Saving Animals With Mobile Tech: Safe Hands Animal Rescue

Saving Animals With Mobile Tech: Safe Hands Animal Rescue By the Numbers

June is National Pet Adoption Month, and according to the ASPCA, approximately 2.7 million animals are adopted each year.

We interviewed Lynne Bengston, co-founder and director of Safe Hands Animal Rescue, a Twin Cities-based non-profit that connects rescue dogs with forever homes. Lynne told us about what it takes to rescue pets for adoption and how she uses mobile tech to make it happen every day.

923.9: The number of miles between Minneapolis and Harlan, KY.

Safe Hands was born in 2006 when Lynne discovered a shelter 923.9 miles away in Harlan, KY, that couldn’t accommodate the volume of animals arriving at its facility every day. Since then, a Safe Hands van makes the trip twice a month to the shelter and brings back as many dogs as possible to Minnesota to find forever homes.

255: Total dogs that have been rescued so far in 2015.

Safe Hands does not have a physical shelter in Minnesota. The organization has a large network of volunteers and families who house the dogs until they are matched with a forever home. Lynne’s wireless device serves as her mobile office, allowing her to promote the dogs across social channels from wherever she is so they can be placed with families as soon as possible.

“It’s crucial that I can stay connected while traveling through remote areas on the way back from Harlan. I need to communicate with volunteers, families and our social networks about the new rescue dogs,” said Lynne. “I rely on the Verizon 4G LTE network – and never worry about the service. It’s a big reason we’ve been able to rescue on average 560 dogs a year and have already rescued 255 in 2015.”

7,597: Number of Facebook “likes” for Safe Hands Animal Rescue.

Lynne considers Facebook the number-one tool for connecting Safe Hands dogs to homes and resources. When Lynne received news of a dog that had been run over by a car and was in critical condition upon arrival at the Harlan shelter, Facebook was the first place she went to tell the dog’s story. She was able to raise money for the dog’s surgery and hospital stay, and she found it a home within 24 hours by sharing the dog’s story on the social network.

6: Meet and greet events for Safe Hands in June and July.

“Organizing events that allow people to meet the rescue dogs is a critical part in finding forever homes,” Lynne explained. The Safe Hands team uses the project organizing app Trello to stay updated on event plans and to meet remotely.

Safe Hands will be hosting six events in the Twin Cities and surrounding communities in June and July. To learn more about rescue animals and Safe Hands, visit their events page.

via Saving Animals With Mobile Tech: Safe Hands Animal Rescue.

Another Puppy




This is a story from year’s gone by about a moment that was incredibly powerful to me.  Lest you worry, it has a happy ending!  It is a story from a trip we made to visit our rescue partners in Kentucky.  Next week we make another “pilgrimage” to where we began.  We will need your help to save as many dogs as possible.  Please consider fostering to save a life or donating to our rescue efforts here:

Another Puppy

“Lynne, look, another puppy” Barb says and I grudgingly look over my shoulder. “Ain’t she cute? She is ADORABLE. I know you are gonna want this one.” I barely glance over and grunt something fairly unintelligible. I hope it passes enough for admiration or appreciation that I can go on with my task at hand. I listen as the woman says “another puppy” is a stray that just done took up at her house. She’s played with the kids and the other dogs, but they just can’t afford to keep her. They thought best they bring her on down here.

The last thing I want right now is “another puppy”, the weight of another little life I will now feel responsible for. One more dog I must find a foster home or rescue for before we leave. We are in Harlan, Kentucky, foothills of Appalachia. We travel here a few times a year, back to where our rescue began, to the motherland, to see our friends and comrades in arms that are on the front line in this mutual fight to save the dogs of Harlan. We come to meet the current crop of canine residents at the shelter. We assess, photograph, network and save as many as we can. We load them on the van with us when we go and send the next transport after those left behind. We come to provide support for our friends there, to renew energy, share knowledge, to bring fortification in the form of donated towels, blankets, food, kitty litter and medical supplies. We come because this is where our roots lie. We come to remember. We come to never forget.

