Lisa Atterby

For the love of a breed: couple devoted to saving cocker spaniels

Angels Under Our Wings has rescued 150 animals from across the continent

Buddy was a calm guy, always loyally waiting by the door for Lisa Atterby when she arrived home. And he was smart, never backing down from a round of games with his owner.

The cocker spaniel was also Atterby’s inspiration for founding Angels Under Our Wings Cocker Spaniel Rescue, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to saving the dogs from high-kill shelters, primarily in Los Angeles.

“Once you own one, you just love the breed,” Atterby said. “(Buddy) was such an amazing dog. He made me so passionate about cocker spaniels and the breed that I wanted to help other dogs that weren’t as fortunate.”

When Atterby says she loves the breed, what she also means is she has no qualms about housing up to 12 dogs in her Saanich home at any one time.

She also finds suitable foster homes and permanent homes for the dogs, originally bred for hunting.

Atterby and her husband Tony Rich run the organization, which is in the process of attaining charity status. In the five years since they began their work, they’ve taken in, given medical care to, rehabilitated and re-housed 150 dogs.

While Atterby does accept dogs locally, the majority of them come to her from outside of Greater Victoria. She has regularly travelled to California to pick up abandoned dogs on death row.

“These are healthy, young, adoptable dogs and they’re being euthanized for no other reason than lack of space – just too many animals and not enough homes,” she said.

Take her current pups up for adoption: Enzo, a happy seven-month-old with no health or behavioural problems, or Brandi, another puppy without issues, save a few of the usual house-training speed bumps that most animals encounter.

“We have a lot of awesome dogs and they’ve been given up for no other reason than the economy…not by any fault of the dog.”

While many are healthy, others suffer from easily-remedied conditions such as cherry eye, a prolapsed gland of the third eyelid. The operation costs anywhere from $350-$500 on average.

In the last year, the Victoria B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has also taken in 12 cocker spaniels suffering from the condition.

Rose Harding, veterinary assistant at the Lifeline Animal Clinic, has gotten to know Atterby through her constant visits to the clinic.

“We see her here sometimes a few times a week,” Harding said. “She’s constantly getting new dogs.”

Atterby is in immediate need of new permanent and foster homes for the dogs, but remains admittedly quite picky about to whom she’ll adopt them out.

A fenced yard to contain the active dogs is on the wish list for potential adoptees, although Atterby will adopt out to people living in condominiums.

“She’s had some dogs that I swear she’s had for months and months before she’ll adopt them out,” Harding added. “That’s something that’s really great about her. She’s really particular. She wants to make sure they go into the best care as soon as she’s got them back to health.”

Adoption of one of Atterby’s angels comes with a minimum $500-donation toward the cost of caring for the animals, including having every dog spayed or neutered.

Atterby also needs volunteers and cash donations to continue with her work – work that began thanks to her Buddy, who passed away from intestinal cancer last March, just two months shy of his 14th birthday.

“He was an ambassador for the breed,” she said.

Contact Atterby at 250-889-8880 or fill out an adoption application at www.angelsunderourwings.com.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

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