Last week, Rich and I took a trip to San Diego. This was a networking / work trip for Rich, so I knew I was going to have plenty of free time. This was the perfect opportunity to book a day trip to Los Angeles so I could get a first-hand view of the hard work done by animal rescue group, A Dog’s Life Rescue.
I got involved in fundraising for A Dog’s Life Rescue in early 2009 when the website I co-founded with Heather Vitas was asked to help. A Dog’s Life Rescue was officially endorsed by Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki and his publicist contacted us with a special request – Could we fundraise for A Dog’s Life? Help an animal rescue group endorsed by one of the stars of my favorite show? Um, yes!
Over the last year, Heather and I have gotten to know and become friends with A Dog’s Life Rescue’s co-founders, Allison Lange and Julia Pennington. These women are Super Women. They manage to save lives every day AND maintain successful careers. They are down-to-earth, smart, passionate, dedicated and compassionate.
I took a very scenic train ride from San Diego to LA on Thursday morning. Alli and Julia picked me up just before 10am and our day of animal rescue started immediately. As we drove to our first stop, I heard Alli say, “Do you want me to turn around?” Julia immediately said “Yes!” Julia had spotted a bird on the side of the expressway. It’s wing looked broken. This was the first sign I knew these women weren’t like the average animal welfare enthusiasts. It was immediately apparent that they truly care for ALL animals, not just cats and dogs.
After making sure the bird was OK (It actually flew off – phew!), we drove to pick up “True,” the beautiful dog A Dog’s Life Rescue found sleeping on the side of the expressway. “True” was staying with A Dog’s Life Rescue’s trainer, who was helping with rehabilitation. But this day, “True” was going to visit a family who was interested in fostering her. Finding a foster home for any stray dog is extremely important in helping them become socialized and adoptable.
Before going to see the possible foster family, we made a stop at Alli’s house. I had the pleasure of walking her foster puppy “Baxter” while she picked up “Cody,” another foster dog, who Alli and Julia thought would be a good dog to bring along to help calm “True,” who was still VERY shy with dogs and humans she didn’t know.
Once “Baxter” was walked and “Cody” was in the car with “True,” we were off on our next stop.
How these women handled our meeting with the possible foster family was my next clue that Alli and Julia stand out from other rescuers.
When we arrived at the prospective foster family’s home, we took both “Cody” and “True” for a walk with the man and woman who wanted to foster, along with their dog, “Zoey,” a playful boxer who is full of energy. The goal of the walk was to get everyone comfortable and to see if the dogs and humans would gel. “Cody,” having been fostered for a while with A Dog’s Life, was a natural with the couple and with “Zoey.” “True” was a bit shy though. But as the walk went on, everyone seemed to be doing OK.
As we made it back to the foster family’s home, we took the dogs in their fenced in backyard to see if they would play well together. “True” continued to be shy, but did not looked scared. After taking time to help the foster family familiarize themselves with “True” and her challenges, we moved inside.
Alli and Julia are so thorough. They made an effort to walk through every possible scenario that could happen with “True.” You see, “True” lived as a stray for approximately two months on her own before being rescued. “True” could be what the girls call a ‘flight risk.’ This means that if something (a dog, a loud noise, anything, really) scares her, she could try to escape. So the girls went over every precaution to take and all the ways to help “True” feel comfortable in her foster home. They had great recommendations like crating her at night so she had a ‘safe place,’ walking her one-on-one so they would be in complete control and many other ingenious ideas.
But the one idea that was a powerful learning experience for me was their approach to “leaving a dog” vs. “giving a dog.” Let me explain. After a successful inspection of the foster family’s home and property, Alli and Julia saw that the family needed a crate for “True,” so the girls had to go to their storage facility to retrieve one. This is when they suggested that the family meet us at their storage location located at Centenela Feed and Pet Supplies (where they also hold their adoption events), not only because they would give “True” her crate there, but that they felt very strongly about not getting up and leaving the home without her. Alli and Julia feel it is much better to give the dog over to it’s new family at a location other than the home. This way, the dog does not feel abandoned and the new family brings the dog into their new home. What a great idea!
After successfully moving “True” to her foster home and arming her foster parents with a bunch of knowledge and a crate, we took a much-needed lunch break. We had been going all day and we were fading. “Cody” was a very good boy hanging out with us in the car, right next to the sidewalk cafe where we dined. It was cool enough that he could comfortably hang out with the windows open.
After lunch, we made another stop at Alli’s so she could drop off “Cody” and of course take out “Baxter” the puppy, who had last had been out hours ago when I walked him. After running to a few dollar stores in search of some needed rescue supplies, we took one last break for a drink. I *was* on vacation, after all. 😉
I also want to mention a call Julia fielded during the day. An elderly woman was losing her home in a nice assisted living facility where she was allowed to have her beloved dog. Her daughters had decided that even though they had promised to use the money their mother had gifted them to keep her in this facility, they no longer wished to do so. This poor woman not only was going to have to move to a different facility, but she was about to lose her dog. While Julia was on the call, the woman losing her dog was hysterical. She was being moved to the other facility that very day. Julia spoke calmly to the woman’s current caregiver. She promised the woman that A Dog’s Life Rescue would do everything in their power to help the dog. She made it clear that they did not want the dog to go to a kill facility. Did I mention the dedication these women have?!
Our final stop of the night was to feed the feral cat colony A Dog’s Life Rescue has been helping for about two years. The feral cat colony is located behind a hotel in LA.
These cats would honestly be dead without these girls. Julia feeds them daily and almost every single one of them has been spayed and neutered. The girls told me stories of how it often takes many of their volunteers to help come humanely trap each cat so it can be spayed or neutered. That’s perseverance!
After we took care of the kitties, it was time for me to catch my train back to San Diego. While this was just one day in the life of A Dog’s Life Rescue, it was a good taste of how incredibly hard they work. I honestly cannot wait to go back this summer with Heather so we can provide some additional assistance with a fundraising event they are working on!
We cannot all work as volunteers, but what we can do to help the animals is donate money! A Dog’s Life Rescue is run by 100% volunteers. Therefore, 100% of the money goes directly to the animals AND every little bit does make a difference. If are you interested in helping make a difference in the lives of homeless animals, please click here. To see more pictures from my day in LA, click here.