THE TRUTH: I used to work in a store that sold puppies …

/ Published in The NEW Issue, Written by Anonymous

I can remember how excited I was when I got a job at a pet store. Like most, I thought it would be so fun—playing with puppies all day! It didn’t take long to realize it’s not fun at all, but extremely heartbreaking. Almost every single puppy that came through the store suffered from a respiratory illness at least once while it was there. Many came in already sick from being on a truck with hundreds of other puppies in filthy conditions with little food or fresh water until they got to their destination. These tiny beings would have so much poop stuck to their little behinds and all of the lighter colored ones would have urine stains.

We were taught to tell people about the loving responsible breeders that we were getting our puppies from. We never saw the actual parents of these pups, and even when we got them locally they would usually be covered in fleas and full of worms at the very least. There was the man who would bring tiny sick pups to us covered in burns from the generator outside his trailer. The couple who brought in Chihuahuas that had deformed legs that we’d send back and tell her not to breed them and we knew she would if she didn’t sell them.

Then there was the mange that would flare up so bad from these babies being so stressed that their eyes would swell shut, and the smell of parvovirus that would make us all scared to go home and touch our own dogs before we scrubbed ourselves.

I know this first hand, because I’ve experienced it behind the scenes—pet stores don’t make a profit off of well-bred dogs and that’s the bottom line. They get cheap puppies they can mark up and market as designer breeds because purebred dogs that are registered and have health testing done aren’t cheap. One little pup was returned to us because she needed a surgery for something that was missed when she went to the vet for her health certificate. The family couldn’t afford it and the store owner wouldn’t help pay for it but happily gave them another puppy because that was much cheaper and easier. I can remember we all wanted to steal her while she sat waiting for the company that she was purchased from to come pick her up. She was surely either euthanized or used to breed instead of living a healthy life with a loving family. That wasn’t the only instance that happened, just the first I had to see. My heart broke for every one that sat in those little containers and didn’t get a home right away—months of not getting to run and play and be loved by a family. I didn’t want to think about what the parents of all these dogs were enduring because it had to be so much worse. We’ve seen the hoarding cases over and over on the news. It’s easy to justify buying the cute puppy from the store when they all just need a home though, right? •

A note from the publisher: Be Better
^^ I so appreciate the former puppy store employee writing that article. Many places make their employees sign a non-disclosure agreement so they’re afraid to tell people what they’ve seen, but it’s important to have all the correct information when making decisions.
I’m sure you’re a lovely person who regularly crouches down to pet dogs, and doesn’t knowingly want to support any kind of cycle of suffering. You might not yet know that responsible breeders would never sell their puppies to stores or to the first person who shows up with cash—they have a process to keep their puppies healthy and safe. But … NOW YOU KNOW, my dear. Too often, a kind person like yourself unwittingly ends up buying a puppy mill pup. True, it’s hard to tell the difference, as they’re the same level of cute as other puppies, and when the store clerk tells you it came from a “good” place (and may have papers to make it look like they do)—why wouldn’t you believe them? According to the Humane Society of the United States “Most pet stores do not disclose the true origins of their puppies, instead using deceptive sales pitches about ‘USDA licensed’ or ‘professional’ breeders.”

I, of course, always encourage people to adopt—it’s the best! You can find pure-bred dogs and puppies in shelters and rescues, but maybe you don’t really need a purebred? There are major benefits to having a mixed breed.
If you’ve checked shelters and rescue groups and still haven’t found the right pup, you should ask for referrals from your veterinarian, or contact local breed clubs. Always always visit where the puppy is born and raised. Personally go to a breeder’s facility before committing to a puppy—don’t rely on website or emailed photographs. Take the time now to find the right breeder and you’ll thank yourself for the rest of your dog’s life.

What happens if you go ahead and buy that store puppy? Several things: You create a demand for more. You become part of an inhumane cycle of greed. Many other dogs suffer in puppy mills across the United States and in hands of backyard breeders. We have to speak with our wallets—this is NOT OKAY. Please think beyond the cute factor, be strong, and be better. Walk away. •

Download The Humane Society’s “How to Identify a Responsible Breeder” Guide

Adopting Acorn

/ As seen in the TRIPPIN’ issue

Editor’s note: We recently received a message from a proud mama that thrilled us:
Dear Unleash, Beatrice is a reader of your magazine, and we recently ordered four back issues for her to dive into. She always has at least one Unleash Magazine with her for reading at restaurants, in the car, or wherever there might be a quiet moment. For years she has collected photos of animals in need of adoption, and she is so proud to now be the mommy to her first ever rescue pet! Acorn came from a hoarder home with 50 cats and 30 dogs, we are working to socialize him to his new life where everything is brand new to him … I wanted to share with you the appreciation my daughter has for your magazine.

WOW! What an amazing kiddo! We greatly appreciate Beatrice’s love for animals, commitment to adoption, and affinity for Unleash! We had to hear more about her newly adopted dog …


/ By Beatrice, Age 10
Acorn is our newly adopted dog, we got him from S.A.F.E Pet Rescue in St. Augustine on July 10. He is a Jack Russell-mix that is around one year old. We adopted him because he was the only dog at the shelter that would let us pet him, and he was playing with the other dogs in his run instead of barking at us. He seemed happy and calm, so we brought him home as a foster and then a few days later we decided to adopt him. Acorn is surprisingly mellow for a Jack Russell Terrier. Among his favorite things are sleeping, playing, and bone chewing. I enjoy training Acorn, walking him, playing and cuddling with him. In just two months, he has learned sit, lay down, wait, sit pretty, crawl, and roll over! Together we play fetch and frisbee, one time I was playing fetch with him and he was trying to go after the ball at the same time he had another ball in his mouth. We are still working on him catching the frisbee in his mouth.

When we first brought him home from the shelter, he was afraid of the slightest things, like a grocery bag, blinds suddenly opening, palm fronds swaying in the yard, trash cans on trash day, his own shadow and reflection, and some new people. Since bringing him home, almost all of these fears have diminished. When he first meets new people I have to ask them not to reach down and pet him at first because he is handshy. Once he has the chance to sniff feet and feel secure he is much more willing to be petted. This has taught me that some dogs are shy when they first meet new people and not to go straight down and pet them and to always ask before petting a dog.

Recently, we took Acorn to North Carolina and he loved it. He was climbing on the rocks like a mountain goat. He enjoyed hiking and if we tried to turn around on a hike Acorn would just stand there and look at us like, please let me keep hiking. It was so cute! Acorn was so good during the car ride to North Carolina—he didn’t whine, whimper, or bark on any of the long car rides.

Having Acorn in my life has made everything better by a vigintillion. I think if Acorn could talk he would say the same. •

The day we met Acorn
Acorn’s first trip to the beach
The happy day we brought Acorn home

SUNNY issue – digital edition released today!

SUNNY {adj} Cheery + Bright

We all needed an issue filled with just the good stuff! This issue will make you feel warm inside and out, and may make you wish you’d named YOUR dog Sunny. Maybe?

A HUGE thank you to Shane Patterson from Sunshine Paws Photography for creating the stunning cover of Lauren + Too Wyckoff of Brewhound. We deemed Lauren the Sunniest Person in Jacksonville, and you can learn just a little bit more about her in this issue.

Also in the SUNNY issue:
Guest Editor: Blue (Blue is Badass)
Snout Scout photos (Did we find your dog out and about?)
Behind the camera with Shane Patterson (Sunshine Paws Photography)
Cover contest time (Does your dog have what it takes?)
A summer recap diary entry by Hank the Hound
An intro to force-free training with Kate Godfrey (Comprehensive Canine Training, LLC)
Summer Smarts by Karen Camerlengo
Protecting Greyhounds – VOTE YES on 13 by Jessie Miller of Epic Outreach
Canine Concierge Program started by Pit Sisters
Upcoming event: Woofstock benefitting Safe Animal Shelter
The Major Dog House Project by Janice Frank
Meet your Good Nabr, Ryan Dunaway
Everything you wanted to know about Barkin’ Biscuits by Ellen Hiser
Fall in love with adorable adoptables!

Read the digital issue now! Pick up your physical copy next week.
Be on the look out for our Issue Release Happy Hour parties! (YES! Parties, plural).

Sweet Apollo – Wants to walk the beach with you!

Do you like to jog or walk? Apollo is just the dog for you! He’d make a great companion while you get your steps in! Apollo is approximately 2 years old. He loves the beach—but who doesn’t! When his energy is used up, all he wants to do is cuddle.

The hugs this boy gives will melt your heart!

Apollo is a little shy at first, but once he gets to know you he loves you and when he loves you, he REALLY loves you. There’s nothing sweeter than walking up to Apollo’s kennel and seeing him stand up and push his cheek against the side waiting for his kiss. Apollo would do best in a quiet home with no young children. He likes other dogs, but needs to introduced properly.

Adoptable from Pit Sisters
Email to meet this sweet boy!



Use kind, soft words. Practice love. When you’re needed, be there.

I could feel your eyes on me, humbly begging for my attention in the quietest way possible—with the stare. But like every morning, I was busy and preoccupied—and I was scrolling. Seeing things that made me desperately sad and wondering who would do these things—who would cut off a dog’s nose, or chain them to a tree in a blizzard, or surrender them as a senior, or bring them to boarding and never come back? WHO are these monsterpeople? What happened to them to make them this way?

I set the phone down and knelt down next to you. I focused on only you. I loved this moment with an audible sighhhhh. I thought about how much I love your face and the smell of your body—well, the front half smells pretty nice. You feel safe with me and nuzzle my neck to get cozy. I teared up into your fur for just a minute, praying for all the animals who’ve been hurt and those hurting even as we cuddled in bliss. I pulled you into me to the max of your threshold, an apology for all the things that you remember from your early years but aren’t allowed to tell me about. You’ve been sentenced to silence by some unfair law of nature. You can only give me little glimpses when I raise my hand too fast, or clap too loud while dancing around the kitchen, or walk toward you when you feel too vulnerable. You know what it’s like to be abused. You remember, but have cautiously moved on. All has been forgiven.

I ask you for answers—how do we fix this? How do we stop it from happening? How do we change people? You tell me give you more treats and to stop being distracted when you want me. You mention under your breath that a subscription to Bark Box would be nice. And you tell me to write.

Well, if you want me to write, I’m going to need better answers from you, I said, because I don’t know what to do, and giving you more treats isn’t going to help them. You cocked your head and burrowed into my neck as if trying to become part of me. Use kind, soft words. Practice love. When you’re needed, be there. And! Give yourself extra scoops of food. We will change the world, mama.

Well, okay then. That’s what you get when you ask a hound.


Blue’s Miracle

All eyes on me—gosh, I’m a lot nervous … but I’m honored to be featured. This is crazy! I’ve never written anything before. Sure, I did pee a really cool pattern onto the side of an ottoman once—I’m thinking maybe this will be similar in experience to that? I don’t particularly think I’m all that special, but I do have a story for you. Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything? A soft little lick on the hand, perhaps?

My name wasn’t always Blue. It really doesn’t matter much what it used to be—I go by Blue now and I like it. Beautiful things are blue, like the sky and the ocean and my foster mom’s feet in the winter—it’s been a real cold one, eh? I was given the official name “Little Boy Blue” by the staff at First Coast Veterinary Emergency in October of last year, when I was brought in by my family. I heard them tell the nurse I’d gotten caught in a fence and could no longer walk. No longer walk is right! I could barely move, I was in so much pain. The sweet nurse asked my family if they’d like to find out what was wrong with me. I saw them hand my family an estimate. Mom and dad put their heads down and shook them back and forth. Not what I wanted to see, I was hoping for more of a nod up and down. They pushed the estimate away and scribbled on another set of papers. I believe that meant I was signed over to the clinic to be … uh … euthanized.

