By Rita J. Egan
This past Monday, Beth Stern & Friends hosted the Bash for the Bulldogs at the Rosenthal Pavilion at New York University’s Kimmel Center. The event filled with food, music and raffles benefited the Long Island Bulldog Rescue located in Stony Brook.
The LIBR is the result of the love that Executive Director Laurette Richin has for the English bulldogs known for their stocky builds and wrinkled faces. Richin always wanted to learn more about the breed and, after divorcing her husband in the 90s, she decided to work with the dogs. She joined the Long Island Bulldog Club, but she said she soon realized she didn’t have what it takes to breed them. She explained that sometimes puppies could be lost during birth due to being delivered through C-sections.
When a member of the club asked her to stop by the Little Shelter Animal Rescue to check on a bulldog, it was the beginning of a new venture for Richin. She was told the dog that was brought in was very old, but as she looked at his teeth, she realized it was a puppy that was atrophied due to being in a crate all the time.
Richin said after she called the club representative to confirm that the dog was indeed a bulldog, she pulled out of the Little Shelter parking lot and couldn’t stop thinking of the puppy. She pulled back in and went right back into the shelter and took the dog home and nursed him back to health.
“I got hooked. It’s interesting, because you get to see something that is broken and needs you, and you fix them up, and they respond so beautifully. Then you find them a decent home,” Richin said.
That first rescue occurred 16 years ago in 1999, and while the group originally helped about 13 bulldogs in the local area during the first year, during the last decade and a half Richin along with LIBR volunteers have saved thousands of bulldogs and now serve nine states in the Northeast. Most of the dogs tend to be from Long Island and the five boroughs and almost 400 were saved in the last year alone.
The increase need of rescues is due to the growth of the bulldogs’ popularity over the years. The executive director said when she started in 1999, they ranked 46 nationwide in American Kennel Club registrations and now rank number 5 nationwide and 4 in large cities.
Richin said the dogs, which can cost upward to $3,000, are mild mannered and love attention. She said many apartment dwellers buy the dogs because they don’t need to run around regularly. However, because they require a good amount of attention, bulldogs aren’t ideal for those who are away from home for long hours. Richin added that the dogs also need special food to help avoid skin issues that can develop due to the way they have been bred.
The bulldogs that are rescued stay in foster homes before being adopted. Richin, who has two bulldogs of her own and one foster at any given time, which now is Josie the group’s mascot, said currently they have 32 dogs in foster homes waiting to be adopted. The executive director said the homes are a better setting than shelters to prepare dogs for their future families.
“It’s a much better way to get the dog into an environment where you actually know what their issues are, and you get to know them. If you have a dog in a shelter situation, you’re never going to know that the doorbell makes them crazy or that they like to eat couches. That’s stuff we find out in foster homes,” the executive director said.
One-year-old Mia is waiting to be adopted. This little girl was rescued from a home in Queens where she was neglected and rarely went outside, even going to the bathroom solely on bathroom pads. Mia had an ingrown tail, which caused a horrible infection. While doctors have surgically corrected the tail, she remains in the hospital due to a torn cruciate ligament.
Wrinkles recently had a bit of a scare when he ate corn on the cob. His snack caused an obstruction, which his family could not afford to pay for; however, LIBR was contacted, and Wrinkles was brought to a local vet to remove the blockage. He is now in a foster home waiting for his forever home, preferably one with no young children since he has the potential to swallow small toys.
When it comes to placing the dogs, Richin said there isn’t a problem finding potential owners. For almost 400 dogs in the Northeast in a year, she can receive approximately 12,000 applications. She pointed out that not every home is suitable for the dogs, however. Before placing a dog, things to consider are if the particular bulldog is well suited for a home that may have children, especially young ones, or other dogs or cats, as each dog is different.
Richin said the group’s website and Facebook page have been valuable tools when it comes to finding new families, foster homes and volunteers, and the Facebook page especially has been helpful in sharing the dogs’ stories with the public.
A post that stands out for Richin is one where members driving in Lancaster, Pa., saw a bulldog tied to a pole along the highway with a big pink cardboard sign that said: “Free to a good home. Blind in one eye, can’t have puppies.” In an hour and a half, the executive director said a volunteer was there to rescue the dog. “Social media is extremely useful with this kind of organization,” she said.
The group has also used its Facebook page to educate bulldog lovers about the risks of buying a dog from a pet store or puppy mill. Recently, when a store-bought puppy developed pneumonia from a bug she caught at the establishment, LIBR shared the story on social media. The post encouraged others who had problems with pet stores, including the one the puppy came from, to share their experiences. The pet store paid for the veterinarian bill, which included the dog spending 18 days in oxygen. Unfortunately, the puppy died, leaving her owners heartbroken.
After another post, reporting how much veterinarian care would cost for one bulldog, a member commented he would match all donations. Richin was overwhelmed by the $4,000 check the man sent saying he was happy to do it because LIBR had helped him a few months earlier.
The organization also conducts programs at schools, fairs and shelter adoption events to help potential owners make informed decisions when it comes to buying or adopting a bulldog. The executive director said volunteers are also available to help bulldog owners with information regarding veterinarians, the proper food and care. For every bulldog they rescue there are three owners who need help caring for their pets, according to Richin. She said when volunteers help owners it’s primarily for the dog’s well-being, and they are nonjudgmental of the people.
Richin said she and volunteers understand that owners may encounter challenges and said they shouldn’t be hesitant to ask for help. “People feel lost. They have this initial loving feeling for the puppy, and then they’re like, well, what do I do now.”
LIBR is always looking for foster homes as well as volunteers not only to help with rescues but also with office work and publicity. For more information on how you can adopt or assist with rescues, fostering or even sponsoring a bulldog, visit www.longislandbulldogrescue.org or visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LongIslandBulldogRescue.