Category Archives: Dog Updates

“My dog would be much happier living on a farm.” The story of Guinness:

This is a common quote most rescues hear when they take inquiries from owners who can no longer take care of their pets. Sadly, there just are too many dogs that need homes and the fantasy of finding a farm is just that. A fantasy.

ExtraMile_logo_squareJanuary 2014: We evaluated and took in an emaciated dog we named Frog that was found as a stray in the City of Cleveland in December 2013. He was at the Cleveland Animal Control facility awaiting a rescue to take him in. His nails were over an inch long and he was obviously neglected. He was skin and bones. With your donations of potatoes and Biljac dog food we nursed him back to health. Frog was an extremely active dog who had no boundaries or formal training. He was going to be a lot of work. A couple of months went by and we placed him with a  local family. They named him Guinness and and about six months later (August 2014) they returned him to us.

Every rescue dog has issues. They all need work.  It takes a village to set a dog up for success and Guinness is no exception to the village of commitment he has received while in our care.

GuinnessSHM_body2Guinness has spent a lot of time being cared for while waiting since August 2014 for a forever home to come his way. He’s been in the rescue system for a long time and without the help of dedicated foster parents, the staff at The Mutt Hutt, the volunteers who chaperone our dogs to adoption events, the dog walkers, our board members, and let’s not forget the dog trainers –  we don’t know what the outcome of his story would have been. We have allocated hundreds of dollars for his veterinary care, food, shelter, behavior and obedience training, stay and train boarding at HDP K9 and everything in between.

We did not give up on Guinness.

However, as we contemplated our strategy to find Guinness that perfect home and person to care for him, we found ourselves asking “If we only knew someone who had a farm”.

We are extremely lucky to have one special woman who works at The Mutt Hutt and has always taken the extra steps to care for the Secondhand Mutts who arrive at our facility. Her name is Kelly.  She vaccinates and microchips our Secondhand Mutts, she conducts meet and greets when we have a lack of volunteers, she takes home puppies to foster, she transports dogs to the vet, baths the dogs, and pretty much does whatever is needed. After nearly six months without a foster home, no leads on an adoption we felt like we were close to running out of options. Kelly stepped up when nobody else would and she agreed to take Guinness in to her family’s home in Medina to see how he did with her other dogs, her cat and her chickens.  Yes, we said chickens.

We found that farm.


Guinness_chickens_350We are elated and beyond excited to announce that with months of dedication and obedience training, hard work by Kelly and her family teaching Guinness to learn boundaries mastering “sit” and “stay” and “leave it” we have found a forever home for Guinness. He’s not calm by any means, he will continue to test all of us when he comes for daycare visits while Kelly is working, he has jumped the fence and needs constant supervision outside, he can sit next to a cat calmly and be in the yard with free range chickens. This is amazing to us really and we have Kelly and her family to thank.


Kelly and her family certainly were not looking for a dog to adopt. They are a working class family living a simple life in Medina County. They have a lifelong love for animals and hearts of gold. When Guinness arrived as a foster dog six months ago they had six rescue dogs (Rocky, Shadow, Carlos, Bella and Brutus), a cat (Lily ) and 27 chickens. Since his arrival, sadly, they said goodbye to their beloved Rottweiler mix Chino. There are dogs that come into our lives for many reasons. Sometimes the dogs find us and sometimes there are dogs that we just can’t pass up. Perhaps it was Chino who made room at the farm for Guinness, so we thank him too.


Guinness…’re home.

We are celebrating Guinness’ “Gotcha Day” and holding a celebratory fundraiser in his honor to share funds with the many other dogs who are in The Extra Mile club at Secondhand Mutts. We hope you come out and join us on Saturday, September 26 at the Lincoln Park Pub. Event details here.

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Junkyard dogs to lottery dogs: Zuni (Dozer) and Hopi (Buddy) are happy at home.

Zuni_HopiSHM_bedAbout a month ago we were contacted by a local animal advocate who had been contacted by Cleveland Police officers asking for help. A few puppies were found running amok in what is essentially a junkyard. It was an extremely hot summer day, the puppies were scared and the owners of the property gave permission for the dogs to be captured and placed “if you can catch them”. Well, they were caught and brought straight to our rescue center for immediate veterinary care at Gateway Animal Clinic.

