Los Angeles Pup My Ride

Aug 29, 2014

Puppy mill survivor inspires action

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


May 29, 2014

A bigger world for two tiny dogs

Lil Brave and Paco
Lil Brave and Paco

Feisty Chihuahuas get help at the Sanctuary.

March 3, 2014

By Christelle L. Del Prete

Anyone who loves little dogs can tell you that big personalities often come in small packages. Paco and Lil Brave, two feisty Chihuahuas, came from a shelter in Los Angeles to the Sanctuary because they had some behavioral challenges that needed extra attention. So, when they arrived this past October, they were promptly enrolled in what caregiver Tom Williams calls “remedial Chihuahua school” at the Clubhouse (one of the areas in Dogtown).

On the road to purple

Although tiny and irresistibly cute, when they arrived at the Sanctuary, both dogs were assigned red collars. In the three-tiered collar color system at Best Friends, green means a dog is safe for anyone to handle, purple means a dog can interact and go on walks and outings with volunteers over 18, and a red collar means a dog can only be handled by staff members to ensure everyone stays safe and no dogs are put in situations too difficult for them. Dogtown caregivers and trainers work with red and purple collar dogs with the goal of getting them to the next level. If Paco and Lil Brave could graduate to purple collars, they’d have more social opportunities, like outings and trail walks with new people. And their new skills would help them find homes, too.

Both Chihuahuas needed some help on the road to purple collar status. Because they were suspicious of people, neither of them wanted to be handled. And Lil Brave displayed some guarding behaviors, which could make it difficult for him to find a home. He’d guard people he knew, his bed, and even his friend Paco – snarling if anyone got too close. He was just trying to protect the things he loved, but, in spite of his underlying fear, Lil Brave was showing a little too much bravado to make new human friends.

Becoming more adoptable

To help both dogs relax and not feel like it was them against the world, Tom and fellow caregiver Harlee Day spent one-on-one time with them. They began by sitting quietly on the floor and hand-feeding them – a common practice with unsocialized dogs in Dogtown. Once the dogs grew comfortable with hand-feeding, caregivers started gently touching their sides, then their ears and paws. Gradually, Paco became accustomed to Tom handling him, and Harlee can sometimes bend down to scoop up Lil Brave.

Though they are both still “little pistols,” Harlee says they’ve made a lot of progress in a short time. Paco has relaxed enough around people that he’s now wearing a purple collar. He can stretch his little legs on the Dogtown trails with some volunteers, and he’s been hanging out in the accounting office once a week, enjoying leisurely days as a Best Friends office dog. Lil Brave is also coming along. He’s still working on earning his purple, but he’s relaxed his guarding behaviors a bit, and is beginning to warm up. “They’re both really sweet little lap dogs once they get to know you,” Harlee says.

Calmer and more confident

As young dogs, they also love to play and run “free.” One warm Saturday in late February, Paco and Lil Brave enjoyed a romp at the Best Friends dog park, soaking up the desert sun. Paco ran around with another dog, while Lil Brave watched the birds fluttering around. “Living in this environment has helped them calm down a bit and become more confident,” Tom says. And the calmer and more confident they become, the bigger the world will get for these two little dogs.

Learn more about Paco, Lil Brave, and other adoptable dogs at the Sanctuary.

Photos by Molly Wald

Lil Brave
Lil Brave


Mar 13, 2014

Special-needs dog goes home to North Pole

Deserving pooch gets a family of her own in time for Christmas.

December 31, 2013

By Christelle L. Del Prete

“She's going to have a great Christmas,” Donna Buck-Davis says of her new family member, Patches. The miniature white poodle has gone to the most perfect place for the holidays: the North Pole (a city in Alaska, not the North Pole). But it’s still a pretty special Christmas story. Irresistibly cute and only two years old, Patches was overlooked in a Los Angeles city shelter because of a medical issue. From there, Patches found her way to the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Mission Hills. But the sweet little dog still had no luck finding a family, and after some time came to the Sanctuary, where we hoped she would have better luck finding the right home.

