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  • Writer's pictureHeather Sherman

When rescuing pets becomes a way of life

"I believe there is a person out there for every dog in need" - Colleen Varanelli

When my friend Marcy started posting photos of the rescue dogs she was fostering through Save Me Dog Rescue, I knew I had to learn more about this incredible organization.

Save Me Dog Rescue is a registered Canadian charity that rescues homeless and abandoned dogs across Ontario, in particular dogs with substantial medical needs and senior dogs. They work with animal shelters, foster homes, veterinarians and trainers to nurse the dogs back to good health so they can find their loving and carefully screened ‘furever’ homes. The charity has rescued over 1600 dogs in the past 10 years, and they work in Ontario’s northern communities to help at-risk dogs there, too.

For Colleen Varanelli (pictured above), a long-time volunteer with Save Me Dog Rescue who has had many rescue pups herself over the years, working with these animals and helping them to re-adjust after trauma, has become her passion and a way of life.

“I am a rescuer because I want to be a safe haven,” she writes on the Save Me Dog Rescue website. “I want to heal the broken, love the unloved and teach both dogs and people that we can make a difference.”

To learn more about Colleen Varanelli's work and Save Me Dog Rescue’s mission to save vulnerable dogs and connect them with loving and well-matched homes, see our Q&A with Colleen, below.

What inspired you to enter the world of animal rescue?

I work in an office job and I felt my work didn't make any serious difference in the world. I wanted to do something more, something meaningful. I came across the world of rescue and immediately wanted to get involved. I had three dogs at the time that I loved deeply and so I decided to started fostering.

What motivates you to want to volunteer in this way?

My love for dogs. There are so many dogs sitting in shelters alone or used for breeding, that have never lived in a safe, warm home. Knowing that so many senior or medical dogs are abandoned when they care the most, how could I not? I have love to give and a knack at understanding how to help each one. Watching a dog go from homeless, to a cherished and loved family pet, is beautiful.

How does it feel to be able to help these pets by finding them a new forever home?

There is honestly no better feeling than to get an application from someone who is so excited to adopt your foster, talking to them about the dog to make sure they're the right fit, and to know how really loved this dog will be. It's amazing. Getting updates from the family, knowing this dog who's been through a rough time, has finally found their people, their home.. it's truly amazing.

Are there a few specific stories that stand out about particular pets that you were able to help?

I've fostered a huge variety of dogs and each one has a beautiful story. I've had feral dogs, who've never been outside or interacted with humans that have rehabed into such wonderful family dogs. I've had litters of puppies.

I've fostered mill dogs, dogs with behavioural issues, dogs with serious medical issues (broken bones, gun shot wounds, neurological issues), senior dogs, and quite a few that, for one reason or another, had to be given up by their families. They've all been rewarding, regardless of where they've come from. Each and every one of them has gone on to bring so much love to their new families.

What do you get personally out of this?

Through fostering, I've met some of the most amazing and truly kind people. People who give up a part of their day or their week, to selflessly help animals. They don't own the dog, don't know the dog, and get nothing in return, but they spend their gas money to drive them where they need to go, or they volunteer their time to collect and distribute donations, or they volunteer their services to help in any way they can. They do it simply because they're good people and I'm honoured to know them.

I've also made connections with adopters and fellow foster moms, and from that, wonderful friendships have developed. I truly believe you get what you give in life. It costs nothing to be kind, and when you take the time to be kind, to do good, you are drawn to others who also do good, and it just brings the kindness back full circle.

What is the biggest misconception about rescue pets, and what do you want people to know?

The biggest misconception is that they're all damaged, or have behavioural issues. This simply isn't true. Yes, there are some that require specific homes, or specific owners. But, there are so many rescue animals who require nothing more than love and a bit of understanding. I believe there is a person out there for every dog in need, and when the time is right, their paths will cross and love will be found.

How can people get involved with Save me Dog Rescue?

Learn about us, and spread the word. Doing things as simple as following our social media accounts and sharing our posts, is helpful. The more people who see the dogs we have who are looking for homes, the more likely they are to find their forever homes. Consider fundraising by collecting funds, food or supplies for dogs in need. Kids have collected toys and supplies for dogs in need for their birthdays, we've had people host yard sales, and small businesses that donate a portion of their sales for a day. You can also consider becoming a foster parent, which is so needed right now.

Save Me Dog Rescue is also always happy to accept new or gently used items for our pets (that are freshly washed). We also have an Amazon wish list that people can purchase from, which is mailed directly to us. If anyone wants to ask specifically about an item or what we're most in need of, they can reach out to us at and we'd be happy to chat.

Finally, what does kindness truly mean to you?

To me, kindness is a gesture or response that comes from a purely good place in someone's heart, that is done without expectation.


Go to Save Me Dog Rescue to learn about rescue pets in need of a home!

Interested in becoming a foster family with Save Me Dog Rescue? Click here for more info

Follow Colleen on Instagram for inspirational stories of rescue pets healing & re-homing

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