Animal rescue organization asks for community support

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — On Oct. 12, three abandoned puppies were found in the parking lot of a Watsonville church. They had been trapped in a travel carrier for an undetermined amount of time, becoming thin and malnourished, even having to eat their own feces to survive.

The animals were immediately transported to the Watsonville location of the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. After being fed and cleaned, volunteers began working with the puppies (now named Forest, Scout and Arrow) to build their confidence. It wasn’t long before two of the puppies were being prepared for pre-adoption by a local couple.

However, right before they were scheduled to be spayed and neutered, it was discovered that all three of the puppies had contracted parvovirus.

Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease. The virus will aggressively attack cells in a dog’s body, especially affecting its intestinal tract and causing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and occasionally heart issues. It can be fatal.

“Parvo is very serious,” said Heading Home Rescue’s Executive Director Melissa Finley. “But it’s also incredibly easy to prevent. One vaccine is all it takes.”

When Forest, Scout and Arrow tested positive for parvo, the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter sought help from Heading Home Rescue, who they’ve worked alongside for many years. The shelter, having limited space and medical equipment, will often contact rescue organizations such as Heading Home to see if they can give the animals more extensive treatment.

“Certain animals’ condition are beyond what the shelter can give, which is where we come in,” Finley said. “Our organizations try to work together so we can provide these animals the care they deserve.”

But that care comes at a rather substantial price. So far, the medical expenses for the three dogs combined has reached around $12,000, which is why Heading Home Rescue is reaching out to the community for support.

“The cost to save these pups has been higher than we can comfortably handle,” Finley said. “We would be so grateful for any sort of help.”

Furthermore, Heading Home Rescue urges pet owners to keep up with their animals’ vaccinations as a way to prevent diseases such as parvo from spreading.

“It’s frustratingly simple,” Finley added. “Vaccinating is one of the most important things you can do as a pet owner. And it’s so much cheaper than having to treat the illnesses.”

Heading Home Rescue was founded in 2011. In addition to its rehabilitation efforts, the nonprofit organization puts animals up for adoption through places such as PetSmart in Santa Cruz and Seaside, as well as Wishbone Pet Co. in Freedom.

As for the trio of pups, Scout and Arrow have already secured a home with the couple who originally were interested. The third pup, Forest, is still looking for a new family.

“These dogs have really been let down by humans in the past,” Finley said. “They have the right to a happy ending.”

For information on donating, volunteer opportunities and adoptions, visit


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