Hopi_ticksZuni and Hopi, two malnourished Mastiff mixes, were both covered in ticks. Dozens were pulled out of their ears and from around their necks. They were scared, tired and grateful for our help. You could see it in their eyes. After having their health assessed we reached out to our foster network and moved the puppies into foster homes.  Both of the dogs enjoyed having food to eat, comfort, and other dogs to socialize with. Despite all the dogs had been through in their short time they were both healthy and adoptable. Ticks

We reached out to a few adopters who had gone through our adoption application process and patiently been waiting to be matched up with a dog or puppy.  When Carol G. was contacted she didn’t hesitate for a second and made arrangements to meet Zuni (the darker brindle of the pair). Foster mom and former Doberman owner, Dina K., also stepped right up to help the puppies and  the next day came to pick up Hopi.


ZuniSHM_homeZuni is now known as Dozer and he’s certainly living the life with his new mom and dad. As you can tell there is no lack of TLC in Dozer’s household.


“We went to the vet today and he is up to 35 pounds and doing well! He is such a joy and we are so happy to share our lives with him!”

~ Carol G. (July 29. 2015)


HopiSHM_homeHopiSHM_DNAHopi, now Buddy, got his name from the kids in the family. Hopi has glued himself to Dina’s daughter and appears to be growing like a worm! Dina did have him DNA tested just to see what breed mixes he is and the results are: Rottweiler, Boxer, Great Dane and Neapolitan Mastiff.

We are so very thankful to the many of you who first read about these puppies on our Facebook page and sprung into action with donations and offers to help the dogs. We are also thankful to their former owner who did the right thing by giving the pups up.

Respect the dog.


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It takes a village. The Baku rescue dogs have arrived and are resting up for their ride “home” this weekend.


bandit_300It was a long flight for the dogs arriving from Baku, Azerbaijan but they have arrived safely in the United States. Mike and Tali picked them up at the JFK airport but not without a hitch. Of course the original plan for Mike and Tali was to transport two dogs to Ohio and then at the last minute funds were raised in Baku to help four more dogs and we committed to them. Meanwhile, back in the USA Mike and Tali had only planned for two kennels in their car and when six dogs arrived (which they were given advance notice)  on the spot they rented a second vehicle to get all the dogs to Philadelphia where the dogs are being fostered until the next leg of their journey Friday night. This morning the pack awoke and had never seen grass so they enjoyed romping around in the yard, finding toys and balls and huddling together this afternoon for a nap. We are overwhelmed with the immediate response for donations to help these dogs make it to Ohio this weekend.

mimi_300We did increase our previously posted fundraising goal  from $300 to $450 late last night when we got word about the additional van that was needed at JFK. This morning Mike and Tali  updated up with the weekend transport plan and they have opted to rent one large cargo van rather than have two vehicles and three drivers. This way the dogs could stay together and Mike and Tali can split the night time ride. They are departing Friday after dark and will arrive at our door step at 8 am this Saturday.

eatingoutside_300The cost of the van, tolls and gas are estimated to be around $600 (give or take) and any extra funds raised will go directly toward the dogs care. In addition to the time they have donated Mike and Tali are also donating some funds needed to make this rescue a success. This mission would not have been successful without the help of Mike and Tali who traveled to NYC, acted quickly to insure the safety of the dogs by getting an unexpected second vehicle, then took all of the dogs into their home for two days, fed, bathed and gave them shelter. We are grateful for their participating in this effort.

It takes a village.


This morning as the behind the scenes group exchanged dozens of emails we received a touching message from Lidia in Baku:

It gets lonely sometimes here with only two of us running around , so it feels really good to see compassionate team work , and group support. Actually for the first time ever we had two more ladies coming to the airport to help us. I hope it’s not the last, it felt good. Its just wonderful what you did for the pups , they will have a life, what a gift.


From all of us at Secondhand Mutts, we thank you all for your social media shares and donations. And for believing in this project we didn’t know could be pulled off in record time. The dogs are home.

To make a donation please click on our latest link or mail a check to Secondhand Mutts, 2603 Scranton Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44113

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Azerbaijan to New York City to Secondhand Mutts

Two months ago we were contacted by a small group of volunteers in Azerbaijan who work tirelessly to help street dogs and puppies in deplorable conditions in Baku, Azerbijan (near Turkey).When we say “small group” we mean two women who are advocates for 75 dogs in a shelter that offers the dogs nothing. We will warrn you the video link below is disturbing and those of you, like us, who love dogs don’t really need to watch it to understand we had to help.