It is one thing to look at photographs and try to save a dog’s life. It is another thing entirely to lay your hands on the dog, to have his head on your shoulder, to feel her sweet kisses on your cheek. It is another thing entirely to look into eyes that are deep pools of longing, desire and need and to feel the weight of their worlds on your shoulders. So this is where I found myself when Imogene made her arrival. We’d been there all day. We’d made many canine friends, saw the beauty inside them, made promises to them we were determined to keep. “Another puppy” was about the last thing I was hoping for.

As we packed our things and prepared to leave the shelter for the night I asked Terrilea if the new puppy had gotten dewormer. “New puppy? What new puppy?” She hadn’t been up front when the pup came in. I sighed, so weary from a long day and the longing looks of the wayward and hopeful souls I did not want to disappoint. I picked up the Panacur, “kennel 34” Barb said. I trudged back to find “another puppy”.

I was mightily distracted as I entered her kennel run and prepared the medication. I didn’t realize something very important. I was going through the motions of the task without “seeing” this small, scared kid. I bent down to pick her up and the whole world changed.

There she was. There was Imogene, shivering with fear, huddled into the corner, face to the wall, trying so hard to disappear. There she was, all alone in this big place with the concrete floor, high ceilings, loud noises. She started her day outside in the sunshine, playing with kids and other dogs. Now she found herself in this terrifying place, everyone a stranger, no one a friend, no toys, no kids, no canine companions.

In an instant I was knocked hard back to the present. I felt every muscle in her body shake and quiver, saw the confusion in her eyes, the abject terror in her face and immediately felt all that she was feeling. The force of the emotion sunk me to the ground. I pulled her close, wrapped my arms around her and held her as her pain spilled out through the tears flowing down my face.

I held Imogene until she stopped shaking and I could make the tears stop coming. Then I stood up and carried her out of there. I walked out to the lobby and wordlessly handed her to Andrea. She looked up, “What?” “Just hold her” was all I could say.

Imogene Rests At The Hotel

Imogene Rests At The Hotel

A triumphant smile lit Barb’s face. She knew that Imogene was ours now. She was coming with us, coming tonight when we went back to the hotel and coming home to Minnesota.

Sometimes the weight of “another puppy” turns out to be nothing at all.

Imogene in Minnesota

Imogene in Minnesota

A Sample of the Music from a Concert To Benefit Safe Hands – April 12th, 2015

Slide show from Safe Hands Animal Rescue Benefit Concert, April 12 2015. Mr. Sandman, arranged by Max Raimi and performed by Michael Adams, Sifei Cheng, Troy Gardner, Valerie Little, Richard Marshall, and Jennifer Strom. Oh, also, a bunch of ADORABLE puppies.

Featured Rescue on Kare 11 – April 2015

Slide show from Safe Hands Animal Rescue Benefit Concert, April 12 2015. Mr. Sandman, arranged by Max Raimi and performed by Michael Adams, Sifei Cheng, Troy Gardner, Valerie Little, Richard Marshall, and Jennifer Strom. Oh, also, a bunch of ADORABLE puppies.

There’s A Raspberry Behind You


“There’s a raspberry behind you.”

The words entered my brain and translated into an image of a small, vibrant fuchsia colored fruit and I pictured it laying incongruously on the dirty cement floor of the shelter we were in.  The idea unable to fit with the reality – “What?”

“There’s a raspberry laying behind you” Jennifer repeated.

The small fruit popped up in my head again.  I struggled to accept that a raspberry was indeed laying on the floor behind me.  I could only assume she wanted me to know so I would not step on it.  It seemed absolutely absurd.  I believe I stammered some words to that effect and Jennifer looked at me with slight exasperation.  “No,” she said, “the dog…there is a Raspberry dog behind you.”

