Fleetwood volunteer awarded for dedication to Doberman Pinscher Rescue, shares story of helping Rusty walk again

Submitted photo Rusty at home.
Submitted photo Rusty after surgery.

Rhonda Bieber, Fleetwood, a Cat-scan technologist, recently was awarded Volunteer of the Year for dedicating her time to Doberman Pinscher Rescue of PA, Inc.

The organization has been awarding this title for three years, and Bieber was given the title of Volunteer of the Year for the past two years.

“I was kind of more upset I got that title, because it’s not about me, it’s about the dogs,” she said. “That’s what I care about. I don’t care what I do. I don’t need a title. If it helps out the Doberman Rescue League or if it helps out a Beagle Rescue, I don’t care I just want people to help dogs and animals in general. That’s what it’s about.”

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Her love of animals is what started Bieber to become a dog foster parent.

“I truthfully like all dogs, I really do,” she said. “I like cats, I like all animals. If I could rescue them all I would do it.”

While everybody thinks the Doberman breed is vicious, mean dog, Bieber says they’re not. She described them as loyalt, very affectionate. But if somebody her to foster a dog who really needs help and it’s not a Doberman, “Would I take it in? Yeah, I would.”

Bieber first became interested in the breed 16 years ago, when she got her first Doberman puppy and fell in love with the breed. While she was at work, she encountered someone, dressed in all Doberman attire, involved with the Doberman Rescue League, and signed her up to get their newsletter. At first, she did not think much of the newsletter, but when she had to put her first Doberman down, she thought maybe this would be a good place to get a dog.

“Jen Imhoff spent a lot of time talking to me about fostering, which was the best thing and I opted to try and foster. She got me Lacey to foster first, which being a young dog she knew would get adopted quickly. Even though it was tough to part with her, I knew I did the right thing and helped out an animal. That was the beginning and now I have fostered 15 different dogs and only adopted one to myself.”

She started fostering for the Doberman Pinscher Rescue of PA, Inc., an all-volunteer organization dedicated to rescuing purebred Dobermans, in December of 2010.

“Our goal is that every Doberman, that needs care, will get taken out of bad situations and will get re-homed into a family so that they will have the best possible life,” said Bieber.

A recent success story was Rusty, a 6-year-old red male relinquished by his previous owners to West Chester SPCA. According to Bieber, Pam Taylor, Doberman Pinscher Rescue president, saw Rusty’s condition and wanted to put him into a foster home where they could patch him up. She contacted Bieber, who agreed to bring Rusty home to foster him. However, his condition worsened, to the point that he could not walk at all, and they did not think it was a good idea to bring him into her home since she had a lot of steps. Instead, he was given to another foster parent. When Bieber was finally was able to see him, however, Rusty was very cold to the touch.

“Literally, from his knees down were ice cold, and when you would put your fingers between his pads, they were ice,” said Bieber. “You could tell there wasn’t any blood flow going down through his legs.”

And his health only decreased.

“He would stand up, then fall down.”

They took him to a veterinarian where he was diagnosed with Wobbler’s Disease, which is a problem of instability of their necks, and common in the Doberman breed. Medicine did not help, he continued to get worse, to the point where he would not be able to stand or walk at all.

“You would literally have to hold his back end up,” said Bieber. “We were pulling him around in a wagon.”

They then decided to take him to the Metropolitan Animal Center in Norristown, where they conducted a MRI and found he had a herniated disc, as well as spinal cord compression.

There were three options to help Rusty. The first was to put him on medication, which according to Bieber, probably wasn’t going to work. Major neck surgery was the next option, but that was very expensive and only had about a 50 percent chance of allowing him to walk again, and the third option was to put him down.

“After a lot of talk with the rescue, they opted to give this dog a fighting chance, and they did the neck surgery,” said Bieber.

A few days after the surgery, Rusty began to show some improvement. He started sitting on his hind legs, which he was never able to do before, and later, he began standing on all four legs. When Bieber went to visit the dog, she was greeted with a wonderful surprise.

“He stood, he stood on all four legs, and I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” she said. “He actually went and stood on three legs and lifted his leg up and peed. It sounds stupid, but it’s like this dog was totally paralyzed.”

Each day Rusty is showing more improvement than the last. According to Bieber, he has had a couple good days, and had a couple bad days. “But It seems now that the good days are more and more.”

She describes his personality after surgery.

“When they first got him, he never showed emotion,” she said. “He didn’t know how to give kisses, he didn’t wag his tail; he would just stare in space. He wouldn’t close his eyes to sleep.

“Now we have a dog that wags his tail, he gives them kisses,” she said. “So he’s starting to be a dog. Little things like that to me is just amazing. He wants to be a dog. It goes from a bad story, how he was, how he progresses, and now he’s going to be living in a really great home.”

Rusty currently lives in York with his foster parents.

Bieber encourages others to become dog foster parents. “We really need foster homes because the more foster homes we have, the more dogs we can bring in and the more dogs we can save.”

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in September, Doberman Pinscher Rescue has volunteers around the Tri State area. All funding comes through membership, private donations and fundraising. For more information about Doberman Pinscher Rescue of PA, Inc., visit http://www.dprpa.org/.