Tail of Two Cairns: A Heartwarming Rescue Story

Nov 10, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Lee Juslin, Pets

by Lee Juslin

Nola and Olivia were not just sisters, they were best buds. But who knew?

Nola, nee Fascination, and Olivia, nee Tranquility, were born in a puppy mill. They lived their first five and six years respectively in 2.5 x 2.5 foot wire cages giving birth twice a year. They never knew human companionship or love, never played with toys, and never ran free. Their one and only job was producing more dogs for more profit. That is the main objective for puppy millers. Nola and Olivia, half sisters, came into Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue as shy, fearful, not very well kept dogs.

Olivia and Nola

Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue Network, an all volunteer group, was incorporated as a 5031C organization in 2000, and since that time they have rescued, cared for, and re-homed over 3400 Cairn Terriers and Cairn Terrier mixes. “We try not to turn any dog away,” said Amy Robinson, Chairman of the Board for Col. Potter. “Even when a family with an elderly Cairn is unwilling to take that last step and care for their dog through a terminal illness, we will step in. We are the last, best hope for a dog, and we try to never turn away any dog.”

Colonel Potter is organized into teams. On the front line is the in-take team with a leader and volunteers for every region of the country. This team receives notices of Cairns needing help and takes in Cairns from shelters, through owner turn ins, and from puppy mills as with Nola and Olivia. The team assesses the dogs’ needs and suitability for eventual adoption. All in-takes are seen by a vet to deal with any health issues, to make sure they are up to date on shots, and for neutering. Next step is to a foster home where dogs remain for a minimum of two weeks and are further assessed as to behavior issues. Foster parents work with each dog with the aim of getting it ready for a forever home. During this period, dogs are not available for adoption. No dog is adopted out by Col. Potter until it has been fully assessed and all issues have been identified. If dogs are deemed unsuitable for adoption, they stay in Col. Potter in a foster home.


The adoption process through Colonel Potter, like other national rescue organizations, is involved and thorough. “We don’t worry about hurting people’s feelings,” said Amy. “Our one and only objective is to find a suitable and loving home for each dog”. Prospective adopters fill out a comprehensive application. If their application is provisionally accepted, they undergo a home visit by Col Potter volunteers armed with a long list of home requirements. For instance, the inspectors look to see that items which might be dangerous to a dog are secured, that if there are children in the family they have been taught how to treat a dog, and if the home and family seem to have the resources as to time and finances to properly care for the dog throughout its life. A fenced in yard is a big plus, too. The main purpose is to find a permanent home for each dog, but Colonel Potter always takes a dog back if, for any reason, the adoption does not work out.

After a dog is adopted, the post adoption team stays in regular contact with the adoptive parents for six months. This team is available to give advice and answer any questions the adopters might have. It is this follow-up contact that was so important for Nola and Olivia. Each had been adopted into loving home; both fairly close to Olivia’s foster home. But, when Olivia’s new mom had a fall and could no longer care for Olivia, she was returned to her original foster home. Here, her foster dad observed again what he had first seen with Olivia. Her tail was always down and while she greeted them whenever they came home, she never seemed really happy. Had her spirit been broken beyond repair in the puppy mill? No one knew until the mystery was solved by a visit from Nola.

Olivia in her bed

“When Nola came to visit Olivia, her foster dad noticed an immediate change,” Amy told us. “Her tail went up for the very first time, and she and Olivia began to play. The attachment between the two girls was so obvious, that Nola’s mom went right home and filled out an application to adopt Olivia. The application was approved, and now Olivia’s tail is always up, her eyes sparkle with joy, and she and Nola live together not just as sisters, but as best buds.”

Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue Network is staffed solely by volunteers and they depend on donations to care for the Cairns that they take in. If you would like to volunteer, make a donation, or learn more about Colonel Potter you can go to their website: Col. Potter.

The organization maintains an extended family atmosphere with its adopters, foster parents, and volunteers through an annual, national picnic/fundraiser, Cairn Rescue Annual Party (CRAP) as well as smaller regional gatherings called Pals of our Pups (POOP).

