The Dog Liberator™

The Dog Liberator rescues abandoned dogs throughout the Southeast. Based in Central Florida, this non-profit organization fosters all of their dogs in a home environment. Founded in 2009, all dogs are fully vetted, spayed or neutered prior to adoption. The Dog Liberator focuses in rescuing the herding breed, which consists of Border Collies, Shepherds, Sheepdogs, Aussies, Collies, and Deaf/Blind Dogs.

Four Years in Rescue

Four Years in Rescue
Ozzie, 2009
Ozzie, May 18, 2009

The Dog Liberator has been rescuing now for four years May 18th. That’s the day Ozzie was dropped off at my home by a family who couldn’t keep him. Because I was dog-less at that time, (my Reckless had passed away) and he was awesome, I kept him! Ozzie was my first foster failure, and has since proven to be a gracious host to our foster dogs; he’s earned his keep!

Ozzie keeps a low profile at TDL.  He rarely listens to commands, he is always getting in trouble, either going into the trash or trying to escape for a short run in the neighborhood… but he always comes back.  Why?  There’s always cat food waiting for him on the front porch.  I think he believes the cat food is left there for him, as a reward for coming back home.  I could have named him Ferris Bueller, or Forest Gump, but his name was Ozzie!

Random Rants, Ah ha Moments, and Praise

What have I learned in the past four years? That rescue is a crazy place to be and not always fuzzy and warm. Rescue has a way of hardening the average person. Being angry, disappointed and downright disgusted is hard to fight off when you look at the condition of our dogs and hear their stories of abuse and neglect. It’s a feeling that I allow myself to experience for a brief moment, and I move on. Sometimes I cry, but not much. I really don’t want the dog to see me cry!

I work here, from my home, alone all day – and many times I feel very alone, but it’s the good people that make it worth while – especially our adopters. Some days I wake up to find an email containing a new photo of one of our adopted dogs.  It’s the before and after photos that are inspiring! If it wasn’t for my supporters, followers, volunteers and adopters, it would be a very thankless job that has no end to it. God knows it’s not a profitable business! My Dad still doesn’t understand why I do it. My children on the other hand, won’t let me quit – no matter how hard it gets.

What I didn’t expect is that we have almost 4,000 followers on Facebook, we have almost 600,000 page views on our blog, over 500 subscribers & 1,261,000 Views on Youtube, and 169 followers on Twitter!  More importantly, we have rescued at least 700 dogs in four years.  Some of the dogs we have rescued are not mentioned on our blog, and I’ll explain that later!  Photos and stories of happy families is what keeps me going!

Princess Lady Di
Princess Lady Di

One of the hardest thing not to do in rescue is rush to judgment.  I think I’ve done a good job in that area.  It makes no sense to make a person feel bad about giving up their dog.  While I watch some folks post comments about someone who had to give up their dog, what I realize is that they don’t know what really happened.  They haven’t sat at my dining room table and watched a grown man sob while he gives me his dog’s leash.  They aren’t there watching him hand me a giant box full of his dog’s toys, and the mountain of paperwork proving that the dog has been well cared for.    They don’t have to read the cards, sometimes pressed flowers inside of them, written by the children who had to surrender their dog to me.  Even though I offer a million suggestions for the family to keep their dog, I know what’s best for their dog is to be re-homed.

Those people never get over having to give up their dog.  They see the blog post, and get to watch their dog get adopted, but their heart still aches for their loss.

I do get those phone calls in the middle of the night, when a friend is frantic and they tell me that the dog will be shot and killed if it’s not removed immediately.  What we learn in rescue is that if a dog is being threatened, the threat of escalated domestic violence is huge.  There is no talking sense into someone who is ready to kill the dog.  In this case, the dog was immediately brought to my home, a purebred Pekingese, and was adopted that evening by an employee of Newman Veterinary Centers (then Val-u-Vet).  The dog is no where on my website, or Facebook.  It was a covert adoption!  The only thing that was missing was me wearing a long black rain coat!

I’ve learned to wait for the dog to tell you what happened.  If you wait, it never fails, the mystery will be unraveled for you!  Mystery is a prime example of that, and she has taught us many lessons.  We thought was she was terrified, even possibly aggressive toward people, but we learned was that she was terrified of being alone.  Go Figure!


I have learned that emotion plays a big part in adopting.  It doesn’t make sense to me when I have a gorgeous, healthy and fully-trained dog, which no one is interested in adopting!  Maybe that’ll never change.

