Zena and Zack
Zena, 5, and Zak, 3, were found abandoned and in bad shape in New Jersey. But the mother-and-son rottweilers were lucky enough to find a foster mom in Lysa DeLaurentis of Woodland Park Animal Control. "Zak's my little dancing billy goat -- he loves to prance," says Lysa. "And they both love attention!" Rachael's Rescue was founded to lend support to organizations helping dogs in need. Once it learned of the pair, funds were provided to help with visits to the vet and doggy treats.
When 1-year-old Sasha, a pit bull mix, arrived at the Austin Humane Society, they new the injured but playful pup was a perfect match for Francesca Soluri, 13, who had been looking to adopt. After being nursed back to health using funds from Rachael's Rescue, Sasha quickly became part of the Soluri family. "She wakes me up with a big lick on the face," says Francesca.
One-year-old Spirit was rescued as a puppy on the Mexican border by a patrolman. Funds proved by Rachael's Rescue allowed the injured, small German shepherd mix to recover in a temporary foster home. Loree Shirazi and her 15-year-old daughter, Danielle, were dog-sitting Spirit for her foster mom and fell head over heels in love. "We knew right away that we had to keep her," says Loree. "We joke that she is our shepherd that shrank in the dryer."
Ascott, a 12-year-old black Scottish terrier, has been Sean Mace's "buddy through thick and thin" -- including a heart attack three years ago that left Sean homebound and unable to work. "I call him King of the House because he's claimed certain pieces of furniture," he laughs. Meals on Wheels stepped in with meal assistance for Sean, but he'd never heard of a program for dogs -- that is until Rachael's Rescue began to send food and treats. "I am so grateful for their help," he says. "I can't imagine losing my companion."
Laura Windsor went online to bid on a charity auction benefiting the Ace of Hearts rescue group (founded by designer to the stars Kari Whitman) -- and instead found Maggie, a "Staffie" whose back had been badly burned. "I started contributing to her hospital bills and later discovered I'd be dubbed her 'fairy dogmother,'" says Laura. Now, two years after she officially adopted Maggie, the pup is finally healed. "The Magster -- as we call her -- is all smiles. She's a little clumsy, but always ready to play," Laura says with a laugh.
Alyssa Slifer, 16, was volunteering at Last Chance Ranch, an animal rescue group in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, when she met and adopted Maya, a high-energy, 2 1/2-year-old border collie who had been spared from euthanasia. "She would stare nonstop at a tennis ball until you threw it," says Alyssa. "That's when I knew she would be great at catching a Frisbee." Sure enough, after just a few months of training, the two are now award-winning disc-catching champions. "She's so intelligent and loyal -- having her has changed my life," says Alyssa.
Joyce Durdin had recently divorced and was living alone. Looking for companionship, she turned to the Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends Silver Paws Program, which connects seniors with older pets in need. There she found a perfect match in 13-year-old German shepherd Amelia, who had been abandoned at a veterinary office. "We've seen each other through surgeries and recoveries, and we both have arthritis, so we love taking slow, relaxing walks together," says Durdin. "She's given me purpose again!"
Two-year-old pit bull terrier Jakob owes his second chance to the two women in his life. Starving and wounded, he was declared not worth saving until Lindsey Carter from the Animal Rescue Foundation in Mobile, Alabama stepped in. She nursed him back to health, then found loving parents to adopt him: Lindsay Miller and her partner, Mike. Now happy and healthy, "our loving Jakob has taught us a lesson on survival and finding your spirit again," says Miller.
Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue has been providing sanctuary for special-needs golden retrievers since 2000, assisted by food donations from Rachael's Rescue and the word of dedicated volunteers. Edna Caluza has fostered more than 50 of their goldens, including 2 1/2-year-old Miracle, who was left blind and deaf from a 107-degree fever. "My granddaughters asked if we could adopt her for their Christmas gift," Edna explains. "Miracle had so many challenges, but we've had fun helping her through them every day. It turns out that Miracle's the best gift we've ever received!"
When Luci, a 4-year-old Cane Corso mastiff, was seized from her owner by the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement in 2008, they knew she needed a special home. Enter Joe Schrank, CEO of The Core Company, which provides counseling and housing for people recovering from addictions. "Luci's become a vital part of our mission to help reassemble shattered lives by offering hope and healing," says Schrank. And she's even impacted his personal life. "I finally have a woman who doesn't want to change me!" he laughs.
The McCann family was thinking of adopting, but 12-year-old Kevin "was afraid of not knowing how to handle a new puppy," explains his mom, Cecelia. The North Shore Animal League America wanted to help, so they invited the family to participate in a Rachael Ray show segment featuring dog behaviorist Cesar Millan. On that day, Georgie, a 3-month-old German shepherd-rottweiler mix, won Kevin's heart with her inquisitive and easygoing nature. "He has stepped up to the plate with his responsibilities and adores her," says his dad, Paul.
