Providing a safe spot for man's best friend

Photos by Benjamin Chase/Plainsman Jennifer Jensen shares a little outdoor time with some of the charges that she cares for as part of her dog rescue operation, including Jazmine, who is right next to her.

HURON — If Jennifer Jensen ever is curious how it is that she ended up operating a dog rescue and with a house full of canines, the one who started it all, Jazmine, will remind her.

“I’m her person,” Jensen stated. “She’s a lover once she gets to know people, but she’ll hang by me until she’s okay with them.”

Experiencing Jazmine’s initial standoffish attitude while spending an afternoon at the dog park with Jensen, her husband Matthew, their children, and their eight (!) dogs, her observation was spot-on. By the end of the time, Jazmine was coming up for ear scratches.

Jazmine was the dog that “started it all” for Jensen in her dog rescue work in Huron. In March 2022, Jazmine, a German shepherd/lab mix, was reported lost in Huron. She was re-homed and got loose within a half hour with the new family.

She ran scared from one side of town to the other, with well-meaning people attempting to bring her in.

Jensen doesn’t understand why, but she was compelled to act.

“I don’t know why, but I felt like I needed to help,” she offered. “I knew about the Retrievers Lost Dog group, so I put in a request with them for some help.”

Jensen put up flyers in town and also talked with people face to face, hoping someone would contact her when Jazmine was spotted in town. Eventually, Jazmine settled in, hanging out near the railroad roundabout. Jensen initially put out some food and came back soon after to find that it was gone.

The Retrievers Lost Dog group assisted with providing a trap to deploy, and six hours later Jazmine was trapped after being on the run for more than a week in town. After the family she ran from decided not to bring her back into their home, she joined the Jensen’s home.

Teddy expresses his dissatisfaction that petting has paused for a picture.

From there, Jensen was contacted about other dogs who were running loose, and she was encouraged to set up a non-profit. South Dakota Dog Rescue Services was launched in October of 2022.

In that time, Jensen says that the rescue service has trapped 15 dogs. Ten of those 15 had been abandoned. Nine were hand-caught and six required the use of a trap.

Jennifer and her husband Matthew ensure abandoned dogs are updated on vaccinations and fixed, usually within a week of bringing the dog in. She explained that previous rescues that were adopted out before being fixed have been picked up by those intending to breed them out, so fixing is a standard procedure now.

Adopting to a new home is something that also requires education with an abandoned and/or abused dog.

“Folks have to understand that they’re not getting some sort of ‘perfect dog,’” Jennifer commented. “They can be great dogs and very lovable, but it will take some time to decompress from the trauma that led them to us before being ready to adapt to a new home and potentially mix in with other dogs already in the home.”

Jensen says that she networks to find homes for the dogs.

“I work with Kim (Krueger of the Beadle County Humane Society) a ton,” she said. “I’ve also worked with rescue groups in Minnesota, breed-specific rescue groups, and we’ve even worked with Winnipeg, Canada.”

She laughed, “Most of my friends now are through dog rescue!”

Certainly, many will have questions about the traps and the humanity of it.

“We did a video on our Facebook page,” Jennifer began. “It’s a four-foot by eight-foot cage.”

“The door is spring-loaded,” Matthew continued. “It’s wired to a magnet that we have wired to a 12-volt battery. Also connected to that battery is a laser sensor, similar to your garage door that can tell when something has gone through the doorway.”

“When something breaks the plane of the laser, the power is interrupted to the magnet, and the door closes,” Matthew added. “We have food and water and blankets for the dogs.”

A board meeting, of sorts, breaks out as Striker, left, and Bear each sniff the ground at the dog park.

Live-feed game cameras notify the Jensens that the animal is within the trap, and they stated a goal to get to the trap within 20 minutes of that notification.

“(Getting there quickly) ensures that the dogs don’t try to hurt themselves, because a lot of them are scared,” Matthew explained. “We had a Chihuahua recently, for instance, that tried to climb out, which would have been impressive, but could have led to a fall that could hurt them.”

Before the trap is even set out, the Jensens attempt to have three confirmed sightings of the dog at large in one area to triangulate the location the dog is hanging out so it can be in a “safe” spot when trapped rather than already in an unfamiliar environment that would create additional anxiety for the dog.

Jennifer states that her two children, Stella, who is four, and Daniel, 2, often come along on rescues, so it’s truly a family affair.

The service has been requested throughout the state - and outside of it - since incorporating as a non-profit. That leads to plenty of travel, though some trips end up adding to the household.

“Some days, there are more dogs at home when I come back from work than when I left,” Matthew joked.
“I have trouble saying no sometimes; I can’t help it,” Jennifer laughed. “I see all these dogs that need help, and I figure that if I have the capacity, I can take them.”

The rescue service does have needs for basic items - soft canned dog food, Vienna sausages, liquid smoke, and monetary donations that assist with the costs of travel and vaccinating and fixing abandoned dogs.

When asked how they afford the costs, Jennifer quickly responded, “We pay for a lot out of pocket. A lot.” Matthew added in, “I work overtime!”

They both did note that they have a core group that donates and that requests for donations posted on Facebook often bring in plenty of response, but it is still quite expensive - and space consuming.

“We have an entire shelf in our garage dedicated to all the stuff we need - Vienna sausages, canned dog food, etc.,” Jennifer smiled.

Donations can be made at Dakota Federal Credit Union to the rescue’s account, through Venmo to the @dakotadogrescue account, or people can text DDRS to 53-555 to donate. Follow the rescue’s Facebook page under Dakota Dog Rescue Services.