STORY & PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA CONDE
If you have wandered the streets of any developing country, you more than likely noticed the stray dogs rummaging through the garbage or napping alongside the curb. Often infested with fleas, worms or mange, they tug at our heartstrings and make some of us wish we could save them.
Marianne Cox of Bend is doing just that. She founded the nonprofit organization, Street Dog Hero, in March this year and has since rescued 21 dogs internationally from countries such as Mexico, South Korea and the Virgin Islands.
Before deciding on international rescue, she researched the growing and overwhelming issue with stray dogs and spoke with many other experienced people who were happy to share their knowledge.
Be aware that the U.S. has its own crowded shelters and despite critics who ask her why she is not helping locally, Marianne seeks to fill a void in rescue operations.
“There are already a lot of people rescuing dogs locally in Bend, but not a lot of people are tackling the street dog problem in other countries.”
In March, the Cox family traveled to Sayulita, Mexico for spring break with plans to bring home their first rescue dog. Marianne contacted a local organization, Sayulit Animals, and learned about a young dog, Trece, being fostered two hours from Sayulita. A Viszla mix, the dog had been deemed a pest in the community and was in danger of being poisoned.
A local man took Trece off the streets and contacted Sayulit Animals in hopes of finding him a permanent home. In order to bring a dog across the border from Mexico, you must obtain a health certificate from a veterinarian and the dog must be vaccinated against rabies. “It’s a fairly easy process,” says Marianne, “and most airlines charge $100 for the dog to fly with an escort.”
The Cox family brought Trece home and within three days had found him a permanent home in Bend. “The kids renamed him KC because they couldn’t say his name, and within a short time of posting his photo and name on Facebook, I was contacted by a woman who had previously owned a Viszla named KC. She felt it was in the stars that she offer this dog a home.”
Marianne has since built a network of partners and volunteers that assist her in bringing dogs to Bend. After receiving notification of a dog in need from one of her foreign partners, she confirms that the dog is healthy and adoptable, and then travel arrangements begin. The dogs must have an escort, so her first step is finding someone flying to the U.S. who is willing to take on that responsibility.
Typically, once the dog arrives in Portland, Seattle or San Francisco, a volunteer driver will transport the dog to Bend. “I’m amazed by these people who on short notice are willing to help me get these dogs to Bend. Sometimes I only have 12 hours to find a driver. The dogs aren’t always accustomed to things such as grass, stairs and cars. So it can be difficult.”
Street Dog Hero relies on fosters to give the dogs homes before being adopted. “Foster homes are a lifeline to my organization. Without them there is no way we would be able to rescue and save dogs. The dogs need a place to crash until they find their forever homes.” She specifically needs foster homes in Bend, but also Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.
Since founding the organization, the Cox family has personally funded all the rescues. Besides the airline ticket, there are costs associated with vet checks and vaccinations. Marianne plans to begin fundraising efforts later this year and grow her squad of youth volunteers called Junior Heroes.
“I wanted my kids to be involved, and my kids want to be involved. I sent out an email to friends about forming a league of kids that want to help, and within days I had 40 replies.”
Another goal Marianne has is to offer free spay and neuter clinics in developing countries. Although there are organizations that already provide this service, “There are still a lot of areas that are in need of help. Spaying and neutering are really the solutions to the street dog problem, so that service needs to be part of our mission.”
In fact, this is one area that she does hope to help with locally in Warm Springs and she is in discussion with her partners in Bend on how best to execute that service.
The rescue dogs that have been placed in Bend homes have all adjusted well and their new owners share photos and videos with Marianne all the time. “I love getting updates on the dogs.”
All adopters are vetted before a dog is placed to help ensure a good match. For more information, you can contact Marianne through the Street Dog Hero’s Facebook page, or her website, Streetdoghero.org.
Poquito Camarón was rescued off the streets of Tulum, Mexico when he was a puppy. Severely malnourished, scared and suffering from mange, he had to spend some time getting healthy before traveling to the U.S., where he was adopted by Paige Zellars and her family.
