OKEECHOBEE — K9 Resque has been finding loving homes for dogs in Okeechobee County for the last seven years. With her husband, Sharon O’Brien started the rescue nearly 15 years ago in Michigan. “Having a rescue was never my dream,” she said. “I just kind of fell into it.”
O’Brien has always been an animal lover and said she has been around animals all her life. At the age of 18, she began working for a shelter and stayed there for more than 10 years. “I did everything there,” she explained.
After leaving the first shelter, she worked in various veterinarian offices and other shelters, gaining as much knowledge as she possibly could about animals.
In 1998, when Florida suffered a drought and multiple wildfires across the state, O’Brien was in charge of large animal rescue during the disaster. “We got horses and cows, whatever kind of livestock evacuated.” She had been working with the sheriff’s department on their mounted posse, and when the fires began, they asked her to handle the livestock rescue. “That was really hands on!”
Afterward, she became disaster certified, and now does rescue during any type of natural disaster. “That’s my passion, disaster rescue. Once you are certified, they will call you for anything and everything you are trained for, and I’m trained in all of it.”
After Hurricane Katrina, she was sent to help rescue pets that had been lost during the storm. The goal was to reunite them with their families
Working with the animals during Hurricane Katrina was what helped her decide she needed to open a rescue of her own. “We ended up with some animals that were supposed to go to another rescue, but they backed out at the last minute. I had to scramble to find placements for all the animals.” In the end, they found the owners for about half the animals and sent them home. Some of the owners were unable to take their pets back and some were never found, and the animals were adopted out. “After that, I decided I’d like to try this! I’d never ever thought of having my own rescue until that time. In January 2007, we took the plunge and started K9 Resque.”
“We don’t have what I always call a cement jungle,” she said. She and the other volunteers foster the dogs in their own homes. O’Brien has kennels in her back yard that are used to quarantine the dogs when they first arrive. We want to make sure they don’t have any diseases but are also checking for behavior problems.” Some animals are scared when they first arrive and need time to calm down. Some will never be comfortable with other dogs or with children. They watch to see what idiosyncrasies each animal might have.
K9 Resque accepts owner surrenders, cruelty cases, from shelters, from disasters. However, they do not accept strays.
Once the dog has completed quarantine, it is taken into a foster home and lives as family, like any other dog until a permanent home is found. “We help with whatever they need help with, housebreaking, leash training, etc. to make them more adoptable.”
O”Brien is the executive director, president and founder. Prior to his death two years ago, her husband served as vice-president. Now, O’Brien runs the rescue with help from faithful volunteers.
The biggest need the rescue has right now is foster homes. If anyone is interested, they can call 863-824-5373 or check out the rescue’s Facebook page. Their website can be found at K9resque.org. They also need volunteers for other things such as fund raising events, vet transports and answering the phone. K9 Resque has wish lists on Cuddly, Amazon and Chewy and will never turn down donations of Odo Ban which can be purchased anywhere. Dog treats and toys are also welcome.