Fi Rescue Partner, SPEAK! For The Unspoken, is a foster-based organization devoted to special needs animal rescue and education. Seeing possibilities rather than disabilities, Speak! knows that special needs dogs can live happy, healthy lives, despite their non-traditional circumstances. Their motto “Special Needs and Good Deeds” aims to incorporate all dogs in need, even if that doesn't fall under the special needs category - if there is an animal in need, they’ll step up to help.

We chatted with the crew over at Speak! For the Unspoken to learn a bit more about how they’ve persevered through COVID-19 and continued their mission despite the hurdles of these last few months:

Any outstanding adoption stories that have taken place during the pandemic?

Like other organizations, Speak! has seen an increase in adoptions over the past few months. We have had especially great luck with senior dog adoptions, which aren’t normally as popular to adopters, but during the pandemic, we think people realized how special it was to save a dog’s life and add a new member to the family.

We had one sweet older boy named Ernie, who was surrendered to us a few months back, who we found out is around 8-10 years old and completely blind. Look up the definition of “hunk” and you will find a picture of Ernie. Ernie’s relaxed personality and liking of other dogs, cats, and kids, helped him find his forever home in Cleveland, Ohio!

At the start of the pandemic we rescued a new mom and her litter of 9 newborn pups that all had parvo. $22,000 (and a ton of hard work from our team and talented vets) later, we were able to save 8 of the puppies. Though we were devastated to lose one, it was a huge feat to be able to save as many as we did. (And yes, these pups are all from the same litter!!):

Any dogs in need of forever homes you’d like to spread the word about?

Augustus, Gus as we call her, has been with us over a year, has diabetes which has led her to become blind, but truly the cutest thing. She’s a beagle mix who bears a strong resilience to Ariana Grande’s pup, Toulouse. She’s still looking for a home, and we adopt out around the country! Her forever home is out there somewhere :) Click here to apply to adopt.

Farrah’s story is really tough - she was chained to a dog house in a garbage pile, the owners would just throw food scraps at her. She doesn’t have any particularly special needs, and she’s back healthy and she’s so loving despite what she went through. Although she doesn’t quite trust other dogs, she loves people and is looking for a home where she would get 100% of the attention she deserves.

Any lost/found dog stories you think are unique that we should spotlight?

Earlier this year we had Myles, who was a true escape artist, so much so that he was pushing out of second floor windows! It wasn’t that he wanted to run away, he wanted to be near his foster parents and would find any way to escape to find them if they ever left. He’s in a safe forever home, where no escapes have occurred.

There was also a horrible hoarding situation in Pittsburgh in late 2019, we took in almost 30 of the 117 dogs that were found in the home. Those pups are an especially huge flight risk, given their situations they just didn’t feel safe anywhere. Two of those dogs actually escaped from their foster situation, but we were able to retrieve them quickly. Dogs rescued from puppy mills are similar in their escape tendencies, that’s where a Fi Collar can really come in handy.

How can future owners prepare to adopt a dog with special needs?

Although we started out just focusing on rescuing double merle dogs, we now take in dogs with a variety of conditions, including heart murmurs, dogs with seizures, and dogs who simply need a better life. It’s not necessarily that you need to prepare in any particular way when adopting a special needs dog, you just need to prepare for a dog in general! We focus on educating the public on how these dogs can live healthy normal lives. We have video trainings that are totally free on our YouTube, including touch training which is especially helpful for our adopters. We also offer classes to help new owners learn how to communicate with their dogs - anything to ensure everyone feels comfortable!

How does Fi help support your mission?

With the high volume adoptions lately, we’ve had a higher uptick of animals somehow escaping their new family out of confusion, anxiety, or just plain adventurousness. The ability to offer a Fi Collar with every adoption gives us the confidence that these pups are safe in their new homes, as well as allows the new parents to ensure their new pup is where they are supposed to be at all times - and should they escape, recovery is quick.

One of our dogs, Kaya, had a wild journey through heartworm treatment. She had severe separation anxiety but needed to stay calm during her treatment. Even if I was just going into the garage to do some work, she would figure out a way to escape, whether digging or otherwise to go out the dog door and get through the fence. One time I even found her howling from the roof, where she had somehow found a way to break through the second floor window. As a blind dog, we were terrified of this happening again and grateful she was safe. Needless to say, she obviously sported a Fi Collar! Sadly, Kaya has since passed, but we were able to give her a loving home in her final year.

So many of the pups we get are not house trained, and especially with COVID, people may not realize the amount of separation anxiety our new furry friends are going to go through when we're working 9-5 in an office again. We trust Fi to alert us and keep Speaks’ dogs, and our fosters, safe! We do all kinds of things to keep them busy and protect them, but Fi is there for when you forget to think about all of the 'what if's'.

What are the best ways for folks to support the organization at this time?

We strive to find ongoing and/or passive streams of donations, so we’ve actually partnered with some local businesses that encourage their customers to donate. For example, our local Kroeger grocery store has a ‘round up and donate’ option at checkout. We also work with a consignment shop in the area that allows their consignors to donate the funds from unwanted clothes to our organization. These are just a few examples of ways we continue to engage with our community to ensure we’re able to keep our dogs healthy and comfortable, as well as keep fosters prepared and capable, year-round.

Another fun thing we’re doing this year is putting out a calendar of our best adoption stories of 2020, it could make a great holiday gift for a friend or family member...or yourself!

Although monetary donations are critical, our biggest need is fosters! We can’t save dogs without homes to put them in. We want to stay foster-based, rather than open a shelter, so recruiting great fosters and spreading the word about our mission is a top priority of ours. You can apply to foster here.