The dogs in Baku than can be saved from the streets by volunteers, when possible, move to temporary foster homes, and once a rescue is lined up, the dogs are taken to the Baku airport and flown to New York City (JFK). Then they are temporarily fostered until transport in the United States can be arranged. This is a huge effort with just a few volunteers involved on the Baku side and this effort is a certainly all done on faith those of us who have responded will hold up our end of the deal and take the dogs in. Donations make it possible for the dogs to get vaccinated and board a plane to their final destination. From there they are transported by more generous volunteers to shelters across the country. Cleveland/Akron was an upcoming pit stop for some of these dogs scheduled to move into area rescues and when were were contacted and asked if we could help a few young dogs we obliged. It’s hard knowing there are dogs here in Ohio and the US that need our help but even harder to deny these dogs an opportunity to become a Secondhand Mutt when all the work that has gone into the project to get them to a safe place. We are happy that we were able to help and it wouldn’t be possible without the many foster families who are involved with our organization who never bat an eyelash and just help because they have room in their hearts and homes.

Here is the back story message from the Azerbijan Volunteer Lidia Pejovic:

Warning: Viewers may find the following footage and images upsetting

This is how it all started for me and few other volunteers:

IMG_7378The video went viral, since then they have stopped the shooting but  continued killing them by poisoning them. Slow and painful death. This big cull was part of the city clean-up ahead of the European games they hosted in June. They have no NSR program in place , so killing is a business and the dog killers are paid $10 per tail. In June 2014 we rescued total 3 moms and 17 pups from the games stadium. Lady called us saying that she brought water and food for them and was told by the workers not to bother and waste money they will “clean” them up tomorrow. There are so many stories like this. Sadly locals do not like animals and to describe an animal will use word “it” . It really is a thing for them they are totally unaware and unwilling to understand  that “it” is a sentient being. 

My personal experience just few days ago my neighbor threatened to kill my dogs , I walk with few dogs all the time , mine, fosters and street friends. Dogs did not do anything just barked at the car passing. Unfortunately not an empty threat as the police would laugh if I called them to tell them that someone shot my dog. 

The lady that shot the furnace video is local animal activist Elena Simakina , her adopted street dog was shot while walking off lead close to her home, she witnessed that and started following the shooter’s car , that’s how she ended up at that horrific place where they burnt them. The terrified pups somehow escaped the death and were rescued. Bullets were only used for big dogs smaller ones and pups would be bashed with the shovel to save on bullets. 

IMG_7376If you are a street dog in Azerbaijan you are in hell. Shelter that I volunteer is in  terrible condition , one staff for 75 dogs , and 2 volunteers. Dogs get water, food and kennel clean up at the best . They never go outside. 

We managed to ensure that they do get fed , cleaned and have water every day. In the beginning  they would be left without food and water for several days in their 3-4 days excrement . We would literally go in and pick up the dogs that are critical , almost dying and take them to the vet . No one was vaccinated or sterilized , there were 30-40 dogs out at the same time fighting and mating. Lot of dogs died from fighting ,negligence and pneumonia. IMG_7379

Now all of them are vaccinated , all males sterilized and we are still working on sterilizing all the females. 

Kennels are built badly there is no real protections from the elements, no drainage, when it rains the dirt road to the shelter is flooded so no car can reach there, the shelter wall collapsed 2 times this winter due to the strong wind, we are pretty much patching the leaking bucket all the time. Its been hard as its  only two of us and no funding, but we made some improvements. No one is interested here in adopting a street dog so we are actively trying to reach out to younger generations , we visited few schools and universities, and although they are scared of dogs we are getting some positive response , some of them did a bake sale for the shelter. Also we are trying to get in contact with foreign companies here  and get some sponsorship.


The Transport from New York City to Cleveland

Two months ago when we committed to taking two dogs the volunteer transporters were lined up. We are now committed to taking five dogs but need your help. Mike and Tali, the transport volunteers in New York, donated their own money and their time to drive from Philadelphia to New York to pick up the dogs, then back to Philadelphia for the night. Mike and Tali will be using  a personal vehicle to deliver our two dogs  and when we added a third they borrowed a larger vehicle to fit the new passenger.  Meanwhile in Baku, in the last few weeks more puppies were picked up on the streets and additional funds were raised to get them to New York.  Unfortunately, Mike and Tali only have room for a few dogs but they have enlisted the help of a close friend, James, who is willing and able to drive a separate rented vehicle to get the additional dogs to Ohio. The cost estimate for the vehicle, tolls and gas is $450. We would love to be able to help Mike and Tali with their own expenses as well if they can be covered.