I have learned that it is a myth to think that if you adopt a puppy, you’ll be able to raise it the way you want it, and it will grow up to be a perfect dog.  We have had a few puppies returned, because they were adopted for the wrong reasons by the wrong people.  People who didn’t understand how to raise a puppy.

The only way to adopt a perfect dog is to adopt an adult dog that is perfect!  I’ve had a lot of those!  I’d foster ten adult dogs over one puppy… but everyone knows I have very little patience for puppies, and that has not changed!  You feed them, they poop, they cry!

"you said you wanted me to feel better!"  ~Bart
“you said you wanted me to feel better!” ~Bart

With regard to puppies, my kids are four years older now, so that helps.  I can ask them to let the dogs out, or feed them, even though I have to hear them complain, but they do help!  Sarah is the nurturer, and Ryan helps with training.

I’ve also learned why grass won’t grow in my yard, why I ripped all of my carpets out, and how badly I need to repaint the walls.  We keep telling ourselves that our house is “lived in!”  Lived in indeed!

I did make up a new rule about one year ago – no dogs allowed in my room, but somehow China keeps sneaking in every night. I must re-establish my dominance around here.

I’ve learned how to listen to people, and match them up with the right dog.  Not everybody listens to me, but I do my best.  Sheila Coffman listened to me, and she’s still very happy with her dog!  She wanted to adopt a young female, and I wouldn’t let her!  I wasn’t being mean or difficult, I just cared more about her older female dog named Abbey!  I didn’t think it was fair for Abbey to share her remaining years with another adult female, so I suggested Sammy!   I do lose potential adopters sometimes because I have an opinion.  Nippy dogs shouldn’t go with kids, prey-drive dogs can’t live with cats, and dogs who bark should not live in an apartment!

Gisele with Chaos, 2010
Gisele with Chaos, 2010

I’ve learned that the most important thing in rescue is responsibility.  When you rescue a dog, you should do everything you can to help that dog until the day it dies.  I’ve learned that rescue is a commitment not to be taken lightly.  

I understand now why Prozac would be helpful if you’re in rescue.  I can wake up in the morning furious, and by the end of the day I can be celebrating a joyous event.  I don’t think I have ever had a normal day.  What is a normal day?

I’ve learned that it’s not true that a dog that has been abused will bite.  I have learned that a dog who has never been abused might bite.  There is no code of ethics.  Dogs don’t read manuals.

Ozzie, Lady Di & China
Ozzie, Lady Di & China

I’ve learned that you never ask your dog to do something.  You tell them.

I’ve learned that Deaf and Blind dogs are a joy to own and super easy to train.

I’ve learned not to hold dogs for an adopter.  If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen!

I’ve learned that heartworm in dogs is easy to cure!

I’ve learned that Parvo doesn’t always win.

I’ve learned to pray a lot.

I’ve learned how Parvo spreads, and to never let potential adopters meet my puppies if they have been visiting other puppies that day!

I’ve learned that without a good vet, a vet that you trust, depend on, and will listen, you can’t possibly rescue.

I’ve learned to accept my grey hair and call it highlights.

I’ve learned that each new wrinkle on my face was earned by worrying.

I’ve learned that coffee and advil are necessary in rescue.

I’ve learned that dogs act differently in different environments, your dog may be bad in your home, but great in mine!

I’ve learned not to take returns personally, even though it’s a disappointment, the dog always finds a better home in the long run!

During almost every adoption, I am asked the same question, “how can you give them up?”  Seriously, I’ve rescued over 700 dogs… where would I put them all?  People say to me, “I don’t know how you do it.”  I look at them in awe, and wish they could see themselves through my eyes.  Here they sit, after driving for hours, elated to adopt one of my dogs, bring this previously unwanted and homeless dog into their home to love, nurture and make part of their family.  Why would I stop that?  How could I believe that I alone can provide for all of these dogs, better than they can?  When you look at the before and after photos of our dogs, you understand that each of them are much happier where they are, then with me!

Here, allow me to give you an opportunity to take a quick look at yourself!


I believe that you may not get the dog you want, but you’ll always get the dog you need.

I’ve learned that when I lower my adoption fee, the dog always comes back.

Ryan, Lady Di, Gisele & Sarah
Ryan, Lady Di, Gisele & Sarah

I’ve learned that most hobby breeders do not have high standards with regard to veterinary care.

I’ve learned to trust my dogs’ energy when I foster a new dog.  They will tell me if the dog is okay or not okay.

I’ve learned that dogs can train other dogs a lot faster than a human!

