Fourth of July feel-good story with a lesson


About two years ago, Dodger, a handsome pit-bull-type dog, escaped through an open gate at his Los Angeles home, along with his doggie companion Gigi. Despite posting signs and looking for two months, the family never found their beloved pets.

Dodger was pulled from a Los Angeles Animal Services shelter shortly thereafter and came into Best Friends’ care at our Mission Hills pet adoption center. Despite his loving demeanor, he was never chosen for adoption and remained with us, becoming a staff favorite.

Fast forward to July 2018: Leading up to the Fourth of July, the Best Friends in Los Angeles team sponsored an adoption promotion that culminated with an appearance on the local Fox News channel that featured Best Friends volunteers and some of the dogs available for adoption. As fate would have it, Dodger’s mom flipped on her TV to FOX-11 and there was her dog, Dodger, now called Butler, up for adoption.

Dodger’s reunion with mom and kids was joyful and made for a very happy holiday and a great feel-good story, but this is one of those happy endings that goes into the books with an asterisk. Sadly, Dodger’s companion, Gigi, did not make it back home to her family and while it is likely that she was also pulled from the shelter, we just don’t know what became of her. We hope that she is living happily with a family who adopted her.

While it is obvious that mom and kids love their dogs and equally obvious that Dodger loves them in return, this is a story that never had to happen if Dodger and Gigi had been microchipped.

It’s easy from where we sit to disapprove of Dodger’s mom for not taking appropriate steps to protect her pets and for not visiting the nearest city shelter after the dogs escaped the yard, but lack of basic information about microchipping and even the presence of a local animal shelter is not uncommon. And it’s certainly not confined to urban centers such as Los Angeles. Trust me, the same information gap exists in rural Utah and elsewhere, until it is filled by a knowledgeable friend or proactively pushed by animal services or an animal organization.

I am delighted that Dodger made it home safely to the people who love him, and that he is now microchipped and looking healthy and happy. However, this situation highlights some of the foundational work that we, as a movement, need to do to ensure that the gains of the no-kill 2025 campaign are sustained into the future.

A big part of Best Friends’ no-kill 2025 planning is rethinking how the work of municipal animal care gets done at the community level. We envision old-school shelters being replaced with resource centers, and taxpayer money being spent on community outreach, education and support of people with pets, rather than catching and incarcerating unfortunate pets.

There’s a lot to do, but together we will Save Them All.


Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society