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Rescuing Penny Jane: One Shelter Volunteer, Countless Dogs, and the Quest to Find Them All Homes

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What shelter dogs need is obvious—a home. But how do we find all those homes? That question sends bestselling writer and lifelong dog lover Amy Sutherland on a quest to find the answers in her own volunteer work and beyond. The result is an unforgettable and inspiring trip through the world of homeless dogs and the people who work so hard to save them.

Rescuing Penny Jane introduces readers to dogs like Alfred, a loony, gorilla-sized Goldendoodle, intent on jumping on absolutely everyone at the shelter; Rugby, the crippled pit bull—mix puppy who was found abandoned on a roadside; and Brody, an overly exuberant and misunderstood German shepherd mix. Then there are the author’s own adopted dogs: Penny Jane, the terribly skittish stray from a Maine farm who repeatedly pushes Amy’s patience to its limits; and Walter Joe, who acts like a rabid dog in the shelter only to become a marshmallow in his new home. She also delves into the history of rescue dogs, like Sido, the sheltie mix who inspired the no-kill movement; Sadie, the Civil War dog who braved Gettysburg; and Bummer and Lazarus, San Francisco’s famous nineteenth-century stray dogs.

Through conversations with leading shelter directors, researchers, trainers, adoption counselors, and caretakers across the country, Sutherland offers a nuanced, fully informed picture of the rescue world, along with its challenges, champions, and triumphs. Rich, moving, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, Rescuing Penny Jane ultimately explores what it is to be a Canis lupus familiaris and what it is to be a Homo sapien.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published February 21, 2017

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Amy Sutherland

11 books28 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 66 reviews
Profile Image for Lois.
637 reviews1 follower
February 3, 2017
I LOVED this book and think it should be a must-read for pretty much everyone. I've read lots of books on this subject, but don't remember being as impressed by one before.

I could write a really long review about it, but I'll try not to. Let me start by saying that I think anyone who works at an animal shelter, whether as a paid employee or volunteer, and/or fosters animals at home, is a very special person in my book.

This book is amazing. The author has worked as a volunteer and has fostered and adopted from shelters. She tells lots of stories, both happy and sad, but in between you get a lot of facts. I learned a lot I didn't know before about the shelter system, but without it being shoved at me, as so many books do. This has such a great balance of things you want to know mixed with things that should be talked about a lot more, and told in a positive, personal way. Yes, some was very sad. I read most of the book with my own rescue dog in his usual spot while I'm reading, which is plastered to my side, and sometimes i just had to stop and hug him, while I wiped away some tears. Other things made me laugh, and hug him then, too.

She tells you about people who just couldn't accept the way shelters are run and actually did something to change that. And didn't just stop at their local shelter, but wanted to change it for the whole country. Before one man got involved, adoption rates were much lower and euthanasia rates were sky high. He turned that around. She talks to people from many shelters. Some famous ones, like Best Friends, or Muttville, the wonderful one for seniors pets only, but also lots of smaller places you've never heard of.

There are big decisions involved. Should you make the pet return policy easier in order to get more adoptions, or make it harder but have fewer adoptions? Shelters have their little tricks to get people interested. Like naming the pets after celebrities. They also have little tricks to make someone who they can tell is unsuitable lose interest in certain animals. They know which dogs want attention and which ones you should just ignore beyond giving them basic care, for their own comfort. Its a whole world of personalities, which you already know if you've ever really known or loved an animal, and some just can't ever adapt well enough to find a home.

And the author is honest. She admits she likes older dogs better than puppies. That she didn't always care for certain breeds until one animal of that breed changed her mind. That proves how individual each dog or cat, or whatever, is. She admitted that "I hate people" is a phrase that must be whispered behind the scenes at every shelter at some point. But she also explains how, altho its hard not to judge, sometimes its just ignorance and circumstance that makes a person do the wrong thing for an animal, rather than cruelty. Unfortunately, in extreme cases, someone might actually think an animal would be better off on the street than in their home any more. Pets who were fun dorm companions for college kids often get turned loose when college days are over. Its just so sad that sometimes they'll find animals tied to a post or left in an abandoned house, etc. The lucky ones get found. She goes into how an animal in a shelter too long gets to be harder to adopt out sometimes because of the behavior brought about by it being locked up too long. Its a vicious cycle.