The knowledge of what she meant slammed into my chest like an airbag that threatens for a moment to suffocate.  Fighting the fear that threatened to take the air away I turned to see.  Indeed, there she was, a skeleton covered with bare skin the color fuchsia, a frame that appeared much too small and frail.  This “Raspberry” was curled tightly,shivering in the slightly chilled air and the damp of the shelter just after cleaning.  Moments felt like eternities as my brain struggled to find the solid ground of anything that made sense in the madness.


Here is where words fail. There is no possible way to convey what those moments felt like.  The horror of her condition unspeakable simply because there are not words invented that get to the heart of it.  No words invented to explain the feeling that moment in my heart.  I went in the run with her and knelt down.  The words that came out of my mouth were soft and soothing, the voice inside my head was screaming.  Her body had no hair from the neck down.  Her skin was red and raw with painful open sores.  Her eyes squeezed tightly shut.  Every bone jutted painfully just underneath the skin.  I was afraid if I touched her she would crumble.


This is how we found Celeste.  There would be no leaving her this way.  No leaving her behind.  I was not sure if she could be saved but I was absolutely sure she deserved to have someone try.

We moved quickly to survey the rest of the shelter’s inhabitants.  Just a few yards down the way we stumbled on the next heart breaker. He lay curled in a ball of dirty, matted, gold colored fur.  His face was crusty and raw.  Even with his long hair it was evident he was no more than skeleton and skin.  As I peered in he raised his amber eyes my way, I saw a soul weary from the fight.  I saw suffering and pain.  I knew my lap would not be empty on the ride home.  Leo was exhausted so we would take up the fight for him.  Leo had a ticket to ride.



There ensued a flurry of activity, a call to the hospital for Celeste, a crate and soft blankets, emergency fluids given to both, lifting the fragile bodies that felt like lifting marshmallows – mostly air.  They weighed so little it was as if even their bones were hollow.  We were afraid our touch was painful on their raw bodies.  We did our best to be careful and slow and to speak soft words of comfort so they might know good things were to come.

We brought them both to the hospital where Celeste remains,much too weak to make the trip.




In the absence of anything contagious Leo was cleared to travel.  We began the long trip home as Celeste and Leo began the long journey back to health and happiness.


Epilogue:  Celeste remains in the hospital.  She is stable but has been dealt another blow when she tested heartworm positive.  Dr. Tevis at Advanced Animal Care came up with a treatment plan that we hope will work to heal her skin and body so she can be strong enough for heartworm treatment. She will remain in the hospital at least another two weeks before she can travel.

Leo arrived weighing just 22 pounds.  Twenty two pounds on a frame that should carry at least forty.  He is eating well,sleeps round the clock, waking to eat and get a little bit of love before closing his heavy eyes again.  Each day he is a little stronger and today he jumped up and greeted me standing for the first time – one week after his arrival.


Big thanks from Celeste, Leo and me.  It is because of this amazing rescue family that Celeste and Leo get their chance at healing and happiness.  Time and time again, when angels fall you catch them.


Profoundly Grateful


Watching Miles sleep I am overcome with a feeling of profound gratitude.  I have known Miles for exactly seven days.  I have known of his existence for exactly eight.  I love him fiercely and I am profoundly grateful that he is here, sleeping soundly, safe and warm.

I find myself feeling profoundly grateful that what I have is “enough”.  What I have is not “a lot”.  I am not wealthy, my house is not big and my material possessions are few and simple. I do not have a lot of time, no more than anyone.  There are days all I see are my floors that need refinishing, my walls that need painting and the repairs waiting to be made.

I do have enough.  I have enough to have these walls around us, sturdy and solid.  I have enough that my home is cozy and comfortable, our bellies are full.  I have enough that right now, when he needs it most, Miles can have some room in my home and in my heart.  I have enough that I will find the moments in my life into which another life will fit.

