Los Angeles Pup My Ride

$11,732 $268
Raised Remaining

Blind puppy lands a home with two eye doctors.

February 11, 2015

By Kelli Harmon

The tiny brown and white puppy’s life could have ended just a few weeks after he was born. He should have had two bright eyes with which to take in the new and exciting world around him. But, instead, he was born without a left eye, and with a right eye that was malformed.. However, he had a 100-percent share of natural puppy cuteness, with his soft, wiggly body and oversized velvet brown ears.

Out of danger and into Best Friends

If the little pup had been born into a different situation, his family might have loved him the way he was and kept him. But instead, he was surrendered to a shelter in Los Angeles — weighing just two pounds, blind, and at just eight weeks old, especially susceptible to disease.

Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) caregivers, who wanted to get the puppy to safety as quickly as possible, asked staff at the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center for help. All pets at the Los Angeles–based center are pulled from the six LAAS shelters, as part of Best Friends’ goal to make Los Angeles a no-kill city by 2017. Soon after he landed at the shelter, the puppy was on his way to Best Friends and the next phase of his life — waiting for a home and a family that wanted to raise and love a little blind puppy.

Just the right fit

It sometimes takes a bit longer to find homes for pets with special needs. Other times, the perfect family finds them right away. That’s what happened when twin sisters, both of them ophthalmologists (that’s right — eye doctors), met the tiny pup. Alice and Julia Song were immediately drawn to him, because through their work they have a special understanding of blindness.

“We care for patients with eye problems every day, even those who are blind from advanced glaucoma, those who have had an eye removed for cancer or pain, or those who were born blind,” says Alice. They also have a soft spot for little dogs in need, and in the past have adopted from and regularly donated supplies to their local shelter. It didn’t take long for the sisters to decide that this little dog would be going home with them that day.

They named him Pappy (because he looks like he could be part papillon, with his big silky ears) and immediately went to work making him comfortable in their home, which meant introducing him to their two other dogs, Kaya and Mojo. They took to the new family member, while Pappy was thrilled by his new friends. Julia says: “He loves them. They lick each other constantly and play with each other.”

Lucky in love

Pappy is learning to get around, with gentle encouragement from Alice and Julia. Alice says it just takes a few pats on the floor to convince Pappy to take a few steps in the direction they’d like him to go. “When we walk, he follows us around the room as he gets used to his surroundings,” Julia says. “He is able to get around quite well and has adapted to his physical disabilities, much like our patients who have lost vision.” And the sisters say he’s a champion at favorite puppy activities like chewing toys and crashing to sleep in adorable positions.

Just like anyone who adopts a pet from a shelter, Alice and Julia are heroes for saving a life. But it’s difficult to say who got the best end of the deal. Julia says, “It is our pleasure to have him. He's not the lucky one. We are!”

Photos by Lori Fusaro


Pit bull terrier brightens a boy’s life.

January 9, 2015

By Kelli Harmon

To some people, Roxy might look intimidating. When the 50-pound, steely blue-gray pit bull terrier found herself homeless in a Los Angeles Animal Services shelter, she joined many, many other dogs who look a lot like her. But today she’s one in a million — a priceless companion to a boy who needed her just as much as she needed a home.

A good girl

Roxy was probably confused as to why she was dropped off at the shelter one day. It’s an understandably scary place for pets who have only known life in a home. Roxy knew things, too. She was house trained and knew how to sit and shake hands. If only someone would adopt her, she’d get to show off the skills someone had taken the time to teach her.

Best Friends staff spotted Roxy at the shelter and brought her to the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles. All pets at the center come from one of six Los Angeles city shelters, as part of Best Friends’ goal to make Los Angeles a no-kill city by 2017. Thousands of pets die in L.A. city shelters each year and the moment Roxy entered the shelter, she could have become a statistic. Instead, she settled into her new digs at the center to wait for someone to choose her.

Meant for each other

Just two days after Roxy arrived at the center, a staff person came to take her out of her run and brought her into a small room where Amanda Granados and her 13-year-old son, Joey, were waiting. Roxy walked right past Amanda and climbed up into Joey’s lap, nuzzling him as though the two were best friends who hadn’t seen one another for years. “She was all over him,” Amanda says. “Their connection was immediate.”

Both Amanda and the Best Friends adoption specialist couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Because Joey has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, it’s difficult for him to accept or give back hugs and cuddles. But kids with Asperger’s can sometimes develop close relationships with pets. It’s one of the reasons Amanda thought about adopting a dog. When Joey reciprocated Roxy’s single-minded affection, it was clear that the two were meant for each other.

Roxy was the only dog Amanda needed to meet that day. She filled out the paperwork, and Roxy was on her way home.

A dog’s dream

In the weeks since she arrived at Joey and Amanda’s home, Roxy has been living a dog’s dream. She quickly learned the ropes, showing off her skills and learning a few new cues. She’s also changed at least one person’s perception of pit bull terriers. Amanda says, “In general, I thought pit bulls were mean dogs. The news is always showing bad stories about them, you know?”