This book was written all about dogs, which are what the author has experience with, but it is most likely just the same for any other animals. Cats for sure. The author even expressed surprise when she first realized that shelters also often have rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. that have been given up.

There is so much more in this book, and obviously, I can't say enough about it. I highly recommend it for anyone thinking about getting a pet. There are so many that are homeless for all kinds of reasons, and a little love for them goes a really, really long way.

(With reference to the 2nd paragraph of this review, sorry this got so long!!)
August 22, 2021
I’ve had the pleasure of reading some really excellent non-fiction about therapy dogs, rescue/service dogs, and shelter dogs this year. “Rescuing Penny Jane” was one of the best ones.
I’ve volunteered at an animal shelter in the past, and experienced the same joy that the author relates about seeing dogs and cats go to new, loving homes. On the flip side, I’ve also had to deal with the feelings of sorrow, and sometimes downright disgust, that comes with seeing abused animals cower in corners, sometimes so traumatized that there is little chance of them being adopted. (As my own husband put it, “Honey, if you’re wanting to restore your faith in humanity, don’t volunteer at the animal shelter.”)
This book explored the uplifting highs and discouraging lows of working with shelter animals. The author also relates the personal stories about the shelter dog, “Penny Jane”, that her family adopted, a dog so timid that she was terrified to enter open doorways.
A must read for any animal lover (but keep Kleenexes handy).

Memorable Quotes:
(Pg.81)-“A clean dog has a better shot at getting adopted, as does a dog who puts his bottom on the floor on command. When people looking for a pet visit kennels, first they exclaim, “Look how cute he is!” and then the chant starts:”Sit, sit, sit, sit sit.”
(Pg. 36)-“A dog’s muteness, a trait that can make him such an ideal constant companion, can work to his disadvantage. Strays come with little or no story. They are nameless and ageless; they might as well have amnesia. The shelter staff can ask about dogs dropped off by owners; if the dog snaps at toddlers, or quakes at thunder, or yaps the day away… a stray is a mystery.”
Profile Image for Maureen DeLuca.
1,025 reviews32 followers
May 25, 2018
Dogs on the cover, book about dogs- saving dogs, loving dogs... 'nuf said!
Profile Image for Mimijo .
201 reviews7 followers
February 27, 2017
This review is reprinted from my blog, aheartforshelterdogs.com:

When writer Amy Sutherland and her husband, Scott, adopted Bumble Bee, an extremely fearful young dog, from a Maine shelter, they thought that their love would heal her. They also thought that they knew a lot about dogs; each had had dogs individually, and together they had raised their genial Australian shepherd. In addition, Amy was a devoted and experienced volunteer dog walker at the shelter where Bumble Bee had been brought after being impounded from under a farmhouse porch where she had lived her whole short life.

But Bumble Bee turned out to be a greater challenge than Amy and Scott were prepared for. She was not just a stray; she was feral – never having lived in a home or interacted with people. She slunk in the shadows of their house, was terrified of stairs, doorways and, most of all, of them. As sleepless nights and disrupted days began to take their toll, they asked themselves, “Why did we ruin our nice life?”

Trying to warm to the dog Amy changed her name to Penny and gave her the middle name of her beloved grandmother, Jane. Still, tensions mounted, each spouse blaming the other for perceived missteps that aggravated the dog’s fears. “We’d quit kissing each other goodnight to avoid getting our fangs tangled.” Things came to a head the morning Scott said, “It would be easier to return Penny Jane than to get a divorce.”

But Amy could not imagine becoming one of “them,” the people who returned dogs, whose breaking of the implicit commitment to lifetime care for their adopted pet made her fellow shelter workers roll their eyes and sigh. “If I become ‘them,’” she lamented, “I won’t be me.”

The crisis passed; returning Penny Jane was never mentioned again, and in time the couple became deeply attached to her. For her part the dog came to accept domestic life, though she would always be shy and never very affectionate. “For the first time,” Amy says, “I loved a dog who showed no great love for me back.” That’s the tone of this book: clear-eyed, warm-hearted, but never sentimental or cutesy.

Rescuing Penny Jane: One Shelter Volunteer, Countless Dogs, and the Quest to Find Them All Homes is touching, honest, funny, at times heartrending, and enormously informative about the plight of homeless dogs and the people nationwide who are working on their behalf.