Tonight I am feeling profoundly grateful that when Miles’ whole world fell apart, I could be the one to break his fall.  He is magic and wonder, wide eyed and whimsical, he is an imp and a sprite full of joy and love and sweet puppy kisses.  Miles is innocence.

I do not have a lot but I have enough and because I choose to share it, tonight so does Miles.  Watching Miles sleep, it does not get better than that. I am the lucky one.

Sixty Four Hours


Sometimes we don’t win. Sometimes no matter how great the want, how vast the ache, we just don’t win. These times are gut wrenching, heart churning and these are not the stories I like to share. But sometimes we don’t win. The times when we don’t win tell as much about who we are as the times we do. Maybe even more.

There was a current of tension in the air last Saturday night as we stood in the driveway awaiting the arrival of our newest “kids”. Liza has called ahead to let us know one of them was in trouble, needed help. Our big, beautiful boy Brock had an open mass on one of his legs. There was a lot of blood, a lot of open tissue, it did not look good. Our vet was on standby and Shawn and Andy were ready to whisk him off to the emergency hospital. I only saw him for a moment. I saw his white fur red with blood. I saw the softball sized mass. Then I saw his luminescent face, his eyes that spoke of pain. He was bashful,captivating, gentle, but there was an aura of sadness and exhaustion surrounding him. Quickly he was gone as we hurried in our attempt to find him help and relief.


It would prove to be a race that was finished before we even got started.  Between then and now we learned that Brock had an aggressive and vascular form of cancer.  The tumor invaded far into his body.  He was already weak, thin, this was a battle he’d been fighting for some time.  Through it all Brock remained tender-hearted, gentle, stoic and sweet.  He seemed grateful for the love and care bestowed upon him.


His foster parents, Susanne and Chad, had returned early from an out of town trip when they learned Brock was in a bad way.  The emergency vet was not able to do much that first night but give him some medication to ease his pain.  Shawn and Andy delivered him to Susanne and Chad.  The four of them did all they could to comfort him and surround him with love. His foster mom slept next to him on the couch.

They spent all Sunday tending to Brock, stroking his head, telling him he was a good boy and he was loved. They cooked for him, fed him chicken, salmon and other savory treats.


On Monday Mary Kay gave up her day and changed her plans to pick Brock up bright and early and get him to first one doctor and then another.  Finally Brock went home and we waited for test results and information. While I took the call, Susanne, Chad, Shawn, Mary Kay and our fabulous photographer Jen gathered around Brock. They spent the evening showering him with affection, ear scratches, kindness, love…pure love.


The news was not good. It was clear we only had one choice to stay true to our core belief that the well-being of the animal must always come first.  We could not allow Brock to continue suffering.  Without the possibility of any truly good outcome asking anything more of him would have been selfish.  That night would be his last.

So today, just after noon, in the comfort of his foster home and surrounded by people that loved him, Brock’s spirit was released.  Just sixty four hours after we met him, we let him go.  The cancer will feast on his body no more.  Run free and rest easy sweet boy.  How we wish we would have met you sooner.

As I said at the beginning, it is the times we don’t win that often define us more than the time than we do. So here it is – we did not expect this.  We were not prepared for this.  Before his arrival we had no idea Brock had any injury at all.  Yet, as soon as we knew, these amazing people all rallied to the side of this dog we’d only known in a photograph.  His foster parents cut their trip short.  Shawn, Andy and Mary Kay changed their plans to focus on Brock and make him the number one priority.  Jen went to take these beautiful photos for which I am so grateful.  Not once did they complain, not a word of upset.  There was only concern for Brock and an intense desire to make his world as good as it could possibly be in this moment.


These truly amazing people, heroes in street clothes, angels without wings, gave themselves 110% to Brock. They loved him unconditionally and with their whole hearts.  They loved him knowing fully it was a collision course for heartache. All I heard from any of them is, “we are so glad he came”, “we are glad we got to meet him, to know him, to share this time with him.”  Sixty four hours.  When all that could be done was to ease his suffering, make sure that he knew and felt love and whisper, “you are a good boy”, this is what these folks did. Then they told me how grateful they were to have the honor of providing him his last days of comfort and spending his last moments just loving him.  This is who our family is.  Yes, Mary Kay, WE have a good family.  We really do.  Wishing solace to you tonight.

