A dog at home wherever she roams
Matthew and Heather Rocha began fostering with Best Friends in Salt Lake City during the pandemic after their jobs as electricians on Frozen’s national tour were put on hold. As foster volunteers, they welcomed both cats and dogs into their home; cared for animals with special needs, whether medical or behavioral; and only had two house rules: First was a firm “no dogs on the bed” policy that went into effect every night at bedtime. The second rule was that they could not, under any circumstances, adopt the pet they were fostering.
Then came Dandelion, a copper-colored terrier mix who inspired Matthew and Heather to break their own rules and decide they couldn’t let her go. Since then, Dandelion has taken in the sights from San Francisco to New Orleans and everywhere in between. And just like her namesake, she thrives wherever she’s planted.
From belly blues to bedtime cuddles
Dandelion has come a long way since the day she arrived at Best Friends in Salt Lake City with infections in both of her ears and a severe case of gastroenteritis. “She was in rough shape,” says Danielle Barnhart, Best Friends senior manager of lifesaving programs and Dandelion superfan. “But despite how she felt she was always sweet to everyone she met.”
Veterinary care helped Dandelion feel better, as did time in a few foster homes where she was able to rest and heal. By the time she went to stay with Matthew and Heather, she was finally on the mend health-wise, and her gentle but playful personality was starting to shine. Matthew and Heather figured they’d foster Dandelion until she got adopted. In the meantime, they savored every moment with her.
Then one night, right before bedtime, Dandelion rested her chin on the edge of their bed, politely asking for an invitation to cuddle, and they couldn’t resist. Rule No. 1 was broken. Rule No. 2 came next because that’s the moment they knew Dandelion was already home.
After Matthew and Heather adopted Dandelion, they fostered more dogs. In fact, Dandelion proved to be a wonderful ambassador who helped a shy dog named Bud gain confidence and ultimately a new family.
The most interesting dog in the world
Once theaters began to reopen, Matthew and Heather joined the national tour of Frozen again. Their decision to adopt Dandelion was predicated on the idea that she would go on tour with them. “We were thoughtful about how to make it work,” says Matthew. Among the cast and crew, there are about 10 dogs who travel with the production. The tour managers are great at finding pet-friendly housing, says Matthew.
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Since her adoption, Dandelion has been all over the country from coast to coast. She’s worn beads at Mardi Gras given to her by the Krewe of Barkus and posed before a waterfall in Greenville, South Carolina. She’s sat amid an elaborate holiday display at Christmastime in San Francisco and enjoyed walking through an apple orchard outside of Pittsburgh. She’s even visited the Guardians baseball stadium in Cleveland.
In fact, Dandelion has seen more of the country than many people have, given the tour’s itinerary. Next up for Dandelion and the tour are Costa Mesa, California; Tempe, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Minneapolis appeared to be one of Dandelion’s favorite cities thanks to an expansive dog park where she could run freely. Matthew says she prefers green spaces to concrete but has adapted to go anywhere Matthew and Heather are. Her best friend on tour is a dog named Baloo, whose person plays Sven the reindeer in the musical. Their “rough-and-tumble” play style helps both dogs burn off some energy.
Matthew noted that taking a 60-pound dog on a national tour wouldn’t be possible without the support of other crew and cast members. As electricians, Matthew and Heather have to be on site first in a new city, so they often fly rather than drive from destination to destination.
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Flying isn’t an option for Dandelion, but there’s another couple in the tour who prefer driving, so they drive the Rochas’ car and Dandelion from city to city when the Rochas fly. When Matthew and Heather have to put long days in on the tour — particularly when there are two shows in a day — someone else from the company will walk Dandelion and spend time with her. The only thing that’s been a challenge, Matthew says, is finding a veterinarian willing to take in a one-time patient.
“It’s absolutely fantastic having a pet with us,” says Matthew. After a long day of work, he says there’s nothing better than “having someone looking forward to you showing up.”
Dandelion is a special kind of “pandemic puppy” since she was adopted during that time but also represents how the workplace — including the traveling workplace — has grown to allow more flexible environments that prioritize families and their pets. Love has been an open door for Dandelion — one filled with travel, adventure, and never being too far away from her family.
Ready for little adventure and a lot of love?
Whether you’re looking for a travel buddy, a couch companion or a pet who’s a little bit of both, you’ll find them all at your local shelter.
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