New Rockford Transcript - Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Canine rescuers: Two area women have rescued over 200 dogs


January 14, 2019

Colette Byrum and Shelly Hanson dedicate their free time and resources to rescuing dogs throughout the area.

"Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling emptiness we didn't ever know we had." -Thom Jones

For Colette Byrum of New Rockford, this quote couldn't be closer to the truth.

"They just seemed to find me," she said, speaking of the dogs in need who, over the years, have shown up near her workplace in Fort Totten. The animals she has rescued have often been in rough shape, suffering from injury, infection or neglect. It was second nature for Byrum to take in these wayward pups and provide the care they needed as she worked to find them forever homes. Soon her endeavor became a never-ending task, and there was only so much she could do alone.

All that changed when Shelly Hanson began working alongside Byrum, and from there it was only natural that the two partnered together to rescue dogs in need.

Byrum describes Hanson as "the workhorse of the operation," a title that Hanson shrugs off lightly as she sits with two small rescue dogs in her lap. "It's only because I have the right kind of space to foster the dogs," she replied.

Hanson lives just east of Devils Lake on seven acres with several outbuildings and a large heated garage. Currently she utilizes the garage to kennel incoming rescues. There she houses them, bathes them, treats them with medications, and makes sure they are well fed and cared for. It is a space that Hanson purchased in May 2017 with the rescue operation in mind. It was around that same time that Byrum and Hanson made their rescue efforts official, naming their operation A Cause 4 Paws. To date, they have rescued over 200 dogs.

A Cause 4 Paws primarily operates through word of mouth, and every week they receive direct calls from individuals seeking to surrender a dog or report an animal in need of rescue. In some cases, the dogs are in severe distress- having encountered porcupines, experiencing starvation, fighting off infection and/or enduring freezing temperatures.

During the cold snap in early November 2018, Byrum and Hanson received an unexpected call about a mama dog and her pups who had dug a burrow and taken shelter under a cement slab. When they arrived, it wasn't difficult for Byrum and Hanson to find the burrow. The two women worked to rescue the seven puppies out of the frigid cold. Unfortunately, the first two they retrieved were frozen solid. It was discouraging to say the least, but Byrum and Hanson continued the rescue amid their tears. Just when they thought their job was complete, they saw what looked to be one more puppy far in the back of the burrow. "We were certain it was dead," recalled Byrum, "but when Shelly nudged the pup, it let out a pitiful groan. We both shouted out in surprise, 'It's alive!'"

This particular pup needed extra special care, as she was practically frozen. Byrum and Hanson stayed up all night trying to get her warm, never really sure if she would make it. To their surprise she pulled through. They aptly named her Frosty.

When they found area shelters were filled with dogs brought in from the cold, Byrum and Hanson reached out to other rescue contacts throughout the region. Leslie Rethemeier and Jennie Belanus of Grand Forks helped to arrange transport for Frosty, her siblings and mother to be transported to Coco's Heart, a rescue in Hudson, Wis. There the rescued dogs were placed in foster homes, and within just a few weeks, Frosty found her forever home.

Byrum describes those moments with emotion in her voice, citing how rewarding it was to see Frosty survive and then how bittersweet it was to see him go. "It's a job that takes a lot of heart," she confesses.

Truth be told, the job takes a lot more than heart. On Dec. 1, A Cause 4 Paws partnered again with Rethemeier and Belanus and hosted a round-up in St. Michael. People from around the area surrendered dogs and/or puppies that could no longer be cared for, and many brought in strays in need of a home for a total of 49 animals. In the weeks surrounding to the event, Byrum and Hanson rescued an additional 51 animals on their own. One hundred dogs made the trip to Wisconsin to receive care at Coco's Heart.

Hanson said, "If someone would have told me three years ago that I'd be doing this, there would be no way that I'd have believed them." At the same time, she can't imagine a future without A Cause 4 Paws, and Byrum agrees. They envision converting the outbuildings on Hanson's property to kennels and installing fencing so the rescue dogs can get more time outdoors.

Yet, such endeavors cost a significant amount of money. Anyone who has ever had a dog knows the cost to feed, treat and clean up after the animals. For Byrum and Hanson, the cost can be immense, and has consistently come from their own pockets.

A rescued pup named Frosty owes her life to A Cause 4 Paws. If not for them, she would have frozen. The top photo is Frosty when she was rescued. The bottom photo is Frosty after rehabilitation.

The next big step ahead is to establish A Cause 4 Paws as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, a process that will take legal as well as financial resources, but will allow them to secure additional funding through grants and donations.

When asked what kind of help they could use now, Byrum and Hanson were modest, citing how much they would appreciate onsite volunteers to help care for the rescues. In addition, they would like to find local fosters who would be willing to house animals before they are transported to a shelter or placed in a forever home. Byrum and Hanson added that they do welcome donations of everyday items such as collars, leashes, dog food and puppy pads.

For more information on how you can help support A Cause 4 Paws or to surrender a dog that you can no longer care for, contact Colette Byrum at (701) 653-5915 or Shelly Hanson at (701) 741-4402. You can also find them on Facebook at A Cause for Paws, ND.


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