Rory’s Rally


It worked.  Your thoughts, well wishes, healing energy and prayers worked.  The fortitude and inner strength of one little boy is nothing short of miraculous. I have no other way to explain it. Just under two weeks ago he arrived at the emergency/24 hour care clinic, nearly gone.  His temperature barely registered and his heartbeat was very slow.  I was empathetically encouraged to let him go.  It was not wrong of the good doctor to make the recommendation given his condition.  It would take a miracle to save Rory. The thing is we’ve seen miracles before. We’ve had dogs survive insurmountable odds.  We’ve heard “impossible” and then watched the dogs say, “I will do this anyway”.  Minnie.  Angeline. Boone.  Elias.  True.  Watson. Raspberry.

So when I hear “very little chance”, what I hear is “CHANCE”.  If there is a chance, I want to take it.

I asked if we could try warming Rory, putting him in the oxygen tent, giving him some IV fluids and seeing what the next 12 hours would bring.  Twelve hours.  Let’s give him twelve hours and see if there is fight left in this boy.  I wanted him to have the CHANCE that life so far had denied him.  A chance to have the right people on his side.  A chance to have people who loved and cared about him.  A chance to have all that modern medicine could offer to heal his hurt.

In the morning his temperature was up.  His heartbeat a little stronger.  It wasn’t much but it was something and we’d take it.  Rory was still fighting and we were going to fight alongside and for him. The days that followed were hard ones. Holding steady, holding steady, a down day, an up day, another down day.  Every day it was an agonizing decision to make on behalf of our little guy. What did he want?  Did he want to keep going?  Did he want us to let him go peacefully?  Was he wanting to fight?  Was he longing to be done?  We had “the” conversation several times.  What do we do?  What does Rory want?

Through it all I questioned each decision.  I anguished each time I had to make the call.  I did not want him to suffer more if all hope was lost.  I did not want to let him go before I was sure it was. Test after test yielded no answers. How do you find the remedy when you can’t find the ailment?  At the end of each day though, my gut said, “not today, today is not the day hope ends.”

His doctors have all be so very kind.  I know each and every one of them has gone above and beyond and done absolutely everything they can for him.  I’ve heard what a special boy he is and I can hear that he has captivated them too.  So when I heard that letting him go, “would not be the wrong decision” I knew it was said with kindness and love.  It still didn’t feel like it was the “right decision” either.  Bless them for being compassionate, for being gentle and gracious in discussing the options and for going all in whenever I said, “let’s see what tomorrow brings.” They are everything you want on your side.

Six days ago I asked everyone to rally in whatever way they could to support Rory.  We were at a point of critical mass…the only question is which way the ball would roll.  Six days ago Rory rallied and he has not looked back.  Every day is a little better than the last.

Rory Eye

There has been no more “holding steady” and no more “down days”. There have just been tiny miracles to celebrate each day.  Little achievements that together add up to something big.  Rory is off of IV fluids and medications.  He is eating, drinking and taking all oral medications.  His congestion is all but gone.  He’s still tired and weak.  He has a lot of healing yet to do.  But each day he’s a little brighter and his tail wags a little more. I don’t want to jinx it..but I believe Rory is going to be OK.

We do want to keep him at the hospital another two weeks.  The amazing team there will keep him at a reduced medical boarding rate so he can stay and be watched round the clock.  The funds we have raised so far have just covered his medical bill to date. We need $500 to cover his next two week stay.  I know we’ve asked a lot.  If you can help sustain Rory’s rally we are grateful.  Thank you for believing in Rory.

Today is a good day.  Today hope reigns supreme.

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