Everyone loves a cute, soft, wiggly, wriggly puppy. Pet stores and rescue shelters bring in people weekly looking to adopt the perfect puppy or dog.
But what about the puppies that aren’t born so perfect? The ones born with handicaps, deformities and imperfections. Who takes care of those dogs? Are they just forgotten and disposed of because we as humans are so obsessed with perfection?
Karen Belfi is a champion for these forgotten dogs and created Blind Dog Rescue Alliance in 2009 to help re-home dogs born blind or partially blind.
Karen agreed to be interviewed today and talk to us about BDR.
Denise: BDRA was created in 2009. What prompted you to create a rescue dedicated to blind or partially blind dogs?
Karen: Back in 1999, I had a crazy Siberian Husky named Sasha. She needed a playmate. I went on Petfinder to find a Siberian Husky, and came across a husky mix named Ray Charles, who had been born without eyes. I was dying to adopt him, but I knew nothing about blind dogs. I found a support group for blind dog owners on Yahoo, and promptly joined. I did adopt Ray, by the way!
On the list there were a lot of posts about blind dogs needing rescue urgently. I thought there was a need for a blind dog rescue. I spoke to some other list members, and BDRA was born!
Denise: Where was BDRA initially located before it branched out to the whole U.S. and Canada?
Karen: We actually started out branched out. We had our office in Philadelphia, at my house. Our VP was in Canada. We had board members down south, and in NJ, NY, and a couple other states. As word spread, we got more volunteers throughout the country, as well as Canada.
Denise: Does BDRA have a central location or are there various divisions and chapters across the US and Canada?
Karen: Our central location was in Philadelphia, but now it is in CT, where our treasurer lives. Basically that is the office, but we have no facility or public place. Just a network of volunteers and fosters.
Denise: What experience do you have working with blind dogs?
Karen: As I said, I adopted Ray Charles in 1999 and learned a lot with him. I also had fostered blind or visually impaired dogs for Siberian Husky rescues.
Denise: Approximately how many volunteers do you have working across the US and Canada?
Karen: Right now we have around 150 volunteers.
Denise: Do your volunteers require special training to work with the blind dogs?
Karen: No, just a willingness to learn. Basically, they don’t need anything really different than any other dog!
Denise: Do you mainly acquire your dogs from rescues, animal controls, or owner surrenders?
Karen: Mostly shelters, some owner surrenders. We do occasionally take a dog from a rescue who doesn’t have a foster for a blind dog, or is concerned that they don’t have the experience in blind dog training.
Denise: What is the average amount of dogs that BDRA takes in and rehomes in a year’s time?
Karen: Around 70. Since we’ve formed we’ve taken in over 400 dogs.
Denise: What is the process once a dog is in your care and what steps do you take to re-home them?
Karen: Once a dog comes to a BDRA foster home, we get them to the vet to get whatever care they need. Often they will see an ophthalmologist as well.
We list our dogs on our website, as well as Petfinder and other sites. We also encourage fosters to get them out to events, and other places, to let people meet them.
Denise: If readers want to know more about BDRA where can they learn more about you?
Karen: Our website is www.blinddogrescue.org. We are also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/blinddogrescue . They can also email us at email@example.com
Denise: If people want to help BDRA what can they do?
Karen: We ALWAYS need volunteers! Even if people can’t foster, they can certainly help us. People tend to think if they can’t foster, they can’t help.
We need volunteers to check volunteer and adoption applications, answer phone calls, set up a BDRA table at local meet and greet events, coordinate transports, plan fundraisers, and so much more!
They can fill out a volunteer application on our website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Karen for the interview and for all you do for dogs.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery