Gizmo’s Grand Adventure

Gizmo was a happy-go-lucky Shepherd mix with floppy ears, white paws, a patch of tan under his chin, and two tan dots centered over each eye. A friendly 18-month-old, he was first adopted from us when he was just a pup. In his family’s care, he grew to be a lovely dog, walking his children to elementary school each day. And on the return trip to retrieve the children, he’d prance as he neared the school, wagging his tail excitedly.

 

Unfortunately, when he was a few months old, he was diagnosed with a congenital condition that was beyond his family’s means to deal with, and Gizmo was returned to the rescue. But every cloud has a silver lining, and lucky Gizmo was scooped up by a volunteer who researched his condition and found a solution. Two more angels stepped in and welcomed him into their family as a foster and continued to treat his condition. With meds and the right care, Gizmo’s health returned to normal. Now all he needed was a savvy family who could cope with his needs and, most importantly, love him forever.

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His foster family described him as a delightful dog who would make a wonderful addition to any family. He was super affectionate. He’d nudge people with his nose or sit next to them in a chair, looking longingly into their eyes as he waited patiently for a petting or scratching session. I asked him how he would describe himself, and his response was “I am happy-go-lucky, and I like tinkling noises and cold on my nose. And I am one in a million. And I am a curious bird.” It was all true. Born a curious guy, Gizmo would watch everything that moved. He’d follow his people everywhere to make certain he didn’t miss anything exciting, and he’d examine anything that moved—bugs, toys, people, birds, squirrels…anything.

 

Gizmo had some basic training, was well behaved, and loved kids and dogs, so we looked for an active home to satisfy his curious nature. I later learned that we also needed to find a house with an icemaker. Why? Gizmo loved ice cubes! He’d trot to the refrigerator, stare expectantly at the icemaker, and pace in place, eagerly waiting to be given one. That was what he meant by tinkling noises; it was the sound that the icemaker made when the cubes dropped from the chute and clinked one on top of another in a glass.

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Although Gizmo had many angels in his life, when the time was right, he met some very special ones. Friends of his foster family cared for the family’s dogs when they were away and began to form a bond with Gizmo. Over time, those friends fell in love. Now he finally has the home he has been waiting for and Gizmo’s grand adventure can begin.

How does Gizmo spend his time these days? He spends every moment with his new family. Our little guy is now a companion dog who accompanies his new dad everywhere he goes. He is also making lots of new dog friends he meets during adventures with his new family. And in his spare time, he monitors the icemaker. He’s even learned to push the lever so he can dispense his own ice any time he wants.

 

 

From Isolation to Inspiration – Dagger’s Rescue Story

Commanding and intense, this handsome boy’s piecing gaze could stop traffic. With Dagger on the end of your leash, you’d be sure to attract an admiring glance or two. Dagger lived with his family since he was a small puppy. Although he had a doggie friend (a Rottweiler), both dogs spent much of their time outside in separate kennels. So Dagger lived a fairly isolated life and missed out meeting new people, going new places, and seeing all kinds of new things. Without those opportunities and despite his formidable appearance, Dagger lacked confidence and was extremely insecure. And he was confused about why his people had left him and what the future held for him.

When he came to rescue, a team was assembled to help him adjust to his new life. The leader of his new team was his savvy new foster mom. In his foster home, he learned from the other dogs and gained confidence. He adapted to life in a home beautifully , mastered crate training and housebreaking quickly, and began to conquer basic commands.

Proper socialization brought out his affectionate side, and over time he discovered that he loved to rest in his human’s lap and watch TV. And he discovered how fun it could be to fetch toys, get groomed, and just get some good old-fashioned lovin’.

Despite his progress, we knew Dagger would do best in a savvy home with other outgoing and confident dog to continue to bolster his developing confidence.

When I saw his photo for the first time, he took my breath away. And when I tuned into him, he told me he was a bit of a handful. When I asked him about it, he said, “I like to think, smell, feel, breathe, see…everything. That makes me a handful. I can be a challenge to keep up with once I am comfortable with my surroundings.”

Dagger met his forever family on a Saturday. They had lost their beloved Rebel, a Rottie-Aussie mix, and Tikki, their remaining GSD, was lonely. And the family’s daughter missed Rebel even more and needed to find a dog that would interact with her more than Tikki wanted to. So they packed up Tikki and came to an adoption event at our kennels, where they met several of our dogs.

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But Tikki snubbed one after another. The first dog was too playful and too loud. The second dog was too chill. Then Dagger came along. And he was just right. Well…it took some time. Tikki likes to play hard to get. We began the introductions by having the dogs walk side by side. But true to her diva form, Tikki got her nose out of joint, and she looked everywhere except at Dagger. Then they went to the play yard, where both sniffed together, played with the toys, and just hung out in general. Tikki had decided that he was okay. Dagger spent the yard time checking out the people in his prospective family. He sniffed the mom, lingered a moment, and then moved on the daughter. And then back to Tikki. And then back to the people. Every time he came to the daughter, he lingered a little longer and sniffed a little longer. Then he gave her a subtle nudge with his nose.

Dagger’s family has reported that everything is going great. And Dagger is grateful to everyone who supported him during his journey, to the family who will be with him forever, and to Tikki for picking the right one. When I tuned into Dagger one more time to ask him how things were going in his new home, he said simply, “I can be me.” And what a beautiful thing that is.

 

A New Leash on Life!

When Del arrived at Rescue, he was a mess. His ears were clogged with hematomas, and one ear was stitched to his head, his last vet’s misguided attempt to get it to heal properly. And he was a misfit of sorts. A gangly white lab in a sea of German Shepherds. Understandably frightened, Del was timid and unsure of his future. Life had not been kind to him. We took him to our vet; his ears were fixed, and he was placed on antibiotics to help him battle the massive infections. But because his ear ducts were so narrow, he needed daily medication and cleaning to keep him from relapsing. Because of his medical needs, he was immediately fostered by one of our veteran volunteers. Dell9

Over time, the foster learned that Del was allergic to everything. His allergy tests read like a who’s who of symptoms and sensitivities. So, in addition to the treatments for his ears, he required allergy shots and a special prescription diet to calm his intestines. And it helped, but on his most challenging days, Del threw up every twenty minutes. Playtime had to be strictly supervised. Too much excitement would trigger another round of vomiting. His foster dad wasn’t thrilled at first. He was a diehard shepherd lover who gravitated to the classic black and tans, not some white mutt whose serious medical issues required frequent carpet cleaning. Anyone who followed Del’s dad on Facebook knew all too well how often poor Del threw up.

But the foster dad took one for the team, and Del began to thrive in his new home. He bonded quickly with the other dog in the family, a tripod black and tan who’d lost one of his front legs early in life due to a botched surgery. And he loved the cats!

Del had many people interested in him during his stay with the rescue, but they always changed their minds for one reason or another. Three times, a family stepped forward to bring him into their fold, but due to either landlord constraints or their reluctance to deal with his issues, he just didn’t “fit” in any of their homes.

Then the tide turned. A family was seriously interested in adopting Del. They said they were moving to a new house but would gladly adopt Del after the move despite all his medical problems. And then Del’s foster dad panicked. It was too real…it was too sudden…it was too final. If he didn’t act, he’d lose Del forever. The next day, he sent a text to the rescue’s leader and founder. It was a short message. Only five words: “I want to adopt Del.”

 And just like that, in five simple words, our Del graduated from special-needs dog to just plain special, our sweet Del finally found his place on the planet and a new leash on life!

Bristol’s Amazing Journey-Another Happy Rescue Story

It happens all too often. A  lost dog running panicked alongside a stretch of road. It’s a sight that fills most of us with a sense of panic, immediately followed by a rush of adrenaline that sends us bolting from our cars to help.

Worse yet, when the dog is dodging traffic on a busy interstate, it’s terrifying. For us and them. But that’s exactly what happened to Bristol—just eight weeks old, scared and scooting between cars as they rocketed past her. It could have been the end of her life, but one guardian angel leapt from her car, stopped traffic, and scooped the poor girl into her arms and out of harm’s way. Then she contacted rescue to find Bristol a home. Bristol6

Bristol, a brindle Dutch Shepherd mix, had a multi-color coat with a patch of white scruff on her chest. She is a spitfire with a great personality. She loves life and everything about it—people, dogs, cats, toys, everything. One only has to gaze into her sweet eyes, and she captures your heart forever. Never mind that she’s only distracting you so she can grab your snack or whatever you might be carrying. Her ears are a never-ending source of movement and entertainment. One moment one up, the next back, then the next goes up, then to the side, and back toward the middle. Wait. Back down again.

Bristol enjoyed life as she waited for her forever home. No more freeways for this little angel! But she had lots to learn. Sit, down, paw, and especially walk on a leash. When it came to walking with humans, Bristol meandered aimlessly, ignoring any attempts to direct her energy and direction. Bristol3

One day, a family fell in love with Bristol on our rescue’s website. And they came to meet her. They’d recently lost their two dogs and had adopted a twelve-month-old shepherd, Bodie, from us just a few months ago; they thought Bristol might be a good match. Bodie was pure puppy—a jumping, chewing, energetic, pushing-the-boundaries puppy, so we questioned their sanity about wanting another.