Amy Sutherland devotes several chapters to her travels across the country to meet exemplary shelter and rescue workers and visit outstanding dog care facilities. There’s the woman in San Francisco who runs Muttville, a shelter just for senior dogs, so that they’re not at a disadvantage in competition with the spiffy newer-model pups as they would be in an ordinary shelter. There’s “Adopt and Shop” in (where else?) L.A., which showcases the adoptable dogs in a colorful boutique setting along with cute accessories and high-end doggy supplies. There’s Best Friends, the Utah desert sanctuary for creatures – dogs, cats, horses, others – who have lost out in the adoption lottery but who are guaranteed a peaceful, loving place to live out their days.

A team of trainers at an ASPCA facility in New Jersey focuses on the “scarediest” dogs – the ones whose aversive behavior toward people would doom their chances of adoption. Many “graduates” from this program have gone on to find permanent loving homes.

The Animal Farm Foundation in upstate New York is dedicated to reversing the stigma against pit bulls, widely considered wrong and unfair by most animal experts. Sutherland herself was at first suspicious of “pitties” but, like the great majority of shelter workers, came to love and esteem them.

These are just a few of the organizations and individuals she spotlights that are all working toward the same goal — ending canine homelessness — in a variety of ways: promoting spay/neuter; assisting needy pet owners in keeping their animals; tirelessly and creatively promoting adoptions; rehabilitating damaged dogs into good companions; transporting dogs from overpopulated areas (like my Tennessee city) to areas where strictly enforced spay and neuter laws create a shortage of adoptable animals.

These profiles are fascinating, but the book’s real heart is Sutherland’s stories of the shelter dogs she has walked, fostered, adopted herself or found homes for, loved, and, sometimes, lost.

Some of the stories are hilarious – like that of Walter Joe, her foster Jack Russell terrier who hung out on top of the clothes dryer and would not let her touch him; to avoid being bitten she had to keep the leash attached to him and tug it to get him to go for a walk, after which he would hop back up onto his warm perch. But then came the night when Amy and Scott lay down on the living room floor to watch TV and suddenly saw a small silhouette in the hallway, tentatively approaching. Walter Joe had gotten down from the dryer and come in search of…what? “A look of resolve comes over his pointed face. He suddenly races at Scott and snuggles up against my husband’s chest.” After that, he slept in the bed with them.

When their agreed-upon foster term was up, Amy and Scott returned Walter to the shelter with a great report card — “yet almost the moment the kennel door closed behind him, his eyes went black and glassy again. He growled at staffers when they looked into his kennel.” On hearing that the shelter was considering euthanizing Walter as unadoptable, Amy brought him home for good, to join Penny Jane as an exceptionally lucky dog.

This experience convinced her that some dogs, like Walter, are “homeable” but not “shelterable” – which presents shelter staff with a dilemma: they have to make their assessment of whether a dog is safe to adopt out based solely on his behavior in the stressful environment of the shelter. “The equivalent would be judging a person while he is in the hospital, stuck with IVs, anxious, bored, and with no family to comfort him. Would you see that person’s true character?”

This insight affected me greatly, since, like every shelter worker and volunteer, I have loved and grieved for some dogs who I felt sure would have done great in the right home, but who couldn’t take the noise, the smells, the proximity of so many other dogs in the shelter setting. Thus, they “lost it” and had to be euthanized.

But there is great hope in this book, in the vast network of people who care for dogs and are working for better conditions for all of them. And in the individuals like Amy Sutherland, who, day after day, show up with treats and the offer of an outing and individual human attention, to brighten — you could even say, save — the lives of shelter dogs.
Profile Image for Mary.
880 reviews14 followers
January 5, 2018
Amy Sutherland spent a good portion of her time caring for shelter dogs, and wrote about her experiences. While she gained a lot of fulfillment from volunteering, she also felt sorrow when things didn't work out for some of these homeless pets. Obviously, finding the right home for these animals is a monumental task, with no easy answers.

In our home, we have a veritable zoo of rescue animals -- one aging lab mix, five cats of varying ages, and three rabbits. (Yes, there are organizations devoted to rescuing rabbits.) So I can certainly relate to how passionately the author feels about this important problem!