When Lori Goodman decided to adopt a rescue dog, she found that it wasn't just her husband who needed convincing. After months of searching, she still couldn't find a local shelter that would giver a dog to a family with three young children. That's when Orphaned Pets in New Jersey connected her with Lucy, a mixed-breed pup whose sweet-tempered personality was the perfect fit for the bustling household. And this "fourth child," now 2 1/2 years old, has made mama Lori very proud. "With my youngest in school, I wanted to do something good with my free time," Lori says. "Lucy is so loving and affectionate, we decided to get her certified as a pet therapy dog. Now we visit patients at a nearby hospital once a week."
Freedom Service Dogs has been matching animals with disabled war veterans and others in need since 1987. When wheelchair-bound law student Jason Dorward learned about the organization, he couldn't wait to get a dog of his own. And it turned out that 3-year-old Rushmore, a Labrador-boxer mix, felt the same way: "He broke off his leash, ran across the room and jumped into my lap!" Jason says. Ever since, the two have been inseparable. Rushmore can do almost anything for Jason: help him into his wheelchair, bring him the telephone, retrieve keys -- even empty the dryer! "He gives me confidence and a feeling of security that I hadn't had in years," Jason says.
When the owner of Rose, a 7-year-old border collie mix, was diagnosed with terminal cancer, her final wish was that the pup be placed in a new, loving home. Luckily, Rosie was brought to the Biscuit Foundation, a nonprofit that finds new families for animals with sick or elderly owners. Robin Sheppard, a frequent foster parent for the foundation, was so smitten with Rosie, she decided to formally adopt her. "Rosie is so playful and eager to please -- I couldn't resist making her mine!" she explains. "We formed a special bond, and I could see that I needed her as much as she needed me."
Project POOCH is a rescue organization with a unique mission: It pairs shelter dogs that are deemed unadoptable with incarcerated youth. The kids learn responsibility by helping to rehabilitate and train the pups -- and they get to experience unconditional love. The dogs, meanwhile, get a second chance at finding a permanent home. Two-year-old Tom Thumb, a jack Russell-dachshund mix, was painfully shy and insecure before Project POOCH took him in. Under the patient guidance of his teen partner, Israel, the pip blossomed, eventually becoming the beloved companion of Lisa Porter; her cat, Silar; and her border collie, Beans. "He and Beans actually spoon on the couch, and he's the perfect wrestling partner for Silar," Lisa says. "The four of us go for walks around the block together -- we're the talk of the neighborhood!" she adds with a laugh.
After years of living in no-pets-allowed apartments, I finally wore my husband down with complaints about my ticking "dog-ological" clock. We moved to a dog-friendly place and raced over to North Shore Animal League America -- the world's largest pet-rescue organization -- to pick up a pup. Becoming a mom to Rowdy, a now-1-year-old hound mix, has brought me joys and (just like a human baby!) challenges: getting up to walk him in the middle of the night, soothing his teething gums, and watching him grow and play with other pups. But at the end of the day, an owner's relationship with her dog is about as uncomplicated as it gets. What we have with Rowdy is pure and simple puppy love!
Ava, Dino and Bacci
Tom Ambrose and his wife, Denise, are huge fans of adopting, so they've become regulars at the Macoupin TAILS Animal Shelter in Carlinville, Illinois. "So many dogs are waiting for good homes," Tom sighs. In the past few years, the Ambroses have rescued three dogs: daddy's girl Ava, an Australian shepherd; alpha dog Dino, an American Eskimo; and, most recently, old soul Bacci, a border collie. The pups love to pay together in the yard and go for long walks in the state part and fairgrounds. "They're a lot of responsibility but we're happier and more relaxed -- and we certainly get plenty of exercise!" Tom says.
Five-year-old pit bull Jonny has graced the pages of Sports Illustrated and People, and appeared on the Rachael Ray show -- but he had a tough start. He was one of over 50 pit bulls seized in April 2007 from a dogfighting ring run by NFL quarterback Michael Vick. Jonny owes his second chance to BAD RAP, a California group dedicated to educating the public about the misunderstood breed, and to his doting dad, Cris Cohen. Cohen helped rehabilitate the pup, getting him to shed the bad manners that had earned him the nickname Jonny Rotten. Now, a gentler Jonny is a certified therapy dog, helping kids become more confident readers. "He was a handful at first, but these days he's eternally happy," Cohen says.
In 2009, the Humane Society helped rescue 5-year-old American Eskimo John Paul (named after the Pope!), along with more than 300 other dogs, in a raid on one of the nation's largest puppy mills, located in Kennewick, WA. After hearing the pooch's story on TV, Kimberly Dunham and her partner, Larry, felt compelled to adopt him from their local Spokane branch. She already owned one American Eskimo and knew how sensitive they could be. "We love to cuddle and 'hold paws'," Kimberly says. "It's incredible how happy he is now. It's a miracle for a dog who'd never even been petted before he was rescued!"
