archived news



Wags to Riches Volunteers were honored for the 

Yakima Red Cross Real Heroes for 2009

Animal Rescue Heroes - Donna Prime
Donna Prime is 84-years young and while she can no longer go out and physically rescue animals, she has been the adoption coordinator for two local rescue groups. Donna has facilitated and arranged the adoptions of nearly 1,500 animals over the last six years. Many days she spends 10 or more hours on her computer sending emails and phoning potential adopters. She gives them the personal time and attention, making sure that these animals are placed in the right homes. She is making a difference in not only the animal's lives but the people who adopt them as well.


Animal Rescue Heroes - Wags To Riches Animal Rescue and Sanctuary
On September 16, 2008 Chad, Andrea and Copper, swerved to miss a possible elk and went down a 150ft. cliff on a forest road in Yakima County. After the jeep came to rest Chad woke Andrea up and got her out of the seatbelt and climbed back up to the road. After 4 times going back to the bottom with the light on his cell phone, Chad was unable to find their beloved Copper.  Wags to Riches volunteers heard about the story and 5 days after the accident, four volunteers, Bob Chism, Kim & Kris Wertenberger and Jennifer Berndt-Ray went back to the crash site to search for Copper. They fanned out and started calling his name and heard barking in return. Copper was scared and wasn't willing to come out from his "safe" place. Bob contacted Chad and Andrea to let them know that they have indeed found Copper. Once Copper heard Andrea's voice he came out from hiding and came up the cliff. Without these volunteers, Copper would have not have found his home and had such a happy ending.



We are in Animal Wellness Magazine for the February/March Issue!

Click here for the article


September 2008

On September 16, 2008 Andrea , Chad and their dog Copper was driving down an old forest road when an animal, possibly an elk stepped out in front of the car.  Andrea did what her father always told her not to do, she swerved.  She instantly knew her mistake and told Chad , “hang on, we’re going over”.   

What they didn’t realize until daylight was that “over” meant a 150 foot cliff.  After what seemed like eternity the jeep finally came to a rest upside down.  Andrea was unconscious and covered in blood, the windows were blown out and Copper was missing.

Chad woke Andrea and got her out of the seatbelt, they climbed back up to the road.  Chad went down 4 times looking for Copper, he found nothing. 

They sat on the service road and built a fire for the night waiting for daybreak.  Again Chad went down and looked for Copper and found nothing. 

They ended up hiking home as no one stopped to help them.  Later at the hospital they discovered that Andrea had 2 broken vertebrae, gashes in her head and 2 lesions on her brain.  Chad had 3 cracked ribs.  All they could think of was to get out so they could get back to looking for Copper.  Copper was after all, their child. 

The next day a car club got together and spent four hours pulling up the wreckage from the gully below.  No one saw or heard Copper.  They brought squeaky toys and called for him days after the accident.  Still nothing.

They posted on several sites, hung flyers and even posted on Craigslist four days after the accident.  Someone saw the posting and forwarded it to a group called Wags to Riches Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in Union Gap, Washington.  They had been involved in an eerily similar rescue after a rollover car accident not 30 days before.  They found that dog after ten days.  It was alive.

Wags contacted Andrea and told her, “Have hope, we will find him”.

Four volunteers set out on Sunday, 5 days after the accident.  They were told that because no one had seen or heard the dog that this could be a body recovery. But they needed to do it, for the family, so they would have closure and could begin to heal.

Bob Chism, Kim and Chris Wertenberger and Jennifer Ray spread out and went over the cliff to the gully.  They methodically started to comb the area.  The girls went together and the men went on the outer corners.  The brush was so thick that a machete had to be used to make a path.  At the bottom of the gully was a small creek.  The girls jumped over the creek and went up and around to walk on the other side.  One yelled out “Copper”.  A few minutes later they heard barking.  Mama Bear instinct came flying out and they threw all caution to the wind as they ran and wildly scraped at the branches and brush trying to get to the dog.  All the while yelling “It’s okay baby we’re coming.  Good boy Copper!”  When they got to him, he had made a little nest for himself right by the creek.  When they realized he was not going to let them put a leash on him they sat down beside him and spoke soothingly to him.  Bob drove down to where Andrea and Chad were staying to tell them Copper was found but they needed someone to come and call him to motivate him.  In the meantime Chris cut a path through the brush for Copper to go through.

After 20 minutes we heard the car pull up above us and they started calling for him.  The look on Copper’s face when he heard his momma yelling his name!  His ears flew back, he barked in reply and stood up to come out of his hiding place.  

After a bit of confusion, a lot of encouragement and praise, Copper made it up that cliff to his waiting parents.  Everyone was crying and hugging.  Copper was alive and well.

Standing on that cliff side, looking down, it’s hard to believe that all three made it out alive.  The love and devotion of a dog, a family’s hope and a group’s determination had reunited them again.   