We are hopeful, with your help, we can raise the funds to pass along to Mike, Tali and James to cover their expenses. If you can give a small donation please help us raise what is needed to get the dogs to Cleveland safely. If we exceed our fundraising goal the additional funds will be passed along to the dogs care and if that exceeds what we spend on the five dogs we now have committed to we will pass your donation back to the volunteers in Baku to help more dogs. If we can not raise the funds in a few days time the dogs will stay with Mike and Tali and foster with them in New York until the funds are raised.

To make a donation please click on our latest link.

The Dogs Arriving

BanditSHM_shelter_250 CocoSHM_250PrincessSHM_shelter_250MimiSHM_shelter_250














We are very excited to meet the our five newest family members. We have already lined up foster homes for most of them and we have contacted some of our approved applicants to let them know of the new arrivals. The dogs will need some time to sleep off their trip and decompress which we will take care of after they arrive. We are looking forward to having them attend Meet-Our-Mutts events coming up this summer and choosing families for them. If you are interested in adopting one of these dogs or puppies please fill out our online adoption application.

We sincerely thank you for your kindness and support.

Respect the dog.


Continue following the story here.

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Wilbur and Orville’s flight to transition to committed homes brings joy to their spirits. Wilbur is now being fostered in Parma, Ohio and his brother Orville awaits a foster home to begin his journey.

Wilbur and Orville, two 2-3 year old Shepherd mixes have not been given a fair shake in life. Arriving from Meigs County, Ohio in late October 2014 this pair has been living as homeless dogs under the shelter of The Mutt Hutt and care of Secondhand Mutts. Prior to arriving at our door step the pair lived a life of fear, in a hoarding home, that they were removed from only to be taken to a shelter and living caged among dozens of other rescue dogs for four months before transferring to our adoption center. They have had some temporary, weekend foster homes over the last 8 months but nevertheless it’s been too long for any dog to live in “the system”. They have attended countless adoption events at Pet People in Rocky River meeting dozens of families but until recently they hadn’t met one that wanted to give them a try.

We have gone The Extra Mile to insure these two very special dogs end up in a loving, forever home, no matter how long it takes.


We have never given up on the boys and we are so elated to share the news that Wilbur moved into a foster home in Parma, Ohio. Orville is currently still waiting for someone to take him in and give him a chance. He recently spent two weeks with a couple in their home and the transition was difficult for Orville having to be crated in the apartment. Sadly, his foster family returned him today as he was not a match and would need more of a house setting with a yard to get comfortable like his brother Wilbur has in his foster home. We are currently seeking a committed family to help Orville with his journey to find a forever home.

Wilbur has caught the heart of longtime staff member of The Mutt Hutt, Jessica, who is currently off this summer as she prepares to head to nursing school at Baldwin Wallace this fall. She and her family have adopted a Secondhand Mutt in the past, are currently without a dog and have a quiet home with a fenced yard and time to help Wilbur become what we’ve always wanted him to be: a dog that is loved. We are so very thankful to the Fitzsimmons family for opening their home to Wilbur and taking the necessary approach to building trust and getting him ready for a future adoption.

It’s only been short of a week but we felt the foster report Jessica has provided is honest and share worthy:

WilburSHM_fosterWilbur’s Foster Home Report:

Wilbur is starting to settle in. He’s been glued to my side the entire time I’m at home and always wants to be near me, and be far enough away from my family to feel safe but still keep an eye on them, but he has recently let them pet him when he’s laying down. He does engage in fear barking towards my family members and I’m trying to work on that and on getting him feeling comfortable – he’s in no way aggressive, just scared.  He was additionally barking just from hearing people walking around or in and out of the house, but with some positive conditioning it’s lessened tremendously.

He is essentially housebroken, but did have an accident in the house twice. He naturally wants to go outside.

When he’s outside, he shows no interest in jumping the fence or broaching it whatsoever (he’s a pretty bad at jumping actually – he has had a lot of trouble even making it up onto my decently high bed). He loves to play with the tennis ball and roll around in the grass or sit by me and look up at me. He seems pretty happy to be outside.

Wilbur is a very social dog and doesn’t like to be alone. He doesn’t like being put in the crate. The first time I put him in there, he somehow managed to get out of the crate and was on my bed when I got home. The second time, I watched him secretly and he seemed pretty anxious and was trying hard to get out. I decided not to use the crate with him because he does so well out on his own and mostly just chills out on my bed. So far, he hasn’t had accidents or chewed anything he wasn’t supposed to while alone (he did literally nibble at my book, but redirected easily).

