“We rescue the dogs that no one else wants,” said Vathayanon.
She and her team rescue dogs from shelters all over Nevada and northern California and backyard puppy mills — “Carson has a surprisingly large amount of puppy mills,” said Vathayanon.
Vathayanon moved from California five years ago with her family. In California, she trained police dogs and fostered dogs of all sizes. When she moved to Nevada, her husband suggested to continue fostering dogs and help them find a permanent home.
RTRS takes in small breed dogs, 40 lbs. and under. For those looking for a large breed dog, Vathayanon can put future owners on a wish list and help them look, using her connections with the area shelters. All future owners must fill out an application and undergo an intensive home and lifestyle inspection, making sure the dog is a perfect fit for the adopting family. Vathayanon brings each dog into her house for a temperament test, observing the animals behavior around people and other dogs.
“We’re the only rescue in town that does that,” said Vathayanon. “We have a good success rate. Ninety nine dogs have been adopted since we opened in July. None of the dogs we adopted out have come back.
Vathayanon credits her success rate to her strict home inspections.
RTRS also fosters and adopts out hedge hogs, exotic small animals like sugar gliders, reptiles and turtles. Lined up against the wall, Vathayanon has several bird cages with chirping parakeets.
“I rescued these birds,” she said. “Birds unfortunately stay here longer than dogs because they live longer. I do a home check with them to make sure that they have a good home for the rest of their lives, which can sometimes be 10, 20 years.”
RTRS shares its southeast Sparks building with Ofishal- Oasis, two businesses that focus on aquariums and sea life.
“We’re always looking for donations,” said Vathayanon. “You can drop it off here or take it to our vet.”
Vathayanon works with the Sierra Veterinary Hospital in Carson City.
“They have a great staff out there and have been really supportive,” she said. “If anyone wants to donate to us through our vet’s office, they can donate there through Jackie’s Fund.”
Much of the animals’ medical care comes out of Vathayanon’s and her volunteers’ pockets.
Adoption fees start at $150. Each dog has a medical exam, and is vaccinated, microchipped and spayed or neutered.
Currently RTRS is only open weekends. Vathayanon hopes to extend hours with the help of new volunteers. However, she will meet with prospective families via scheduled appointment.
She brings adoptable dogs to monthly events at PetCo and Artown’s Art Paws in July.
“I’m all about the exposure and letting people know that we’re here, too,” said Vathayanon.
The organization is volunteer-based with most of the volunteers adopting their pets from RTRS. Many meet up together and have puppy play dates, introducing each other to their “kids,” which is what many of the adoptive owners call their dogs.
Joanna Schultz is a volunteer with RTRS and has been fostering dogs for about a year.
“Me and Angel are on the same wavelength. We have the same philosophy about finding homes for these kids,” Schultz said. “People focus on these animals’ flaws and just throw them away. But these are great little guys that are loving and well-behaved. People aren’t perfect either.”
Shea Schultz, founder of Little Paws Rat Rescue (LPRR), shares a space with Vathayanon. Shea Schultz began her rescue three years ago, taking in rats from the shelters. She recently took in 30-plus newborns rats, that were originally found in a box near a dumpster.
“They are misunderstood,” said Schultz. “People think they are nasty sewer rats. But rats make great pets. They’re loving and sweet.”
The rats are adopted out in a pair, as rats are social creatures and prefer the company of another. Schultz adopts out a same sex couple for $15 a pair and follows Vathayanon’s approach of completing a home check for the future rat parent. Rats can be spayed for $150; neutered for $100.
Vathayanon picks up a caramel colored poodle named Barkley. He came to RTRS after his owner died. His former owner’s son wanted to euthanize the dog but Barkley was saved by Washoe County officials, who placed in the dog in Vathayanon’s care.
“These kids are just the sweetest guys. They all have touched my heart,” Vathayanon said. “They all deserve a good forever home.”
For more information about Reno Tahoe Rescue Society, call (775) 815-9363 or visit adopt-4-life.org. For information about Little Paws Rat Rescue, visit littlepawsratrescue.com.