Especially since Bristol was also pure puppy. She can easily scale a four-and-a-half-foot baby gate without a running start. She loves to chew; though she’s learning her manners, she’s still very much a puppy. Their answer: “Absolutely!” They met Bristol that weekend. When her new family came, Bristol was invited for a walk with Bodie and family. Mom walked Bristol, and to our amazement Bristol walked calmly by her side, stopping every few steps to look at her new mom for direction. It was as though she had found the leader and companion she’d been searching for.

A few days later, Bodie and family made the second trip to the rescue to pick Bristol up and take her home. And we did one more get-reacquainted walk. One of our volunteers walked Bristol, Dad walked Bodie, and Mom was on the far right. As we walked, Bristol kept pulling to get to her new mom. When she grabbed the leash in her mouth and tugged the volunteer to get closer to her mom, we knew that Bristol had found her forever home.

Bristol, now Cali, is her mom’s shadow, and Bodie is her adoring brother. She and Bodie follow each other around the house and share the toys. They spend hours running, chasing each other, and playing. Training classes are set to begin next week for everyone. Now, our freeway puppy, is now on the road to becoming the most wonderful dog.

Our Animal Companions and Their Power to Help Us

 

Gilmore, a happy-go-lucky senior, was named after the lead character in Happy Gilmore, the fun-loving golfer trying to make it in the big time. Our Gilmore loves chasing balls and romping with other canines big and small. While old age might have forced him into a more sedentary lifestyle, Gilmore was far from slipping into retirement.

An eight-year-old classic black and tan, Gilmore was found as a stray. But his weight was good and he showed no signs of health problems. And he loved people. He seemed intent on pleasing volunteers and often showed his gratitude for being rescued by leaning into people and softly placing his head in a convenient lap.

The day Gilmore joined our rescue, we got a call from a woman who was adamant about adopting an older dog to join her current pack and get him or her out of the kennels. It seemed like a perfect fit; she worked from home and lived on a property that would be paradise for a bunch of shepherds to frolic. So a site visit was scheduled to check out the new home. A meet-and-greet was scheduled to assess the compatibility of the pack members. Every test passed with flying colors, and it was love at first sight for the dogs and the humans.

I used my intuition to check in with Gilmore in his new home, and Gilmore told me his new life is so much fun. There’s plenty of play time and plenty of hang time. He’s happier than he’s ever been. And he told me that it’s important to stick firm to your beliefs. His foster mom was adamant about finding the right senior. In fact, she waited weeks for a dog like Gilmore to come along. And her persistence paid off, allowing her to find the perfect new pack member. A comment Gilmore shared when I tuned into him was failure to communicate. I didn’t understand the meaning, so I pushed for more information. There’s the phantom of timing I was told. Now I was really confused. The phantom of timing? I had no idea what that meant and the message eluded me. Was the message referring to my failure to communicate? I was certainly failing to understand the purpose Gilmore was bringing to his new human. Hope. I bring hope. “In regard to what?” I asked. There were things there that needed fixin’. His voice  suddenly had a decidedly southern twang, and I wondered if he was joking. But I was reminded that our animal companions and their power to help us is one of the reasons we love them so much. They calm us with their presence. They allow us to surrender to the depth we find in their eyes and their souls. They mend our hearts with their unconditional love. So many of life’s most important lessons are solved for us and modeled for us every day in our animal companions and their power to help us. There are indeed so many amazing ways animals help us. Often without us even knowing. Gilmore was right. If there were things there that needed fixin’, he was the man for the job.

 

Why Books Can Change Everything

People have asked me why I wrote Finding Forever and the number one reason is that I wanted to change people’s perspective about their animal companions. I wanted to illustrate the volumes we can learn and the rewards we can reap when we really pay attention to our pets.

Before reading Finding Forever, people might have wondered…what can I learn from a group of abandoned German Shepherds seeking their forever homes? The answer may well surprise us all: We can learn profound life lessons. In 2009, I tragically lost my beloved German Shepherd, Blitz. Soon thereafter, I began volunteering for a local Shepherd rescue group. Now more than ever, I thought, I can really understand these deserted dogs’ shock, pain, and sadness. And I was ready to immerse myself in their healing.

So imagine my surprise when, instead, it was I who was being healed. As the weeks and months passed, the abandoned Shepherds were teaching me profound lessons about life. One dog at a time, one story at a time, I was learning new, often-eye-opening things about hope, faith, love, courage, forgiveness, healing, perseverance, and more. And I felt called to impart those lessons to the world.