WilburSHM_grass2Also, he is GREAT on walks. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s using the halter now, or because he’s in a much calmer suburb, but he barely ever pulls on the leash, and when he does, it’s quite lightly, and he actually seems to really enjoy his walks. He seems like a more confident dog with his tail up and curled, inquisitive and sniffing, and never barks at people or dogs. He does go out of his way to avoid people on walks but doesn’t seem overly scared like he does in the house.

WilburSHM_bedWhen Wilbur gets past his fear, he is such a gentle soul. No aggression over toys or food, will try to gently play with you, lay near you and on you, and lightly lick your toes or nudge your hand, and takes treats very sweetly. I’ve never met a more gentle dog. He’s such a good pup and would make an excellent companion once bonded and trustful of his owner.

I will keep on with positively condition him so that he accepts my family members, or at least stops feeling the need to bark at them. It’s only been three days but I’m already seeing progress.


We are proud of the work we do and thankful for the many volunteers who have helped make our rescue and each dog who they while they are with us – no matter how long or short that time is before they are placed. Special thanks to the many volunteer dog walkers and chaperones who have taken these boys on walks exposing them to the city, sidewalks, grass, leash, and humans. If it weren’t for the time you’ve given them their progress wouldn’t be where it is today.

Fostering “difficult” dogs is not an easy task for anyone but the reward felt in your heart when you see a dog transform is genuine and nothing short of filling your spirit with goodness. If you are interested in fostering a Secondhand Mutt please email our volunteers at for information about our program and the commitment required.

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Seven Hills Mayor Dell’Aquila and family adopt a Secondhand Mutt

In April 2015, Seven Hills Mayor Richard Dell’Aquila and his family were devastated by the sudden loss of their 7 year old dog, Zoe.

Knowing how much they were hurting, a family friend put them in touch with Becca Riker, a local animal advocate in Cleveland, Ohio, and owner of “Secondhand Mutts,” a dog adoption service that has placed hundreds of dogs in new “forever homes”.

The Mayor and his Wife, Judy, visited Becca’s Scranton Road facility in Cleveland, where they met Rocco (nka “Rocky”) an 8 month old bundle of energy and love.  They fostered him for two weeks and soon decided to permanently adopt.


Mayor Richard Dell’Aquila, pictured with Rocky (L) and Zack (R), May 23, 2015

Mayor Dell’Aquila said, “We were very impressed by the caring attitude of everyone at Second Hand Mutts.  Rocky had been previously fostered by a family with two small children, and they checked in with us frequently to make certain he was doing well.”

“We knew right away that Rocky was a sweet little guy who would fit in well with our family and with our other dog, Zack,” the Mayor said.  “It’s worked out wonderfully.  We have a new addition to our family, he has a new home, and he is helping us with unexpected the loss of Zoe, who was such a great friend.”

Secondhand Mutts seeks to provide their dogs with every resource possible to ensure they find loving forever homes and a fresh start.  They are kept in a cage free environment to help them socialize with other dogs and receive a full battery of veterinary care before adoption.

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Forth time is a charm for Reese

ReeceSHM_homeForth time is a charm for Reese as she lands her forever home with Jaime and Ingrid of Painsville, Ohio. A few weeks ago we were contacted by a local veterinary clinic that we have helped with previous dogs who needed a rescue and knowing we had a special place in our hearts for Dobermans (and lots of applicants waiting to be matched) we took Reese in.

Reese was adopted from a shelter as a 8 week old pup, given away at 6 months for having too much energy, then given to the vet clinic where she stayed for six months. She had mange, needed entropion eye surgery and stability. She stayed with one of their staff members until she was ready to move on and find a forever home through our organization.

When she arrived we were able to quickly match her up with a family waiting to adopt a young female. We made sure through our foster-to-adopt trial period that she would get along with the family cat and other Doberman and within a weeks time we received the call “she’s not going anywhere – when can we sign the contract?”.

Congratulations Reese on finding a great family to live an active life with people who won’t give up on you again!

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Thanks to Cleveland Kennel, a Local Rescue, and a Foster, Life is now Sweet for Mom and Her Pups

By Jo Donofrio


CACPupsSHMWhen a young, pregnant, and scared female Shepherd mix was picked up as a stray on January 5th in Cleveland and brought to Cleveland Animal Control and Care (CACC), the staff knew it wouldn’t be long before her puppies would arrive. The next day she gave birth to four beautiful puppies.