I watched them leave and I wanted to go with them, but I couldn’t make my body move the way it always had. “Wait! You forgot me!” I screamed in my head. They never heard my headscreams before, so not sure why I thought now would be different. But I was really freaking out and everything hurt so badly … I was desperate. “Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.”

Well, sigh, they left. You probably guessed that. If they hadn’t this would be the end of a super boring story. But it’s not, and it’s about to get better, so stick with me.

Me … talking with my eyes.

Back in the treatment area, I lay in a kennel. I didn’t cry, but the pain was un-be-flippin-lievable. The staff was so kind to give me a pill which helped a lot. They would peer in at me and I would look up at them, and I tried as hard as I could to talk to them with my eyes—they were all I had. I wanted the staff to know that other than the fact that I had a broken back, I was a healthy, happy, sweet 6-month-old pup, and maybe someone could call mom and let her know she forgot to put me back in the car. Or call dad? We were good buddies! I really didn’t understand where my family went. I continued to talk with my eyes.

Then it was … my time. Dr. Tim Holloway was ready to see me. He put his hand on my head and sighed. I could read his mind. He didn’t like this part of his job. (Great! Finally something I could use to my advantage!) I poured on all the sweet I could, as if my life depended on it. Sweet eyes; check. Little soft hand licks; check; little head tilts; check. Cute face; checkcheckcheck. Some of the other staff was vouching for me—I kept hearing them say really nice things about me. (Thank you, thank you—you know who you are!) The next thing I know, I’m back in my kennel and they were all standing around it talking about something called a “McNicholas.” I tried to pay attention, I tried so hard. But all I wanted to do was sleep.

That’s Anette and her special friend, Dennis—he’s super nice, but not as pretty as my Anette.

I woke the next day to the face of an angel. My angel. She was, gosh, how do I describe her? Well, okay, so you know how dogs have the ability to see someone’s heart through their chest? When I woke up that day, ALL I could see was a huge heart with red hair pulled back into a cute little clip—classic Anette Nixon. She was cooing to me and petting me softly and making me feel warm inside—loved, I guess is the right word. I fell for her immediately. (I loved her even more when she brought me roasted chicken and helped me eat it out of her hand, but that’s jumping ahead.) Anette told me I had eyes that look directly into a person’s soul … which was really nice to hear, since that was how I liked to communicate at that time. She got me.

I came to find out on that first morning what a McNicholas was—I’m glad I didn’t have to wait too long, it was killing me! Turns out, it wasn’t a thing, it was a person! Haha, what a silly mix up. It turned out Dr. Holloway from the night before thought I was very sweet (way to work it, me) and he wanted the opinion of DOCTOR Tom McNicholas to find out if anything could be done. Apparently, Dr. McNicholas is … well, let’s just say he’s the best, and he knows a lot about fixing what’s broken.

Dr. McNicholas reviewed all the charts and graphs and stock reports and digital shiznitz and decided my back was broken. Surgery could possibly be done, but there was no guarantee that I would walk and the surgery would be very very difficult (and expensive). That’s when my angel, Anette, quickly stepped in and said, “Great! Let’s do it! We’ll start a gofundme for Blue. We’ll get the funds.” Anette is very convincing and she gets things done. That’s why I love having her on my side. Surgery was scheduled.

These were not my favorite days.

My back was so broken—so crunched to bits—that my first surgery took 5 hours! Think about what you can do in 5 hours. That’s practically a whole work day, for those of you a with job. For those of you without jobs, that’s 5 episodes of Ellen, or 10 episodes of Family Feud! The staff of First Coast Veterinary Specialists was working on my messed-up back for FIVE HOURS. Shew. I owe them a drink.

Out of surgery and on to healing up we go! At this time, I didn’t want to eat anything. I was feeling the pain, but still not letting anyone know. (But they knew. And I knew that they knew. And they knew that I knew that they knew.) Nothing smelled good and I was getting skinny. I think I mentioned before that Anette started hand-feeding me roasted chicken and that’s about all I would eat. For her to buy chicken meant she really loved me, because she loves all animals so much that she doesn’t ever eat them.