Grover was born with only two legs -- but don't tell him that. He may look a little goofy, but the spirited, 1 1/2-year-old wheaten terrier mix walks and runs as well as any four-legged pup with the help of a prosthetic on one of his front legs. "People always comments on how happy-go-lucky he is," says hi owner, James Collier. Grover was adopted form the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA, where James works as a counselor. Now Grover spends his days helping others in need: "He's training to become a therapy dog," James says. "The joy that emanates from him is contagious. He's a daily reminder of how wonderful life can be, in spite of challenges."
Rudy, Buster, Viejo & Jenna
It takes a village to care for pit bull Rudy, French bulldog Buster, and boxers Viejo and Jenna. "Luckily, my three kids pitch in with the day-to-day, my husband doesn't mind the chaos, and even my 89-year-old grandmother helps from time to time!" says Dawn Karam, president of Adopt a Boxer Rescue in Dickson City, Pennsylvania, the whole family gets back more than they give, she says, especially because they know they've helped rescue harder-to-place older dogs. "Caring for these pups has taught my children to be wonderful human beings, willing to help others and think beyond themselves."
We're giving thanks to Austin Pets Alive! They're creating a no-kill zone for homeless animals in Austin, Texas (and serving Thanksgiving meals to their rescues every year). The organization also introduced Tucker, a 1-year-old Plott hound mix, to new owner Donna Drake. After serving as a foster mom to the cuddly, laid-back pooch -- nursing him through recovery from two broken legs -- she just had to adopt him. "Tucker has shown me the value of always looking on the bright side," she says. "I love snuggling with him on the couch and taking him with me to visit friends."
Three-year-old pit bull Maximus was rescued in the nick of time. Adopted by Austin Clyburn only two hours before we was scheduled to be put down by Animal Care & Control of NYC, the happy-go-lucky pup now spends his days chasing squirrels and making rounds as a certified therapy dog. His owner also has a new sense of purpose. "Adopting Max made me want to dedicate myself to helping animals," says Clyburn. "I've recently been licensed as an animal control officer and cruelty investigator, helping rescue neglected dogs. I've even started my own training and adoption assistance company, Muzzles to Nuzzles!"
For the first time in her life, 12-year-old Maia has a home. Sharon Louder adopted the spunky border collie mix after hearing her story through Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, the nation's largest sanctuary for abused and homeless animals. Maia spent her first three years living with a pack of stray dogs in the desert, then lived at the shelter for nine years. "She never had a real family, and that's what I wanted to give her," Sharon says. Now the inquisitive but shy pooch is slowly coming out of her shell: Maia loves going on car rides and playing with her two new furry brothers. "She just adores other dogs," Sharon says. "She depended on them so much in her early years that there's an instant connection."
It's hard to believe pit bull Ivy spent most of her life ping-ponging between fight rings and abusive homes. Now the sweet 8-year-old pup, adopted two years ago, is practically the spokes-pooch for the Brennan Memorial Humane Society (pawsforyou.org). "She's front and center in all the work we do," says owner T.J. Hall, who, along with his wife Christie, helps run the Gloversville, NY, rescue group. "When we do adoptions, fundraising walks, visits to elementary schools -- she's there." Ivy's laid-back and affectionate attitude is changing people's perceptions of her breed -- schools even ask for her by name. "It just goes to show: It's not how the dog is raised -- it's her resilient personality and treating her with nothing but love that make the difference."
It should come as no surprise that 9-year-old English bulldog Snuggles likes to cuddle, given her affectionate name. "If she sees you in the room, she has to move close enough to touch you and be petted," says her owner, Holly Eschrich. "When my fiancé and I wake up in the morning, there she is in bed, right between us." This is a whole new world for the resilient Snuggles, who was rescued from a puppy mill by the Los Angeles organization Ace of Hearts (aceangels.org). "She was initially so scared, needy and neglected," remembers Holly. "Now she affectionately locks eyes with us and has her own system of grunts, barks and gestures to let us know how she feels and what she needs. And as a reward for understanding her, we get a two-fangs- up smile!"
Life wasn't always walks on the beach and wrestling matches at the dog park for 3-year-old Chase -- but it sure is now. The shepherd-lab mix was rescued off the streets of Brooklyn, NY, by the Sean Casey Animal Rescue (nyanimalrescue.org) and wasn't used to interacting with humans. "They tried to dissuade me from taking him at first because he was so fearful of people," says his owner, Roxanne Castelli, "but I kept visiting him at his cage until he started to get excited when he saw me coming." Chase now joins his devoted owner for long hikes and visits with her friends. "It has been tremendous watching him become more social," Castelli says. "He's not as fearful anymore, and he's really starting to show his affection with me."
Ten-month-old Spunky Brewster, a shih tzu-poodle mix, is every bit as spirited as her name. "After watching her wrestle with our 70-pound dog, we knew Spunky was the name for her!" says Julie Pereira, who adopted the feisty pooch from HALO Animal Rescue in Phoenix (halorescue.org). It wasn't long before the headstrong, supersocial pup changed the dynamic between her new furry siblings. "Our 8-year-old Jack Russell terrier didn't get along with the other dogs, but then Spunky came into the mix with her playful personality and really changed that," Pereira says. "She was meant to be a permanent part of the family."