While I've learned quite a bit about caring for my family's pets, including how to cure an abscess in a rabbit's cheek (which involves injections!), getting a behind the scenes look at what it's like for a shelter volunteer was eye-opening. It was definitely an emotional read for me. You can't save them all, but there are definitely steps that can be taken. Like our family, the author found a pet or two along the way that other people might have turned away from. She talks about two or three dogs that she's taken into her own home to try to help make them more family-ready.

In our case, there was a cage in the bottom corner of the cat adoption room, which bore a sign reading, "Go slow, I'm scared." But when I bent down and called, a handsome grey and white British short hair/tabby came on out to meet me. He was shaking but purred when I gave him a little love and attention. He later bit a young volunteer who had not worked with cats before. They had to quarantine him and asked if we still wanted him. He had been so good with our kids, though. We said that of course we wanted him. We knew saying no would be his death sentence. He came out of quarantine with no further issues. Once he got acclimated to the home (and four other cats who weren't so sure about the new family member!), we realized he has severe arthritis, including a poorly healed tail fracture, and difficulty breathing properly. But with our family, he has gained weight and thrived, and now is a content house cat who naps on the couch and loves to sit right up against one of us.

I know that our personal story is not necessarily part of a typical book review format, but it made sense to me to include it because it illustrates one of the author's points very well. Some of these animals have never known a home, or had any real experience with human beings, or had a bad experience if they had any at all. Some of them need preparation before they are ready to head home with a new family. Not every shelter pet is a sweet, cuddly kitten or puppy! Shelter workers and volunteers work hard and I'm thankful that Ms. Sutherland gave of herself and shared her story with the rest of us.
Profile Image for Michelle &#x1f339;&#x1f54a;.
235 reviews44 followers
March 21, 2017
What a fantastic read. I love to read about dogs and it's hard to come by a current dog rescue book that highlights all the right things. When I picked this up I had no idea the author started out in Portland, Maine and ended up in Boston, so that was a great surprise. Growing up in Maine and never seeing a stray dog in my life, I was excited to learn more about New England shelters compared to the South and wanted to hear the good and the bad. Sutherland definitely hits everything you need to know about the current and past situations of shelters in the US.

After rescuing my own two dogs, there's nothing better than to read a book like this that makes you feel like anyone can change the life of a dog. Because you can! Volunteer an hour a week. Foster a dog. Bring toys to a rescue. Walk a dog. Anything is better than nothing.

I think my favorite part of this book was the chapter called "Jumpy Mouthies" (I think that's what it was called). I had my own jumpy mouthy of a rescue and it tried my patience, but he ended up being my "soul-dog", the dog I would not sell for a million dollars. He was the biggest pain at first, but with love and patience has become the best dog I've ever had. Many dogs in shelters are around two years old and lack structure and discipline (which is probably what caused them to end up in a shelter in the first place) so that can be a turn off for many potential adopters. Sutherland brings to life the fact that these dogs will THRIVE in the right environment and won't be naughty forever. I really want anyone who has ever considered purchasing from a breeder or pet store to read this. There are way too many perfectly adoptable dogs in the US.
629 reviews2 followers
September 28, 2017
Okay, I am a sucker for a book with dogs on the cover... That said, it was very interesting. Written by Amy Sutherland, who is a shelter volunteer with dogs. I also volunteer at a shelter, but with cats, who, in my opinion, adapt to shelter life better than dogs. I never really thought about the dogs (other than that barking), but the do have issues that manifest themselves the longer they are in the shelter and not adopted.
Amy tells stories of the dogs she has met at her shelter, and others, and discusses what can be done better for them. She tell the story of her own dogs, Walter Joe and Penny Jane. and how they came to be a family. And of Sido, Sadie, Bummer and Lazarus, you know, the older ones who are so often overlooked, and many more who were lucky to find just the right family for them, and some of the unlucky ones who didn't. There are many good shelters and there are those that aren't. This book is a must for anyone who loves dogs.
882 reviews16 followers
May 28, 2017
I am not a dog owner, which makes me sort of an outlier in my family. They all have multiple dogs, mostly rescues. I live with cats, myself, but I appreciate dogs. This book was written by a shelter volunteer who focused on dogs, rescuing two herself. The book is a memoir of her life as a volunteer. If she had concentrated just on the shelters she worked in and the dogs she worked with, it would have been a boring book. She gives us a brief history of the shelter movement and a larger history of the changing attitudes of shelters and the public at large toward stray and unwanted animals. Just in the years she spent with shelters, the way disruptive and potentially dangerous dogs were handled changed from immediate euthanasia to behavioral modification.
I enjoyed the book and the entrance to the shelter world it gave me. I won my copy of the book from Bookstr for this review.
Profile Image for Donna Winters.
Author 33 books33 followers
May 17, 2020
Extraordinary story of dogs, shelters, and new forever homes