Even though she’s not my REAL mom, Amy loves me.

It was during this time that Anette started assembling my “team”. She reached out to Carolyn Edwards of Friends of Jacksonville Animals (FOJA) and they pledged to help with half the cost of my surgery—wuf wuf! (Thank you FOJA!) Anette then called her friend Amy to help start getting the word out about me. Amy called (or more likely texted, she hates talking on the phone) her friend Tyler to help start raising funds to pay for the rest of my surgery and future rehabilitation. I got my very own Facebook page so people could follow my progress and Tyler set a up a gofundme. So many generous people gave money even though they’ve never even met me! A community of love—I felt it all around me. That meant more than anything.

So … where am I now? Well, you’d know if you were following my Facebook page, silly. Take a minute and do that now. Blue’s Miracle.

Anette put out a plea for someone to take me home from the clinic because she thought I was getting sad. Which is true. I’m a people pup. ENFJ. Social. I like cuddles, bro, don’t judge. Anette’s aforementioned friend, Amy, who had come to visit me at the clinic said I could come hang out at her house for the weekend. That was many many many bowls of food ago, so—I’m not great with time, but I’m loving this long weekend!

My whip.

Also! I have wheels! Anette reached out to K9 Carts, which is a great organization, and they sent me a cart just my size. When not in my cart, I still pull myself around with my front two legs really super fast. I’m still working on remembering how to use them pesky back ones. I’m going to rehab at Veterinary Acupuncture and Wellness, which is sometimes fun (and, may I be frank? Sometimes not.) They have a water treadmill, which is pretty cool and I get lots of treats. They have a Dr. Jessie Burgess who is very smart and extremely beautiful—I may have a crush but don’t tell her, I’m working my angles. She does electro acupuncture and laser to help me heal and stimulate nerve function. I love every single staff member at VAW and look forward to going there. A huge thanks to owner, Dr. Jenna, for believing in me.

Can I tell you I’ve met the most gorgeous people throughout this experience? Yah, it’s been a real crap deal what happened to me, but the people I’ve met … almost makes it worth it. Constance the Pet Messenger did a psychic reading and she just seemed to know so much about me! Doryan Cawyer from Jade Paws comes to visit me quite often to do stretching, massage, and reiki. I get really excited to see her and always feel so wonderful during and after our sessions. I had a fantastic Christmas with another foster mom—Pam Davis! She was so kind to me while Amy was away. She got me my own stocking and let me play with her Alvin and Bubba. I loved hanging with them!

In the water treadmill at Veterinary Acupuncture and Wellness.
Getting Laser at Veterinary Acupuncture and Wellness

So many people have sent me toys and treats and belly bands and my friend Becky even bought me a cozy bed. I also have my own stylist—Custom Dog Bed Creations by Holly! She makes all my sexy collars. Salty Paws Healthy Pet Market has been SO GENEROUS to sponsor my food and CBD oil. They gave my foster mom a ton of samples so that I could pick what I liked.

There are just too many people to thank—but most importantly, I’d like to thank Dr. Tim Holloway and Dr. Tom McNicholas and all the staff at First Coast Veterinary Emergency for sparing my life. That’s not what normally happens in those situations.

Life can be kind of scary sometimes, since I don’t have a rescue backing me. I have my tribe, though, and they really take care of me! Now all I need is my own new family. Someone who believes in me and will let me cuddle with them whenever I want and will love me forever.

Thank you for letting me tell my story! I’m not giving up. There’s too much sweetness in life left to discover and too many wonderful people I need to meet! Walk on, my friends.

Much love & many little hand licks,


Every day Blue’s foster mama talks to him about his real family and how they are going to be so happy to have him.

“Will anyone want me as I am?” He always asks. Yes, Blue! You are loved by many people already for your heart and your amazing spirit and your funny personality … and your real family will fall in love with every single part of you. Whether you walk or don’t walk.
“Well, I am going to walk,” he always says.
Yes! We know you are Blue. We’re all rooting for you.
“Thanks mama. I’m sorry I pooped on the rug.” I know you are, Blue. It’s ok.
“So … where is my family? Why don’t they come for me?”
Blue, they haven’t seen your amazing face yet. Sometimes the stars need to align in a perfect pattern and then Love happens.
“Well (puppysigh) I’ve been waiting a long time … how about some treats to make me feel better?”