According to Ed Jamison, Chief Animal Control Officer at Cleveland Animal Control and Care (CACC), it’s not unusual for strays to be pregnant and give birth in a shelter.  “Many pregnant strays are brought into CACC,” explains Jamison. “With the help of our rescue partners, we try to move them out to foster homes before they give birth but, as in this case, there isn’t always time.”

A city kennel is not the best place for a nursing mom and her puppies so Cleveland Animal Control Volunteers went to work and reached out on their Facebook page asking for a rescue organization and a willing foster to move this mom and her pups out of CACC as soon as possible.

sweet tea and pups with Mary Jo“I regularly follow the Cleveland Animal Control Volunteer page and saw that this young mom, now named Sweet Tea, and her puppies needed a foster home as soon as possible,” said Mary Jo who with her husband Kip have been fostering dogs since 2010.  “I immediately contacted Becca Riker of Secondhand Mutts Rescue (SHM) and told her we were willing to foster them until the puppies were old enough to be adopted.”   Becca, President of the Tremont-based rescue organization, responded quickly to Mary Jo’s request. “Mary Jo is an experienced foster and has fostered puppies for us before. When she called inquiring about Sweet Tea and her puppies, we knew we had to help.”   SHM contacted CACC and, two days later, Sweet Tea and her pups were safe in their new foster home.

“CACC is not a facility conducive to providing the ongoing care that this young family needed,” explains Jamison. “We were pleased that they left CACC so quickly, and are grateful to our rescue partners, like Second Hand Mutts, who step up with the help of fosters to provide a positive solution.”

There are many challenges and rewards to fostering a mom and her puppies, especially when the family is so young.   Sweet Tea’s pups arrived with their eyes and ears still closed and were just beginning to discover their world. “Puppies are adorable but they are a lot of work and require a lot of attention,” explains Mary Jo, who knows the importance of the pups growing up healthy and socialized.  But it is worth all the effort.” The wonderful feeling you get when they leave to go to their forever homes and live their lives as cherished family pets is like no other feeling in the world.”

MamaCAC_pups_bedAccording to Becca Riker, Sweet Tea and her pups are doing great.  “By providing the mother dog, Sweet Tea, and her puppies with an experienced foster home and family to take care of them, we are confident the puppies are getting the proper care and socialization they will need before moving into their forever homes. Having secure, committed foster homes allows us to continue pulling dogs from our city shelter where they desperately need rescues to step in and find homes for dogs who are otherwise overlooked.”

Sweet Tea and her four puppies, three boys and a girl, were available for adoption through Second Hand Mutts when the pups were eight-weeks old. All of the family was fully vetted, wormed, vaccinated, microchipped and spayed or neutered prior to adoption.

All four of the puppies have been adopted but Sweet Tea is still waiting for her forever home.  If you’re interested in more information or in applying to adopt Sweet Tea, call (216) 664-9660 or email to set up an appointment.

About Cleveland Animal Control and Care
The City of Cleveland Division of Animal Care and Control is an open admission shelter that provides 24 hour a day animal control services to Cleveland residents. The kennel itself is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.  For more information you may contact Chief Ed Jamison at: 216-664-3069 or

Dogs currently available for adoption can be viewed at

About Second Hand Mutts
Founded in 2006 by Becca Riker, a local animal advocate in Cleveland, Secondhand Mutts Rescue (SMH) is located in Tremont and has placed over 1500 dogs in forever homes. Many of the Secondhand Mutt dogs are pulled from high-kill or at-risk city and county shelters. Their mission is ‘respect the dog’ by providing each dog with every resource possible to ensure they find loving forever homes and a fresh start. Because Secondhand Mutts operates out of a cage-free environment dogs of all ages are socialized together, and each dog is evaluated before being admitted into the program.

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The Cleveland Miracle

Sometimes things work out just perfectly.

Cleveland/Northeast Ohio has an amazing animal welfare and rescue community. There are lots of ‘key players’ in this arena and two of them happen to be named Becca. Becca Riker who owns The Mutt Hutt (doggie daycare and boarding facility) who started Secondhand Mutts, quite organically after her business took off and Becca Britton who founded and is still at the helm of The Friends of Cleveland Kennel.

Both Beccas broke into the animal world in Cleveland at about the same time ten years ago and were quick to become friends. This friendship has led to dozens and dozens of dogs being pulled from the City of Cleveland Kennel and moved to Secondhand Mutts for re-homing and has also helped develop their friendship and respect for each other.

