Marnie Lahtinen
A sampling of sweet pups that have been available for adoption through Furry Friends Rockin' Rescue. (Submitted photo)

One of FFRR’s success stories, Hodor, spends some quality time with best friend Alex Roth. The 6-month old German Shepherd/Black Lab mix was rescued earlier this summer. (Sara Volk)

Humans can't choose their relatives, generally speaking, but they can pick their pets. And when they do, those beloved non-humans regularly receive inner-family-circle status. Plus the coveted spot on the bed. And the early morning, two-mile walk in the dark despite toe-numbing weather. Yes, it's fair to say that animal lovers take their animal loving very, very seriously.

So does Bismarck and Mandan's Furry Friends Rockin' Rescue (FFRR). This volunteer-run and foster-based organization was founded by a group of animal lovers who connected while working as volunteers at the increasingly over-crowded Bismarck Animal Pound. They founded FFRR in August 2015 with the noble purpose of uniting homeless, abused or abandoned cats and dogs with animal lovers willing to give their time, energy and resources. It's a mission that simultaneously alleviates animal euthanizing and improves quality of life for both pets and their owners.

Here's how it works: An animal is surrendered, lost or abandoned. FFRR is notified and works to find a foster home for the animal while taking it through the veterinary process, which can include spaying, neutering, vaccinations and (occasionally) surgery. The adoption process is next and includes an application period, a reference and home check, as well as a meet and greet for the animal and adopter. FFRR is devoted to ensuring that animals end up in the right home -- primarily for the animal's well-being but also to avoid the pet from re-entering the adoption cycle again.

It would be an understatement to say that volunteers play a major role in Furry Friends Rockin' Rescue. They play every role: the rescuer, the foster and the adopter. The significance of these individuals is not lost on the organizations founders, either, and so they strive to make good use of their time and efforts. Once FFRR obtained status as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization it immediately got to work designating different functional teams. There is a marketing group for planning fundraisers and a transport team for moving the animals around.

"When you volunteer, [we ask that] you indicate where your passion is," explains FFRR volunteer Jennifer Dahl. "That way, you can give your time when you want and where you want... It's a nice way to help out without having to give money."

While volunteers cover the logistical needs of FFRR, fundraising proceeds pay for vet bills and other animal supplies. Happily, the organization has seen a tremendous outpouring in support from the community. Fun, community-focused events like the Gato de Mayo Poker Crawl, the Furry Float Missouri River Scavenger Hunt and the Dogtober 5K Run bring in substantial financial support and donations. Furthermore, they serve as both an opportunity to showcase animals up for adoption and as a recruiting tool for additional volunteers.

"These events are super creative ways to get people out to see our animals and to learn how to get involved in our organization... without us always asking for money," says Dahl. "It's also fun when people bring their own animals to these events since they are such a big part of their family."

Local businesses are getting in on the fun and serve as a major source of support for FFRR. Cherry Berry recently welcomed dogs to its patio for an afternoon of doggy-sized yogurt treats topped with milk-bone sprinkles. Attendees were asked to donate items such as dog beds, collars, leashes and cat litter. MidDakota Clinic selected Furry Friends Rockin' Rescue as its charity of choice for an annual employee 5K. Thea Ward Fitness recently hosted a Yoga with Critters class to showcase animals up for adoption.

It's also been crucial to have the support from the pound and local veterinarians as their endorsement helps other organizations and individuals trust in the work FRRR is doing. "The pound and the vets can tell we are making a difference... That support and word of mouth from [them] is helpful with networking around the area," says Dahl. "The community is really embracing us."

Interested in learning more about Furry Friends Rockin' Rescue? Check them out at, where you can find information about upcoming fundraisers and other opportunities to show support.

Marnie Lahtinen is the mother of five children and a Mandan-based freelance writer. In addition to her family, she loves travel, hiking, skiing, food, knitting, red wine and music.