Blue would love a family that wants to help him go through rehab. He’s hoping they have lots of love and laughter in their home. He’d love another dog, but would also be happy having all the attention. Blue requests lots of outside time and walks in his cart. He also asked us to put in here that he’d love someone who is liberal in dolling out treats and someone who likes to CUDDLE.

For more info, please private message the Blue’s Miracle Facebook page.

The Truth About the Christmas Puppy

by Karen Camerlengo

So you have the romantic vision of a puppy under the Christmas tree, and the shiny happy kids in awe of your magical gift, huh? Stop, drop, and roll. Now get up and look me in the eyes. Please don’t do it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have given a dog as a Christmas present to my children. This makes me a complete hypocrite in writing an article about why you should not give a puppy as a Christmas present. Yet here I am.

Every January, two things happen without fail. One, people go to they gym for the first three days and, two, Craigslist, shelters, and rescues will be inundated with unwanted “Christmas presents.” These puppies will absolutely crush an already saturated system.

I’m seriously not trying to be bah-humbuggy here. I’m a parent, too. I want nothing more than to make my children’s eyes light up and dreams come true on Christmas morning. Christmas is magical and there’s nothing like making that magic happen. But! There is another side of being a parent and that involves teaching kids about responsibility and common sense.

Puppies are super cute, but they can also be horribly unpleasant if you’re not prepared. They need a lot of attention, they pee and poop everywhere, eat stuff, and whine. You can’t just stick them back in the box and carry on with your Christmas plans. They make the normal life of a parent who is already on the go all the time nearly impossible. You can’t always arrange school pickup, soccer, dance, and birthday parties around a puppy’s needy schedule.

In addition to the general time-consuming nature of puppies, far too many people elect to buy a puppy from a pet store, a flea market, off an ad, or from someone whose dog had a litter. So now your impulse Christmas present is not only annoying, but you have one with a good chance of having some significant health problems. Nothing crushes holiday magic like a puppy with parvo (which has been happening from certain pet stores in our area recently).

So what to do when your little one has a puppy on his list? First, the adults need to have a discussion about the realities of life with a dog—truly research what this means for your family. While you may tell Sammy the dog will be his responsibility, the adults also have to know he is going to fail at this at times, and it will not be a reason to get rid of the dog (or Sammy). You are the adult, just go ahead and assume this responsibility.

You can still make magic happen…
Once the adults in the home have decided that they can live life with a puppy, go ahead and get your child a toy or a collar for Christmas with a note that this is for his new dog! Include a certificate or note telling him a dog will be adopted after the holidays. I can nearly guarantee there will be a HUGE smile and squeals, just the same. Let your child know that holidays are very dangerous times for a puppy to be in the home and it will be best for him to arrive after the decorations are away and the craziness is over. Then get to work together!

Perhaps you’ve already eyeballed some puppies (or older dogs that may already be trained) on rescue sites and have been talking to the fosters or rescues. Arrange time for the family to meet the dogs. Research together. Make a decision and lifetime commitment together. At the end of the day, you will have given your child not only a furry friend for Christmas, but a valuable lesson in research and responsibility. This puppy or dog will be with you until he is old and gray and needs a little help walking. The moment you bring him home, he is family. You can teach your child that, too!

One final note—the Christmas “puppy” given to my kids was actually a two-and-a-half-year-old stray who had been our foster for six months—we were keeping her. My girls screamed and cried and were just as excited than if we had given them 100 puppies. Sometimes when kids say puppy, all they really want is a dog. Think about that, too!

Sure, there’ve been successful “puppies under the tree” moments that have turned into life-long amazing family moments. The problem is that the numbers that have gone horribly wrong far overshadow the happy stories. If you’re thoughtful with this decision and prepare, you can save a lot of heartache and make the magic last an entire lifetime. •

Karen Camerlengo is an animal advocate and raiser of many dogs, a few humans, and Jasper the bird. Karen lives in Jacksonville, Fla.

