Working for a cause

No strangers to hard work, the Orona and Sosa families stay constantly busy with corporate and nonprofit jobs, vigorous school and sports schedules, and volunteer and advocacy work. When it’s time for a vacation, they’d rather work for a cause than lie on a beach. For the second time in the past year, the two families, related by marriage, came to lend a hand (rather, eight pairs of hands) at the Sanctuary.

The two families started with housekeeping tasks in Dogtown. Everyone, including the youngest family members (13-year-old José, 14-year-old Benji, 16-year-old Mireya and 17-year-old Abby), did a spectacular job and fully embraced the experience. “I’m always excited to come here. It is the highlight of the year,” Benji says.

Forming connections

Making new friendsThe best part for Benji is meeting Dogtown residents — including Lester, a big, loving, senior dog who moves slowly these days because of bad hips, and Ogy, a dog with his very own fan club. “Walking the dogs and getting to know them is always awesome,” Benji says.

Benji’s mom, Luisa, cherishes the connection she’s made with Magnolia, a 10-year-old Dogtown resident. “In some ways, we’re alike,” Luisa says. “I think about her a lot.” On her first trip to Dogtown, Luisa walked Magnolia and took her on a sleepover. Although she wishes she could take the sweet dog home with her, Luisa knows the next best thing to a home is the Sanctuary, where every animal is celebrated as an individual.

Creating change

Luisa may not be able to adopt a dog, but to her sister-in-law, Maydy Bran-Orona, who organizes these volunteer trips, she’s an “unsung hero” because of all she’s doing for homeless pets back home in California, including caring for a community cat colony. Maydy says this trip was in part “a token of thank-you for Luisa, as well as a chance to stay at the Sanctuary, breathing in the amazing air and being in the presence of like-minded people.”

Like Luisa, Maydy works tirelessly in her own community to support Best Friends and other rescue organizations in the growing no-kill movement. She works behind the scenes with organizations like LA On Cloud 9, a nonprofit organization that provides meals to homeless people and their animals throughout Los Angeles County. And, when it’s time for Best Friends’ annual Strut Your Mutt event, she and her family gather two- and four-legged friends from their local dog park to participate.

On-the-ground work

Enjoying puppy timeDuring the visit, the families took some time out of their busy volunteer schedule to, literally, get on the ground with a litter of playful pups. As they sat in the grass in Beamer Robb’s Puppy Park (the puppy play area at the Sanctuary), puppies Queen, Quigley and Questa rolled and romped on and around them. Under the warm afternoon sun, they delighted in puppy kisses and big, round puppy bellies before getting back to cleaning. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My husband and I have been celebrating our wedding anniversary and Valentine's Day at the Sanctuary for the past three years,” Maydy says. “I could go to Hawaii instead, but my family and I find it more worthwhile to help out on the ground. Rather than starting my own nonprofit organization, I support the no-kill movement at the Sanctuary, help existing rescue groups, and inspire others to do the same. One of the main purposes of this trip was to instill in my nieces and nephews a passion to join the no-kill movement. This is my gift to them — advocacy.”

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Photos by Molly Wald