We’ve always been a multiple dog family. We stopped buying pure-bred dogs, because we had no intention of showing and/or breeding dogs so we switched to shelter dogs in 1997. When our dog, Buddy, died in April of 2011, leaving us devastated, we decided to continue doting on our two remaining dogs and not think about getting another dog for a long time.

A friend sent us photos of an adorable puppy she’d just adopted and told us he had litter mates. We weren’t ready, but our younger son, Gabriel, said it was his turn to pick out a puppy, because we already had Buddy when he was born, and now he wanted his own puppy.

My friend put us in touch with Linda Money, owner of MidSouth Animal Rescue League in Red Banks, Miss., and our lives changed forever.

The world of rescue consists of many layers one can’t even imagine until you adopt a rescued dog. It’s not a simple matter of rescuing a dog in crisis, taking it to a vet to heal from physical trauma, and then finding a wonderful owner.

We adopted our Shi-Tzu/Poodle mix, Bella, in May of 2011 when she was eight weeks old. Even though my friend put in a great word for us to Linda, she is excellent at vetting potential adoptees and needed to get to know us. The first time she and I spoke on the phone, we went through all the usual vetting questions about our home, did we have a fence, what other dogs did we own, would our other dogs get along with a new dog (especially a puppy), would the puppy be an indoor dog, did we believe in crate training, would we be willing to have Bella over for a weekend to see how things went with us and our other dogs, along with a host of other questions.

We then spoke as though we had known one another all of our lives, and by the end of our four-hour phone call, Bella was ours.

Since that day 10 years ago, I have volunteered with MidSouth Animal Rescue League – MARL, for short. I have seen the intense work that goes into rescue. It is often a 24/7 job because a phone call can come at any time that a dog needs saving.

There are misconceptions about animal rescue. It’s not glamorous, and there isn’t always a happy ending. Often, when a dog is rescued, the only choice is to let them cross the Rainbow Bridge while we hold them at the vet, tell them how much we love them, and that they were such a good boy or girl. We make sure the last voice they hear is loving and the last touch they feel is tender.

However, not all dogs that are rescued come from cruelty cases. There are many varying reasons. A dog may need to be re-homed because the owners have to move and, as much as they love their pet, can’t take their dog with them. Maybe the owner has passed away and no family member wants the dog, so they ask a rescue to re-home the pet instead of going to a high-kill shelter. You learn not to be judgmental in rescue because the ultimate goal is the safety of the animal.

Getting a dog from a rescue isn’t always about mutts, purebreds are often surrendered to rescues. Dogs of all ages are surrendered. Linda opened my eyes to the beauty of adopting a senior dog. While their time with their new owner may be brief, there is a satisfaction in giving a senior animal the best time of its life. They leave this Earth knowing they were loved and safe.

Of course, there are a lot of happy endings in animal rescue. Our dog, Benji, is Bella’s daddy. We adopted him when he was four and a half years old. He’d been abused and was so scared that he lived his first week in our home under my husband’s and my bed. I would sit on the floor and talk really quietly to him while I slid a bowl of water under the bed and some tiny pieces of cheese. He would come out to potty and then go right back under our bed. Building his trust was a slow process, but definitely worth it.

Rescue organizations rely on donations for everything. Money, food, helping pay veterinarian bills, blankets, towels, crates. Rescuing animals can be incredibly expensive for the owner of the 501c3, and many times it seems that they just won’t get what they need. But then the generosity of people comes through and rescues like MARL can continue their excellent work.

If a person doesn’t plan on breeding and/or showing a dog, then rescue is the best way to go. There is always a dog that needs you.