Downeast Dog News

Rescue of the Month: Little Paws Big Hearts Pekingese Rescue

Saving “Pekes” from High-Kill Shelters
By Susan Spisak | Sep 01, 2017

Little Paws Big Hearts Pekingese Rescue was born out of two women’s affection for Pekes—as well as their grief and devastation after they each lost one of their own.

Friends Susan Gayle of Portland, Maine and Christie Gourdoux of Vansant, Virginia met on a breed website--they were sharing not only their heartache but their love of this regal breed. In 2011, they decided to band together and embark on this rescue journey. Susan, a vet tech and the non-profit’s Northeast Coordinator, admitted that they didn’t know what they were doing initially, yet they bolstered each other with this thought: “We can do this.”

Their goal was, and still is, to make a difference by saving Pekingese dogs from high kill shelters around the country. The dogs are fostered near the shelter they’re pulled from, and they attempt to find an adoptive home in that area, if possible. They rely on their network of national fosters, volunteer transporters, local volunteers, and rescue friends. “We’re willing to do everything and anything to help these animals out,” said Susan.

Since the onset, they’ve rescued 130 Pekes, including mixes thereof and a few random breeds (Susan said they won’t turn a needy dog away). At least half of those dogs are in new homes in the Maine area, and Susan and Christie (who is the Southeast Coordinator) worked tirelessly to find wonderful adopters around the country for the rest.

Susan’s favorite rescue story is one of their first. There was a Peke in dire need of their help in an Illinois shelter—he had a ruptured eye among other issues. One of her local volunteers pulled the dog they named Frankie and had him vetted (which included his eye removal). Once he was healthy enough to travel, Susan and her husband put some mileage on her little yellow VW Beetle to meet the transporter, who also brought along an owner relinquished dog named Mushu.

While she found a home for Mushu, she eventually decided to keep Frankie (she fell for him hook, line and sinker). When glaucoma stole the sight in his other eye, the smart guy adapted and figured out how to navigate. He passed away in 2016, and she said her heart broke. “I will never forget this brave boy who taught me so much about love, faith, bravery, and dignity.”

This rescue relies on donations as well as the profits from Susan’s handmade dog bandanas that are available in a variety of sizes and patterns. To see them, visit And if you are interested in fostering for or adopting from this rescue, visit for details.

Not sure what a Peke is like? They’re affectionate and loyal to their master. As far as exercise, only a short walk or two a day with additional indoor playtime is needed. They’re small—the average weight is 14 lbs. and their life expectancy is 14 to 16 years of age. They’re not recommended for a family with young children.