Shelter dogs get reprieve in Ramona

Ramona businesswoman Michelle Robertson-Clark operates Pet Rescue to find homes for shelter dogs like Pepper so they won’t be euthanized. Sentinel photo/Jessica King
Ramona businesswoman Michelle Robertson-Clark operates Pet Rescue to find homes for shelter dogs like Pepper so they won’t be euthanized. Sentinel photo/Jessica King

By Jessica King

Open for less than a month, Main Street’s newest business has already gone to the dogs.

Pet Rescue is a canine relocation and adoption service that opened Feb. 2 at the corner of Main and Rotanzi streets, next to the Sears store. Almost all the dogs found at Pet Rescue were brought to Ramona within days of being earmarked for euthanization at Southern Californian animal shelters.

“There’s a real need out there,” said founder Michelle Robertson-Clark, who also sells boutique doggy items, such as clothes and beds, to help supplement the adoption side of the business.

She started rescuing the doomed pooches nearly a year ago when a chance browsing of the Internet led her to a so-called kill-shelter website that showed 35 dogs were scheduled to be put down on her upcoming birthday.

Robertson-Clark already owned several big dogs and a Yorkie, and wasn’t looking to permanently add to her family but had been toying with the idea of fostering small dogs that would make better-suited playmates for her Yorkie.

The Internet marketer turned shop owner said seeing the kill-shelter site brought her to tears, and within days she and her husband drove to a Los Angeles-area shelter to save what they could.

From there, Robertson-Clark said she began regularly fostering dogs at her Ramona home and worked hard to help place them. She spent the past year traveling around to various pet stores, holding one-day adoption events. During the events, the dogs would be brought to stores and placed in temporary fencing set up just outside the front doors.

The practice proved to be challenging, with the dogs being at the mercy of the weather, the instability of the fencing and the waves of onlookers and parking lot noises.

Robertson-Clark said she knew there had to be a better way to introduce people looking for pets to her rescued dogs.

“It’s hard to adopt out a dog if they’re shivering and just looking really unhappy,” she said.

At Pet Rescue, dogs spend the day in an indoor play yard and go home with Robertson-Clark and other foster families at night.

Robertson-Clark welcomes the public to come in, even if they’re not 100 percent sold on the idea of adopting a dog.

“If they just need to get their fix of puppy love, they’re welcome — no pressure,” she said, adding that she discourages just one member of a household popping in and immediately taking home a dog just because he or she is cute.

She also welcomes volunteers and said if one person comes in and falls for a particular pet, they are strongly encouraged to go home and return with the rest of their household, including any other dogs they may have to make sure everyone is on board with the possible adoption.

“We don’t want people to make impulse decisions,” she said.

Once someone does decide to adopt at Pet Rescue, there is a $300 adoption fee. The fee covers micro-chipping, up-to-date shots, spaying or neutering and basic training to ensure the dog is not aggressive when it comes to food, toys or other dogs.

The fee also comes with a promise from Robertson-Clark to make house calls in the immediate future if the dogs have any problems adjusting to his or her new home.

“We like to stay involved, to be resource for the dogs and the new family,” she said.

Robertson-Clark has no formal education on dog training but said she has taught herself through the years, with help from her mother, who runs a business in Rancho Penasquitos that trains service animals.

Pet Rescue is open 7 days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In the future, Robertson-Clark said she would like to offer free classes to dog owners on grooming their pets, and micro-chipping services and other pet-related needs.

   
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