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Davis, California

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Statistics professor finds second love rescuing huskies

When UC Davis statistics professor Christiana Drake saw a news segment about a woman in Woodland who was left with 12 huskies after her husband died, she put her whole heart into the situation and got involved.

That was 10 years ago, when the Northern California Sled Dog Rescue (NorSled), a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding homes for Nordic breed dogs such as Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian huskies, went to a TV station to alert the public. From then on, Drake has been highly involved with the dog adoption process as a volunteer for NorSled and as the founder of a freshman seminar called “Why Do People Relinquish Their Dogs?”

NorSled, founded in 1998, is an offshoot of the Siberian Husky Rescue and Referral of California SHRRCA. While NorSled’s events are in Northern California, they provide a refuge for Nordic breeds throughout the state, covering an area equivalent to the size of New England. A large responsibility comes from the action of volunteers because there is no central facility; all members work from their homes.

Jane Cordingley, president of NorSled, explained that most of the compassionate, hard work comes from volunteers like Drake, as they foster the dogs, get them the medical care and training they need, take them to adoption fairs, learn their temperaments, meet with adopters and do home visits to help the dogs adjust.

“After the news broadcast we had hundreds of phone calls and e-mails of wonderful people offering to help. Professor Drake contacted us and offered to help take each of the dogs to the Woodland Veterinary Hospital,” says Cathy Sparks, one of the founding members of NorSled. “She worked tirelessly every day transporting dogs to and from the vet for spaying and neutering.”

Four years ago, Drake decided to combine her experience with NorSled with her experience as a professor by starting a freshman seminar on campus, which addresses some of the concerns she has faced when dealing with the rescue of Nordic breeds.

“The purpose is to increase an awareness of the plight of homeless animals and, at the same time, to teach students about how to use scientific methods in defining and exploring any subject, as well as proposing possible solutions,” Drake said.

In the seminar, Drake explains the uses of science in addressing the concerns regarding the treatment of homeless dogs. Epidemiology is not only an interest for many of the students that attend the seminars; it is also a study which can be applied to the use of euthanasia on homeless animals. The seminar is intended to be a tool for students to utilize the scientific method in researching and analyzing the ways in which homeless, non-adopted animals are treated.

The use of euthanasia is a mutual concern of Drake and NorSled. Drake represents one of the many volunteers of Norsled who invest their time, energy and money into making euthanasia either a last resort or an impossibility.

“Should we turn down a good dog and let it be euthanized?” Cordingley said. “No. We try to save those dogs as much as possible and will pay for kenneling until a foster home opens up. There are some great kennels who have worked with us — and while they give us a discount, they cannot do this for free. We spend thousands on kenneling a year.”

Within the last two years NorSled has spent an average of $60,000 a year to rescue dogs with medical needs, such as torn ACLs, broken legs and heartworms. The shelter helps these dogs until they find homes.

“We have had dogs in rescue for three years looking for homes,” Cordingley said.

NorSled values the adoption process, making sure that all of the dogs are being transported to what Sparks calls a “forever-home.” Once Drake heard from NorSled about the 12 huskies on the verge of being homeless, she volunteered and contributed to helping with the process and even adopted two of the 12.

“Professor Drake has helped NorSled save numerous dogs since helping with the ‘Woodland 12,’” Sparks said. “Two of the 12 ended up coming back into rescue, and Eddie and Star now spend a glorious life with Professor Drake. The volunteers make NorSled what it is — an incredible dog-rescue organization.”

To get involved with NorSled, visit norsled.org.

DOMINICK COSTABILE can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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