry's nosework session, confident enough to trust her, and to stick his nose in a box even though there was a crowd of strangers watching just a couple of yards away.

To those who have seen the image of the "before" Harry, turning blue with terror, emaciated, and covered with mud and feces, the sight of this now beautiful dog, safe, secure, and loved, symbolizes what NESR is all about, and a testament to the amazing efforts of the Billings volunteers who made the rescue possible.

Thank you, Billings organizers of the event: NESR's Barb Berry and Rachel Roper; and Carla van Sicclen and Aleta Zahorodny, with help from Georgia Peters and Sheila Ruble. Thank you, Bob Ruble, for the great photographs.

We hope everyone can come to beautiful Montana for the 5th ONB reunion and ES Gathering!

Over 200 English Shepherd Dogs Released for Adoption
Billings, Montana 2009

The Yellowstone County Commissioners and National English Shepherd Rescue (NESR) have entered into an agreement for the adoption and further rehabilitation of over 200 English shepherds and other dogs that were seized from Shady Lane Kennels in Ballantine, MT in December 2008.

The conviction of the dogs' former owner, Linda Kapsa, for felony animal cruelty has allowed the majority of the dogs being held in Billings to be released from their status as criminal evidence, paving the way for their adoptions.  This event marks the conclusion of Yellowstone County's Operation New Beginnings (ONB), and the commencement of a national collective effort to give every victim a home: Project Next Steps.

The dogs will continue to be cared for by the committed volunteers who have devoted thousands of hours to their rehabilitation while NESR representatives conduct evaluations of each dog's needs and abilities.  Those dogs not adopted by their special volunteers will be available for adoption by members of the public.  Many dogs will be placed in foster homes for additional training before being adopted.  All potential adopters and new foster volunteers will be screened for their commitment and ability to care for a formerly neglected English shepherd dog who will still need many months of patient training.

NESR and its volunteer personnel have been providing financial support and personnel to Yellowstone County and the ONB staff and volunteers since December 2008, in form of expert advice, training and behavior consultation, equipment, corporate donations of dog food, vaccines, medical supplies, and other necessities.  The small but devoted worldwide community of English shepherd owners and fans has stepped up to the plate with fundraisers and donations on an unprecedented scale.  The English shepherd community regards this effort as the Hurricane Katrina of breed rescues.

The English shepherd is a traditional American farm dog, selected for hundreds of years to work stock, protect his master, his family, his property and animals, hunt game, dispatch pests, and do any job that his master might find for him.  They have not been selected to be show dogs or to live in kennels.  The English shepherd is a highly intelligent, bossy, sensitive, energetic animal who requires strong human leadership and a job to call his own.  When indulged, untrained, bullied or neglected, they become very troublesome to their owners.  Given a job and a fair boss, the English shepherd will display unparalleled devotion, loyalty, and obedience balanced with initiative. 

National English Shepherd Rescue is a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit operated entirely by unpaid volunteers.  Our mission is to ensure that all English shepherds in need have homes where they are cherished, and where they can fulfill their potential as good canine citizens.  NESR redeems English shepherds from pounds and shelters, as well as accepting English shepherds relinquished by owners who can no longer care for them.  We provide temporary homes, retraining, health care, rehabilitation and evaluation through our network of foster care volunteers, and place the dogs we foster into permanent homes.  We also provide advice and support for English shepherd owners who are experiencing challenges with their dogs, in order to keep those dogs in their original homes and help them become better family members.

Because the English shepherd is an uncommon breed, NESR's volunteer network and the entire community of devoted English shepherd owners has been challenged by the sheer numbers and special needs of the over two hundred dogs who have been cared for by Billings-area volunteers for over six months.  The number of dogs needing placement from this one source is approximately eight times NESR's typical annual case load of English shepherds in need nationwide.

NESR’s primary concern is that we place the right dog in the right home; that concern guides all our decisions with respect to the dogs that pass thru our program. That is why we require *all* prospective foster homes and adoptive homes to complete an application for any dog in our program. Even NESR board members have completed such an application and adoption contracts! All applications and contract forms can be found on our website . This process allows us to evaluate a number of factors to place the dog in the right home and consider hardship cases with respect to requesting adoption donations.

NESR never charges an adoption “fee”. We typically request an adoption donation of $200 to help cover the costs of re-homing a dog. However, no adoption donations will be requested from Operation New Beginnings volunteers who apply to adopt a dog. The ONB volunteers have “donated” the chance of a new life to the animals in their care; we can never thank them enough for those efforts. We also recognize that Operation New Beginnings was a community effort and the citizens of Yellowstone County have incurred tremendous expenses for these deserving dogs. As such, we will be asking for a donation of only $100 from any Yellowstone County citizen who is selected to adopt a dog. Our “right dog in the right home” criteria, as always, will apply.

NESR, the English Shepherd community, and those who love dogs (breed clubs, agility clubs, community foundations, etc.) have contributed thousands of hours and thousands of dollars toward Yellowstone County’s effort to care for these dogs. While NESR will continue to incur thousands of dollars of expenses, we are honored to escort these dogs on the next steps of their long journey to new and rewarding lives.

National English Shepherd Rescue Commences "Project Next Steps" to Give Every Dog a Home

One month after receiving legal ownership of over 200 English Shepherds (and their deserving friends of other breed mixes), NESR is happy to announce that 100 of those dogs are tucked in their new foster or adoptive homes. But there’s still another month to go, so the work continues fast and furious. The remaining dogs will soon be matched up with homes that are best suited for the dog’s temperament and that will best meet their behavioral needs as evaluated by NESR. Matching the dog with the right home always has been and always will be the driving criteria in our placement decisions. This careful consideration has resulted in a 12 year track record of “wins” for dogs in need and for the families that eventually adopt them.

The initial seizure in December 2008 truly galvanized the larger English Shepherd community into a team. NESR has been proud to help channel support to Operation New Beginnings from breed clubs, English Shepherd owners, and dog lovers everywhere. This cooperative effort led to donations of (among other things) medicines from Schering Plough, thousands of pounds of high quality dog food, office supplies and cleaning supplies, collars, leashes, toys, and treats. The generosity of hundreds of donors allowed NESR to make a $2,700 donation directly to Yellowstone County to retrofit the barn stalls and expand the exercise yard; this donation represented over 50% of our entire budget in 2007! Experienced trainers donated their time and breed expertise to ensuring that these special dogs received the best possible chance at rehabilitation. The success of the taming protocols and handling classes can be seen in the documented progress made by the dogs under the care of their committed handlers.

Those not able to give monetarily were desperate to find some way to let the Operation New Beginnings volunteers know how much they were appreciated. So, numerous volunteer appreciation projects were coordinated by NESR…cookie blitzes, a pizza party, puppy toy drives, cards containing e-mails from people across the world wanting to express their appreciation for the hard work of ONB volunteers.

The thousands of unpaid hours that have been contributed by so many people to both Operation New Beginnings and to Project Next Steps can never be fully documented or acknowledged individually. But in the months and years to come, we hope you will know that you made a difference…in the lives of a dog and their future family, and in the lives of all of us who have been changed by this experience.

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