I’ve learned that when I’m stuck, it’s okay to ask for help.

I’ve learned to stop working when I’m tired.  Bad decisions are always made when a person is tired!

I’ve learned to spay/neuter without exception.

Danni says goodbye to Bart
Danni says goodbye to Bart

My children have learned many lessons in rescue, and so have their friends.  They have learned what selflessness is all about.  They heave learned that you can love and give to another living creature even if you gain nothing.  They have learned  that their sacrifice and investment will be rewarded in another world.

They have also learned not to say goodbye, but to say see you later.  When Bart was adopted, I thought Danielle was going to have a melt down.  She couldn’t understand after all we had gone through, watching him almost die twice, how I could just let him be adopted.  On the way inside the house, however, I told her about our annual reunions.  I’ll never forget the look on her face when she asked, “you mean I’ll get to see him again?”  Of course!  Just a few months later, she did see Bart again!  And just a few weeks ago, Bart came for a visit!  It’s never goodbye.

I’ve learned to say no when my children say Keep!

I’ve learned that there are bad dogs just like there are bad people.  I’ve learned that it’s not always genetic, it’s not always environmental, it can be neurological and that can not be explained.

I’ve learned that rescue is not a part-time job.  You have to invest as many hours as it takes until your dogs find a home.   I’ve learned not to expect any paid vacations, and to work on weekends, evenings and holidays!

I’ve learned that my dogs don’t know it’s Mother’s Day or my birthday… if they want to tip over the garbage can, they will.

Winter, 2013
Winter, 2013

I have learned that dogs who never experience homelessness, and that are spoiled have a harder time adjusting to new environments and experience more pain during spay/neuter surgery.  Dogs that have lived through hell and suffered tremendously feel no pain, and adjust quickly to new settings.  It is true that rescued dogs appreciate their owners more.  If you don’t believe me, ask Dale!

Some things haven’t changed in four years.  Transport is always the hardest part of rescue.  It’s like watching a football game.  Who is going to get the ball, and run with it?  Who can pass it off, and keep it going until the dog reaches it’s destination?  There are hundreds of dogs I would’ve liked to have saved, but I had no way to move them.  That is the biggest disappointment of all.

I’ve learned to be as honest as possible, without hurting someone’s feelings.  When I have to write about the condition of a dog that has been surrendered to me, I walk a very fine line.  I have to be honest, and tell you what the vet found, and how the dog is being medically treated, but I don’t have to give the general public the name of the person who neglected the dog.  It is what it is.  I believe in Karma.  I also believe that life gets in the way sometimes, and not everyone can care for their pets the way we would like.  Some people don’t care for the kids either.  We have to focus on the good stuff, and move on.

BoBo and Bart
BoBo and Bart

I’ve learned that there is no rhyme or reason regarding which dogs I decide to pull.  Some are big, some are small, some are old, some are young, some are healthy, some are not.  I think when I see a dog in a shelter, I ask myself if I would personally like that dog to come and live with me for a while.  I ask myself, if that dog is returned years from now, will I be happy to see it again?  Such is the case with BoBo.  When I learned his owner was in the hospital, I was thrilled that I would get to foster him while she recovers.  As mentioned previously, we were all very excited when Bart’s owner asked if he could spend a few days with us.   We can’t save them all, and I don’t try to.  I do try to save the ones I’ll never get tired of, the ones I will always adore, the ones that will always be welcome here in my home, with my family – that’s what makes a TDL dog.

I’ve learned that we can save dogs by preventing them from going to the pound in the first place, through Canine Connect.  By sharing TDL’s methodologies, and helping dog owners properly re-home their own dogs, we have re-homed dozens in just a few short months.  This is very exciting!

I’ve learned that love exists, and so does kindness.  I’ve learned that there are some amazing people out there, and they are our supporters!  I’ve learned learned that The Dog Liberator will never be big.  Big is not better.  I’ve learned that what we have created is awesome, I’m proud of all of our dogs, and I am very grateful to all of you!  Especially those of you that I call during crazy hours with crazy questions, like Sarah, Anita, Brittney, Ron & Dawn, Jen & Bill, Susan, Emily,Vicki, Kathy, Becky, Kingsley & Sandra, Ernestine, Megan and Dusty.

Osbourne, May 18, 2013

Today is May 18th, 2013… four years have passed since Ozzie walked into my home.  And today, I will greet Osbourne, rescued from Alabama and I’m amazed that he arrives on Ozzie’s anniversary!  Woo Hoo!

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