When French bulldog Hank first arrived at Maple Grove’s Pets Under Police Security (PUPS) animal holding facility, the staff immediately knew there was something wrong. “When we were alerted of his status there, [PUPS staff] had told us he seemed to have an injury to his front right leg,” Mindy Jones, Hank’s current foster, says.
The injury progressed rapidly to the point of Hank not being able to stand, walk or eat. He was also exhibiting signs of neurological damage, which was one of the factors that prompted PUPS to contact the team at Plymouth-based animal rescue and nonprofit The Rescue Crew for emergency placement.
“The day that we went to pick him up, I could tell that his neurological problems were more severe than we thought,” founder Chris Maddox says. “He was probably going to be too much for the foster that had stepped up.”
The Rescue Crew is a foster-based rescue specializing in dogs and cats that are otherwise in danger of euthanasia. These include big dogs, old dogs and pitbull breeds. A French bulldog normally makes the list of what Maddox refers to as the "small, highly-adoptable fluffies" that have no problem with placement, but Hank’s case was different.
“He was immediately brought to the vet for an exam, and it was determined he had some severe neurological issues,” Jones says. Although she has volunteered with The Rescue Crew as the vetting manager since the rescue’s inception in November 2017, she preferred to work behind the scenes and had never fostered a dog before. That is, “until Hank came along,” she says.
Jones says she initially had reservations about taking Hank on. The tiny French bulldog was diagnosed with a severe and often fatal form of meningitis, which meant he’d need around-the-clock care. But when Jones met Hank for the first time, she says it was love at first sight. “When he came home to me, he was able to walk on his own but was still very emaciated … [he] couldn’t eat well on his own … but he had a huge personality.”
Hank rules his new roost in a typically talkative Frenchie way, but he’s also undergoing a grueling medical regimen to try to get his health back on track. “He definitely has the personality of a regular dog, but his body doesn’t act like a normal dog,” Jones says. “His quiet and tired times are when his disease stands out the most.”
The Rescue Crew has spent approximately $15,000 on Hank since first taking him on in February 2021, making him its most expensive case to date. Jones lists a demanding treatment schedule, which includes five medications twice a day and one medication three times daily, multiple vet appointments every month and full-day chemotherapy treatment every four weeks. But although it’s taxing for Hank and his foster family, his medical care is also taxing on The Rescue Crew, which has grown exponentially since it started five years ago.
“When we started … we had to identify how many animals we expected to take in within the first 12 months,” Maddox says. “Conservatively, we thought maybe 40 … and it was over five times that.” The rescue’s subsequent growth spurts have made some long-term infrastructure goals—such as a brick-and-mortar location—difficult to say the least, but throughout it all, The Rescue Crew has stayed true to its founding mission.
“The reason we wanted to start The Rescue Crew [was] to focus on the local shelter animals,” Maddox says. Although there are a number of shelters and animal impounds in Minnesota, many of them don’t have the staffing to allow for public adoptions. Even in instances where they do, many still prefer to place special cases ranging from medical to behavioral issues through rescues only. “Our focus is really on those most urgent animals in the shelters that would be facing an imminent risk of euthanasia without the help of a rescue organization,” Maddox says.
Without rescues like The Rescue Crew, Hank’s story probably would have ended at the animal holding facility. Instead, he’s experiencing the best quality of life he can and changing his foster family’s lives for the better along the way. “I never knew how much taking care of a hospice animal could change you,” Jones says. “He has so much love to give and has such a great spark and love for life. They say everyone has their one soul mate in an animal. I truly believe Hank is mine.”
The Rescue Crew, rescuecrew.org; firstname.lastname@example.org