Faces of No-Kill: Homeless dog gets storybook ending

Kimchi the dog lying on a couch with Hadley and Gereth, all smiling
After working with trainers to channel her energy and intelligence, Kimchi met the family she was destined to join.
By Christina London

As a child, Hadley Morris’ absolute favorite book was Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett. It tells the story of a young girl and her fluffy dog, Tuffi, who go on an epic snowy adventure. Hadley knew that when she grew up, she would have a dog just like her favorite canine character. Her dream ended up being a storybook ending for a homeless pup named Kimchi.

This story is a part of our Faces of No-Kill series, highlighting the journey of pets who lost their place to call home. These pets are thriving today thanks to an animal shelter that helped them rather than killed them. Best Friends’ goal is for every shelter and every community to reach no-kill in 2025, and this story shows why that’s so important.

Kimchi’s prologue

Kimchi’s tale begins when she came to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Los Angeles from a local animal shelter. The adolescent pup was rambunctious, jumpy, and a bit mouthy. (It makes sense. Her whole world had been turned upside down.) For Kimchi to become her best self, she just needed a little time and training.

When Kimchi was transferred to the center, Best Friends National Training and Behavior Coordinator Amanda Farah understood her behaviors right away. “It was clear from the start that she was a really smart, really fun dog who just needed the right home,” says Amanda.

Kimchi was put on a tailored enrichment plan where this energetic and intelligent dog could stimulate both her body and mind. Kimchi’s favorite thing was playing fetch, so her trainers used play therapy to help her learn impulse control. They wouldn’t throw the tennis ball until she waited patiently, teaching her not to jump or nip to get the things she wanted. Kimchi didn’t appear to have any experience walking on a leash — an essential skill for a city dog — so they worked on that, too. The whole Best Friends team was invested in her progress and cheering her on.

[Channeling a dog’s boundless energy into a new home]

Still, Kimchi was stressed — sometimes too stressed even to take treats. “Often, the kennel environment is so overwhelming for them that we don't see the dog for who they really are,” says Amanda.

Amanda wanted Kimchi to experience life outside the center and spend time with people. So the foster team arranged for her to be part of the Adventure Buddies program, where volunteers take pups out for a full day of fun.

Kimchi had a blast on her adventure day. She went to Home Depot and back to the volunteer’s home to chill out. She could finally fully relax. She may have appeared unruly on the outside, but she was sweet and gentle on the inside — proving you can’t judge a book by its cover.

A new chapter begins

When Hadley and her husband, Gareth, were ready to adopt a dog, a friend referred them to Best Friends. They went to check out the pet adoption center, and there was Kimchi.

“I definitely knew that she was going to be great from when we first saw her,” says Hadley. With a fluffy coat and pointy ears, Kimchi even reminded her of the dog in her beloved childhood book.

Kimchi hadn’t had many meet and greets, so Amanda was secretly bursting with excitement when the couple asked to meet her. The interaction went great, and Hadley and Gareth asked whether they could take her home. Amanda counseled them on challenges they might encounter, but everyone was on the same page: The couple had realistic expectations and understood there would be an adjustment period.

“I grew up with Australian shepherds and border collies, so I feel like I had a pretty good understanding of what it’s like to have a really smart, high-energy dog,” says Hadley. “Her behaviors are understandable for a young working dog to have.”

Welcome home, Kimchi

It started out as a foster arrangement, but in just a few days, it was clear that Kimchi was home for good. “I started to really fall in love with her, and I couldn’t imagine not having her around,” says Hadley.

The couple formally adopted Kimchi, and she became an official member of the family, which includes a cat named Taika. (Those two are still working on building trust with one another.)

Kimchi continued to work on the skills she had started learning with Best Friends, such as practicing patience. She gets so excited when Hadley comes home from work and just wants to jump all over her, but she has to sit nicely before Hadley greets her.

[High-energy dog meets his match]

Hadley describes Kimchi as a good girl who’s eager to please and likes to use her brain, especially by doing dog puzzles. The shepherd mix also likes having a job and takes looking after her humans very seriously. While she’s still wild about playtime, she is able to use her crate as a place to decompress. The couple discovered that Kimchi craves affection and always wants to be the center of attention.

Overall, her transition into the family was pretty seamless. “After a couple weeks, I think she started to understand that we were always going to be there,” says Hadley. Kimchi finally had a place where she belonged.

Homeless pup lives happily ever after

In a way, Kimchi’s story is just beginning. Today, Hadley, Gareth, and Kimchi — now named Tuffi, of course — go on their own snowy adventures, just like the characters in the book. (Only this time, they’re cross-country skiing in Mammoth instead of evading pesky trolls.)

She enjoys going to the beach and visiting the dog park, which is great because there are three within walking distance of her Santa Monica home. She’s doing well on walks and loves everyone she meets — except for squirrels. Also, she’s confused about the concept of running for fun. (She seems to be asking her humans, “Why exactly are we doing this?”) Still, life today is completely different from when she first arrived at the shelter.

“I would say she's really become accustomed to her new lifestyle,” says Hadley.

Kimchi now has the life and love that every pet deserves.

“It's one of the most amazing things about what I get to do, which is work with dogs who have challenging behaviors and see them go on to succeed in a home,” says Amanda. “It’s everything.”

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

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You can help end the killing in shelters and save the lives of homeless pets when you foster, adopt, and advocate for the dogs and cats who need it most.

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