It turned out that Patches was incontinent; her bladder didn’t work properly. Not everyone is interested in adopting a dog who can’t make it outside to go to the bathroom. Dr. Patricia Kupanoff, a visiting veterinary specialist, explains that the problem made the young poodle “very susceptible to urine scalding (burning from urine that is left on the skin) and urinary tract infections.” During their recent visit to the Sanctuary, Dr. Kupanoff and fellow veterinary specialist Dr. Catherine Popovitch performed surgery to reroute Patches’ urinary tract, with the hope of fixing the bladder problem, improving her quality of life, and boosting her chances of being adopted.

Though Patches recovered really well from the surgery, it wasn’t a quick fix. Her bladder had never been used, so it would take months for it to stretch, expand and function properly, if it ever would. But the spirited little dog was completely undaunted by this, and, once she was feeling well enough, she went to live and play with a few other small dogs in the Best Friends laundry room. “She doesn't know she is different,” Angela Rovetto, Patches’ former caregiver in L.A. who visited the Sanctuary to spend some quality time with Patches, adds.

As it turns out, Patches isn’t just friendly and sweet; she also has a sense of humor and doesn’t take herself too seriously. Perhaps that’s why Angela and housekeeper Dara Merrifield agree that nothing gets her down. “She is really calm for her age, but can be funny and silly,” Dara explains. Patches liked to shimmy around the laundry room wearing tutus.

With a spirit like hers, it’s no wonder Patches found the perfect home in spite of her medical issue. And, though there is reason to believe her condition will continue to improve now that she’s had the surgery, her adopter, Donna, doesn’t care whether or not Patches is ever fully continent. In fact, Donna was interested in Patches because of her special needs – not in spite of them. “Handicapped dogs have special personalities,” she says. “They really appreciate and repay the love and kindness you give them, and they are super warm and affectionate.” Special-needs dogs also know they are being rescued and helped, and therefore they bond more quickly and strongly.

As for Patches herself, she felt perfectly at home in the North Pole on the very first weekend with her new family, and she’s already enjoying belly rubs and baths. Best of all, Patches has established a great relationship with Donna’s other dogs, including Muppett, a Yorkie/poodle mix who (because his back legs are deformed) walks on his front legs. What began as a great Christmas gift for Donna herself – taking in a dog who needed her – turned out to be a wonderful gift for Patches and the rest of the Buck-Davis family as well.

Photos by Molly Wald


Dec 26, 2013

Pup My Ride transports 10,000th pup

Best Friends Animal Society–Los Angeles celebrates major milestone.

November 1, 2013

By Michelle Sathe

Bart didn't stand out much at the North Central Shelter in Los Angeles, where he was just one of dozens of small, scruffy dogs hoping to get adopted. Many don't leave the shelter alive, but Bart was one of the lucky ones.

On October 3, Bart rolled away on the Pup My Ride van to Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene, Oregon, making him the 10,000th pet transported by Best Friends Animal Society-Los Angeles to an adoption rescue partner across the country.

Road trips that save lives

Launched in August 2007, Best Friends' Pup My Ride program has greatly reduced the number of healthy and treatable companion animals killed in overcrowded Los Angeles shelters by partnering with lifesaving shelters, such as Greenhill Humane Society.

Bart, a three-pound black cairn terrier mix, is typical of the dogs saved by Pup My Ride. "Most Pup My Ride dogs are under 25 pounds and six years of age, with no medical or behavioral issues," says Robin Harmon, Pup My Ride coordinator. "These are most commonly Chihuahuas, all kinds of terrier mixes and poodles, but we also get a surprising number of purebreds, too."

According to Robin, the Northeast and Northwest regions of the country don't have many small dogs available through shelters and rescues, unlike California where there is a much larger supply than there is demand. Pup My Ride offers residents in these states a humane alternative to buying such dogs from pet stores or breeders.

Welcoming the pups with open arms

At Greenhill Humane Society, Bart was welcomed with open arms after the 850-mile journey. "We knew he was special as soon as we saw him. Some dogs can be shy or nervous after such a long ride, but Bart literally jumped into our arms and started his happy wiggle dance," says Sasha Elliott, communications and events manager of Greenhill Humane Society.

Pup My Ride transport specialist Gayle Alexander, who logs approximately 9,000 miles a month, says the receiving shelters are as excited as the dogs, no matter what time they arrive. "I give kudos to the shelter staff and volunteers who greet the new arrivals late at night and early in the morning, always ready for the kisses they receive," she says. "The happy barks and wagging tails always make my day."

