I met Pepper while volunteering at Glendale Humane Society. She was, by far, the most stressed dog I've ever met. And, after spending 15 years volunteering at various humane shelters, I've met plenty of fearful, stressed dogs. This little 3 1/2 year old, King Charles Spaniel mix would constantly bark and run from people. She drooled so much whenever humans were around her kennel run, that her fur was a matted mess and she was not too appealing. She wouldn't let anyone, not even volunteers get to know her and she was impossible to walk. After taking a few steps, she'd sit down and refuse to go any further. Needless to say, Pepper was NOT an easy dog to get adopted.
After about 6 months of this behavior, they moved Pepper upstairs to a large conference room that was set up like a living room. She did much better up there, but still wouldn't let anyone walk her. For some reason, Pepper decided she trusted me and she would welcome me into her room, walk with me, and generally seemed at ease when I was with her. After my resident love bug (another rescue dog) passed away and I took a little while to grieve, I offered to foster Pepper. They preferred I adopt her and made me an offer I couldn't refuse! So, Pepper came home with me and from the moment I pulled up to my house and she got out of the car, she knew she was home. She walked around the backyard with her eyes wide open and a huge smile on her face. After almost 5 months with me, Pepper hasn't had one mistake in the house. She learned how to use the dog door immediately and although she is still somewhat shy with new people, she is learning to trust and what unconditional love feels like. I truly have learned that what you see isn't always what you get! This joyous angel is a snuggly, cuddly companion who simply needed to know she was loved and accepted. Pepper never has to be afraid of being alone and unwanted again. She's found her furever home!
I first learned about Rescue organizations and Animal Assisted Therapy when I adopted my Rottweiler Duke from a shelter. However, Duke had suffered too much abuse from his prior owners to be a therapy dog. My next shelter adoption was a Great Pyrenees named Victoria. She had been shipped from New York to Los Angeles by a breeder, and when Victoria arrived she was paralyzed. Apparently the airlines crated her in too small of a crate and it was a turbulent flight. Her new owners took her to the vet and left her there as "Damaged Goods" and never went back to get her. The veterinarian's office contacted Pet Orphans and they took her in. After 2 surgeries, acupuncture and water therapy, Victoria was able to walk and I adopted her. A short time later her leg started to deteriorate and the orthopedic surgeon said that we had 2 choices - amputate, or do an experimental surgery. After many agonizing nights, I decided to try the experimental surgery. It was a success!! After she had finished healing, Victoria and I became a certified animal assisted therapy team through the Delta Society. We visited patients at a hospital and nursing facilities, and we assisted a reading program at a children's orphanage. We also went into schools as part of Pet Orphans' humane education program to help teach kids to be safe with animals. After many years of bringing joy, happiness and education to a lot of children and adults, Victoria decided with great sorrow to retire as a therapy dog. Over time her bad leg has put stress on her good leg and she now finds it harder to get around like she used to. However, she still brings great joy to our family, as well as all the neighbors when she goes out on short walks around the neighborhood.
After 8 years without a pet we decided it was time to get another dog. The search was on for the "perfect" dog. This time we used the internet to find our dog, the previous dogs were strays that followed our boys home (and we could not find the owners). We knew the disposition and look we wanted in our "perfect" dog. We knew we wanted a Brittany but Brittany's are very active dogs and we wanted a couch potato so it would be a difficult task to find what we wanted. We found The National Brittany Rescue & Adoption through Petfinder.com on the internet and they had our "perfect couch potato" Brittany. We contacted the foster home and the foster mother agreed to meet us at a local dog park to get acquainted with her foster dog. He seemed to be a good boy so we took him home on a trial basis. We could return him to his foster home if he was not right for us. Well, needless to say he was just right!!! He is quiet, gentle, obedient, lovable, friendly & perfect for us and he was fully housebroken & trained for commands (sit, come, stay). Brittany dogs are perfect family pets as they get along with other dogs & children & sometimes even cats. We are delighted to have this new family member in our home and judging from the wagging tail and kisses we are sure he is happy to be here.
Riley, Piper and Patches
When I knew I was ready for a dog, I researched breeds and decided a Beagle or a West Highland Terrier would be a good match for me. Soon after, I came across an adorable Beagle puppy at a pet store. I fell in love, paid $800 and she was mine. A year later I was ready to get Rylie a companion, but this time I wanted to go a different route. I did not want to spend that much money again going to a pet store. A previous dog I owned had been acquired from what I now know as a "backyard breeder." She was a wonderful, beautiful dog but throughout her life she struggled with various health problems. Going to another "backyard breeder" was also not an option. So I began researching rescues.
I discovered one near my home and was quite impressed with how clean the facilities were, and how caring and knowledgeable the volunteers and staff were. We adopted a lab mix that same day, but unfortunately he didn't get along with my Beagle. With much sadness, I brought him back the next day. I realized that in order to make the right decision, I needed to become informed. Volunteering at the shelter seemed like a great way to learn. After several months of learning the ropes, I stumbled across the next love of my life amongst a large litter of puppies. Patches is a total mixed breed, and he’s very bright and the most obedient and trainable dog I have ever had. He got along great with Rylie and I thought my family was complete!
Over time I began to get more and more involved in my volunteer work at this rescue. I learned as much as I could about the rescue process, the realities and the myths. I also learned about the facts about pet stores and puppy mills, as well as backyard breeders, hoarders, and how to deal with animal behaviors. Then one day a 4 month old puppy was turned in to the shelter by a woman whose boyfriend had decided he didn’t want a dog. She was scared to death and was shaking when she was put into my arms. It was Westie! It was the breed I had always wanted, and from a source I felt good about. This was too good to be true! After making sure she got along with my other two dogs she too, was brought home and her name was changed to Piper. She is the most guileless, fun loving canine I have ever had and I do not regret my decision one bit.
So even though I ended up with the two purebred dogs that I initially set out to get, the education I received in the process turned out to be the most important part of the whole experience. I now know that the next time I am ready to include an animal in my life, I will be making a much more educated decision.