The Harper 6 Cocker Rescue Effort

August 2015

THE DAY OF THE RESCUE: In the heat and humidity of Kansas in August, volunteer Bill Goetsch picked up six neglected cocker spaniels from a backyard breeder that was closing down due to the owners’ health issue. He drove for hours and got them to the home of volunteer and foster Linda Cline around midnight. Here is the story of the rescue from both of these wonderful people.

After a very long ride with dogs that smelled very, very bad from the horrible place they had been living, every dog had to be pried out of the crates when they got to Linda’s. How crazy was that?  You would think they all would have jumped right out after being crated for so long. Both Linda and Bill had to wrestle each dog out of the crates. Linda held on to the crate while Bill pulled them out – Hershey, Junior, Ruby, Jewel, Jackie, and Gracie. None of them tried to attack, even when they were pulled from their crates.

“Seeing a Cocker ‘puppy mill’ first hand gives a volunteer a whole new perspective of the purpose of RMCR. I pray I never have another rescue like that again,” said Bill. At 1:30 am poor Bill looked so tired, but he was completely willing to carry each and every dog into the house. Linda set up four kennels and fixed beds for the other two.

Sadly, Gracie didn’t survive the trip. She looked as if she died peacefully in her sleep on probably what was the best bed she had ever slept on. She was still warm on arrival, but there was no doubt she had passed. Rigor-mortis had set in, so Linda laid her on a soft pile of blankets in her garage and told her she was sorry she didn’t live to see her new life. Gracie is no longer suffering.

As soon as the other five dogs were carried into Linda’s kitchen, they went straight to the water bowl and then peed a lake. The poop they had been holding all day came soon after. It must have felt really good because they all perked up and ran around wagging their tails. What a sweet bunch of dogs!

When left alone, they explored the kitchen with their tails wagging a hundred miles an hour. They smelled like an outhouse and Bill said it was the dirtiest rescue he ever made. Baths and grooming would definnitely be happening the next day. One dog (Jewel) had a bad eye which needed attention, but she was too happy to be still for a picture. She didn’t act like it hurt; it could have been injured in a dog fight. The eye will probably have to come out.

They are absolutely beautiful happy dogs. They were all in Linda’s kitchen/fireplace area doing whatever they wanted very quietly. They got a chance to go outside and explore the deck. There are two that are very small. They aren’t labeled so its anybody’s guess as to who is who. We need Audra here who can identify them, as she spoke to the family about who is who and has the identifying pictures.

TWO MORNINGS LATER: The first night they barked and howled off and on all night, but on the second night they found their camping spots and slept peacefully. One befriended Linda (Jackie) and slept under the computer desk in Linda’s bedroom, while another (Junior) decided he wanted the real thing and slept on the bed.

In the morning they all went outside for pee/poop duty. Some walked right back into the house, but some had to be carried. Breakfast was wet kibble with plenty of soft dog food since these guys have very bad teeth; some are loose. Shoving them into a crate to eat was not easy; they must have remembered being in a crate on their way here. Finally, there they sit… and bark.

The most curious one (Junior) managed to push through the barrier Linda had set up and explored the “out of bounds” living room. He and soon after, another was right behind him. They wouldn’t leave the way they went into the ‘banned room’ so Linda had to pick them up and physically carry them. Of course they were two of the heaviest ones.

Three followed Linda everywhere making sure she was doing things properly, although they startled at the slightest noise or movement. As normal cockers do, they would follow her into the bathroom. Every day, the five gather in the same place and howl. It was so funny! They are gaining confidence while at Linda’s house and their fear is noticeably less.

Linda and three volunteers took the dogs for much needed baths. Four days after arrival, they went to see the vet. None of the dogs ever learned to walk on a leash, so each had to be picked up and carried.

The cost for this rescue will be in the thousands of dollars, but this is our reason for being a rescue. Thanks to all the volunteers, especially Linda, Bill, Norman, Jamie, Audra and many others whose hard work and prayers helped rescue.

Hershey_Jackie  Ruby_Jewel
Hershey (in front) and Jackie                Jewel (in front) and Ruby


Junior, a handsome but nervous Chocolate and White male


One month later, September 2015

All five Harper pups went to the vet and not a single one needed any meds. The vet saw no issues with prostates, skin and coats, eyes, nor ears. They all tested heartworm negative and their fecal tests showed no worms. However, they all needed dentals and spay/neuter, plus they were not house-trained, but they are learning from the other dogs in their foster home and doing surprisingly well. None cared to eat much, neither soft nor dry, most likely due to gum/mouth/teeth pain. None were overweight yet none were lethargic. It appears they have great DNA but lack skills in socializing with humans. They never knew the loving touch and warmth of a human hand or the purpose of a leash.

