Article Author: Jane Smith
In 2006, Shannon Nachajko adopted a black and white Catahoula Leopard, a southern hunting and herding dog, from a local shelter. Poncho was 9 months and had been transported here after Hurricane Katrina. The poor guy had been misunderstood - adopters weren’t familiar with this breed also referred to as Catahoula Hound, Catahoula cur and Houla. Not understanding him or his needs, he’d been adopted and returned nine times. She fell for him and adopted him. She didn’t realize it then, but Poncho would lead her to the world of rescue.
Once Shannon was well-versed with the breed and to help others like Poncho, she began volunteering for a Catahoula rescue. Then in 2014, knowing she was well prepared, she founded her own national 501(c) 3 nonprofit based in Warren, Catahoula Rescue of New England, adding Australian Cattle Dogs, “Heelers,” to her efforts. Prior to Katrina, their breed was rarely seen in New England and people knew very little. She knew education was key and said one of her goals with their rescues is that the adopters understand the breed.
First, they need a leader and role model who will not let the dog become boss. They can be difficult if an adopter doesn’t know how to channel their energy. This breed needs a job to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Love and guidance build trust and the human-animal bond.
She cited a recent success story that hits home with this philosophy. Sparky was adopted from a Connecticut pet store – he had been transported in from Missouri as a pup, likely from a mill. He had congenital defects with his eyes and couldn’t see well. He would accidentally bite his owners because their hands weren’t clear to him. The owners reached out to a humane society, stating if they didn’t take him, they were going to have him euthanized. Shannon was one of a few rescues the Humane Society contacted for assistance – she was the only responder.
Fortunately, she has a cattle dog savvy foster in that state who took in Sparky and worked with him. Shannon knew exactly what he needed in a new home and found it for him. He was adopted by a single woman, a horse gal, who takes Sparky to the barn daily, he visits with the horses, and he gets plenty of exercise.
She strives for all success stories such as this. As a result, she likes to dot her T’s and cross her I’s with potential adopters. They’re very particular because they’re looking for those who will fit the bill of a good pet owner. Of late, they have had to turn away potential adopters because they did not pass their extensive adoption guidelines, including vet, reference, and/or home checks. Some haven’t been happy about it, taking their complaints to social media. Shannon said they’re professional when they let people know they are rejected, but there has been drama that is hurting the dogs in the end and is tying up potential adoptions.
For more info on adoptions and to see all their dogs, nehoularescue.com/.