Then Came Scarlet

I first met Pat Delaney at her vet’s office as we were distributing an issue of Unleash Jacksonville. “My dog, Scarlet was in that magazine,” she proudly told us.“Well, before she was MY dog!” And then Pat went on to explain how this skinny, scared, almost-euthanized mama Pit bull came into her life, and the story is absolutely fantastic. We just had to share.

See Scarlet’s previous story in the UNFORGETTABLE issue:

If you were the judging-by-the-book-by-its-cover type (which you’re obviously not) you’d never in a million years see Pat Delaney as a woman who’d have a passion for the vilified Pit bull breed. But, joke’s on you! Pat has been rescuing female pit bull puppies for the past 35 years, and she has nothing but brilliant things to say about them. Her husband was a Navy pilot and deployed many times, “I needed to feel safe in my home with three little girls. Our first was Maggi, a black and white Pit bull puppy, who we rescued at 5 weeks old. She moved many times with us and was even the Commanding Officer’s dog at NAS Jacksonville for a time! She brought us such joy for 11 years. We went on to rescue Darcy, a black fawn Pit Bull, who was with us for 12 years, and then Lily, a chocolate-and-white Pit bull. Lily brought our family years of cheerful and devoted companionship. After losing my husband of 46 years to lung cancer two years ago, then last November, my Lily passed away from liver cancer, I was shattered. I was done and never wanted to be devastated again. The house was empty. And I didn’t plan on getting another dog.”

Then came Scarlet.

At 6 years old, Scarlet was dumped in a high-kill shelter in Orange County—underweight and pregnant. She was gentle and approachable … until she delivered her babies. Under the stress of being in the shelter, and also being a new mom, she became very protective of her babies. She didn’t want anyone to get near them. Any human mother can probably understand Scarlet’s mind set, but she was labeled as aggressive and placed in isolation. She was given a couple of days “deadline” to secure a rescue or else be euthanized, along with her babies.

Poochie’s Pet Rescue worked hard to make a miracle happen. They scrambled to find a foster for Scarlet and her puppies—and did so within just hours of them being killed. “Scarlet and her puppies were fostered by my daughter Kelly’s new neighbor,” recalls Pat. They were there for several months and Scarlet was able to relax and enjoy being a mom. Kelly fell in love with a sweet dog that needed a second chance after being bred so many times.”

When they were old enough, Scarlet’s puppies went to their forever homes, but no one came for Scarlet.

“Kelly begged me to take her for a few days. My brain didn’t want another dog, but apparently, my heart did. I took Scarlet on a trial basis and she never left. I really didn’t comprehend how much I needed her, or how much she needed me.”

If you’ve ever been curious what pure and unconditional love looks like, I’d invite you to spend some time with Scarlet and Pat. During our photoshoot for this story, the thing that stood out most was the beautiful bond these two amazing ladies share. They do everything together. “Scarlet is now my constant companion. She’ll get to be the puppy for the rest of her life instead of having puppies. All she has to do now is eat and play and be loved. Scarlet is so happy all the time, from her morning walk, to sleeping on the couch to exploring her half-acre yard through her own door. She brings me so much joy and makes me smile continuously.”

It’s clear that’s all Scarlet wants for Pat as well, after the losses she’s endured. Scarlet is filling up Pat’s formerly empty house with her huge smile and her open heart.

As a long-time Pit bull advocate, Pat would like people to know several things about the breed in general. “Pit bulls are so special! They bring such amazing love and companionship. They’re very loyal, powerful, and devoted. They are majestic animals that display their strength and grace with their every move. Pit bulls are incredibly intelligent, sensitive, and aware of their surroundings. They bond and are protective of their family.”

The smile on her adorable face says it all, Scarlet is safe and she is home—she has truly found her angel. But, according to Pat, “I didn’t rescue her—she rescued me.”