Paige’s previous dog was a rescue from a puppy mill. “We had her for 13 years until she recently passed due to age related illness. We decided that our next dog would also be a rescue. We looked at many shelters but never made a connection. I came across Street Dog Hero on Facebook and after reading their mission statement we knew we wanted one of their dogs. The day we saw Camarón pop up we knew we wanted to meet him. He was so young but looked so fragile in his first pictures. All we could think about was him living on the streets.”
Zellars says that it was an instant connection and that Camarón has made her family’s hearts complete again. “He needed us and we needed him.” He has flourished and now has a beautiful coat, loves to run and smiles when Zellar’s daughter cradles him like a baby.
“One of our favorite things about this experience is working with Marianne. It is quite obvious that she’s doing this because she loves animals and wants all of them to feel loved and to become part of a family. She cares about the animals and who their forever home will be.”
Marianne’s first rescue was a hound mix that she found out about from Sayulit Animals. Her family brought him to Bend and within days found a new home for him with Patrick and Vicki Murphy. The Murphys had been looking for another dog for about a year. Vicki says, “I was scrolling through Facebook when I randomly came across a video of KC in his foster home and was taken by how much he looked like our late Vizsla mix, also named KC. Not having heard of Street Dog Hero, I was ready to take a road trip to meet him, and was pleasantly surprised to learn he was right here in Bend. We met KC the next day and both knew he was the one.”
KC bonded immediately with the Murphy’s other rescue dog, Kollin, a large black lab. He is very fond of the family cat and will curl up with it. He is very protective of his new “pack.”
The Murphy’s biggest struggle with KC is his confidence. “It’s clear he had a rough start to life, but he is smart, sensitive and very easy to train.” KC was accustomed to commands spoken in Spanish, so there was a bit of a language barrier in the beginning, but they have since gotten past that. One thing that helped tremendously was giving him a predictable schedule with regular walks along the river trail and local lakes.
“At first KC was not a fan of the water, but now he loves it.”
Tulum is a three-legged dog who loves children. His new owners, Becca Turk and Casey Cochran, hope to train him as a therapy dog for children who have suffered amputations. He started his life in Tulum, Mexico, where a tourist found him with a severely infected and fractured foot. He was brought to an animal rescue organization and given medical care, but despite treatment his foot would not heal and his leg was amputated at the shoulder.
Becca, a recent graduate from OSU School of Veterinarian Medicine, hoped to adopt a dog and had started browsing rescue sites when she ran across Tulum’s photo. Tulum was living in Los Angeles with a foster family and at the time, Becca and Casey decided they weren’t ready to make a canine commitment.
A few weeks later, they happened to be at Bend Brewing Company during an adoption event sponsored by the Humane Society. By that time, Tulum had been brought to Bend by Street Dog Hero and was at the adoption event as well. Becca couldn’t believe the same dog she saw online was now here in Bend and still needing a home.
“Marianne’s kids were hanging all over him and he loved all the kids,” says Becca. “We loved that about him.” She and Casey brought him home for the night and decided quickly to give him a permanent home. Tulum gets along great with three legs. He did test positive for heartworm shortly after arriving, so he’s receiving treatment for that illness but his prognosis is good.
When Frita first came home with Karen Weldon, she would go outside at bedtime and, thinking she was being put out for the night, dig a hole under a bush for a bed. Imagine her delight when she learned she was allowed to sleep indoors with her new family. She was rescued off the streets of St. Thomas and now lives with the Weldons in the Willamette Valley.
Karen Weldon knew of Street Dog Hero through her best friend, who happens to be Marianne Cox’s mother-in-law. The Weldons had already given a home to Esme, a small Chiweenie mix, and were hoping to adopt another dog about the same size. They knew Marianne Cox through Karen’s best friend and had an opportunity to meet Frita during a visit to her friend’s home.
“Frita immediately cuddled and bonded with us. She and Esme were a bit slow to bond at first, but they tolerated each other and now she curls up with Esme on car rides.
The Weldons notice some behaviors that Frita has that they attribute to her having experienced being chased off by people. “Some things like a broom or hose definitely get a reaction. But she is a mellow, happy girl who bounces when she sees you, dances at mealtime and snuggles in the evening next to me,” says Karen.
“Marianne is doing such a wonderful thing. These dogs deserve the chance for a safe, loving home. We could not be happier.”