Illinois Birddog Rescue (IBR), is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization and licensed shelter by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. We are dedicated to saving, transporting, vetting, fostering, and adopting homeless American Field bred Pointers and English Setters. Most of the dogs and puppies in our foster care program were strays or owner surrenders pulled from overcrowded shelters and humane societies from all over the United States. Perhaps some weren't winning enough in Field Trials, maybe some became too old to hunt or to have litters of puppies, but many were gun shy. Due to IBR's tick borne disease research, we know that many dogs and puppies infected with Lyme disease and co infections can not scent point as these diseases affect their natural hunting instincts. A dog that can not smell a bird and point is often a dog that will wind up in a shelter or worse- shot dead in a field for non performance. Many of these dogs have never had any flea and tick protection and many come in with heartworm disease due to never having any monthly preventative. WE do know that these diseases are also passed from mother to pup so many dogs are disposed of young as rejects through no fault of their own and once treated- gain back their natural hunting drive and scent pointing abilities. Sadly, all were in danger of being euthanized - never reaching their full potential until we pulled them to safety. We also take in Pointers and Setters from families that have been hit hard financially and are struggling due to the economy. These dogs come in from owners who have lost their jobs, some are facing foreclosure, some are going through divorce and sadly in many cases some have to be rehomed due to their owners passing away. On average we bring in 80 to 100 Pointers, Setters and a few mutts in between every year as funds allow and depending on foster care openings. IBR has adopted dogs on both coasts and several states in between besides Canada. Once an adopter is screened and approved and the adoption is finalized, dogs are moved via transport to their new homes via volunteer drivers or recently via Pilots N Paws.
Since our beginnning, we have been housing rescue dogs and puppies with foster care volunteers who open their homes to these neglected animals. We are lucky to have working foster homes in Illinois (licensed by the Il Department of Agriculture), Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Once in foster care, we access the dog or puppy’s health and complete our vetting protocols which include the following; heartworm testing and treatment, tick panel testing and treatment (many dogs with heartworm also have tick borne illnesses so recovery time is doubled), fecals to check for intestinal parasites and protozoa and de-worming if necessary, Parvovirus and Distemper combination vaccinations, Rabies vaccinations, spaying and neutering, micro-chipping, dentals if necessary and for our special needs dogs, CBC (complete blood count) and chemistry and any major surgeries including mastectomies for mammary cancer and additional tumor/growth removals. In home foster care allows for the dog or puppy to be treated as a member of the family while learning to be cage trained and house broken. Dogs and puppies are also socialized and desensitized to normal household noises, and are treated with kindness and tender loving care especially if they have suffered terrible abuse.
Our focus on adopting working hunters into pet homes help us dispel old wives tales passed on through generations of birddog owners and field trailers who think that all hunting dogs must live outdoors to keep their scenting abilities and that they also need their testicles and uteruses to be successful in the field. On the contrary, we have disproved these out of date ideals. All of our adoptables are spayed or neutered as required by the Illinois Department of Agriculture shelter regulations and all must live indoors as family pets as required by IBR’s hunting/pet home guidelines. This not only prevents unwanted pregnancies—but spaying and neutering prevents long term health issues like testicular cancer in males besides their desire to roam, and spaying females helps prevent mammary cancer. Testing every incoming dog using our strick tick borne disease screening also helps us get these dogs better, and many with multiple infections, once treated for many months gain back their natural hunting instincts and drive. We try to test some of our more talented adoptees on pheasant in the fall and when pheasant is available and are delighted to see dogs with no signs of natural instincts start pointing once antibiotic therapy is started. Lyme disease especially can hurt a dog's natural scenting abilities.
We hope that our successful adoptions of these altered homeless and treated hunters will help educate the birddog public in that spaying or neutering a working hunter never lessens their desire to hunt. As a matter of fact these dogs are more focused as hunting companions. Also, living indoors (and in most cases on the furniture or in bed with their owners) has no negative affect on their bird scenting abilities. Our successful adoptions to hunting families where these dogs and puppies are treated as family pets also helps us promote that a dog with a strong bond to their owner is that much more confident, loyal and happy to work side by side with their master on upland birds. Thru patience, kindness and commitment, quality and expensive vetting protocols, many of our dogs regain their confidence in the IBR program and are back working in the field to the joy of their adopters.
