By Linda Simmons
Tzu Zoo Rescue gives abandoned and neglected dogs another chance at life and love
Joseph was nearly unrecognizable when he ended up at a Fort Worth shelter in December 2018.
Immobile under a heavy blanket of his own filthy fur, the black and white Shih Tzu was thought to be 8 or 9 years old. Luckily for Joseph, Tzu Zoo Rescue (TZR) stepped in, giving the little dog a second chance at life.
“Joseph was so matted he could not walk,” says Paula Cooper, a longtime volunteer and treasurer of TZR. “Once we shaved him, which took hours, we realized one paw had completely rotted from no circulation and half his left hind leg was missing. For a moment, we thought euthanasia might be our only option, but then decided that he deserved a chance. We discussed prosthetics, but the vet advised to wait and see how Joseph would react. Everyone was so surprised when he started running around the doctor’s office with only two legs. His tail wagged nonstop.”
In meeting Joseph, it’s easy to see why Cooper calls him a “miracle” dog. His missing limbs don’t slow him down a bit. How he ended up in such horrible condition remains a mystery, but even small dogs are not immune to being neglected, dumped on the street or left at animal shelters.
TZR is a rescue organization that specifically takes in Shih Tzus and Lhasa Apsos. Founded in 2008, TZR serves a wide area in North Texas and has a thriving presence in the Colleyville-Grapevine-Southlake community. A certified nonprofit, it’s made up entirely of volunteers — 40 individuals who devote time, effort and money. Foster homes are the lifeline for any rescue organization, which rarely has dedicated shelters for housing unwanted pets. These temporary caretakers pave the path from abuse and neglect to adoption. Currently, TZR has 25 to 30 participating foster homes and 30 to 40 dogs ready for adoption.
With more people working from home seeking companionship, the number of adoptions increased during the COVID pandemic. TZR had its best year in 2020, taking in 293 dogs in 2020 and adopting out 329 (some adoptees were from prior years).
“We often had over 100 people applying for dogs at any given time, with only 40 to 50 dogs available,” says Lynda Leazure, president of TZR, who now has a full-time job running the rescue. The best part was that a number of senior or special needs dogs, waiting several years for a permanent home, were finally adopted.”
On a wider scale, the Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT) reports a similar trend.
“While adoptions were down 20 percent in 2020, fostering increased by 20 percent, which is a win,” says Cassie Davidson, HSNT’s director of communications.
Even so, large shelters such as HSNT — which also has an adoption site in Keller — along with Dallas and Fort Worth city shelters, are consistently full. Pets are given up for a variety of reasons: a new baby, job loss, relocation or divorce. Pet owners become ill or die without designating anyone to take in their animals.
Joseph was lucky in that someone found him and took him to Fort Worth Animal Care and Control Shelter in Fort Worth, which reached out to TZR.
A volunteer immediately drove Joseph to Dr. Thomas Holbrook, who runs Park Place Pet Hospital in Southlake. The veterinarian and his staff provide much of the medical care for TZR. In addition to surgeries, if needed, they perform the basics: vaccinations, spaying and neutering, heartworm treatment and microchipping.
“We save the dogs others leave behind. We tend to find the oldest, sickest and most pitiful dogs. We often go to a shelter for one dog and end up with three or four.”
Lynda Leazure, president of Tzu Zoo rescue
Gerry French, Dr. Holbrook’s office manager, and Christy DeMarco, office receptionist, are two staffers also dedicated to the rescue efforts. DeMarco ultimately adopted Joseph and has even set up an Instagram page for the pup.
“TZR is the first rescue group with which our office has worked,” French says. “And it was so rewarding to work with this organization that we opened our doors to 15 other groups. We have seen so many hopeless animals brought to us become healthy and valued members of loving families. It warms our hearts to be active participants in saving these dogs. TZR volunteers will always be near and dear to our hearts because they were the first ones to give us the opportunity to give back to the community.”
French tells of another rescue, a tiny female Yorkshire terrier mix brought to Holbrook’s office in a deplorable condition. Her owner asked that the dog be euthanized because she no longer wanted her. After having the dog vetted, TZR stepped up to take her into its rescue but, instead, French adopted her and named her CatieBeth.
“CatieBeth is bossy, feisty, sassy and a funny little girl who has enriched our entire family,” says French. “Another TZR miracle.” CatieBeth and Joseph often go to the office with their owners and spend the day interacting with the staff and greeting clients.
Lessening the need for rescue is one of TZR’s missions. This can only be done through education, especially about spaying and neutering to avoid overpopulation and unwanted litters. Looking for a pure-bred dog? Rescue organizations often have those, too.
“It takes unique individuals to run a rescue, and TZR has captured the hearts of many others who help by volunteering, fostering and donating,” French says.