Speedy lost his left front leg to Valley fever. An untreated injury took Juno’s right eye and made her bite slightly crooked. And Taxi can’t digest his food without special medicine due to a chronic pancreatic condition. None of this slows these dogs down or makes them any less lovable, says Arizona Cactus Corgi Rescue director Vicki Combs. Her group serves as the go-to organization for homeless Welsh Corgis in Arizona, helping both healthy and not-so-healthy animals in need.
Combs has placed 225 dogs since founding the rescue in 2005, and her veterinary training and position as practice manager for Estrella Animal Hospital in Avondale allow her to accept more sick and injured dogs than other groups of its kind. The access to boarding space also gives her plenty of time to match Corgi to human. “My dogs are safe and fine until I can find them the right home,” says Combs, who also keeps certain dogs at home with her own personal pack of Corgis.
AZ Cactus Corgi Rescue currently has 15 dogs available for adoption, including:
Being a tripod doesn’t phase 6-year-old Speedy. Surrendered in 2010 by an owner who couldn’t afford to treat the Valley fever that eventually broke his leg, Speedy was in serious pain before the doctors at Estrella performed the amputation. He now runs and plays any chance he gets but doesn’t do stairs. Combs says he will need to be the only dog in a home without young children.
When this sweet senior’s owner died earlier this year, a neighbor took Juno to an area shelter to be euthanized. The shelter contacted Combs, who promptly picked her up. The vets at Estrella determined that a broken skull bone, broken jaw, and an eye injury had all gone untreated for a year or more. They pulled a few teeth and performed cosmetic surgery on Juno’s eye socket to improve her overall appearance. That’s right: This 12-year-old has had a little work done.
Just barely out of puppyhood at age one and a half, Taxi was scheduled to be euthanized when another rescue group pulled him from the shelter and contacted Combs. He has exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, which means he requires enzyme powder on his food to allow digestion. Combs says he gets along well with other dogs and kids. Isn’t he handsome?
Not all of the Corgis come in sick and/or injured. Some simply need a full checkup, spaying or neutering if necessary, and training. All dogs undergo blood work and testing for heartworms and Valley fever and tick fever. Needless to say, the group ranks as the highest-paying client at Estrella, with each dog costing between $750 and $1,000 on average from intake to adoption.
Combs started the rescue with her retirement fund, but the 501(c)3 organization now receives grants and donations from a variety of sources to help pay the bills. CorgiAid provides financial assistance, as does Rally to Rescue, a program sponsored by Purina Pro Plan that also sends out supplies on a regular basis. AZ Cactus Corgi Rescue products, including key chains and car decals, and adoption fees contribute to funding the group.
Adoption costs $175 for senior dogs, $200 for ages 7 to 10, and $250 for puppy to age 7. Checks only get written, though, after Combs has put the adopting families through an interview and home visit. She doesn’t rush the process, and her careful matching has led to a 98 percent success rate with placements.
Combs looks for Corgi-savvy adopters, as the breed likes to work and will come up with a job on its own — counter surfing and destructive chewing, among their favorites — if not given one. Younger Corgis also need plenty of exercise because of the breed’s herding instincts.
Combs admits she sometimes has to say no if potential adopters can’t meet a Corgi’s needs. “I’m the dog’s advocate. I do what is best for the dog,” she says.
Among AZ Cactus Corgi Rescue’s many success stories are:
When this poor pup came into the rescue, he weighed 80 pounds. Thanks to diet, exercise, and surgical removal of fatty tumors, he now weighs 35 pounds. He just turned 13 and lives with his long-term foster dad Tom Elder, a former Estrella veterinary tech. More than a few Corgis from AZ Cactus Corgi Rescue have gone home with Estrella staffers, who help support Combs’s group in any way they can.
Surrendered by an elderly couple who could no longer care for her, 3-year-old Willow has become a flyball champion with her new family. She also earned one of four finalists spots in the Rally to Rescue Stories Contest. Voting opens Sept. 10 and runs through Oct. 26, with fans choosing the winner on the contest’s Facebook page.
Of all the Corgis she has placed, Combs believes Kenji best represents the breed’s legendary role as steed to warrior fairies. “He’s an imp,” she says, adding that his first placement didn’t work out partly because he knew he had another, more magical purpose for his life. “Kenji was meant to be with the family he has now,” she says. That family includes Gwennie, a blind Golden Labrador to whom Kenji serves as seeing-eye dog.
Dogs adopted through AZ Cactus Corgi Rescue and their pet parents become part of an extended family, with more than 100 of the Corgis showing up each fall at the group’s annual fund-raiser, a picnic that also includes a costume parade. Combs looks forward to reuniting with the many Corgis who wiggled their little butts into her heart before going to their forever homes.
“It’s very hard,” she says of every goodbye, “but I have to share the Corgi love.”
To see some of the Corgis currently available for adoption, visit Arizona Cactus Corgi Rescue’s website. Combs prefers to keep her Corgis in Arizona, but she has been known to make an exception or two.
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