April 17, 2018

Two Dogs Find Happy Endings Thanks to One Los Angeles Rescue

cher and banffy

Transporting animals to shelters where kennel space is plentiful and demand for adoption is high is one approach to saving lives in high-density, urban environments that struggle with animal homelessness—like Los Angeles. 

Too often, dogs in shelters are euthanized simply due to lack of shelter space when, often times, many of these animals would be quickly adopted in other states or parts of the county.

The ASPCA’s efforts to relocate animals as a means of saving lives include providing grants to nonprofit organizations and public agencies to improve the outcomes for at-risk animals.

While progress for homeless animals has been made by local organizations in Los Angeles, annual shelter intake there is estimated at 150,000 animals—and more than one-third of these animals don’t make it out. 

To help turn such statistics around, the ASPCA provides targeted grant funding to shelters and rescue groups to help save more animals’ lives. Recently, the ASPCA provided a grant to Wags & Walks Dog Rescue—a non-profit adoption center in West Los Angeles that rescues dogs from high-kill shelters—to relocate dogs from animal care centers in Downey and Baldwin Park, the two highest volume animal shelters in L.A. County. Since 2013, more than 410 dogs have been transported to Wags & Walks, a critical step toward improving the outcome for at-risk animals. In light of the incredible work we’ve seen from Wags & Walks, we’d like to share two stories that highlight why adoption centers like theirs are so important. 

Cher’s Story

Tessa T., an editorial assistant at InStyle Magazine, grew up with “tons” of dogs and cats on acreage near Seattle. After moving to L.A. five years ago, she wanted her own dog, but her landlord wouldn’t allow pets. So, she got her “dog-fix” by volunteering at Wags & Walk two mornings a week, starting bright and early at 6 A.M.

“I’m not a morning person—but that’s the shift that needs the most help,” Tessa explains. “And it’s a good way to start my day.”

Cher

Before her adoption, Cher had had puppies as well as a medical condition that has since been treated.

Tessa cleans, does laundry and walks dogs. One morning, she met Cher, a four-year-old American Bulldog-mix with wide-set, soulful brown eyes and a tongue that was always hanging out of her mouth. Cher was originally found as a stray in L.A. County and was relinquished to Baldwin Park Animal Care Center.

“She’d had puppies at some point,” says Tessa, “and a condition called dermatofibrosis, a congenital disease characterized in part by nodules in the skin consisting of dense collagen fibers.” (Biopsies later showed these growths to be benign.) 

Cher in her new home

Cher, seen in her new home, was originally a stray and relinquished to Baldwin Park Animal Care Center before being transferred to Wags & Walks with help from the ASPCA.

Lesley Brog, founder of Wags & Walks, reports that Cher also had emergency surgery for an infection of her uterus. Despite being fearful, she soon became a favorite at Wags & Walks.

Tessa spent time with Cher—initially known as Candy Corn—and fell in love. She then asked her landlord to reconsider her no-pets policy. To her delight, the landlord consented, and Tessa fostered Cher for a week before adopting her just before Tessa’s 28th birthday in December.

Tessa and Cher

Tessa, left, met Cher while volunteering at Wags & Walks; right, Cher on an outing.

“I figured the right dog would eventually come along,” says Tessa. “And when I met her I just knew she was my dog. She is the love of my life.”

“Everyone who knows me knows I’ve wanted a dog for so long,” she adds. “I’m lucky to have a dog, and I’m glad it’s Cher. She’s one-of-a-kind.” 

Cher fits with Tessa’s lifestyle perfectly, and the duo have created a comfortable life together. “My roommates love her; she loves everyone she meets,” Tessa says. On a two-week visit home to see Tessa’s family, Cher even bonded with the family’s four dogs.

Cher in her new home

Cher at home with her feline roommate Lucy, also a rescue.

Cher also gets along with Tessa’s three-year-old cat, Lucy, whom Tessa adopted as a kitten from another shelter. Both Cher and Lucy share Tessa’s bed.

Even though she now has Cher in her life, Tessa still works her early morning shifts at Wags & Walks. 

“It’s inspiring to volunteer and help dogs in need,” she says. “It makes me happy to spend time with homeless dogs and get them ready for adoption. And it benefits me—it puts me in a good mood.” 

Cher resting in her new home

Cher enjoys the comforts of her new home.

Banffy’s Journey Home

Like Cher, Banffy, a Beagle-mix, had a rough start in life. 

She and her littermates were relinquished to the Downey Animal Care Center, where, according to Lesley, they were huddled in the corner of a kennel when she first saw them. All had been exposed to canine parvovirus—a deadly virus that targets unvaccinated dogs and puppies—and would need intensive veterinary care and foster homes in order to be prepared for adoption.

Banffy

Banffy had been exposed to canine parvovirus and while in foster home, suffered an abscessed tooth, which caused swelling in her face and forced her right eye shut.

But, despite the dangerous diagnosis, Lesley says, “We were confident we could give them a fresh start.”

That fresh start came when Jean and James F. of Westwood and their daughters—Emma, 14, Eleanor, 11 and Sunny, 9—met Banffy while she was recovering in a foster home.

The family had previously adopted Riggins, a rescued pit bull, in 2012, but Eleanor wanted another dog, explains Jean. “Because we’ve always had large pit bulls, we never considered a smaller dog,” she adds.  “We found her online, and her fosters sent us videos of her. There was just something about her. She really comes alive around other dogs and children.”

Banffy and Riggins

Banffy and Riggins are best friends (above and below).

Banffy was the last of her litter to find a home. While in foster care, she suffered an abscessed tooth, which caused inflammation and swelling in her face and forced her right eye shut.  After she recovered, she was able to go to Jean’s house for a meet-and-greet with the family.

“She was very timid and attached to her foster parents,” recalls Jean. “She wouldn’t get off their laps. It kind of broke your heart.”

Banffy and Riggins

But Banffy needed a household with kids and dogs, and Jean and James’ home was perfect. They went ahead and officially adopted her on January 7. Though it took time for her to come out of her shell (and off the couch), she made a cautious appearance in front of 25 friends and family at Emma’s 14th birthday party, which was considered great progress.

Banffy

Banffy is no longer fearful and is coming out of her shell.

“By the end of the night she was on the couch being petted by everyone,” says Jean. 

The ASPCA helps rescues like Wags & Walks select and transport animals like Cher and Banffy who will best fit into their adoption programs, according to Lance Hunter, the ASPCA’s Director of Shelter Outreach in L.A. County.

“These partnerships require trust, transparency and a real sense of urgency,” explains Lance. “I’m overjoyed, overwhelmed and astounded at the compassion and dedication of our partners. Seeing them focus on what matters—saving lives—keeps me and my team from ever losing sight of what our work means to those without a voice.” 

“Our hearts are always full when we can change the life of a suffering dog with medical care and love,” adds Lesley, whose organization works to break the stigma that rescued dogs are damaged goods.  “We love to hear the happy stories like these.”