Radar, a blind dog who was rescued from being euthanized as a pup, can teach some old dogs with sight a few tricks.
Indeed, when rescuer Pam Culver vacates the comfy overstuffed chair in her La Crosse home, Radar zeroes in on it as preferable to the dog beds his housemates settle into on the floor.
“He’s a cool dog,” said Culver, who adopted the 2½-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever in April 2013. “It’s amazing what he can do — he hikes, he swims, and I’m teaching him how to be a sled dog.”
Culver, who has been involved in dog rescuing for about six years and is one of the founders of the Animal Rescuers Network-La Crosse Area, also wants to help teach people how to be transporters and foster homes for homeless animals.
The network will present a program titled “Animal Rescue Basics — Transport 101” at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the main auditorium of the La Crosse Public Library at 800 Main St. and another called “Animal Rescue Basics — Fostering 101” at 9:30 a.m. March 21, also sponsored by the library.
Culver, a marketing instructor at Western Technical College in La Crosse, said those who attend either session need not fear a longtime commitment to the cause.
“There is a lot of need for transporters,” she said. “Some people think, ‘I could transport a dog but I don’t know anything about it.’”
The programs will inform those, as well as people who are interested in fostering rescue animals awaiting permanent homes, about the process, said Culver, whose biggest transport task was carting nine dogs the 100-plus miles from Mauston to Eau Claire and who said some routes run to the Twin Cities.
“But transportation doesn’t mean you have to drive to Mauston,” she said. “We need help on all different levels.”
The 130-member network of rescue advocates in western Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa also enlists people in duties as simple as fostering a dog overnight or for a few days to give the foster homeowner respite, taking an animal to a veterinarian appointment or even help train a dog.
“Somebody might need help working with a dog learning how to accept people into the house,” said Culver, who also fosters three dogs — Louie, Ben and Yukon. “That’s exactly what I needed to do with a feral dog from Minneapolis. He was scared to death of strangers.”
She sought volunteers who would merely to appear at the door, ring the bell and be allowed into the house so the dog comfortable with people, she said.
Culver said she and three other organizers formed the network last fall to connect people involved in the cause and to generate more volunteers.
“We knew if we got all of these people talking, we could save a lot more dogs,” she said. “The last thing we need is another group. It’s not a group — it’s a network.”
Among other things, the network monitors Craigslist to find dogs needing rescuing because, she said, “It’s not widely known that a lot of fight rings go to Craigslist to get dogs.”
As for herself, Culver initially fostered Radar before opting to adopt him, explaining, “We knew he would need special care, but it’s really not as much as you would think.
Sight ranks just third in a dog’s hierarchy of senses, behind smell and hearing, Culver said.
“The first day Radar was in my kitchen, I was about ready to say ‘careful’ because he was about ready to run into the cupboard when he turned away from it,” she said. “If it’s a solid structure, he won’t run into it. If it’s a chain-link fence, he might. On solid objects, I don’t know whether he feels his breath coming back or what.”
He sticks to the trail during hikes in Hixon Forest, and Culver’s Facebook page includes feats such as a video showing him sticking to the trail during his first lesson pulling a sled.
At home, Culver places bath mats at the top and bottom of stairs, so the texture change warns Radar to be careful
“I also do ‘blindscaping’ in the yard, putting down mulch so he can see with his feet,” she said. “In the winter, I shovel three feet from the house so he gets a clear path.”
Radar was named Blue when Culver adopted him, probably because he has good blood lines and the moniker was intended to convey the idea of a blue ribbon, she said.
She changed it to Radar because of his navigational skills, she said, adding, “Plus, I’m a huge “M*A*S*H” fan, especially Radar O’Reilly. Radar doesn’t have eyes, so he also reminded me of Radar’s Teddy bear,” which had one eye.
“One of the things I’m trying to do is get him involved in therapy,” Culver said. “I like to show that fact that just because a dog is blind, he doesn’t have to be euthanized — and he was going to be euthanized.”