Feeding and house-training has gone very well. They get fed inside their crates, with a timer set for 20 minutes, at which time they all get to go outside to potty. When they hear the excitement of bowls clinging and the smell of food, they either go into their crates and patiently wait or will enter their crates at the right moment of when the food bowl is being placed.

All were frightened when attaching a leash – they would freeze in place or drop to the ground, digging their toenails into the ground. These precious souls have never bit, growled or barked at any other living creature, 2- or 4-legged, even when they were being pushed and pulled in-n-out of crates for transporting to the vet and groomers. They all have learned that breakfast and dinner now arrives on a regular schedule and are doing exceptionally well with house-training. Some have not had a potty-accident in the house since 3 weeks after arrival. They are truly remarkable and we are excited to see their personalities come out.

Ruby, 7 yrs, needs the most patience. Her kennel-mate in Kansas was Gracie, the 8-yr female who did not survive. It took Ruby 3 days to eat on her own and come out of her crate. She still trembles with fear, but enjoys being a member of the doggie pack. Ruby is living in a foster home with a young female cocker, Sadie, who is showing Ruby the ropes on how to be a real dog.  However, she now walks on a leash and displays a fascination for moths and butterflies.  She has mastered going up and down hardwood stairs, and loves playing with toys and gnawing on chewy bones.  There are confirmed sightings of tail wagging occuring from her hiney.

Jewel, 7 yrs, has a damaged right eye. Although there is no pain, we plan to have her visit a canine opthamologist. She does a cute little wiggle/dance where her front two feet interchangeably pat the ground in sync with her tail (see facebook for video). She has been found sleeping next to her human. Jewel loves to be pet and is starting to get jealous when others interrupt her one-on-one time. Jewel was our 900th dog rescued since starting RMCR in 2009, an honor for such a beautiful girl with a stunning name. Jewel is in her original foster home which also houses other foster cockers.

Hershey, who just turned 12 yrs last month, had 32 abscessed teeth pulled; 5 were already missing. He did not understand stairs, having taken more than a week to learn to navigate the 3 steps from the house to the yard. He has truly come to life now that he is pain-free and has been seen running thru the yard. He is a very calm and loving handsome man, and he definitely produced some great-looking puppies. He is the AKC daddy of all 4 Harper females. He is living in a foster home with a stay-at-home mom of teenagers, who also owns some cockers.

Jackie, 8 yrs, initially showed signs of being the only alpha, but that faded now that the number of dogs in her face has been reduced. If challenged, we don’t think she’ll back down – it’s possibly how she and the others learned to survive for so long, also protecting all the litters of puppies they have produced. She has no problem snuggling in a human’s bed or sleeping at their feet. She doesn’t appear to be scared of people. Jackie recently had some rock-hard mammary tumors removed. The surgery was long & difficult as the vet had to go deep to get all the tissue – and only along one side. Jackie still needs one more surgery for the other row of tumors.

Junior, a chocolate and white, is 9 years going on 5. He is the only parti-color and the heaviest at 33 lbs. He is not related to the others, being used only as a stud-muffin. He will need lubricating eye drops long-term but is the most curious and adventurous – he longs to do the right thing and please his humans.  He isn’t quite sure what the right thing is, but has started showing interest in the “toy basket.” Since all these cuties lived on framing wood boards and concrete, he loves going into his open-door foster crate, without being told, and rolling upside down on his blanket, swishing from side-to-side. He will walk out on his own, decide he needs more, then go back in and repeat.


August 2016: Deaths of the former Harper 6 owners

The male human, 78, who owned and managed the breeding kennel, passed away in April 2016. His wife, who many years prior took great care of the dogs, passed away just four months later, age 75.  They were both educators and after retiring, they started breeding in the mid-1990s, when backyard breeding was not as taboo as it is today. “Back in the day”, this couple excelled in breeding quality cockers, but as they grew older, they obviously slowed down in the care of the cockers. They surrendered the dogs when the time was right for them and all the dogs now all have great wonderful homes. We are blessed to have been involved in rescuing and finding forever homes for these beauties.


October 2016: Hershey Update

Hershey has a fast-growing ‘bump’ on his right upper gum location, which was removed and sent for biopsy. It is an oral melanocytic tumor composed of polygonal to spindle shaped cells; a very fast growing bleeding mass. We were told the growth will come back and metastasis is anticipated. A documented study revealed a median survival of only 147 days. Hershey will continue to live his best senior years, retired with a great family. You are in our prayers Hershey, we all love you very much.

Hershey-Dec 2016 Hershey-Growth-I