Susan Luong first discovered the magical healing power of dogs when she was in the hospital for an autoimmune disease.
She was only 7 years old and recovering from juvenile polymyositis, a muscular dystrophy disorder that affected her ability to walk. But when a group of therapy dogs paid her a visit, they had a miraculously therapeutic effect on her.
From that moment on, she was hooked.
Luong with Corey the corgi. All photos via Queen's Best Stumpy Dog Rescue, used with permission.
Susan felt profoundly connected to dogs, especially shelter dogs that ended up being returned for medical or behavioral issues.
"I know what it feels like to be different from everyone else," Susan says. "The medical issues, the pain that they go through. The rehabilitation. I’ve been through chemo, through learning to walk again."
So she threw herself into volunteering at shelters and never looked back. And the more she learned about shelter animals and the reasons they’re given up, the more she felt pulled to save the ones in the most dire straights.
But corgis tugged on her heartstrings the most — even after she and her husband had a tricky experience with the first one they adopted.
Rotti, one of the Luong's adopted corgis, and a friend.
He was as cute as a corgi can be but came with a number of issues.
"[Oliver] put us through the ringer," Susan recalls. "Everything that could’ve gone wrong with a first-time corgi went wrong."
After adopting what they thought was a healthy 2-year-old corgi, they learned he was actually 7 or 8 and had everything from pneumonia to hip dysplasia. They ended up spending almost $2,000 to get him healthy again.
Then there were his behavioral issues. He was aggressive with strangers, other dogs, and even his owners. It got so bad that friends started telling them to give him up.
But of course they didn't do that. Instead they stepped up their game as pet owners and, slowly but surely, trained his bad behavior out of him.
Two years later, they adopted a second corgi named Eva that the shelter had labeled aggressive and implemented similar training methods on her.
Eva in the car.
Now both dogs are best friends and have earned their Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) from the American Kennel Club, which is the equivalent of getting a degree in doggie college. If dogs pass their behavior test, they're awarded a certificate declaring them a CGC.
A year after adopting Eva, Susan started Queen's Best Stumpy Dog Rescue (QBSDR) to help rehabilitate corgis like Oliver and Eva.
"I started the rescue because I was seeing more and more dogs being given up, corgis specifically, for reasons that were no fault of their own," Susan explains.
It became her mission to give them a leg up on getting re-homed.
Corgis that have been surrendered to QBSDR are given specific temperament assessments. Susan has them interact with her own, well-trained dogs to see what their behaviors are — if they’re confident, reactive, etc. Once they determine that, they design a targeted training program for the dog.
Susan with her corgi brigade.
"We work on relationship building and trust, then from there work on boundaries and control," Susan says.
The dogs that are surrendered for medical issues have a slightly more complicated path. While some may need a few surgeries and time to heal, others are beyond help. For the furry friends that are terminal, QBSDR volunteers help make their time left as comfortable and happy as possible. They actually fulfill a bucket list made up of adventures and experiences the volunteers think the pup will love.
Rotti, a terminal corgi, on the Mount Hollywood trail.
Their ultimate goal, of course, is to get all their rescued pups adopted. So far they're doing a pretty bang-up job.
While there is an extensive application process, the goal is to really get to know each prospective owner's lifestyle, household, and habits so they can be matched with the perfect corgi companion.
Like most dogs, each corgi has specific personality traits that may mesh better with one type of person than another. And the better the match, the more likely they'll remain family forever.
Adoptees Twinkie and Gizmo.
But it's also about making sure each prospective owner knows their dog's history and is prepared for what life with them could entail. As the Luoungs found out firsthand, there's a lot of shady business that goes on in the dog breeding world, and it infiltrates shelters and adoption organizations.
That's why Susan believes in full transparency so that new owners don't encounter any surprises that might make them rethink their decision.
QBSDR shares all this and more at Corgi Beach Day — a yearly event in Southern California where over 800 corgis storm Huntington Beach — aka the best day ever.
SoCal Corgi Beach Day!
QBSDR is partnered with Dan and Kelly Macklemore, the architects of SoCal Corgi Beach Day, who help them get the word about about their corgi rescue. Proceeds from the event also go to support their dogs' medical, training, and shelter needs.
And, of course, it's a match made in heaven for the corgis, who love to swim and frolic on the beach.
In honor of Summer Corgi Beach Day, @healthyspot is helping to feed the Corgis of Queen's Best Stumpy Dog Rescue again. . . . To help, simply regram this post! We will post 2 more photos before @socalcorgibeachday on July 1 and if we get 50 or more regrams on these 3 posts combined, @healthyspot will donate a 3-month supply of @stellaandchewys to @queensbeststumpydogrescue! So, REGRAM the corgi pic, and spread the word everypawdy! WE GOT THIS SO CAL CORGI NATION!
A post shared by SoCal Corgi Beach Day (@socalcorgibeachday) on
At the end of the day, however, it's just about helping people build a lasting relationship with their dogs.
That's why they offer training advice outside of their adoption services; they want to be a continual resource for the community.
"We’re here to help them bridge that communication gap, help them work on their relationship with their dog and turn things around the way me and my husband did," Susan says.
QBSDR recently moved to a new facility in Acton, California, so they could use some extra help during this transition. You can donate to their cause here, or if you happen to live nearby, they're always looking for volunteers and foster families.