Welcome to the ultimate destination for celebrating the unsung heroes of the dog rescue world. At Rescue Spotlight, we're dedicated to highlighting the remarkable journeys of rescue organizations and the incredible individuals behind them.

Whether you seek heartwarming tales of second chances, inspiring stories of rescue missions, or practical insights into the world of dog adoption, you'll find it all here.

Today, we're privileged to interview Scarlett Hernandez, one of the devoted people behind Save Rocky the Great Dane Rescue and Rehab (SRGDRR) You can find a direct link to their Instagram here.

Here is their story:

What inspired you to start or become involved with this rescue organization?

Hernandez: I've worked with shelters and rescue groups since I was a teenager. One of the first dogs that I took in on my own to foster was a Great Dane mix puppy who was incredibly sick and nearly died. I worked so hard to save him, and he lived a long wonderful life with his forever family. After him, I knew I would always be involved with the breed. I found SRGDRR on Facebook and was impressed by their reach and ability to help so many Great Danes across the country, and I wanted to get involved. I took in my first foster through SRGDRR, Bella, during lockdown- and the rest is history!

Can you tell us about a particularly memorable rescue mission or adoption story that stands out to you?

Hernandez: There are SO MANY! One that comes to mind is Daisy and her family. We had been contacted by someone who had 3 Great Danes on their property that needed to be picked up. I have notoriously always made spur of the moment drives to rescue dogs, so I was ready! I met the man at the property, where the owner of the dogs refused to release them, despite them being in poor condition and one of the females being pregnant. I left our information, but expected to not hear back. Fast forward two weeks, and I got notification during an ice storm at 9PM that the dogs needed to be off the property NOW. I packed up a friend, and we went back to the property- to find the dogs now in even worse shape, and the pregnant female in active labor. The property was not in a great area, and there was very little lighting. We found the laboring female, Daisy, in an open garage, giving birth on cold concrete. There was one puppy seemingly lifeless a few feet away. I picked that puppy up, who was ice cold and stiff, but she made a tiny squeak. I knew this baby was critical- and she needed to be warmed NOW. I placed that puppy in my bra for the body heat, and we got to work. The male Dane was one of the biggest Danes I've ever met, and he was bonded to one of the females. The two of them alone were a tight fit in my small SUV, and I had to fit a laboring mother in the car too. We got the family loaded up, and took them back to my house. I had never helped a mother dog give birth before, but I'm a nurse and knew basics. I had the wonderful support of the rescue team backing me up all night while I helped deliver the babies. I even had a vet tech who helped me via phone. Daisy gave birth to 15 puppies that night in my bathroom, and we only lost 3. Considering her condition, it's a miracle that we only lost 3. And remember the pupcicle in my bra- she survived, too! The puppies, Daisy, and the other two adults all found wonderful forever homes across the country. We have a Facebook group set up for these babies also, who recently celebrated their second birthday. The whole situation was absolute madness, but I would do it again in a heartbeat!

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a rescue organization, and how do you overcome them?

Hernandez: Ever since COVID, we have seen a huge influx of Great Danes needing homes. At times we have over 50 dogs on a waitlist waiting to come in to rescue. These are in shelters, private homes, strays, and sometimes even other rescues who need help with the breed. We take in the hard to place ones and tough medical cases. With these come enormous vet bills and we are constantly fundraising, writing grants, etc, in order to make ends meet. We have a team dedicated to coming up with new ways to fundraise, too. We have upwards of 150-200 Great Danes in foster homes at any given time, and our costs are huge. We also are always looking for more committed foster homes. Great Danes are BIG dogs who often come into rescue with behavioral or health issues, and it takes a special foster home to help rehabilitate them so that we can find their perfect family. Our Facebook has pleas for foster homes, with what can look like lots of offers, but we have to find out if the offers are legitimate (and not just an emotional reply) and appropriate for the dog who needs help. It takes a village of people to run a rescue this large.

How do you select the dogs that your organization takes in, and what criteria do you use for adoption?

Hernandez: We are a Great Dane rescue, but also take in Great Dane mixes and sometimes "honorary" Danes (non-Dane). Our intakes team has a great relationship with many shelters across the country, but primarily in Texas, and they often reach out to us when they have a Great Dane in need. We also take in owner surrender, breeder surrender, and stray dogs (after a reasonable attempt is made to find the owner). Our intakes team has a process, including a vote by the director team regarding the dog- taking into consideration the breed, health, behavior, and our ability to place the dog. For adoption, like most rescues, we require our applicants to fill out an application, provide proof that they can have such a large dog in their home, perform a virtual home visit with photos, and we call references and veterinarians- all to determine if this applicant would be a good adopter for one of our dogs. Once this process is complete, they work with our adoption team to "match-make" and find the right Dane for them- taking into account who the adopter is interested in, but also other dogs that may be great fits. We include the foster parent in this discussion, to make sure the dog is placed in the perfect forever home.