In my book “Finding Forever,” I share awe-inspiring stories and their life-altering lessons for the rest of us. As readers, you’ll come to know 26 truly remarkable rescue dogs, including: strapping Spartacus, who illustrates the incredible beauty of opening a broken heart; Patience and Eve, both pint-sized and pregnant, who reveal the staggering power of friendship; and gentle, bunny-soft Annica, who teaches us the untold importance of living with a higher purpose. Animals are wise and wonderful teachers. They show us, among other things, what it means to love fully, deeply, and unconditionally; to live without judgment; and to forgive even those who have hurt us most.

I’ve had readers tell me that they will never look at their animal companions the same way after reading Finding Forever and that the book changed their perspective about the animal kingdom. That’s why I believe that books can change everything. And that’s why I wrote Finding Forever. Today, I am a tireless crusader for animal rescue. As founder and executive director of Finding Forever, a foundation dedicated to raising money and awareness through writing and arts projects, I have helped numerous animal rescue groups, sanctuaries, and charities. I believe everyone has the power to help change the world. .

Timing is Everything, Another Happy Ending Dog Rescue Story

She was as sleek and fast as the high-end Porsche she was named for. And she got her name due to her previous guardian’s love of the brand’s premiere model, the Carerra.

Carerra was a graceful, agile bicolor with a shiny black coat that was blinged out by accents of tan on her chest and feet. And at the age of just seven months, she’d lived with her current family for most of her life. Carerra was an affectionate sweetie who loved people, dogs, and just about everything…especially long rides in the car. She slept peacefully in her crate at night in the master bedroom with her people and never whined or complained about not being on the bed. Playtime was a favorite activity, and she adored balls, especially tennis balls. She had a funny quirk of chasing balloons and biting at them as they bounced and bobbed along the hardwood floors in her home. Even better when she could sink her teeth into one and be rewarded by the loud pop as it exploded in her mouth.carrerra3

Life was good, and all was well in her world. But when a devastating illness struck one of the family members in her home, the family was overwhelmed with the stress and chaos of care-giving, and Carerra was sadly relinquished to rescue. Like her name implied, Carerra was a high-octane girl with energy to burn.

When she came to rescue, she was first greeted by two of the core volunteers who love, love, love, bi-colors…in fact, they already had three of their own. But they seriously considered expanding the trio to a quartet as they were smitten with Carerra at first sight. While they deliberated, Carerra went into foster with other long-time volunteers, a family who’d fostered dozens of dogs over the years. The happy ending? The family became first-time failed fosters and decided to give our girl a forever home. I guess they’d been holding out all along for Carerra, and we couldn’t think of a more perfect home for our beautiful girl.

When I tapped my intuition to check on her, she simply responded timing is everything. The time she had in her first home allowed her to understand and receive love and compassion, but when timing also meant she would lose her home, a window of opportunity connected her quickly with the right family. Timing is everything. It has the power to heal, to put us on our intended path, to allow us to manifest what we need when we need it. Each event leads us to the next step and the one after until we are exactly where we are meant to be.

 

 

How Carmen Found The One

Eighteen months ago, Carmen’s world was shattered. Her elderly owner, a woman she’d lived with her entire life, passed away. Unfortunately, the remaining family members did not want her, and Carmen was left at a kennel while the family paid for her monthly board. She languished there for more months, waiting for the only human who ever loved her to return to take her home. That woman never came. And as a result, Carmen began to give up.

As our rescue volunteers came each day to care for our dogs sheltered in the same kennel, it was hard to ignore Carmen. She was sad, fearful, and downcast. In her first and only home, Carmen was isolated with her elderly owner and so she was shy and afraid when she met new people. And as her time in the shelter grew, so did her fear.

Our volunteers made a promise to themselves and to Carmen. A promise to do everything they could to help find her a home. Volunteers began spending time with her. Trying to bond. Trying to connect. Trying to gain her trust.

At first, Carmen would approach them slowly and hesitantly. But at the first hint that one of them might touch her, she’d turn and run for the safety of her bed. Then she’d work up the courage to approach again, only to turn away and cower.

After a few days of cat and mouse, she crawled toward our volunteers on her stomach. As she came closer, a glimmer of life crept into her eyes and the emotional walls that had imprisoned her began to crumble. As days and weeks passed, she learned to trust her new friends, one at a time.

Finally, she allowed herself to be petted and even began to give kisses! And in the play yard, we found that she could run faster and jump higher than any of our dogs. She somersaulted over hay bales, flew around the play yard, and romped in the pool with her new toys. Her favorite game was thrusting her face into the water bucket, rolling in the dirt, and then diving back into the bucket once more to wash the dirt away!