August 2008

Around 6pm, on 8/20/08, Donna Prime volunteer for Wags to Riches Animal Rescue, took a call from the Washington State Troopers dispatch stating that there had been an accident on White Pass and there were animals involved. Without thinking she told them that they could count on Wags to help out. She didn’t quite know who would be available to help, but she began calling immediately. Roger Vandiver (Wags’ President) got the call from her and she relayed the information to him. Roger contacted the State Patrol and was told the location of the accident. He and his wife Bev left immediately for White Pass. When they arrived at the scene Roger said that you could see where a big full sized 4 door truck had left the road, rolled, hit two large trees and then continued to roll and roll. It was crushed like a beer can. In addition to the woman driving there were 7 small dogs in the backseat on a blanket. The woman was transported by ambulance to Regional Hospital in Yakima, while Roger and his wife proceeded to collect 6 of the 7 dogs. One had escaped. It was seen by an officer, running from the accident. Roger and Bev briefly looked for the missing dog, but felt that since they had injured animals they needed to get them seen by a Vet as soon as possible. 

Roger called Donna on his way back to town with the animals and it was decided that they would call Tieton Drive Animal Clinic due to the severity of injuries in a couple of the dogs. It was after hours but the on call doctor returned the call. Dr. Kegley agreed to meet Roger at the clinic and vet check the 6 animals. It was determined that two of the six would need further care and observation so they were kept overnight.

Our volunteer Bob Chism met Roger and Bev at the vet clinic and took the other 4 home with him. We got an update from Bob via email at 1:19am stating that he and the accident victim’s husband went back up to the scene and searched for the seventh dog, but had no luck. They were going to announce it on the radio this morning in the hopes that someone has found her and are taking care of her. 

The woman in the accident, Susan Moe, has fractured vertebrae in her neck, but doesn’t appear to be paralyzed. She was awake and talking with her husband today. The two animals that were kept at Tieton Drive did not suffer life threatening injuries and should make full recoveries. They were released from Tieton Drive Animal Clinic today at 4pm. Erik, Susan’s husband will pick them up tomorrow and take them home, after he is done visiting his wife in the hospital. 

Bob and his friend Pam McDonnell went back up to the
pass today and asked around at the cabins and the store up there, but no one has seen the missing dog. They are still looking for her. She is a black, long haired dachshund. If anyone has seen her or has any information as to her whereabouts they can contact us at 509-453-4155.


It took a lot of people getting involved (rafters, people driving by and stopping and saying they saw her running beside the road, Forest Service and WAGS,  but WE did it.  Crumb is going to be safe and warm tonight.  I have not talked with Susan as of yet but I am sure she will be calling but Erik sends his heartfelt thanks to All of Wags for being there when they needed us.  Here are a couple pictures of Crumb and Erik (right) and Bob Chism, Foster Coordinator (left). 

July 2008

Wags to Riches is answering a call to assist a rescue organization in Adams County that, over the past weekend, was able to rescue 109 dogs and puppies from a puppy mill in that area. Many of these animals are starving and ill. 4 needed to be euthanized on the spot, several dogs and cats were already dead and several more may not be healthy enough to survive.

We have put out the call for donated dog and puppy food and will transport all that we receive up to Othello Pet Rescue in the next day or so. Because of the condition of most of the animals we are asking for high quality dog and puppy food.

We would like to thank Gap West Broadcasting, 92.9 The Bull, KUTI AND KIT for their speedy response to our plea for help. Donations can be delivered to their station on 40th and Summitview or to 3506 So. 3rd. Street in Union Gap. We will also be happy to pick up any donations. Call us at 248-2789 and ask for Donna.


July 17th 2008 - The people of Yakima and surrounding areas ARE THE BEST!!! Several volunteers for our organization transported donated canned dog and puppy food, several large bags of dog food, blankets and towels, and other donated items, along with some cash to help with other needed items, to the Adams County Pet Rescue in Othello on Wednesday. In fact we had the whole back end of a van full. Thanks to the awesome radio stations of Gap West and the generosity of the Yakima Valley many donations were delivered in a very short time.

We were able to see first-hand many of the 109 dogs and puppies that were rescued from the puppy mill in Lind, WA. Sadly several of the dogs did not make it. It was very gratifying to see those that did. There were volunteers cleaning the runs, stacking the donations that we brought, working with the dogs, feeding them and giving them medications. Others were sitting in one of the runs with the dogs trying to get close enough to see if there was a Microchip. Two were sitting in the Puppy Room trying to make friends with the little guys. Some of the dogs were hurt and some seemed to have permanent injuries. There was a pregnant female and another one that they had just realized was also pregnant and due fairly soon.

There was one room that was for the quarantined dogs and each crate had a blanket, food and water dish, a clipboard on top with information that told the time the dog was treated, what he/she was treated for and what they were treated with. There was an amazing amount of activity and progress.

Several people came, while we were there, to drop off donations or to see the dogs. One of our fosters, from that area, had been there several times helping out with the overwhelming task at hand. There is no question that these folks knew what they were doing. They were exceedingly organized and the place was immaculate.

We are continuing to ask for donations of food or money to help these animals and hope to have enough to make another transport later this week.

We were told that this is the 3rd raid on a puppy mill in that area. Jessica and rest of the volunteers of this rescue are to be commended for a very tough job very well done. How tragic that this can and does happen. Long after we are all gone I suspect there will still be a need for animal rescue organizations like ours. The woman who owned this puppy mill can ask for these animals back and can get them if she is not convicted and if she pays all of the bills for veterinary care and boarding and other expenses. The word is that she plans to get rid of the OTHER animals she had on the property and is moving away. Hopefully word will follow her and she won't be able to start another puppy mill.