Buckley arrived at a county animal shelter, malnourished and suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection, at only six-weeks-old. This sweet puppy weighed just over 6 pounds, and it was clear that he needed some immediate medical attention. The veterinarian discovered that Buckley had a persistent right aortic arch, leading to a rare medical condition called Mega-Esophagus. Little Buckley’s esophagus was enlarged and unable to properly pass food from the mouth into the stomach, causing regurgitation after every meal. The vet performed an operation that made it possible for Buckley to digest his food, but for best results Buckley would have to either eat his food from an upright position or eat multiple small servings throughout the day. For his entire life, Buckley would need extra attention around meal time in order to be healthy and happy.
For the next several months of his life, Buckley went from home to home, never quite settling in before being surrendered to the shelter yet again. While Buckley had all the characteristics of the perfect companion dog—he was affectionate, loyal, intelligent, and playful—his special needs proved to be too much to handle for most people. He would be able to keep his food down for a few days at a time and then regurgitate again, leading to frustration and hunger. In May of 2017, after he was returned once again, Buckley’s shelter reached out to Project POOCH. They knew that despite Buckley’s medical condition, he still deserved a chance at a happy life and that Project POOCH would be able to give Buckley some stability as well as the special attention he needed. At Project POOCH, our mission is “learning: responsibility, patience, and compassion for all life,” and we could not think of a better way to teach our youth the importance of this mission than to take Buckley in and care for him.
When Buckley first arrived at Project POOCH, it was a learning experience for everyone. However, it didn’t take the youth long to completely fall in love with their new four-legged friend and also learn what he needed in order to digest his food properly and prevent the regurgitation. Their relationship with Buckley was similar to that of a father and a baby. They trained him to use a Bailey chair, a device that positions dogs upright during meal time, allowing for smoother digestion. They would put a bib on Buckley and then serve him a “mush,” which they made themselves—from kibbles, wet dog food, and water—four times a day. They made sure that Buckley relaxed comfortably in his chair after his meals to digest before he did any kind of physical activity. They also trained Buckley to quickly pass his Canine Good Citizen test. In return, Buckley provided them with unconditional love every single day…for nearly two years.
While Buckley’s fellow dog friends at Project POOCH came and went, Buckley had a harder time finding his forever home. After a year at Project POOCH, only a few people had expressed interest in adopting Buckley, and for various reasons, none of the homes were quite right for him. Buckley needed an experienced, dog-savvy family that would be home frequently to carefully monitor his eating. Despite all of this, Buckley continued to greet the youth with a huge smile and wagging tail every single morning, teaching them the value of positivity and perseverance even during difficult or disheartening times. Buckley was even a runner up in contest held by a dog food company that showcased “underdogs” needing adoption, and he won a year’s supply of free food as a result. The nutritionist from the dog food company provided guidance on the kind of food that would be good for Buckley and how to prepare it for Buckley to succeed. The youth implemented this new strategy and perfected his feeding routine, while also doing all the regular doggie things with him, like walks, play time, and cuddles.
In January 2019, a young man called Project POOCH expressing interest in adopting Buckley. This man impressed us with all the knowledge he had about Mega-Esophagus. He had done his research on the condition and was aware of the extra attention Buckley would need during his meals. He strongly believed that Buckley deserved a chance and was excited to dedicate his time and energy to this special boy. POOCH founder Joan Dalton conducted a home visit, and the bond between Buckley and his future dad was incredible from the very beginning. It was clear that Buckley was right where he needed to be. The day the youth said goodbye to Buckley was one of the most bittersweet days we have had at Project POOCH. While they were happy that Buckley would finally get the life he deserved, letting go after almost two years of amazing memories was tough.
However, the youth continue to receive frequent updates on Buckley’s life and pictures of him living the dream in his forever home. His dog dad had a custom Bailey chair built for him, and continues to use a bib while feeding him. Buckley enjoys daily trips to the park and is absolutely adored by his Chihuahua fur-brother who follows him around all day. When we see the happy smile on Buckley’s face, we can’t help but smile too.
Just like many of the Project POOCH youth, Buckley had a rocky start to his life—countless trips to the vet, hunger-filled days, an invasive surgery, and several journeys from one home to another. However, he continued to greet the youth with his huge smile and wagging face every morning, showing them the value of perseverance. The youth went above and beyond to give Buckley the best life possible while he awaited his forever home—and all of their patience, responsibility, and compassion paid off.
At Project POOCH, we have a soft spot for underdogs, and that's exactly what Spike was. From the moment POOCH founder Joan Dalton saw him at the county shelter, she knew that she needed to bring him to the kennel and give him a second chance at life. It was clear from his sad expression and matted coat that he hadn't been cared for in his 9 years of life.
The youth at Project POOCH often come from similar backgrounds of strife, so relating to dogs like Spike is easy for them. During his first few days at the kennel, Spike didn't interact with anyone and tried his best to go unnoticed, but the youth immediately took a liking to this sweet, senior boy, and they never stopped trying to make him feel special and loved. After lots of pampering by the youth and a complete makeover, Spike slowly began to interact more and show his silly personality. Spike's handler reports that he was stubborn but a very good dog who deserved a second chance. Like many of the youth, I made it my goal to find this sweet boy a forever home.
In July 2018, I took Spike to an outreach event at a local pet store to give him a day off from kennel life and get him more exposure. Spike received lots of love, treats, and puppuchinos that day, but he still didn't come any closer to finding his forever home at the event. Senior dogs often take longer to find their homes, but we still couldn't help but feel disappointed. After the event, I took Spike home to foster him overnight since the kennel was closed for the evening, and although neither Spike nor I knew it at the time, this would be the start of something incredible for both of us.
