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Rescue team specializes in Aussie shepherds

Mike Rynearson/The Arizona Republic

Alice Corrado (left) and Cyndi and Dave Cunico have their hands full of Australian shepherds. Corrado said she estimates they have saved more than 400 Australian shepherds since 1994.

By Diana Spratt
Special for The Republic
May 12, 2000

Alice and Cyndi are a team.

Cyndi Cunico is a computer whiz, and Alice Corrado really knows her dogs. Together they've been saving hundreds of Australian shepherds over the last several years and finding good homes for them.

Together they call themselves Aussie Rescue in Arizona. Team members are Corrado, of Tempe, Cunico, of Mesa, their loyal husbands and local Aussie lovers who offer their services as foster homes.

"We beg for someone to foster these dogs. We desperately need foster homes. We're really good beggars," Corrado said.

She estimates they have saved more than 400 Australian shepherds since 1994 when she volunteered to help with the national rescue program, Second Time Around Aussie Rescue Inc.

Cunico, who designs and maintains the Arizona group's informative Web site, joined the effort about two years ago. She gives much credit to her friend Alice.

"She's basically a one-man show," Cunico said. "She's the best. You can call her at 3 a.m. with your dog problems. When she places a dog, she doesn't forget about them. She backs you up."

Corrado said she receives about five phone calls a day concerning Australian shepherds. They range from such queries as "My dog's digging. What do I do?" to reports of lost dogs to a discovery of an Aussie at the pound.

A devoted dog lover with three Aussies and one mixed-breed dog of her own, Corrado tries to help everyone who calls.

But her main concern is placing injured or unwanted Australian shepherds in foster care for evaluation and then finding permanent homes for them. An adoption fee of $100 to $125 is charged that covers spaying or neutering, veterinary bills, shots, shelter bailout fees, food, toys and collars.

Corrado and Cunico have had many success stories.

There is Sydney, a young male Aussie who was found by a couple in Scottsdale after he was thrown from a moving car. Sydney, all bloody with gravel imbedded in his snout and with a broken front leg, dragged himself up on the couple's front porch and collapsed.

They paid for his veterinary care including orthopedic surgery but could not keep Sydney in their home. That's where Corrado stepped in and found a foster home for Sydney where he's healing and waiting to be adopted.

There's Joy, a 4-year-old female Aussie who was given up because she shed too much. After her photo was posted on the rescue Web site, a father of two boys from Seattle flew to Arizona and took her home with him. Corrado and Cunico still receive phone calls and Christmas cards from Joy and her new family.

Some stories are much sadder - like Annie, who died from distemper a few days after being rescued from the pound, or the litter of puppies abandoned in a box next to a dumpster. Three were already dead.

"I think that's why we keep doing this," Corrado said, "to get more happy endings."

Education about the breed is another way to attack the problem, Cunico said. And she tries to do this on the group's Web site where browsers can find information about characteristics, personality, markings and history of the breed.

A high-energy, attention-demanding kind of dog, Aussies were bred as herding dogs.

"An Aussie needs a job. He's not a couch potato. If you don't pay attention to him and give him a job, he'll find his own job - and you won't like it," Cunico said with a laugh.

Cunico, who has four male Aussies of her own and one mixed-breed-Aussie foster dog, said they need obedience training and lots of one-on-one attention. Describing Australian shepherds as "Velcro dogs who are all over you," Cunico said they are intelligent and loving animals who can be troublesome if owners aren't prepared to care for them.

She said it's important to match a dog buyer's lifestyle and expectations to the breed of dog. It's the only way to avoid the phone message the two rescuers hear too often: "If you don't come get this dog, I'm taking it to the pound."

"Their emergencies become our emergencies," Corrado said.

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