Before you commit, though, check out what Melissa Bacelar, owner of Wagmor Pet Rescue, has spoke to us about her rescue agency, and offers helpful insight to families looking to adopt a pet.
As the owner of Wagmor Pet Rescue, what is your favorite part about your job?
My absolute favorite part of the job is when I go in and I take a group of dogs that are completely shut down, completely scared, don’t trust people, and I watch them go from a completely shut-down being to a wagging-tail-happy being, trusting with their forever family, knowing the rest of their lives they’re not going to have one bad minute.
Can you speak about the number of rescues you saw during the pandemic? There were a lot of people adopting — and then surrendering once they had to get back to work and school. Did this affect your rescue at all?
Absolutely. During the pandemic, when we would post the group of dogs that we took in, the next morning we would have a line of people waiting outside the door to adopt them. We would put up sign-up sheets. Our overnight person would call and say, “Oh my gosh, there’s people around the corner just lined up.” That was the pandemic. We rescued and adopted out thousands and thousands of dogs without even really trying. It was unbelievable.
Now that the pandemic’s over and people are back to work and school and sports and travel, we’re not seeing a huge return of animals adopted from us, but we are getting calls every minute of every day from shelters, from owners, from neighbors that are watching their neighbors not treat their dogs properly. It’s really quite depressing and unbelievable the amount of dogs that are coming in and not having any place to go. In Los Angeles and California in general, the shelters are just so beyond capacity. Some of them aren’t even able to take in dogs. They are telling me this is the worst it’s been in 10 years.
Wagmor does something called “Social Club Cuddle” time. How do you see this benefiting the pets looking for their forever homes and the people thinking about adopting?
Cuddle time is a huge stress reliever, and it’s a great way to get people in because I feel like a lot of people might not be ready to adopt a dog, or they might not be in a situation where they can adopt a dog or it’s fair to adopt a dog, but they still want the interaction. And our dogs being from situations where maybe they didn’t get enough human contact, or they weren’t able to trust humans, really benefit from other people coming in and sitting with them and allowing them to warm up to them.
So, it helps the humans because it’s stress relief, and I’m telling you, no one leaves without having a smile on their face after being cuddled by 50 dogs. For the dogs, it’s so awesome to know that every single person that enters our facility is going to be nice to them. No one is going to yell at them, no one is going to lock them in a cage, no one is going to be mean to them, and whatever happened previously is not going to happen again, so it helps them trust all types of people. And obviously, we can’t afford to have 10 staff members sitting with dogs all the time, so having these volunteers with them really helps.
What is something a family should know or prepare for before going to adopt?
Myself being a parent, I understand the importance of having a dog that is not only going to be good with your child, but be good with children coming into your home. I always feel that’s the biggest thing. We can always make the dog trust their immediate family because they’re used to them. They see them every day, they feed them and walk them and all those things, but a big concern, especially for me with two sons that are school age, is having friends come in, and friends with different personalities and different energy levels. So, when a parent is thinking about getting a dog, they have to think about how active their house is, how many people are in and out of the house and what kind of dog do they think they have time for…
As a parent, you have to think, “How many hours am I truly home every day?” “How much time am I going to be able to dedicate to this dog, and if we do sports and activities after school, are they sports and activities we can bring the dog to?” Really thinking about being honest with ourselves about how much time we dedicate to this animal and how much we can take them with us, and taking into consideration the amount of exercise and mental stimulation they need.
I also think that a young dog or puppy is always a good way to go because there’s no baggage, no one [has] hurt them. But again, [we have to be] honest with ourselves about time. If you get a puppy, are you going to have time to train that puppy? Are you going to have time to be home with that puppy during the months he can’t interact with other people, go on walks and train the puppy so the puppy is used to kids and people?
Can you discuss the price of adopting at Wagmor Pet Rescue? How does that money help your rescue?
At Wagmor, we work a little bit differently. Most people tell me they can’t believe how quickly we get back to potential adopters and how available we are, and that is because we have a full-time staff that is available 24 hours a day that are all paid. We don’t work on a volunteer basis at all. We are a fully paid staff rescue, and we also have a facility. And the facility isn’t like a kennel or a shelter; it is a luxury pet hotel, so the dogs are loose and free. And it’s a nice place to go with your family. No one feels sad when they go there. No one feels upset for the dogs. It’s a nice, beautiful place where people can come in and relax and enjoy themselves. Because of that, our adoption fees are a bit higher. Our adult dogs are $650, and our puppies are $850. That money not only goes to their medical care and their food, but also goes to a 24-hour staff that’s watching the dogs. It’s also going to the facility that we obviously have to pay rent for every month to make sure we can house these dogs. And it also allows people to get a sense of what the dogs are like with other dogs and different staff members, because there are always new people in there working with them. We’re these dogs’ forever home. If anything happens in six months, in two years, in five years, we are going to be there and we are going to take care of that dog.
Do you have any favorite adoption stories?
[A dog named] John Wayne. We get a call from a shelter, and they’ve got a pitbull…and someone was like, “We have to put the dog down right now; the dog is dying.” One of our sponsors, donors and friends has a plane, and I called him, and he said, “I’m going to get that dog.” He flew his private plane, put the dog in his plane, flew the dog back to our vet, off the euthanasia table. The dog went to our vet, we sealed him up… and he went to medical foster. When he walked into the medical foster (she has three kids under seven, and she never puts her foster dogs with her kids at first, especially a dog who had been so badly abused), he saw her kids and jumped out of his pen to be with them and kiss them, and he was just so happy to be there. He was there for about a month and a half healing, and when he was healed, he had quite large scars, but he was fine. He came to Wagmor to get adopted. We do a lot of events at Wagmor, and we had a healer who was coming in to do a healing event with the dogs and the people, and he was just going to be there healing. This man [who] was not looking for a dog — he traveled, he didn’t want a dog, he didn’t think he could have a dog — fell in love with John Wayne, he adopted John Wayne. And now John Wayne goes with him on retreats and healing journeys. So this dog went from literally such an abusive situation [to getting] flown on a private plane and healed, and now he’s traveling the world with a healer.