You may have seen photos of these adorable pups on your Facebook feed that just melt your heart. Social media is one of the ways Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue helps rescue thousands of dogs through its volunteer foster program, saving animals and giving local families an opportunity to serve. “On any given day we have from 150 to 300 dogs in rescue,” says Ashley Kurtz, who founded Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue in 2010.
“Coco’s Heart was established in memory of my childhood best friend, Coco, who passed away unexpectedly. I was only 12 years old at that time but knew I had to do something to help other dogs in his honor,” Kurtz says. “Fast forward until I was in my early 20s and a dream became a reality. We have now rescued thousands of dogs to date.”
Coco’s Heart works though the service of more than 200 volunteer foster families who take on the dogs who come from all over, nursing them to physical and emotional health until they can be permanently placed. Adoption fees help cover the vet expenses, which were $650,000 in 2016. “We rely on adoption fees and donations to fund our rescue efforts,” Kurtz says. “We provide quality veterinary care to each of our dogs and strive to educate others on the importance of providing quality veterinary care.”
Several dozen of these foster families with Coco’s Heart live in Woodbury; here are a few of them.
Sandy Lammer & Family
After losing their own dog, a friend introduced Sandy Lammer to fostering. Her family has helped 15 dogs since December 2016. “My favorite part is getting to see these dogs come into rescue, getting to love on them and then helping them to find a forever home in which they can thrive and have a wonderful life,” Lammer says. “It has been such a great experience and opportunity for our family to see these dogs come from unfortunate circumstances and just want to be loved, and then also seeing them be adopted and bringing such joy to others.”
Lammer has paid it forward as well, introducing others to fostering as well. “I have talked to others who are considering becoming fosters about how rewarding it was to be able to foster and get to help so many dogs find loving homes. Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue has been a wonderful organization to foster for, and I am grateful for all of their help and generosity to help so many animals find a better life. To see not only the dogs, but those people who adopt and bring love to these animals, is truly priceless.”
Liula Bey & Family
“I have been working as a dog rescue volunteer for about seven years and with Coco's Heart for over a year; they are by far my favorite organization so I decided to stick with them,” says Bey, who has helped more than 40 dogs so far in addition to adopting two dogs of their own. “We absolutely love taking in little puppies and helping them find homes.”
Bey and her husband adopted their daughter from the foster system and say that fostering puppies has made a huge impact on her. “Our daughter has autism, and fostering puppies has been very therapeutic for her and has taught some important values such as helping and making other people happy,” Bey says. “It has also helped with her emotions and feelings.
“It is really a family effort and we absolutely love it,” says Bey, who adds that her husband and live-in au pair from Spain also help with the puppies.
Megan & Ryan McEnaney
“I have liked the Coco’s Heart page of Facebook for a long time and this was something I always wanted to do,” says Megan McEnaney, a second grade teacher at St. Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic School. “They were always having posts for ‘calling all fosters’ and it just never seems like there is enough help, so I wanted to do what I can to help as many of these dogs get out of horrible situations.”
Once she moved into a townhouse with her brother Ryan, who works for the family business as public relations director for Bailey Nurseries, Megan had the opportunity to begin fostering last May. Ryan helps when he is not traveling for work.
“The amount of work involved really depends on the dog,” Ryan says. “Our first dog came from the reservation covered in ticks and was malnourished. It wasn’t so much coaxing her how to interact, rather getting her cleaned up and ready to go. Where the dog we have right now is much more hands-on. She survived a barn fire, is incredibly shy and scared, but has really come out of her shell in the last month. She went from hiding in the back of her crate, to making eye contact, to now being out and about when we are home. Seeing those changes is a really exciting piece of it.”
Ryan adds, “Fostering is such a rewarding experience. I grew up with dogs and I want to adopt them all, but that’s not realistic. So it’s great to be able to see them go to homes that you know they will be so loved.”
Megan also works with a few fellow teachers who also foster, and they involved the kids at school with an event where they learned about the animals and made toys and supplies to donate. “It was cool to see the kids get involved, and some of our school families foster as well,” she says. The K-2 service project at the school will also raise funds for Coco’s Heart.
Debra and Art McCloskey
For over three years, Debra and Art McCloskey have been fostering for Coco’s Heart and have helped 85 dogs. They began by helping transport the dogs from one location to another. “Many of the dogs come from surrenders on the Indian Reservations in North and South Dakota,” Art says. “They come in busloads of 40 to 50 every Friday at Coco’s Heart.”
“This experience opened our eyes to be able to see first-hand how scared, sick and sometimes abused these poor dogs were,” Debra says. “It was probably their first experience being in a crate and inside of a vehicle.”
The couple then decided to become fosters. “When we first get a new foster, we have to try and figure them out. The dog we have now lived on a chain for nine years, so he needs freedom,” says Debra, who adds that the dogs may stay as little as two weeks to as long as six months. “Some of them are scared and need extra time to get used to people and other animals and to find out what love feels like. We notice the change in most of them within a few days, and seeing that change just makes you so happy and proud that we were able to make this difference in their lives.
“At first, it was very difficult for me to let these dogs go to their forever homes,” Debra says. “I felt like I should be keeping all these dogs to myself as I loved them all. It has now gotten easier as I know they are going to good homes and to people that will shower them with love and attention.”
How to Help
Become a Foster. You can find more information on the Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue website, cocosheartdogrescue.org.
Adopt, Don’t Shop. There are hundreds of dogs locally at any given time who need to be adopted. The process includes an adoption application, a $25 application fee, veterinary reference check, criminal background check, meet and greet, home visit and adoption agreement to ensure the dogs find appropriate and loving forever homes.
Adoption Events. Coco’s Heart hosts adoption events weekly. The 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month is at Angel’s Pet World in Hudson. The 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month is at Pet Evolution in Woodbury. “Both stores help make an incredible difference and impact on our rescue efforts. They are family owned and operated and truly value our rescue efforts,” Kurtz says.
Donate. Even if you can’t help by fostering or adopting, you can donate to the cause.