For some people, giving is not a season, but a way of life.
At least that’s true for Lori Bridges, the founder of Journey Home German Shepherd Dog Rescue. Established in 2015, the rescue based in Jefferson City specializes in rehoming German Shepherd dogs (and the occasional Husky or Belgian Malinois) to families throughout Missouri.
“I like to think I’m filling a need,” Bridges said. “To give people an option of going somewhere other than a breeder, especially if they’re looking for a specific breed.”
This year, her rescue found homes for 75 dogs, only two less than the previous year. But Bridges is still hoping to make it past 77 before the end of the year. “I’ve still got time,” she said. “Anything can happen!”
It’s that attitude that has allowed Journey Home to find families for more than 465 dogs since its inception. Pulling most of her dogs from overflowing shelters in Texas, Bridges relies on the work of volunteers to transport dogs from Texas to Missouri, where they are either boarded at Honey Creek Pet Resort in Jefferson City or fostered by families from across the state.
“We’re desperately in need of fosters,” said Bridges. “We’ll board them because we would save a much lower number of dogs if we always waited for fosters.”
Although Journey Home dogs are adopted out all over Missouri, with large numbers going to St. Louis, Bridges says she’s excited to see a recent increase in local applications from areas like Columbia, Fulton, and Mexico, Mo. “Then we can really keep a close eye on our dogs, which is nice,” she said.
Bridges, a full-time social worker for more than 20 years, can’t imagine a life where she’s not helping those in need.
“I save dogs, I save kids,” she laughed when describing how she spends most of her time. Although her motivations for her social and rescue work are similar, her work with Journey Home is especially rewarding because she can directly affect lives.
“There is no greater reward than what I do, but I can’t take all these kids home. I can’t take them home and make their lives better. But I can take dogs home and find them new homes. I know that I can help them directly,” she said.
But it wouldn’t be possible without the help of fosters and volunteers. Andrea Warren is one such volunteer and has been working with Journey Home for nearly six years. She adopted a dog named Roxy from the rescue and then decided to try out fostering.
“I have a Christmas ornament I add all the foster names on every year, and I think I counted 42 on there this year,” she said.
A full-time dog sitter for all breeds, she never realized how much she liked German Shepherds until she started fostering. “They’re so smart, and they’re all so different. It’s fun to discover their personalities and who they are,” she said.
Warren spends much of her time socializing the dogs that come to her: she often works on slow introductions, house training, and crate training. She emphasizes consistency and leadership, and helps her fosters develop skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.
Both Warren and Bridges stress the importance of “meeting a dog where they’re at.”
“From a rescue dog standpoint,” said Bridges, “You can’t adopt a dog and expect them to fit into every aspect of your life.”
Bridges says she currently has five dogs at her house, and she’s constantly adjusting their environment and her life for them to thrive.
What does it take to do it?
“Passion, that’s it,” she said. “You have to be a little insane to do this, I think.”
“But despite what you see, and what you go through, and the sadness you see, there’s so much good that happens that it always brings you back.”