Sadly, both Beccas lost beloved rescue dogs last year.

As it turns out, there’d be one little dog that would help both Beccas heal.

Miracle came to Becca Riker and Secondhand Mutts after a volunteer peeled her mostly dead body from the ground on December 15, 2014. Becca Riker didn’t hesitate to save this dog, to go ‘The Extra Mile’ for her, no matter the cost. She was immediately taken to Gateway Animal Clinic where Dr Liz and the staff there took the lead on getting her on the road to recovery…and what a recovery it was!


Miracle moved to foster more quickly than any of us could have imagined; and with the original woman who found her! As Becca Riker got to know Miracle through visits to her foster home and at her vet visits  she began to realize Miracle could be a “Becca Britton dog”

Miracle_before_after_350Becca Britton maybe wasn’t “there” with wanting or feeling ready for a new dog , after all, losing a beloved dog is heartbreaking and she knew there was no replacing her Sam. Becca Riker already felt the relief and wholeness that saving Miracle offered and she just had a feeling that Miracle was meant for Becca Britton, to help her heal and move on as well, so the seed was planted.  Knowing Miracle would be making her public debut at the Barkfeast fundraiser and Becca Britton and her partner Dave would be there: the introduction was made. Becca Britton met Miracle and as they say: the rest is history!

Becca Britton and Dave have worked diligently at implementing this puppy, who lacked some social graces and a whole bunch of manners (and more than just puppyhood – she missed out on proper social development – and food and water, clearly (!) when she was growing up and needed it most) into their lives and with their other pets.

The journey took about a month. Miracle is literally: “One Smart Puppy” and is learning skills and manners and is fitting in great with her sister Peanut (dog) and the household cats. Dave and Becca couldn’t be happier. We couldn’t be happier.


Miracle is fitting right in with the very active and outdoorsy life she is leading! So far she loves hiking in the snow and Becca and Dave can’t wait until it’s warm enough to hit the beaches and creeks and bring Miracle swimming and camping with them. They also look forward to just hanging out with Miracle in the back yard as they read, garden and just enjoy the warm days that are soon to be upon us.

Miracle is used to at least some sort of adventure or errand almost every day when Becca and Dave get home and she still enjoys coming to The Mutt Hutt for socialization and play.


The biggest loves of Miracle’s life outside of Becca and Dave are the outdoors, any of the cat toys she can find, (though she does like one, little green Christmas bulb shaped dog toy!), her favorite cat of the house: an orange tabby named Leo and anything stick related: finding sticks, chewing on sticks, running with sticks, hanging out with sticks, thinking about sticks and so forth!

It’s amazing that this little dog that was found near death on the streets of Cleveland, who received love and prayers from all corners of the country, would end up with someone who has been one of the most integral members in animal rescue and advocacy in Cleveland for over a decade.

MiracleSHM_Becca_Becca_300Once again the Beccas pulled it off: an amazing story of healing and love and rescue.

Thank you (again) to everyone that contributed to Miracle’s care, has donated money, has followed her story, sent thoughts and prayers and cards and made inquiries and shared in the triumph of her health. We’re so lucky for every part of this story and for all of you and we are thrilled with the happy ending!

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Rhoda’s Road to Recovery: A Tale of the Foster Experience

10393898_910555075626911_6244559318147132064_nThis story is not just about one dog’s road of rescue to recovery to re-homing, this story is about an outstanding woman. Her name is Melissa.

We met Melissa a few years ago when she started volunteering for our organization. From fostering dogs, to dog walking, to reference calling, to chaperoning dogs to events, to transporting dogs from high kill shelters to our facility, or transporting dogs to new homes in Pennsylvania and New York, to evaluating dogs for our program, she has always been someone we could count on. She defines the word commitment.

Melissa is a lover of all dogs but has a special place in her heart for German Shepherds. She is a math teacher by day, a therapy dog teacher in her spare time, she owns 3 of her own, all rescues, and has been fostering our very own Yosemite Sam for over a year. Yes, we said over a year.

SamSHM_face_web_MARTHASam has been a bit of a project dog, but one that isn’t like most others in rescue situations. Dogs don’t end up in shelters or rescues because they are great dogs – the usually find themselves in those situations because their owners have let them down, they have “too much energy”, they are not good with kids or cats, they are destructive, they need too much attention, they poop in the house, oh, how the list goes on. Sam was once a street dog and when we committed to taking him in that meant we committed. Our mission is to respect the dog and Sam is living that motto. Not only are we committed but Melissa is committed too. If it weren’t for her we don’t really know where Sam would be today.