But the main goal for Roxy is to stick by Joey’s side wherever he goes. She’s a lap dog, she snores when she sleeps, she’s polite when new people come over and she gets along with the family’s other dog (who Joey never really connected with). Every night when Joey goes to bed, Roxy climbs in next to him and curls up until morning. In short, there’s not a mean bone in her body. Amanda says, “She completely changed the way I think about pit bulls.”

And Roxy has changed Joey’s life, too. “He’s more loving. He’s not a very affectionate person, but he hugs her all the time and lets her kiss him. They’re always together,” Amanda says. “She’s opened up his heart.”

Photos by Lori Fusaro and Amanda Granados


Rescued dog, adopted from the Sanctuary, rescues his new person.

January 14, 2015

By Christelle L. Del Prete

Darby’s life started out rather bleak. He’d been in and out of shelters in Los Angeles, and then ended up getting hit by a car. The adorable little terrier mix with giant ears and a wiry coat needed specialty surgery and cage rest, so Best Friends–Los Angeles staff transferred him to the Sanctuary where he’d get expert care, and hopefully soon find his forever home. Little did anyone know that Darby would one day show he belongs in the same category as Lassie or Rin Tin Tin.

Bouncing back

Once he arrived at the Sanctuary in Utah, the little survivor quickly got the surgery and medical attention he needed at the Best Friends Animal Clinic, and it didn’t take long for him to bounce back. After a few weeks of crate rest, he was up and about.

Although he still had a little “hitch in his giddyup,” as Dogtown caregiver Haven Diaz affectionately puts it, Darby’s mobility issues weren’t severe and didn’t get in the way of his enjoyment of life. During the month he spent recuperating at the Sanctuary, Darby was friendly with people and got a lot of one-on-one socialization time with his caregivers and Dogtown volunteers. He even strode happily out of his building to greet the visitor tours that stopped by each day.


“The way it was going to be”

Then, one day, it happened. Repeat volunteers Ray and Machelle Lyons were helping out at the Clubhouse, the area of Dogtown where Darby lived. Active world travelers and adventurers, Ray and Machelle had settled down to the point where they knew they could provide a great home for a dog. During that trip, they were on the lookout for a good match — so Haven introduced them to Darby.

As soon as Ray sat down in the kennel with the dog, “Darby walked straight over and adopted me,” says Ray. “We knew that was the way it was going to be.” But their love story doesn’t end there.


Rescued dog turns hero dog

About two months after Darby went home to Colorado, there was severe weather with lots of snow and ice. Ray was outside with Darby, when he slipped and fell. When Machelle returned home from work that evening, she says, “Ray seemed dazed and confused. He didn't know what had happened to the last several hours and was surprised to see it was dark outside. He had no recollection of the day except that he took Darby out for a walk, and he woke up later with Darby licking him on the face and nose.”

The fall had apparently caused a concussion, and Ray didn’t even remember how he got home. “If Darby had not woken him up, he could have frozen to death,” Machelle says. But Ray does remember one other thing from that day — how concerned and worried Darby was about him. “He sat by my side for hours, and every time I almost fell asleep, Darby would wake me up. He’s a real rescue dog, in every sense.”


“A joy”

Though Darby was a little shy and not particularly confident when he first went home, being a hero seems to have helped with that. “He has made himself part of the family,” Ray says. “He's a real treat and treasure — just a joy.” And Ray and Machelle are just as thankful to have Darby as he is to have them. After all, this is one dog who knows how to pay it forward.


Photos by Best Friends staff and courtesy of Ray and Machelle


Best Friends helps a sick puppy find a brighter future.

By Best Friends staff

With her giant German shepherd puppy ears, Kaya immediately wiggled her way into everyone’s hearts at the Redlands Animal Shelter in California. Found on the street emaciated and constantly vomiting, she  was in trouble. Her rescuers quickly began working on a plan to get her the medical care she clearly needed.

Luckily, the city shelter is supported in multiple ways by the nonprofit group Redlands Friends of Shelter Animals, which found a veterinarian who determined Kaya couldn’t keep food down because of a condition called megaesophagus. A vessel near her heart was constricting her esophagus, making it impossible for her to swallow normally. Kaya’s particular type of megaesophagus is one of the few that’s potentially correctable through surgery. That was the good news. The bad news was that the cost for such a surgery is about $6,000, and expensive specialty surgery for puppies isn’t in the Redlands city budget. However, Redlands Friends of Shelter Animals knew where to turn for help.

Best Friends to the rescue

Since the Redlands group is a Best Friends Network partner, it is eligible for various types of assistance from Best Friends. The Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network is a program that works with rescue organizations and municipal shelters across the country to end the killing of dogs and cats in our nation’s shelters. When network specialist Diane Young received the email about Kaya’s case, she set the wheels in motion to make it possible for her to have that costly surgery and the recuperative care that goes with it. Although Kaya already had a foster home, when she was ready, she’d need a special type of forever home.