When I took Spike home, he quickly bonded with my dog, Bowser. To my surprise, they spent the evening chasing each other around the yard, wrestling, and cuddling together on the couch. Bowser, who is dog-selective, was very happy to share his toys and his house with Spike. It was incredible to witness the way that these two dogs brought out the best qualities in each other. Bowser, who is very protective of his property and his humans, seemed to somehow know that Spike needed extra love and attention and that it was okay to open his home to him. Spike, who was so shy and reserved, seemed to open up immediately and let loose when he saw Bowser. It felt like Spike was right where he belonged, and I knew that Spike would be staying forever.
Although Spike was in the right place, the first few weeks in his new home were far from easy, and it was clear that his past had been rough. He was scared of the cat, Tigger, he would only eat if being hand-fed, he refused to walk on the hard-wood floors, and he cowered in fear if someone tried to touch his head. With lots of positive reinforcement, treats, and by following Bowser’s example, Spike slowly began to overcome these fears.
It's incredible to think of how far Spike has come since he first stepped foot in our home. He now trots around the house confidently with his curly tail wiggling and makes the cutest old-man grumbles when he wants something. This morning, he excitedly got me to follow him into the yard to proudly show me the big hole he had dug in the dirt. These silly antics of his make us laugh every day. We are so inspired by his resilience and his love for life, despite all that he has been through. Spike has even helped Bowser learn to trust other dogs, too.
Because of you, Project POOCH was able to rescue a dog who may have otherwise spent his entire life going from shelter to shelter, never experiencing unconditional love. Thanks to your support, Project POOCH is able to take in dogs like Spike, who are labeled "unadoptable," and give them second chances. This brings so much hope to the youth at Project POOCH and teaches them that they, too, are deserving of second chances.
Your support not only has helped Spike and the youth at MacLaren Correctional Facility, but it has also changed my life, my fiance Devin's life, and Bowser's life for the better. Spike is the perfect addition to our family, and we could not be happier or more in love with him.
One of our favorite accomplishments during our 25th year of service to incarcerated youth and adoptable dogs came in a four-legged, tail wagging form. On May 15th, a volunteer from a shelter in Modesto, California reached out to us asking if we could take in King, a 5-year-old Pit Bull Mix. The community that King lived in was overcrowded with pit bulls, and people simply did not want to adopt them—with King living in a busy shelter with hundreds of other dogs, the volunteer knew that King would have a better chance with us at Project POOCH. Along with her inquiry, the volunteer sent videos of King playing and interacting beautifully with kids and other dogs. That was when we knew we had to consider taking him. This sweet boy deserved a chance.
At Project POOCH, we like to involve the youth in our program at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in the dog selection process as much as possible, so we brought some pictures of King down to the correctional facility and read the youth his bio. They got so excited about the opportunity to work with such a sweet, handsome dog that we knew we had to say yes to King. Pit bulls are often marginalized in the same way that many of our youth are, so our youth were immediately drawn to this adorable boy and able to relate. At Project POOCH, we like helping the “underdogs,” or the dogs who are less likely to be adopted due to breed, age, personality, or health issues, so King was a great fit for our program.
With the decision to save King made, we had a lot of planning to do to prepare him for the long journey ahead of him! We soon learned that getting a dog from California to Oregon would not be easy. Before King could cross state lines, we had to work remotely with a veterinarian in King’s area to make sure that he received all the necessary vaccines and health certificates for his travels. Luckily, the same kind volunteer who introduced us to King’s plight took him to his vet appointments and even dropped him off with the transporters of the Rescue Express Bus, an animal transport service that takes dogs from overcrowded, high-kill shelters to areas where they will be able to thrive. Thus, King began his long, 14-hour journey to a new life.
King was scheduled to arrive at the bus stop in Tualatin in the middle of the night, where POOCH founder Joan Dalton was eagerly awaiting his arrival. Between providing basic care for the animals being transported and traffic, transport timelines can often get messy. We were soon notified that the bus was running behind schedule, so Joan patiently waited in her car for a few hours not knowing what to expect. Just after dawn, with Joan’s excitement brewing, the bus rolled up, and off came King, with a big smile on his face and his tail wagging, even after such a long journey.
King still had one more leg left in his arduous adventure! It was time for him to make his way to the Kennel with Joan. It’s a couple months since his arrival, and King has settled in nicely. King is currently living happily with the youth, who train him, groom him, feed him, and play with him daily while he awaits his forever home. He is doing well with his training that he even gets to go back to the living units with the youth, where he sleeps at night. King absolutely loves following the youth around wherever they go, and he even tried agility for the first time while at Project POOCH. He recently represented Project POOCH at an outreach event at Fido’s Tap House in Tualatin, where he made so many new friends. King passed his canine good citizen test and is now just waiting for the right family to take him home. Three potential adopters came to look at him last week, and we are confident that he will find his forever home soon.
Thank you to each and every one of you whom have supported Project POOCH and our mission for the past 25 years. Without you, we would not be able to rescue dogs like King, who may not have had a chance otherwise. Because of your kindness and generosity, we are not only able to take dogs from local shelters in the area that are deemed “unadoptable” and turn them into great pets, but we were also able to rescue dogs from other states where the need is greatest. Because of your support, our youth are able to learn patience, responsibility, and compassion by working with dogs of different breeds, sizes, ages, and personality types. Here’s to 25 more years of helping dogs and youth!