Sam is a dog that needs time to build trust. He found that time with Melissa and her dogs. Melissa’s cat isn’t so fortunate so when Sam is crated her cat gets run of the house. Melissa has made many personal sacrifices along the way while fostering Sam, including passing up on adopting Rhoda – a dog who came into her life on June 27, 2014. 


Rhoda, a 2 year old shepherd mix wound up at the City of Cleveland Animal Control. We were asked by the Friends of the Cleveland Kennel to please step in and help find her a home and we were happy to do so. Rhoda had a terrible skin condition. She was covered in bloody scabs and needed weekly, medicated, baths in addition to dozens of veterinary appointments over the last 6 weeks. Because of Melissa’s availability to open her heart and home to Rhoda all the while fostering Sam and taking care of her own 3 dogs, she made the commitment.

Making a commitment like this is not always easy but it saves lives that would otherwise be tossed away.



Everyone who knows Melissa could see she was falling in love with Rhoda. How could you not connect with a dog when you’ve put your heart and soul into them? When they are napping on your lap on hot summer days, when they are counting on you to provide for them. It was easy falling in love with Rhoda.

We received the “ok” from Dr. Liz at Gateway Animal Clinic that Rhoda was healthy and could move on to finding a home. When we started to receive multiple applications for Rhoda we turned to Melissa to help us select a family. Not only has she cared for Rhoda for a month taking her to vet appointment after vet appointment after vet appointment but she called references and screened adopters for Rhoda at meet and greets. We know this must have been hard but also rewarding to be a part of the process of letting her go.

Before we would make a decision we do what we do with our foster parents and we asked: “Do you want to adopt?”. The answer was yes. However, there was a pause.

“I am committed to Sammy” she said.

Committed. Committed to finding Sammy a forever home. We all want Sam to find a home – our organization, our supporters, and mostly Melissa. He is a homeless dog living in foster home, and we all know there is someone out there for Sam. This gift Melissa has given not only Sam, but us, and now Rhoda, is undeniably unique. There are not a lot of folks out there that would do what Melissa has done for the dogs that have come into her life. We all owe her our gratitude and thanks.


Today, Rhoda is in much better health and spirits thanks to Melissa’s TLC and is in the comfort of her forever home in Shaker Heights. Congratulations to Rie and her family on your new dog!


Sam will continue to stay with Melissa and go to events with various volunteers in hopes that one day soon someone will cross his path and fall in love. There are lots of variables that may make Sam seem “un-adoptable” but there are lots of variables that we sure do think it’s just about finding the right person. Sam is good with other dogs, he’s got tons of energy to burn, he’s treadmill trained, he’s probably best in a home with kids over 12, he’d love to have a fenced in  yard and maybe a dog to play with, he’s crate trained, housetrained and not good with cats. Please share Sam and help us find him a home.


Fostering is an extremely rewarding way to save a dogs life and give them stability during a transitional time in their life. If you are interested in fostering for Secondhand Mutts please email us at Chances are you’ll reach Melissa and she can fill you in on how rewarding it is.

Fostering saves lives. Respect the dog.



Photo credit: Portraits by Martha

Posted in Dog Updates | Comments closed
Our Adoptables Are
  • Socialized in a cage-free dog daycare environment
  • Dog-Friendly
  • Cat Tested (upon request)
  • Fostered in real homes
  • Spayed or Neutered
  • Temperament tested
  • Veterinary Health Checked
  • Fully Vaccinated
  • Distemper Vaccinated
  • Rabies Vaccinated
  • Bordetella Vaccinated
  • Heartworm Tested
  • Microchipped
  • Flea Preventative
  • Heartworm Preventative
  • Groomed prior to adoption

Services provided by
Gateway Animal Clinic

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12 Days of Christmas Giving


We know you love to give and are always so honored and humbled by the kindness and generosity of our supporters. We’re receiving a lot of inquiries on exactly what we can use now so we thought we’d present our 12-days of Christmas wish list of items we use all the time! Thanks in advance […]

Dewey’s Pizza School


Sunday, February 25, 2018 Take a class behind the glass PIZZA SCHOOL Come learn to toss and top your own pizza and gain ultimate pizza knowledge from our highly trained experts.  Space is limited, reserve your spot today. Seating available every half hour starting at 11 am. 11 am to 2 pm $25 per person […]




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