The author, Amy Sutherland, is an experienced journalist and shelter volunteer. Her writing is engaging, fresh, and scrupulously researched. I have read several books recently about dogs—shelter rescues, PTSD dogs, military search dogs, retired greyhound rescues—and this one shows exceptional quality regarding the author’s writing skills. Rather than using pat phrases, Ms Sutherland finds new and unexpected ways of wording her descriptions.

The book opens with Amy Sutherland’s personal story of adopting an extremely fearful shelter dog. Aside from this particular tale, the book is really a mini-course on the state of shelter care today. The author interviews dozens of shelter managers and veterinarians from coast to coast and border to border. In the course of her research, she exposes long-held myths and misunderstandings about pit bulls and black dogs among others.

As a dog-walker for a Boston shelter, the author describes difficult and dangerous dogs she has attempted to befriend and the sometimes painful and sometimes rewarding results of her efforts. She explains some typical behavior problems that prevent shelter dogs from being adopted and follows through on efforts to correct them and find homes for the offending mutts.

This author is brutally honest about her views on those who surrender their dogs to shelters, and how her views changed after a stint at the intake desk of the Boston shelter where she volunteers. I have not found many authors as transparent as this one. Her findings at the intake desk are truly heart-wrenching.

The best part of this book is at the end when the author follows up on some of the most difficult cases at the shelter. She wanted to know how life turned out for some of the dogs about whom she had worried the most. I won’t spoil it for you except to say you won’t be disappointed.
Profile Image for Phyllis Barlow.
460 reviews3 followers
June 12, 2017
I am a sucker for any book dealing with dogs, so I really enjoyed this one. It was interesting to read how shelters work, and it's wonderful to know there are so many dedicated people trying to take care of and find homes for these pets.

The only criticism I would have (and it's more of a question than a criticism) is she doesn't really go into detail about how she re-habbed Penny Jane. Since the title was Rescuing Penny Jane I thought there would be more information on how she got her adjusted to home life. The last real mention of her was the possibility that they would return her to the shelter, but they didn't because her name pops up through-out the book.

Other than that minor issue, I am glad I read it. If you have a heart for dogs, and like reading a (mostly) positive story of how different dogs are dealt with, you will love this book.
Profile Image for Marcia Miller.
626 reviews10 followers
July 7, 2019
This book gives readers a rare look into the noisy world of animal shelters. The author, herself a long-time dog lover and dedicated shelter volunteer, shares the stories of the many dogs she fostered and cared for while working in shelters in different parts of the country. Based on her observations and work with vets, animal behaviorists, and other animal lovers, she reveals not only the various problems overcrowded shelters experience, but also how difficult it is to strike the right balance of care, concern, training, and budgets when trying to help abandoned, neglected, unwanted, ill, or difficult dogs find forever homes.

35 reviews
July 7, 2017
A must read for anyone who loves dogs. It is funny, touching and educational about shelters in this country.
Profile Image for Solita.
194 reviews4 followers
February 9, 2020
There are moments that are very moving. I don't like to hear about dogs (or any animal) that is put down, because they can't be placed due to behavior or health issues. It made me cry.

