Excelsior-based NorthStar Shih Tzu Rescue Welcomes Needy Dogs

Excelsior is home to the newest breed-specific rescue dog operation.
Emma Richter, whose mother, Tina fostered a NorthStar Shih Tze, with family dogs, Jimmy and Riley.

As Lin Ecklund describes her rescue organization, NorthStar Shih Tzu Rescue, it’s evident she loves her role. “It’s the best feeling in the world to help save a life” she says. A long-time volunteer with other dog rescue organizations, Ecklund decided in 2012 to establish her own. Founded in August of that year, NorthStar Shih Tzu Rescue is a labor of love for Ecklund and her husband Doug. The nonprofit organization, based in the Excelsior area, takes in Shih Tzus and Shih Tzu mixed breeds with the goal of finding these petite dogs a safe home. “My passion is rescuing dogs from commercial breeders, also known as puppy mills,” she explains. “All they do is churn out puppies for profit. In Minnesota, there’s so few USDA inspectors, the [commercial breeders] don’t get inspected as often as they should. We only know about cruelty if an employee complains.” One of the first dogs to benefit from the rescue is Teddy, a Shih Tzu mix (standard poodle might be the other breed). Tina Richter, a longtime lake-area resident, fostered the sweet dog. “Shih Tzus are great family dogs. They love to please,” Richter says. Her family also has their own Shih Tzu, a selection they made when one of their children, who has asthma, had a bad reaction to other dogs. Shih Tzus have hair instead of fur, and people with allergies sometimes find they are better pets, with less shedding and pet dander. Richter now actively volunteers with NorthStar. “My hopes and dreams are that we can really establish ourselves as the go-to Shih Tzu rescue in the surrounding area,” she shares. Richter and Ecklund also agree that keeping NorthStar small helps both the organization and the dogs. “We’re willing to get to know you as the adopter,” Richter explains. “It’s not like we say ‘Hey, good luck with the dog’ and leave it at that.” “I hope to have four to five dogs under NorthStar,” Ecklund says. “We have three foster homes now and hopefully we’ll be able to recruit some more.” As a fosterer, Ecklund took care of Teddy until he found a home with the Krake family in Minnetonka. The Krakes visited the Eden Prairie Petco specifically to see if Teddy was a fit after Sarah Krake spotted him through NorthStar’s listing on Petfinder.com. “It was great,” says Ecklund about the Krakes’ immediate connection with Teddy. “Sarah’s son was rolling around the floor with Teddy,” she says. “They are the best family.” The Krake family had had Labrador retrievers, so adopting a Shih Tzu was new to them. They found Teddy to be just as his breed is known: “wonderful dogs with great temperaments,” Krake says. “I feel like people need to explore the idea of rescue [organizations] because these poor animals are in these situations because humans make bad decisions or are facing unforeseen circumstances like financial problems.” NorthStar Shih Tzu Rescue also emphasizes that it and other rescue organizations are a healthy alternative for unwanted pets. “Consider surrendering the dog to us,” Ecklund says of those who are overwhelmed with a dog. She recommends avoiding Craigslist, where owners’ intentions are good but the buyers may simply “flip the animal or, if the animal isn’t fixed, sell it to a commercial breeder,” she says. Rescue organizations are built around the animals rather than focused on making a profit. “We’re all in it for the dogs,” remarks Ecklund. With a year under her belt, and with success stories like Teddy’s, NorthStar is off to a great start.  &  Breed-specific rescue operations in the Twin Cities: Find NorthStar Shih Tzu Rescue on Facebook   Midwest Pug Rescue mnmidwestpugrescue.com   Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption nlga-mn.org   Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota ragom.org   A Rotta Love Plus (focused on Rottweilers and pit bulls) arottalove.org   Upper Midwest Great Dane Rescue thegreatdanerescue.com