Gayle, like Robin, has been with Pup My Ride since the program began. She started as a volunteer and became an official Best Friends employee in 2010. "I'm in awe of Pup My Ride and the lives it's saved. The number 10,000 is unbelievable," Gayle says. "I'm also grateful for all the help and support provided by our amazing volunteers. We just couldn't do it without them."

Lifesaving program

So far, in 2013 alone, Pup My Ride has transported 1,224 dogs and 156 cats from Los Angeles Animal Services and plays a key role in helping advance the NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles) initiative, led by Best Friends Animal Society and a coalition of more than 60 Los Angeles animal welfare organizations.

"Our goal is to turn L.A. into NKLA by 2017, and we couldn't do it without programs such as Pup My Ride," says Marc Peralta, executive director of Best Friends Animal Society-Los Angeles and NKLA. "By working together, our staff and the tremendously dedicated volunteers, as well as the receiving shelters that participate in Pup My Ride, are helping us to Save Them All."

Home sweet home

As for Bart, he was adopted on October 18 by Julie Baumler of Eugene and renamed Ivan the Terrier. Julie is a member of Dog Scouts of America, and Ivan is already enrolled as a cadet scout. When he graduates, the achievement will be similar to a Canine Good Citizen certification.

"Ivan seemed like he would be fun and want to learn new things," Julie says. "I think it's cool that he was the 10,000th dog on Pup My Ride, but, more importantly, that all these dogs are going to no-kill shelters and getting homes."

For more information on Best Friends' lifesaving programs in Los Angeles, visit www.bestfriends.org/la or www.nkla.org.

Photos courtesy of Pup My Ride


Oct 9, 2013

L.A.'s new volunteer intake team

Volunteers empowered to help rehome over 1,500 animals per year

September 4, 2013

By Denise LeBeau

It's no secret that volunteers help maximize the ability to save animals' lives and increase their chance of leaving shelters and rescue groups to find new homes. Whether it's by enhancing the sociability of pets-in-waiting or networking them online across social media platforms, volunteers play an ever-expanding role in getting animals to safe haven. So it's no wonder that Best Friends has found a way to use volunteers in a new and exciting capacity. Today, they're a vital part of the intake team in Los Angeles.

"As part of the NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles) initiative, we work with the city shelters to move animals into our facility to find them adoptive homes," says Mike Harmon, manager of the Best Friends Animal Society Pet Adoption Center in L.A. "We have found that the mainstay volunteers of the city shelters are smart, and they really know the animals. We realized that we could be maximizing our lifesaving capabilities by empowering them to determine which animals should come to us. That can shorten the animal's stay at the shelter and free up space for them to take in someone else."

As a result, each of Los Angeles' six city shelters has a team of specially trained volunteers who are authorized to pull animals from the shelter on behalf of Best Friends. The intake volunteers are given guidelines on how to perform evaluations and what types of pets to look for, and they are able to use their judgment to decide who gets sent to the pet adoption center in Mission Hills. These volunteers ultimately pull and transport around 30 animals per week. Depending on the availability of space, up to 80 animals per week can arrive at Mission Hills, from intake volunteers and from our NKLA Coalition partners.

Helping get animals out

At the North Central Shelter, Kerry Armstrong has been a volunteer at the city shelter for over a year, and she relishes her autonomy to help get animals out. "It's a huge relief to the shelter. We're helping to quickly open up kennel space, which gives the other animals there more time to find a possible adopter or rescue group," says Kerry.

Even before she officially became part of Best Friends' intake team, Kerry had been recommending dogs to Mike regarding which ones might be good candidates to go to the Best Friends adoption center, as well as writing their adoption profiles and posting them to the shelter's Facebook page. While each dog she pulls is special, she says she always has her eyes peeled for the "black Staffie mixes - those dogs who are wonderful companion animals, but are often overlooked."

Katie Keane, who is also part of the intake team based out of the North Central Shelter, and volunteers in transporting the animals, says, "Knowing the animals are going to Best Friends means that even if they're not adopted quickly, their quality of life will be great. Between play groups and training sessions and the legions of volunteers who come in to socialize the animals, it's a great life until they find their forever home."

To find out more about Best Friends' work in Los Angeles, visit bestfriends.org/la.

For volunteer opportunities, click here.

Photos courtesy of Best Friends staff


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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