In what ways do you work to rehabilitate and socialize dogs before they are adopted?

Hernandez: Our dogs come in with a wide range of socialization background. It's a common misconception that all Great Danes are sweet and good with people and other animals. As a team, we have a lot of experience with difficult cases, and many of us (including myself) own a Dane who has significant behavior problems, and we can offer assistance and advice. We have strict rules about decompression when a dog is moved to a new environment, including who they can meet and when. We also are familiar with muzzles and use them to help with socializing safely. In addition, we have several behaviorists and trainers who will assist us in evaluations if we need more help. At times, while it is expensive, we have placed our dogs into board and train programs in order for them to learn to be successful in a forever home.

What role do volunteers play in your organization, and how can people get involved?

Hernandez: We basically have a job for anybody! We are run 100% by volunteers, some who even work nightshift! We have teams for foster, intake, social media, adoptions, vetting, etc- just to name a few. We have even had people offer to help in ways we haven't thought of! When you apply to volunteer, a member of our team will look at your application and chat with you to find out where you may fit best with your experience, availability, and your interest. We have a volunteer application on our website, and we often post it to our Facebook, as well.

Can you share some success stories of dogs who were once in your care and have now found loving forever homes?

Hernandez: Callie came to us as an incredibly scared young adult Dane mix. She was owner surrendered. She very much was a "one person dog", and her foster was concerned that she would be tough to place because she was so distrustful. However, it didn't take long- an orthopedic surgeon met her and fell in love. She gave Callie the space she needed to learn to trust. Today, Callie goes to doggie daycare while her mom is saving lives and she can even go to dog parks. Her mom keeps her foster mom updated with pictures every holiday that are taken with props at daycare. Callie hit the jackpot, and it shows that even the shy ones, when given time, can live happy lives.

Cleopatra found herself in a shelter in far West Texas after a bit incident involving a small child. Cleo had a litter of puppies at the time, and reacted to the unsupervised child being near her pups. Luckily, the shelter she was at did not euthanize her, but held on to her while we looked for a foster home. Dogs with bite histories can be tough to place. Cleo found a wonderful foster mom, who realized during an adoption event- that she could not let this girl go. Cleopatra was her dog and she was Cleopatra's person. Her adopter is now one of the directors of Save Rocky, and has since adopted 3 other Danes!

Harley lived a hard life before she came to SRGDRR. She was used as a breeding dog, and lived the first 5 years of her life in a 10x10 pen. Her only interaction with other dogs (aside from her babies) was to be bred- over and over. She also had minimal human interactions during this time. A Good Samaritan took her in when she saw her during a yard sale. While she could not keep her, she did her best to keep her safe until SRGDRR could find a foster home. It took us a solid year to find a foster, since we could not confirm that she was safe with other dogs (she was in a remote area of Texas). While she had to bounce around for a few times to multiple fosters, she was still a sweet and loving girl. However, Harley proved to be untrustworthy with other dogs, despite professional training and working with a behaviorist, which made her placement even more difficult. FINALLY- at the age of 7.5, Harley found her forever home- over 1600 miles away in the mountains. Harley's adopter would share the most beautiful photos of Harley amongst the mountains and fields- and these two were clearly made for each other. Harley was a tough placement, but she showed us that there really is a person for every dog- and Harley was lucky enough to find that person, even late in her life.

How does your organization collaborate with other rescues, shelters, or animal welfare organizations?

Hernandez: We pride ourselves in having wonderful relationships with many shelters (especially throughout Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley) who trust us and know we will do what we can to help any Great Dane they have come in to their shelter. We also have worked with other rescue colleagues to transfer Danes in when they cannot place them, but they also help us by being able to take on cases that either aren't Dane and we lack a good adopter base, or to help get dogs to difficult areas. We know that the struggle is very real in all aspects of rescue, and always try to help others when we can.

What initiatives or programs does your rescue have in place to promote responsible pet ownership and prevent pet homelessness?

Hernandez: Not only does SRGDRR help dogs in our care, but we set aside a budget each year for outreach. We help families in need to keep their pets in the home during crisis, or to temporarily house their pets during crisis. We assist the public with dog food, shots, and microchips, and other vetting when able. Having Great Danes means having great big bills, and when these dogs get sick, many cannot afford their treatment. Our rescue president does everything she can to help others.

Looking ahead, what are your organization's goals and aspirations for the future?

Hernandez: "Saving one until there are none" as spoken by our rescue president, Amy Rainoshek. Going forward, we hope to continue to save Great Danes and help those who love this magnificent breed. In order to do this, we need to continue to recruit volunteers and foster families, as well as bring in donations so we can continue this incredible work.