River: An Atlanta Rescue Dog Story

There are many stigmas held against rescue dogs that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some of the stigmas people may believe are that, rescue dogs can’t be trained and will have behavioral issues. Others think that that rescue dogs can’t be purebreds. The final, and largest, stigma is that rescue dogs are given up because there is something wrong with them. In reality, most dogs are given up to shelters because of moving, personal issues, no room, financial reasons or even lack of time. Some of the dogs in shelters have lived a hard life and have a rough and abusive past, but that does not mean the dog is “broken.” Take River for example.

River licking her nose.

River’s Story

River, a two-year-old Black Mouth Cur mix, was rescued by Jill and Jay Waddell, when she was just six months old. River had gone through some difficult things in her short life. She originally came from an abusive and neglectful situation, spending most of her life in a crate, without any bonds with humans or dogs. When she was rescued from that situation and brought to a shelter, she faced several families who adopted her and then quickly returned her. It can be assumed that it was due to the fact that River needed some extra time and attention.

Jill and Jay met her and ended up adopting her and renamed her River to stick to the theme of their previous two dogs named Canoe and Kayak. They were a little wary at first due to hearing that families had brought her back. River started out pretty aggressive. While she never hurt anyone, she would bite their clothes and pull or jump all over them. River’s transition into being a family member was a challenging one.

River  had no concept of how to be a “normal” domesticated pup. She didn’t know how to play and did not know how to act around people or dogs. Jill and Jay eventually went to a trainer for help with training River. The approach of the first trainer was not a good fit for as his approach involved reacting to River’s negative behavior in an equally negative way. Instead, they discovered the best way to deal with the aggressive behavior, which was River’s fear reaction, was through love and a great deal of patience.

River Today

Fast forward to now, River is a completely different dog who is still working to become an even better version of herself. She is only two years old, so she still has quite a bit of energy. She has even received the title of being the business partner in the organization of  the Rescue Dog Olympics in Atlanta. “She doesn’t have any actual assistant responsibilities,” Jill joked. However, River’s job does entail lots of emotional support and snuggles.

She is constantly loving on her family as well as everyone else. She also loves to run, play with toys and now knows how to have fun with other dogs. By giving River the love that she so desperately wanted and some extra time and care, Jill and Jay were able to completely transform her into a beloved member of the family.

At the moment, Jill is training River to become a therapy dog for chronically ill children. She says that because River has so much love to give to others that she would make a great therapy dog to those in need. River still has a lot of work to do, since she still has so much energy and loves to jump on people to show her love, but will still make a great therapy dog in time.

River’s Impact

River’s story is just one example of the countless rescue dog stories being made every single day. Rescuing a dog from a shelter as opposed to buying one directly from a breeder has so many benefits. Rescuing a dog saves two lives: the life of the dog rescued and the life of another dog in need that can now come to the shelter due to the open space. Most rescues are already spayed or neutered and even microchipped. Most adult dogs are already potty-trained and with a rescue, the workers will be able to tell you about the dog’s unique personality. According to the ASPCA, about 3.3 million dogs are brought into rescue shelters while 1.6 million dogs are adopted each year. By adopting a rescue, you can help shelters bring in more dogs that are in need and keep the euthanization rates low.

Rescue dogs have so much potential that more people need to see, which is a reason why Jill and Jay started the Rescue Dog Olympics in Atlanta. It’s a dog lovin’ festival and dog party on Sunday, March 10, 2019 in Piedmont Park.  The main purpose of the festival is to shine a light on pet adoption and secondarily to encourage people to get outside and play with their dogs. It’s a chance for people to do something fun with their dogs and for families looking to adopt to meet some great rescue organizations and find their new family member. It’s a way to spread awareness to the potential and greatness inside each rescue dog.

Ari Lentini is an English major at Kennesaw State University. She has a working portfolio located at https://inkandcrystals.com/

Works Cited for embedded links:

Stilwell, Victoria. “Why Choose a Shelter Dog.” Victoria Stilwell Positively.

Stilwell, Victoria. “Shelter vs Breeder.” Victoria Stilwell Positively.

“Pet Statistics.” ASPCA.


  1. Bobbi on February 6, 2019 at 11:22 am

    This story about RIVER is so accurate! You’ve done an amazing service to RIVER,your family and the rescue shelter! A blessing to ALL !!! Sweet joy to you for your wisdom and love ?

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