In short order, Kaya’s once-bleak outlook turned around. Volunteers committed to fostering her until she was ready to go home. Coastal German Shepherd Rescue (also a Best Friends network partner) stepped up and agreed to take Kaya into their organization and eventually find her a home. In addition, Kaya’s other immediate need also was taken care of. She could have the surgery done by the highly skilled clinic staff at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah.

Optimistic results

Within a month of rescue, Kaya was on her way to receiving lifesaving medical treatment. Best Friends veterinarians performed the surgery and Kaya came through like a champ. The medical director at the Sanctuary, Dr. Mike Dix, says: “The prognosis for a return to normal function is fair, but the prognosis for a good manageable level of function is great, as Kaya’s been doing very well since surgery.”

She’ll likely need to eat in an upright position for the rest of her life, but aside from that, she has a great chance of being a normal, healthy dog. “Kaya is a sweet dog and I am glad we could help her out,” says Dr. Mike.  “I hope she continues to do well and thrive as time goes on.”

A soaring spirit

Of course, Kaya doesn’t know there’s anything wrong with her. She knows that she’s “special,” but not “special needs.” “Kaya has a huge personality. She’s very affectionate and acts just like a typical German shepherd — smart and outgoing,” says Stacey Turnpaugh, the person who’s fostering her.

The key to Kaya’s future wasn’t just one person or one organization. It was everyone pitching in. She’s proof that when people work together, even the most challenging situations can have a happy ending.  


Former puppy mill dog wins hearts, educates folks on pet store cruelty.

June 20, 2014

By Denise LeBeau

When Lindsay Reeves, self-proclaimed cat person, visited Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, for the first time, she was amazed. As a longtime animal advocate, the Sanctuary was hallowed ground for special needs animals.

During her second trip to the Sanctuary, she asked about volunteering with puppy mill survivors. The puppy mill issue was heating up in her home area, Los Angeles County, and she wanted to help victims who had been through so much.

Fate must have intervened that day because it just happened that some newly-arrived dogs needed socialization, a canine group recently been rescued from Midwest puppy mills. One particularly timid Yorkie quietly captured Lindsay’s attention and for her sparked a new passion – educating folks on the connection between puppy mills and pet stores.

When Lindsay met Eliza

Thrilled to help socialize the dogs, Lindsay was drawn to the shyest of the group, a little Yorkie named Eliza Doolittle.

“After a week of spending an hour a day with the dogs, for some reason Eliza still was not interested in attention,” says Lindsay, who had to leave the Sanctuary knowing she would be back to see how the tiny dog had progressed.

On her return six weeks later, Lindsay found Eliza had become a different dog. “She was eating out of a bowl and sitting on her caregiver’s lap. It was wonderful to see her improve,” says Lindsay, who took the little canine for a sleepover. While Eliza still was very reserved, Lindsay was already hooked. At the end of the visit, she filled out an adoption application.

Eliza’s inspiration

Once settled back with Eliza in Southern California, Lindsay knew she wanted to help all the other Elizas still stuck in puppy mills. During a peaceful pet store demonstration outside of now-closed Pets of Bel Air in Los Angeles, Lindsay met Elizabeth Oreck, national manager for the Best Friends puppy mill initiatives.

“Lindsay is the perfect animal advocate, always professional, calm and well-educated on the issues. And since Eliza is always with her, she’s the perfect one to gently open the dialogue about the horrors of puppy mills,” says Elizabeth.

Lindsay and Eliza have since become volunteer cornerstones for peaceful pet store demonstrations and are able to make compelling statements during city council meetings dealing with the pet store (and puppy mill) issues.

“Lindsay is also such a positive presence at so many of our events beyond the puppy mill initiatives,” adds Elizabeth. “She and Eliza volunteer for pretty much every Best Friends event, from NKLA Adoption Weekends to the Strut Your Mutt. They wholeheartedly support the Best Friends mission.”

Putting a face to the issue

Beyond being incredibly adorable, Eliza Doolittle, has an endearing and interesting face that definitely ups the cuteness ante, her tongue constantly sticking out of her mouth.

“People are always asking about Eliza,” says Lindsay. “When they learn that her tongue hangs out because of so many years of puppy mill neglect (her teeth were so bad they all had to be pulled), it shocks people and forces them to face the realities of puppy mills.”

As Lindsay and Eliza Doolittle celebrate five glorious years together, the two are inseparable. Lindsay marvels at how far her best friend has come.

“With a lot of patience and understanding, Eliza now loves people, other animals and, of course, is an advocate for pet adoption.”

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Reeves


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Project Leader

Myla Burns

Development Officer, Workplace Campaigns
Kanab, UT Utah United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Los Angeles Pup My Ride