“I feel like I’m drowning in dog fur!” says Stacia Gorgone in a scene from the soon-to-air reality TV show Boston Underdogs. In the new special, which debuts on August 12, Stacia attempts to balance the demands of running her KickAss K9 Rescue service with a bunch of personal relationships with people who aren’t quite so canine-obsessed. It’s fair to say that her boyfriend, Rob, doesn’t always appreciate her tendency to bring home three new dogs in need.
Still, even in the face of financial and emotional adversity, Stacia continues with her rescue mission. She talked to Dogster about the canines in her life, the trials of running a self-funded rescue, and why she’s most probably addicted to helping dogs.
DOGSTER: Who was your first dog?
STACIA: My first dog was PJ. I had him for 14 years and he was a Dalmatian and he was by my side every single day. He slept with me, he traveled the country with me, he moved away to Texas with me when I moved for a few years. He was like my best friend in the entire world.
I wouldn’t fly home for holidays — I would just drive — and it would be me and my dog all the way home. He loved going for the ride! He’d sit the whole time I was driving and then when I’d get to the rest stop he would sit up like a little guard dog, watching to make sure nobody would come into the car.
How many dogs do you have at the moment?
I have three. I did have four, but my family’s German Shepherd passed away at 13 years old.
My little man Marco doesn’t listen, but he’s a little bit handicapped so I let him do whatever he wants. He’s quiet. I let him get away with everything! He’s got a little attitude — I call him my stubborn little boyfriend!
Mitzi is my oldest dog. She’s 13. As long as she’s eating she doesn’t care; she gained weight since she’s been with me as she was so skinny and tiny at the rescue. She’s awesome.
Then there’s my dog, Peaches, who’s in the show a lot. She reminds me a lot of PJ. Everything she does is just like my dog PJ — but she’s more friendlier to other people ’cause PJ only liked me.
Do the dogs mind being on camera for the show?
Peaches loved it! She’s a ham — she’d sit and run around and get into all the scenes. Marco wasn’t too happy with people in his house; he doesn’t understand why people were there. But he sat and posed for the cameras when they wanted.
So when did you first get involved with rescuing dogs?
When I was a little kid I used to dream that if I ever got rich when I got older I’d buy all these animals and save them. I started learning more and more about rescues.
What happens with Dalmatians is [people] would overbreed them. They had to sell these Dalmatians for like $75 because that movie came out and too many people were breeding Dalmatians. So I just started learning about breeding and people making money, and it didn’t fit well with me.
When PJ got really ill I knew that I had to start a rescue. It definitely started with PJ, and I just want to carry on his legacy.
What’s the hardest part about running a rescue?
What isn’t hard about running a rescue? It’s the most difficult yet rewarding job I have ever done. I’m not claiming to be the mother superior of all rescues, I still have a lot to learn, and I’m just me. It’s tough.
I personally will not go into a shelter to get a dog because I’ll cry and I’ll want to take every dog with me, and I know that I physically cannot do that. So I have other rescues that go into shelters, and I tell them to take the dogs that other people don’t want; I take dogs with one ear, I take dogs with one leg, handicapped dogs, old dogs. It’s really hard because I’ll get a call in the middle of the night from animal control about a dog they’ve found and they want me to go and get it.
I do everything myself and with my own money. It’s difficult but, honestly, when you see the results, that’s what matters! I should think with my head more, but I go with my heart and I can’t say no. When these little dogs come up to you and they put their little paw on you, I swear to God they’re saying thank you.
Do you have any idea how much money you’ve spent rescuing dogs?
Thousands and thousands! Between me and one of the directors at my rescue, I think it’s very much in the five-figure range. But what do you do when people call and say they have a dog they want to put down? You rescue it.
What’s the most heart-breaking story you’ve heard about a dog you’ve rescued?
There’s so many. One of the dogs I’ve gotten recently is a dog that a human cut his ear off. He’s a hound dog with really long floppy ears. He has the saddest eyes. Then I have another dog, Akira, who’s in a great home now, and she was tied to a tree. They believe that as a puppy she was used as a bait dog and then used to breed Pit Bulls. She tried to gnaw herself off to the point where she had a stick embedded in her mouth, and we had to get it out.
How has rescuing dogs affected your own personal relationships?
Recently we were at the Boston Bruins game. It was the playoffs and my phone goes off — “Please help these dogs, all these dogs are going to be put to sleep tomorrow.” So I reply that I will take the dogs, and for the next two hours, instead of watching the game with my boyfriend, I’m on the phone coordinating to get all these dogs rescued by one o’clock the next day. I don’t know what it is but I just can’t say no.
Has your boyfriend gotten better at dealing with the extra dogs?
No! I’ve got myself in better situations and made more contacts to get dogs to other people to help. But the other day I found this little white dog, he was like the cutest thing, and I took him home and told my boyfriend, “You said I could get another dog if he’s under ten pounds.” He said, “That dog is under ten pounds now, but that dog is a puppy and he’s going to get big!”
What do you think people will get out of watching Boston Underdogs?
I don’t know if the nation knows that there are great, amazing, healthy dogs in rescues, and they have all their shots. You can get any breed in a shelter. Why go to a breeder and pay all this money when you can adopt from a rescue and you’re supporting a good cause?
I tell people, “Come to me and I’ll find whatever you want.” I mean, there’s even Yorkies in shelters! Even if one person watches the show and decides to adopt from a rescue, then isn’t that totally worth it?
Boston Underdogs premieres on Monday, August 12, at 10 p.m. EST on the TLC channel.
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