Read more animal related articles by Lee here in KRL.

Lee Juslin a graduate of Bucknell University with a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and is a freelance copywriter who lives in NC. Until recently, she was active in pet therapy with her certified therapy dog, Frosty, and owns I B Dog Gone, an embroidery business dedicated to supporting several terrier rescue organizations.


  1. Lee, you`ve done it again. Another wonderful story. These are always a joy to read.

  2. Lovely story – I also work with a National Rescue organization and we hold a very hard line on not separating ‘Bonded Pairs’; while Lola and Olivia may not have ‘seemed’ bonded at the time, dogs do recognize each other, through body language and scent. It is very heartwarming to know that they are back together and can now truly begin to heal.

  3. Colonel Potter does fantastic work with Cairns in need. It’s sure nice to see them get some recognition for all that they do!

  4. I volunteer with Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network and they are an awesome organization. I have volunteered with other Cairn rescues, but Col. Potter is the very best in my eyes.

    There are many facets where we can always use volunteers. Why don’t you visit our website (www.cairnrescue.com) and consider helping to save a Cairn In Need?

    Thank you for this lovely story, it only shows part of the love that goes into helping these wonderful little dogs.

  5. Col Potter is a great totally volunteer organization, full of loving people whose focus is on the well being/happiness of the cairns. The most rewarding part of being a foster home for this organization is when you see your foster for the first time in their lives run carefree in your backyard with total enthusiasm for life. We as humans can learn so much from our furkids, and are blessed to have them in our lives.

  6. I’ve been a volunteer with Col. Potter for 4 years and it’s the most rewarding experience. Everyone associated with Col. Potter does their utmost to make sure that every cairn that is rescued gets the love, attention, medical needs, and emotional needs that each individual cairn deserves. It is my honor to belong to this wonderful organization and I hope to serve many more years as a volunteer.

  7. Thanks for recognizing Col Potter. I’m a volunteer, foster home and adoptive home for Col Potter. Every dog that is adopted into a loving home makes all the volunteer work worth every minute. And while this is about Col Potter there are many breed and all-breed rescues out there with the same goals for every dog they accept and work equally hard. Remember – adopt – don’t shop!! Save a life and adopt a rescue pet.

  8. A beautiful story on the lives of two beautiful little girls. Thanks to all of th Col. Potter volunteers that brought them to safety. And thanks to those that adopted them and showed them true love.

  9. It is such a joy to work with these dogs and finaly watch then
    fine there forever home. Such is so with Nola, her New Mom was in heaven when they meet. This is the team work that comes from Col Potter

  10. A wonderfully written true saga of a heart-warming story. Col. Potter organization works hard to make sure all the dogs are happy and well-cared for. I have been lucky enough to adopt 3 loving heart dogs from this organization. Everyone I have met who is associated with Col. Potter is truly caring. I can’t imagine a better dog rescue organization.
    Please – adopt a rescue dog. They will bring such happiness to your life.

  11. What a great “tail” and all so true . Every single team member under the Col.Potter umbrella are true “Stewards” for all cairns. If you are looking for a 4-legged companion with a BIG heart or know someone who is please visit our website- ‘Adoption saves lives and provides fur kids with a deserving Forever home…

  12. What a touching story. I’m so happy these two girls are together again.

  13. Col. Potter is a wondeful organization! And this is a lovely story. Thank you much for sharing it. I have been involved with them for two years. The wonderful volunteers are like a second family. Col. Potter can always use more volunteers so check out the website.

  14. I had the great pleasure of being Tranquility’s (NKA Olivia) Foster Dad. I got involved with Col. Potter in 2003 and have become friends with so many wonderful people. I hope that more good caring people help all of the furkids in the world.
    I almost never post anything on the net but felt if this story can help some of our furkids (not just cairn’s but all kids) I had to say something. My favorite saying is ” SAVING JUST ONE DOG WON’T CHANGE THE WORLD BUT IT SURLEY WILL CHANGE THE WORLD FOR THAT ONE DOG”

  15. Thank you Lee, this story brought tears to my eyes. My next dog will be a rescue as they need forever homes too.


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