By Janet McAfee
Curtis Sweesy and Vanessa Ruggles are foster parents for Loving All Animals, specializing in caring for German shepherd dogs. Their dining room wall is a shrine, a “wall of love” containing the photos of the shepherds they’ve loved, trained, and helped place in forever homes.
Curtis goes with Loving All Animals to the public shelters to help select their next foster dog. He has an amazing ability to connect with and train these beautiful animals. They all receive Native American names, reflecting Curtis’ Lakota Sioux heritage.
One of Curtis and Vanessa’s most rewarding foster dogs was named Mahko, which means “cute”, who was on death row in the San Bernardino City shelter. The dog was a skeleton…..it was horrifying to see his condition when he bounded out of the kennel. Yet the dog showed sheer joy and gratitude as we traveled home to the Coachella Valley. The wonderful feeling you get rescuing a dog from a shelter and seeing him respond to that second chance is so rewarding. Mahko arrived thin and frail at his foster home, and was treated for kennel cough and an abscess on his neck. As his weight increased from 53 to 85 pounds, Mahko turned into a real character, a big goofy puppy with a comical streak. A German shepherd breeder happened to see Mahko at an event, and informed us he was of exceptional breed standard. We’ll never know how or why this magnificent animal ending up starving on the streets of San Bernardino and languishing in a shelter. Today Mahko is living like a prince in a wonderful Coachella Valley home.
Curtis and Vanessa enjoy getting the dogs healthy and gorgeous for their future homes. They love watching their dogs’ coats go from a dull and brittle texture into a glossy and beautiful sheen. They also enjoy the occasional challenges presented by helping a dog adapt to a new life. Dogs respond quickly under Curtis’ firm guidance, and receive plenty of love and affection while they learn boundaries. Curtis had a German shepherd when he was a child and has an affinity for this loyal and intelligent breed.
In the case of their current shepherd duo, Ina and Scooby showed up almost magically at their gate two days after Mahko’s successful adoption. Starving, abandoned, and clearly bonded to each other, the pair of dogs somehow instinctively knew the right home to pick. A neighbor called to tell Curtis and Vanessa, “Your dogs are sitting outside the gate!” Ina, “mama” in Lakota Sioux, is a 2-year-old female German shepherd. Her best friend Scooby is a larger 3-year-old Great Dane/Shepherd mix.
When Ina and Scooby first arrived, they lacked social skills. Ina jumped up on the kitchen counter and ate a stick of butter. But the pair learned quickly, and are now well trained and obedient. Scooby’s stunning good looks turns heads. Initially shy with strangers, he warms up quickly and gives kisses. This gentle giant especially enjoys back rubs.
Ina is quite a character, keeping Curtis and Vanessa laughing with her antics. She’s dexterous and can open doors and windows unless they are completely latched. Ina knows “shake” and “high five”. She is the perfect combination of affection and independence. Ina loves to snuggle on the bed, but willingly returns to her bed on the floor. Both dogs are great with children and other dogs. Scooby and Ina are inseparable, and a home that will take both of them is needed. How did they select a German shepherd foster home? They’re not talking, but these are very smart dogs with fabulous personalities.
German shepherds are known to be one of the most intelligent and loyal breeds. This is the breed that protects our military in the most dangerous parts of the globe. This is the breed that now bravely searches through the rubble in Oklahoma for tornado survivors. They are my favorite breed. I grew up with a German shepherd, and he was my protector and best friend. That dog, named “Boy”, saved my life when I was 6 months old. These active, bold, determined dogs make an ideal household companion and family pet.
Vanessa describes why she and Curtis find fostering so rewarding, “Everyone has their piece of the puzzle that fits together to rescue these animals. Some donate money, others volunteer at a shelter walking dogs, others like us, foster. Fostering is perfect for us because we work at home and have the time to spend with the dogs. Plus, our ‘permanent’ dogs are tolerant and always welcome the newcomers. We simply want to do our part to help homeless animals.”
If you are interested in adopting Scooby and Ina, or would enjoy fostering a dog or cat, call Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000.