Then we were leveled with bad news. Carmen’s remaining family had decided to relinquish Carmen to a sanctuary—a world of forgotten dogs that belonged to no one. And we knew we had to keep our promise to this little girl and help her find a home with a family who had the patience to work with her and build trust. If the eyes are the window to the soul, anyone who looked into Carmen’s eyes saw the sweet, intelligent soul that resided inside.

Fate finally intervened, and the family finally agreed to relinquish Carmen to our rescue. And she began to attend adoption events and meet prospective families. But she was still fearful of strangers. Especially men. Adoption applications began to stream in, but none of them were the best of fits. Some had small children; others had unfenced yards. So we continued to search for the perfect family.

One day, a new application came in. The family wanted to meet Carmen. They met us at the kennels, and as the husband and wife approached her, Carmen ran straight toward the husband. Even though she was afraid of men!

Within minutes of meeting them, she was offering him kisses and her paw. When the husband and wife returned to see her a second time, Carmen ran to the fence to greet them, wagging her tail with joy.

I think dogs know when they’ve found the right family. They know when they’ve met “the one.” Carmen had bonded with many of our volunteers, but when it came time to say goodbye, Carmen quietly acknowledged the volunteers who’d grown close to her, jumped in the back of her new family’s car, and never looked back. Little Carmen had waited so long for the right family and finally it happened. And that’s how Carmen found the one!

Blondie

She’s a stunning, soft blond German Shepherd. A hint of black peppers her back, and a pale white, crescent moon–shaped choker frames her chest. When she found her way to rescue, she was battling a horrific ear infection so severe that one eardrum was ruptured. The poor girl was in severe pain. Terrified, alone, and unsure of her future, Blondie shied away from volunteers’ attempts to befriend her and win her trust. So we socialized her by using other dogs to win her trust and bolster her shattered confidence. In time, she warmed up to her rescue playmates and slowly, surely, our beautiful girl began to come out of her shell. Volunteers continued to rally around her. Her ears healed. Confidence and joy began to replace her fear and pain. She gained trust in bonding with other dogs during playtime. And she frolicked in the play yard, bounding over hay bales and racing side by side with our other rescues.

Blondiefullbody_1 (1)During her photo shoot, she posed politely, and with each lady-like image, seemed to know that she was being captured for posterity. It was as if she knew that each photo posted on the website was a beacon to bring the right family to her.

When the day came to meet the resident cat at the rescue kennels, Blondie slowly approached him as he lounged nonchalantly in the arms of one of our volunteers. She sniffed and then sweetly licked the cat through the chain-link fence. Our gentle gem was also good with small dogs. Both of these traits would make her easier to place. She grew to love and crave her time with humans, seeking their affection and loving touch. But still something was missing. Still she yearned for a place and a family to call her own.

One day, a gentleman came to one of our adoption events and talked to a counselor about his wants and needs in his next dog. He had lost his long-time companion dog just weeks earlier. He was still grieving, but Blondie was an imprint of his dog, and the resemblance between them activated the part of his heart he’d closed off after the loss of his beloved Shepherd. A few days later, he put in an application for Blondie.

A meet-and-greet was arranged in order to get a glimpse of the life this gentleman and his GSD companion had had. He is a retired military flier and took his dog everywhere, including Oregon, where he spent summers vacationing and volunteering at the state parks. He and his dog provided tours for the children that visited, and the pair taught visitors from all walks of life how to enjoy and get the most out of park life. A long-time Southern California resident, he’d lived in the same neighborhood for years, and everyone who had known him fell in love with his dog. He knew Blondie would have the same effect for she’d stolen his heart and begun to help him heal within minutes of meeting her. It was an excellent fit. Blondie’s new name is Cheyenne. The neighborhood has already all met her and announced her wonderful. Blondie is well and happy and has her forever home. And her human? He adores her. And he has a companion for his trips to Oregon. He has a companion for life.Blondiehappyanndrelaxedafterplaying_2

When I pondered the importance of their fated meeting, I think it is far more than Blondie finding her forever home and he a lifelong companion to fill the empty void in his heart. I tapped into my intuition and heard the following message.

They are pathfinders for one another. Showing each other the way and bringing each other back to center.

Their relationship is like a mathematic extrapolation of the old adage: Home is where the heart is. I think their union serves as a navigation system of sorts, a beacon to help each other find their way through the world’s energetic structure. Like sonar or radar or an internal homing device, together they will help each other navigate through life and return to center, to home base, and to heart.