Things could have turned out very differently for Fred the dog if it weren’t for Barbara Oates and her non-profit organization, ASAP. Fred’s mom, Tilly, was found abandoned on the streets of Nogales, picked up by Santa Cruz Animal Control personnel and taken to the pound.

Oates admires the people who work at the shelter. “Santa Cruz [Animal Control Center] is very clean and the people are so nice,” she says, but they are overwhelmed by the number of dogs that are brought in. She feels that they need a bigger facility.

Limited kennels

Because the shelter has only 20 kennels, dogs are usually euthanized after only four days. Oates visits the center regularly, indicating the dogs she might rescue. The center then calls her if a dog goes unclaimed and is about to be put down.

Oates evaluates the dogs when she visits the shelter. “Not every dog is going to be adoptable,” she said. She has developed temperament tests to judge a dog’s potential. “We talk to them and see if they are aggressively barking without wagging their tails, or if they charge at us.” She will kneel next to a frightened dog and see if the animal responds to her voice and sniffs at her outstretched hand.

Once Oates has removed the dog from the shelter, she has it examined by Dr. Simon Escalada at the Nogales Veterinary Clinic. Escalada vaccinates, spays or neuters the dog, and checks for dental problems.” I never have a balance at the vet’s for less than $2,000,” she said

If the dog’s coat is in bad shape, she pays to have it professionally groomed. Many of these dogs go to foster care before finding permanent homes. Five families are fostering for Oates at any given time, most of whom are as far away as Tucson. “We’d love to foster here. It would be easier for us to keep a watch on the animals.”

Many dogs go home with Oates until they are adopted. “The dog is with me until it finds a permanent home,” she said. She and her husband, Bill, feed almost 60 pounds of dog food per day, and she estimates that she puts 2,000 miles on her car every month picking up and delivering dogs, as well as trips to the vet.

Oates holds adoptions at public events at the county fairgrounds in Sonoita and at the Patagonia Fall festival, among other venues, or people call her looking for a specific kind of dog. “If I don’t have what they are looking for, I network with many other rescues. I try to match the dog to the person,” she said. “Most people I adopt to, I check them out. I’ve turned people down who say this is going to be an outside dog.”

Oates will meet potential owners away from her property, bringing several dogs with her that she feels would be suitable pets. She has recently started using the Internet, as well, to match dogs and people.

And what about Fred? Tilly gave birth to six puppies two weeks after Oates brought her home from the shelter. Tilly and all her puppies, including Fred, found new homes. Without ASAP, none of them would be alive today. “To the world, you’re just one person,” Oates quoted. “To a dog, you are the whole world when you rescue it.”

Her history

Oates has adopted out approximately 100 dogs per year since 2007. She and her husband have recently formed a 5013C, a non-profit corporation, so that donations to ASAP are now tax-deductible.

She welcomes donations of blankets, old comforters, crates, dog houses, leashes and collars. Monetary donations may be sent to ASAP Inc, P.O. Box 504, Sonoita AZ 85637. Oates may be reached at (520) 394-2498.

(Editor’s Note: Marion Vendituoli of Elgin, is a freelance writer.)