Canine caregivers Neil and Miranda Vogeler

Illinois alumnus Neil Vogeler and his wife rescue abandoned dogs in rural Tennessee.

Neil Vogeler “We realized we couldn’t turn them away when they were starving,” says Neil Vogeler of the wild dogs he and his wife rehabilitate at Short Mountain Dog Rescue. (Photo by Brook Murphy, Ivy Fence Photography)
Illinois alumnus Neil Vogeler and his wife rescue abandoned dogs in rural Tennessee.

In 2008, Neil Vogeler, ’02 ENG, and his wife, Miranda, started noticing cars stopping on their dead-end street in the Middle Tennessee woods to drop off dogs. Hungry, the abandoned animals would chase livestock for food.

Most shelters would put down these dogs. The Vogelers found another solution.

First, they set live traps and use catch poles around the dogs’ necks. Next, they sequester them in a back room of their home in rural Smithville, Tenn. From there, they gradually tame the wild canines.

Since its inception, the Vogelers’ organization, Short Mountain Dog Rescue, has saved 243 stray dogs.

“We take the hard cases and get them back in shape and neuter them,” Neil says. “Once we started getting up to 10 dogs, we realized we couldn’t turn them away when they were starving.” The Vogelers currently go through at least one 50-pound bag of dry dog food and 70 cans of wet dog food weekly.

Neil and his wife, who both grew up in households with dogs, carefully guard the address of their old Smithville farmhouse, or else people would drop off dogs on their porch every day, Neil notes. “We would like to take in more dogs to get more of a shelter,” he adds.

The first dog they ever rescued was pregnant with a litter of 13. Since then, they’ve picked up others ranging from “gorgeous purebreds to Great Danes to Chihuahuas,” Neil describes. The animals usually stay on about six months before the Vogelers are able to find them homes, working with rescue agencies all over the country to place each pet. They even go so far as to take the dogs to their potential homes to see how they respond to the environment, the people and other pets. Miranda manages the organization’s Facebook page, which features the dogs they’ve rehabilitated.

The couple has never put down a dog, Neil proudly states.

“It’s very rewarding seeing the switch from wild dog to rolling over and lying on its back and licking your face,” he says.

Right now, the dogs at Short Mountain Rescue are well-behaved enough to live in the house. One feral dog is staying in the spare bedroom. “She bit me in the face once,” Neil says, “but now I can pet her. I look forward to seeing the switch.”