Faces of No-Kill: Pup trades farm life for city lights

Gilda the dog on a couch
Gilda, a dog with a heart of gold, finds her spot on the couch with her new family.
By Christina London

Gilda was destined for Hollywood. She’s named after Gilda Radner, her caregivers’ favorite comedian, and as a nod to her golden coat. Yes, this blond California girl was meant to be under the palm trees and in the sunshine. But like many Hollywood success stories, it was a long, winding road to get there.

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.

A star is born

Gilda and her six littermates came to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, from an overcrowded shelter. The puppies were about 7 weeks old and in rough shape. They were covered in itchy skin mites and tested positive for parvo, a highly contagious virus that causes severe GI issues and can be deadly. Gilda was so weak that the vet staff had to feed her by hand. Thankfully, this little fighter pulled through. Once strong and healthy, Gilda received her spay surgery and was adopted by a family who lived on a farm.

Pets can thrive in all kinds of environments, but the farm was not the place for Gilda. She was spending most of her time outdoors, but she felt more at home on the couch than on the range. So the family made the decision to bring Gilda back.

L.A. or bust

Soon after, Gilda traveled to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Los Angeles to meet more potential adopters. She became an instant celebrity with the staff. Everyone was impressed by her manners and how nicely she walked on a leash. But her adjustment to L.A. wasn’t all a walk in the park. The bustling city was much different from the farm she remembered. So Gilda went to a foster home where she could take a breather from all the recent changes in her life. After some initial shyness, she started to warm up to being in a home with her foster volunteer. She was still anxious and startled by loud noises, but she was finally able to relax and show her true, lovable personality.

[Faces of No-Kill: Baby Girl in Brownsville, Texas]

A few weeks after Gilda returned from foster care, David Gabriel and his girlfriend, Tika Peterson, visited the pet adoption center. One look at Gilda and they were starstruck.

“We asked to meet Gilda, and she came right up to me and started nuzzling — which we now know is a very rare thing for her to do upon first meeting someone,” says David. “It was love at first meeting!”

Guiding Gilda

Although Gilda was going to a loving home, it was still a transition. Those first few weeks as a family were tough.

“The biggest challenges were Gilda's separation and stranger anxiety, which made it somewhat difficult to have people over or go out,” says David. “She also wasn't used to city life, so she was very fearful of things like garbage trucks and boxes on the side of the street.”

David and Tika knew they had to be patient and understood it could take months for Gilda to be fully settled. They also found a dog trainer who helped them build a calm and trusting relationship.

“It's a long process that is often nonlinear, and it requires calm consistency, even in stressful moments,” says David.

[Faces of No-Kill: Saving a dog with a sensitive soul]

The hard work David and Tika did to better understand Gilda paid off. The experience strengthened their bond and brought everyone so much joy. Gilda now has the comfort and confidence to be herself. And just like her namesake, Gilda keeps her caregivers laughing and entertained.

“She's completely uncoordinated, which is hilarious. She’s not the kind of dog that can catch anything,” says David. “At home, she is a perfect couch potato, choosing most of the time to be on the couch with us or in her crate.”

Today, Gilda has overcome her separation anxiety and is getting much better at meeting new people. She enjoys digging holes (a throwback to her farm days), hiking Mandeville Canyon, and, most of all, relaxing on the couch. She is the star of Tika and David’s life, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

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.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

You can help save homeless pets

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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Together, we're creating compassionate no-kill communities nationwide for pets and the people who care for them.

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