She mentions the rescue where I got my dog. I think she gives it too much credit. Low scores on Yelp agree with my own experience and perception. (I don't Yelp, myself.) They are great on paper. On paper. There have been some good people associated with it. No doubt. But (at least, currently) they mislead. I learned more about my dog from animal control, four years later. Quite by accident. I didn't know they kept records of dogs they pick up or are turned in. My dog was abandoned twice (before I got her). The second time, she was left to wander the streets of a rough neighborhood. The woman at animal control said my dog was "a growler." She growled at everyone. The rescue never told me any of this. Just said she was found wandering the streets of the city. Claimed she walked well on a leash. That was a lie. She tolerates a leash, but she doesn't walk, she refuses to budge. Too afraid. They didn't mention that she is aggressive toward other dogs. The rescue also shaved a year off her age. She is about seven, now, not six. This dog is a lot of work, but I adore her, and take good care of her. Last year, I got a sling carrier so I could take her out of the house, get her out in the world. Wasn't sure it would work, but it did. She loves it. She trembles with both excitement and anxiety. But I know she loves it, otherwise she would run and hide, not come running to me, jumping up on me. I make her sit before I pick her up to put her in the sling. But she still is squiggly wiggly, and nipping at me with excitement. I stop and tell her, "Relax, relax. Calm down. Easy, easy." It's a stop and go thing. She calms down, but has a hard time keeping her excitement in check. Ha. I love that she loves it. I'm the only one who can pick her up. She growls at everyone else. She's a growler, because she's afraid. Last year, I found her a new vet. She explained that my dog has a personality disorder. The rescue and their vets were useless, when it came the truth and reality. This new vet I found for her told me my dog can improve, in time, lots of time, but to keep my expectations low. That was a major help. That behaviorist vet at the rescue never said that. She was like, "Just teach her, 'Look at me. Look at me,'" to distract her when she acted up. Yeah. Right. That ain't gonna happen. She has improved, but I don't know if she will ever not growl at people who come over (I have to pick her up and hold her, helps calm her some), and I think she will always hate other dogs. Poor little thing. I'm glad I have her, because someone else might very well put her down.

One thing about this book that bothered me, is that the only poor communities this woman talks negatively about is Native American and those populated with Spanish-speaking immigrants who don't take care of their pets because they don't know better, and don't have the means. Hey, man, there are poor, white folks too, uneducated people who don't know better, and who are too poor to take the best care of their pets. Poor is poor.

Oh, and this book is not about rescuing Penny Jane. She was a small part of it. I would like to have heard more about her. I want to hear more about dogs like my little one. That's what I thought this might be. Wasn't, but oh, well.

It's an imperfect world. Always has been. Always will be. You can't save all the dogs in the world. Aren't there enough in this country to worry about? Why you gotta import them too? Just saying.
Profile Image for Bonnie Kutch.
40 reviews2 followers
March 24, 2018
As a 12-year-long volunteer dog walker/trainer myself, I closely related to this author's sentiments about the volunteer experience; her preference for pitties; her magnetic draw to the dogs; how once your heart falls for a shelter dog, you can't stay away because you need to see that dog through to his/her adoption; how devastated you feel when a dog's health or behavior is so poor that he/she has to be euthanized. The wisdom and advice the many shelter directors she interviewed shared was insightful, and gave me a broader perspective of the country's shelter systems and how some of it could be applied to San Diego's shelters. Where I had difficulty with this book was in the many typos, run-on paragraphs, overuse of commas, and inaccuracies I came across. Several times, her directions were wrong, saying that West Coast dogs were shipped northwest instead northeast, or that she headed west from San Francisco to Fresno instead of east. The imperfect writing aside, it was a well researched book that I hope people read and become inspired to volunteer at their local shelter and make a difference in the lives of dogs. As a society, we owe it to them.
Profile Image for Rachel.
351 reviews4 followers
September 4, 2018
“Rugby, Penny Jane and Walter Joe have found loving homes and that is what dogs need. It is what they deserve”

“ This is all he knows, his blue ball, his favourite volunteers and his trips to McDonald’s. It is his home”

5 beautiful stars to this beautiful story!!!
So many puppies and dogs need to be rescued even the older ones, even the ones we label (Pitt bulls and chihuahuas). Every dog deserves a home and to know love.