Recently, our research into tick borne illnesses (Anaplasma, Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever) has been tremendously helpful in diagnosing dogs with fear aggression, scatterbrained obsessive compulsive behavior, cage anxiety, depression, lethargy and anemia, joint pain, stiffness and arthritis, liver and kidney damage including incontinence, deafness, cataracts, unexplained fevers and death. Most dogs that are infected with any of these terrible diseases have no focus or energy and in many cases lose their scenting abilities are dramatically affected as these diseases attack the central nervous system and can cause brain damage besides chronic pain and suffering. Because of the uniqueness of the breeds we rescue, we can always tell when our infected dogs are recovering as they start to settle down and once their brain starts to heal—they start to point. They point tweety birds, they point squirrels and eventually and much to our delight, they will point upland birds. We are certain that these unfortunate dogs have been dumped by their owners and deemed useless because of their undiagnosed illnesses, but our success rate in re-homing these dogs post antibiotic treatment— especially into working hunting pet homes has been quite successful. Currently our incoming infection rate of new foster dogs is over 90 percent. Check out our new Ticked Off! section to view our recent research into this important health issue affecting our pets.
Please take a minute to read The Cost of Neglect. This document profiles the conditions some dogs enter rescue and what it takes to get them ready for adoption.
In home foster care takes a lot of time, dedication and sacrifice. Most of the volunteers who have helped the past 10 years have had to deal with dogs and puppies with diarrhea due to intestinal parasites like coccidia and giardia, many have helped very sick dogs with Heartworm disease, kennel cough, pneumonia, and other issues like demodectic or contagious sarcoptic mange, besides ear mites, fleas, ticks, tick borne illnesses, allergy issues, fungus due to ringworm, broken legs (Spartykiss), and post surgery care from major mastectomies--Lucy, (some graphic photos) and GiGi and tumor removals. Many who dove into foster care with almost no experience, got a crash course in the horrors of how cruel and unkind human beings can be to helpless animals as we have seen the worst of the worst. With their help- however- so many dogs have overcome many extreme health and behavior issues. To date, IBR has only had to euthanize 13 dogs due to health or biting aggression. Due to our research into Rage aggression from underlying tick borne illnesses like Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever- many more that came close to being put to sleep are now happy healthy and in their forever homes. Please read our Ticked Off! section to learn about this very important health crisis affecting our pets.
To those caring individuals who helped hospice Rommie, Mitch, Doreen, Mr. Darcy, Wally, Maggie Mae, Skippy, Dorothy, and Sir Elton-- those who championed their care until it was time for their suffering to end and let them go with kindness, compassion and dignity to the Rainbow Bridge- we/I will be forever greatful. Always. I share your grief and cried with you when the decision was made to let them go.
Special thanks go out to our foster home nurseries. In 10 years we have brought in or whelped 12 puppy litters starting with Princess Nala, and the Disney litter which involved an emergency Cesarian section and round the clock bottle feeding of the puppies. Thank goodness we had no complications with The Brady Bunch litter, Ashley and her Greek god and goddess Pointer/GSP mix pup litter. Additional litters that followed were Adeline (who broke with Parvo a few weeks in foster care) and her Setter mix pups, Josie and the Pussycat litter, Shirley and the Partridge kids, the Von Trapp litter, Suzee and the Pooh puppy litter, Dixie surrogate momma for the Ratatouille litter, and this year, Penne and the Pastas from Oklahoma. Puppies are A LOT of work but worth every poopie paw!!
Adeline and her babies.
Shirley and the Partridge kids.
Some days I don't know how we are going to pay one bill much less the thousands we owe because we try our best to give these dogs and puppies the best quality of care possible. My four year old Saturn has over 150,000 miles on it now due to all the driving I do to and from the vet, driving all over the Midwest to save dogs about to be euthanized in over crowded shelters and lastly to and from safe fenced in dog parks and off leash areas so that my foster dogs can get out and stretch their legs and train on upland birds if we have the opportunity. It's been a long journey--but I do think the sacrifice has been worth it. I know we have placed many of our dogs in wonderful homes with great families. The best way to learn compassion is by growing up and caring for a pet. I sure hope the work we have done through this rescue will help some kids become better caring responsible adults who will carry on with the dog rescue torch when I retire someday.
Lisa Spakowski, IBR Founder and President and Social Director of Camp Lucky Pets