Amy Sutherland just kept fostering the un-adoptable until they were ready to go into homes, so many lives were rescued. But it breaks my heart how many dogs are euthanized in shelters and how many people bring their own dogs to shelters!
Dogs are so loving and so trusting, it’s just a shame what some of them go through and I thank everyone who has recused animals because they deserve a home, my Casey deserve one after being tied onto a doghouse outside for 8 years and Sweet Nellie who came from a hoarding situation with 16 other dogs plus more cats. Even if both their times were short with us they still deserved a loving home and that’s what they were given, love🐾💕
Profile Image for Bianca.
93 reviews3 followers
January 12, 2018
I've had other books by Sutherland on my to-read list, but this is the first one I read--and I'm so glad I did. (Thanks to Bark Magazine for their enticing review.) Sutherland's own experience as a shelter volunteer and then foster for a succession of dogs (two of whom she kept) is the basis for the book's exploration of shelter culture in the United States. Sutherland explains a lot about how we ended up with the system we have. This is mostly a hopeful book, but the author doesn't gloss over the challenges, hardships and disappointments facing shelter workers and dogs (and some other animals), every. single. day. I would imagine that many people associated with the shelter or rescue world would see themselves and their efforts reflected positively in this book. The one thing I missed was a list of sources. In addition to telling a good story, the book is also a substantial research project, and I was especially curious to know more about the sources that contributed to her very thoughtful discussion.
Profile Image for Cara Achterberg.
Author 8 books158 followers
January 31, 2018
This beautiful book not only touched my heart, but it challenged me to re-think my perspective on dog rescue. Sutherland made me want to do more and while she occasionally broke my heart, she also gave me great hope that we can solve this very solvable problem. As a person involved in dog rescue, from the foster and rescue side, it was eye-opening to get a shelter volunteer's perspective, but Sutherland's journalistic chops added authority and clear thinking to the situation. Her obvious research, combined with her personal experience, made for a powerful read. I was inspired to read about what innovative shelters across the country are doing to tackle the problem of too many dogs being overlooked in shelters. Sutherland's personal stories of the dogs she encountered were heartbreaking and beautiful. She is a smart, realistic, dog-hearted person who asks a lot of good questions and challenges the reader to be part of the solution, not the problem. Loved this book on so many levels. Bravo.
Profile Image for Jill.
779 reviews9 followers
February 10, 2018
4 to 4.5 stars

Author Amy Sutherland begins walking shelter dogs at her neighborhood shelter. This act morphs into a quest to discover the best way to help shelter dogs. IS spay/neutering the answer? More foster homes? More support to owners to help them keep their animals?

Throughout the book, Sutherland describes how she came to own a nearly feral dog and how that simple act changed her life forever. She fondly reminisces about the dogs she has walked, fostered and meet in her years of volunteering with animal rescue organizations.
She travels the country visiting shelters and talking to those who work deep in the trenches of animal rescue. She discovers that owners who give up their animals aren't always selfish. Many times, those owners have run out of options.

This book will touch the heart of anyone who has ever loved a rescue dog or worked with homeless dogs. This is a fascinating read and one I highly recommend to all.
Profile Image for Gayle Slagle.
336 reviews10 followers
November 8, 2018
Rescuing Penny Jane by Amy Sutherland is a delightful look into the the world of a shelter volunteer. If you are a dog lover, you will thoroughly enjoy the often poignant accounts of some of the many dogs encountered by Sutherland and if you are not a gung-ho dog lover, you will gain insight into the problem of finding good homes for shelter dogs and the extent to which shelter volunteers go to find the perfect match between dog and owner. The stories are sometimes heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking; the quest to find homes for them is sometimes successful, sometimes not, but each story will tug at your heart, both for the dog and for those who care for them. Rescuing Penny Jane is both inspiring and insightful and a joy to read.
407 reviews
May 12, 2017
This was very informative & provided insightful details not only about rescue dogs but different shelters nationwide that protect - and sometimes fails - them. It doesn't dwell so much on the dogs that live with the author, who recounts her experiences as a volunteer working with shelter dogs & fosters. She gives a thorough account of what to expect & how to adjust to these dogs. This is very much needed, as most of us have over-idealized visions of humans rescuing animals. It takes work & commitment, and this book helps prepare people for the situations that often make them give up.
I received a copy from a Goodreads giveway. Thanks!
Profile Image for Kristin.
641 reviews2 followers
June 29, 2017
Amy Sutherland visits animal shelters all over the country as well as pioneers in the field to show her readers the struggles that dogs and shelter workers face. She highlights the discussion of the dogs' plights by sharing the stories of specific dogs, including the shelter dogs she and her husband adopted. Telling interesting, endearing, and humorous stories of these dogs, she explores the subject of "No kill" animal shelters, fostering shelter dogs, the plight of "patties" or pit bulls, and neutering pets in poor neighborhoods.Her writing is concise and entertaining. If you are a dog lover, you will love this take on shelter dogs.
Profile Image for Eric.
3,468 reviews20 followers
October 31, 2018
I thought it a bit presumptuous to call this an "unforgettable" journey into the world of shelter dogs, but it was very good, and does give me the motivation to name Amy Sutherland a true hero of the shelter dog. There is a good deal of statistics here; enough to engage the true dog lover in contemplating some of the likely and unlikely numbers that are bandied about when people talk "non-kill" and "kill" shelters - things may not always be what they seem. The later chapter about the efficacy of whether moving shelter dogs is an effective means of keeping down the number of euthanized dogs was also revealing.
Profile Image for Sharon.
197 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2017
After volunteering at our local animal shelter for over ten years and fostering hundreds of animals and walking dogs countless hours, I was interested to read a book about someone who has done something similar. What I found was an interesting book with not just stories of her fostering and volunteer work, but research about what didn't work/what is working/what could be better and other ideas. Most interesting was the shelter that works with ways to keep pets IN homes when they are thinking they might need to surrender them.
Profile Image for Lynda.
24 reviews1 follower
September 22, 2018
I devoured this book. I found an excerpt through surfing the net, read it, bought the book and finished it. Today!

The amount of information about shelters, volunteering, emotional ties and many other aspects of working with and for dogs in general but mostly about “homeless” or shelter dogs is just amazing. She talks about the history of sheltering and many other topics so that I know more now than I ever thought I would.

Additionally she keeps it interesting and entertaining. It isn’t just dog stories although there are plenty of those. I very much like her writing style.
287 reviews8 followers
October 17, 2018
I am not a dog person at all, but I loved this book. Amy Sutherland mixes the storytelling of her own experience volunteering with dogs in shelters and her own dogs adopted from that shelter, with research about the shelter and rescue world to give readers an honest look into shelter life for dogs. I cried, I laughed, and smiled with joy over the story of some of the dogs. The author looks into how shelters are trying to find more dogs loving homes, keep animals in homes, and help people so that they can care for the animals they love. This book makes you want to help.
Profile Image for Shelley Pearson.
Author 1 book18 followers
November 22, 2019
I've enjoyed every Amy Sutherland book that I've read, so I was super excited to learn about her book about shelter dogs shortly after I adopted a shelter dog! She prefers dogs that are the opposite of my dog, though - older, bigger dogs that have health conditions or trauma. She writes about her experience volunteering at her local shelter, and then goes in-depth into different shelter styles and techniques to get the dogs adopted. I learned a lot about dogs and shelters, and I also liked learning about Amy's personal experiences with individual dogs.
Profile Image for Misty Melsheimer.
104 reviews
July 27, 2017
A very real look into the lives of shelter dogs, and the rewards and heartbreak that come with volunteering. While this book did not sugarcoat life in the shelter for these dogs, and I was brought to tears on more than one occasion, it nevertheless reinforced that I want to do my part to help these beautiful creatures. I'm currently waiting for my volunteer application to be approved at a local dog shelter.
Profile Image for Dave Allen.
79 reviews8 followers
April 8, 2018
A wonderful book that intertwines with the author's relationship with her rescued dogs and her volunteer experiences, and the various efforts by shelters nationwide to find homes for all the homeless animals that come through their doors.

Mixing anecdotes, interviews and solid research, Sutherland's writing is clear and easy to read, even if it gets hard to make it through heartbreaking tales of the 'unadoptables' without tearing up.
Profile Image for Sharon.
690 reviews
November 17, 2017
Great stories from a volunteers point of view. Book includes different methods used at shelters including walking, play groups, shipping to other shelters. Also includes people who have innovated ways to train and unique places like the Best Friends. Discusses " No- Kill" shelters and what that really means.
Profile Image for Mary.
25 reviews10 followers
January 9, 2018
I loved this book. It brought back so many memories of the dogs I walked and fostered at our shelter in St. Louis. The author did a great job of exploring the many issues animal welfare groups face in trying to find homes for dogs as well as in helping people keep their dogs is possible. This book will inspire more people to help out in whatever way they can.
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