Take it away, Lesley…
“Some would say it is no surprise that my life revolves around saving dogs. After all, I grew up with a vet as a dad and was never without one from the day I was born. It wasn’t until Dunkin, my little white piglet Pit Bull puppy, came into my life that things would drastically change. I went from having a carefree single girl life in NYC to an overprotective mom of Dunkin who was happier being active and spending time with my dog than with some humans! I sadly learned after spending so much time with Dunkin that people despised my dog solely based on his look and/or breed. As a woman who has always wanted to make the world right, my passion began for the rights of Pit Bulls and ridding them of the horrible, unfair stereotypes. I would bring Dunkin around children and dog parks, anywhere I could show off that his favorite pastime was licking everyone he met and the only dangerous thing about him was getting hit by his happy wagging tail. I was working as a pharmaceutical sales representative, which was a flexible and great paying position. However, when I decided to move to California and Dunkin was 5 years old, I started volunteering for rescue organizations that led me into LA city and county shelters. I was completely blown away to learn that many of these dogs I was passing with smiling faces and wagging tails in their hard concrete cages would be killed in days due to lack of space. Of course my favorites (the pits) were more than half of these dogs and despite age, temperament and health, were the first to go. That being said, the overcrowding problem was leading to every breed of every age being killed for space. Pure bred (25% of dogs in shelters), litters of puppies, golden retrievers…you name it. The more I learned that there was a serious crisis for these helpless, devoted, loving, forgiving dogs, I could no longer sit idly by.
Dunkin snuggled up and ready to continue reading this blog (smart pup)!
After 10 years of working the corporate world, I would head to my first “rescue trip” of my own. It was on Facebook where I learned there was a giant tan mastiff named Hooch about to be killed at the Downey shelter. The thread went on for miles and each person either said “someone save him” or “prayers”. I knew I had to be the one that actually took action to help this sweet boy and what a perfect sweet boy he was. He frolicked in the play yard at the shelter and even knew tricks like roll over and give paw. Through the Facebook story a wonderful man named Rick who was a truck driver fell madly in love with Hooch and his story. He drove from far and wide to meet Hooch and Hooch hopped into his truck as if he had belonged there all along. That experience brought me so much joy and fulfillment that it was that day in August 2011 that I began filling out the papers for my 501 C3 and putting up my very own Facebook page called Wags and Walks. At that stage everything ran out of my garage and backyard (much to my family’s dismay). From August through January I had saved 20 dogs with 2 volunteers and placed them in their loving forever homes. In this time I learned how to fundraise and realized how expensive this passion project of mine was going to be.
Hooch with Lesley after first being rescued!
Hooch happily in his new ride and off to his forever home
I remember saving a dog and going to the pet store to buy them one collar, one leash, and one name tag. One day in early 2012 it dawned on me that I better start looking into bulk ordering if I was going to continue! From that moment on I have met some of the most kind-hearted, generous, amazing, special, unique, selfless people I have ever met in my life. People willing to volunteer their time on their days off to help with everything from transporting a dog(s) from shelters to vets, assisting with fostering, donating food, collars, leashes, helping fund vet bills, sharing and networking our dogs up for adoption, partnering to help bring awareness to their great business while promoting our amazing dogs for adoption from the shelter. As the number of our dog loving community grew, so did the number of dogs we could save. In fact, we saved 650 dogs in need in 2015 and have hundreds of amazing volunteers. We even have our own office and a staff to handle the abundance of applications, inquiries, shelter trips, vet visits, administration work, foster coordination, adoption event coordination, fundraising, partnerships etc.
Some of our wonderful and quickly growing team of volunteers
People always ask how we manage to grow so quickly and save as many dogs as we do. I don’t believe there is one answer, but what I do know is that we have our eye focused on the goal; no dog should have to suffer due to lack of education & empathy. We are growing a consciousness through our undeniable passion that we display on our social media channels, partnerships with both dog related and non-dog related businesses and organizations, and we support each other like a family. We have great respect for others who are doing this hard work and understand there is not a right or wrong way to do this. We love dogs and we want to see them safe. We also love people and the joy that these dogs bring to our lives from our volunteers to their forever homes. That’s why in 2016 we decided our new tagline would be “Bringing Happiness Home” because by the look on everyone’s faces - dogs and humans alike - it is obvious…we are making a difference and are not intending on slowing down any time soon.”
I hope that you will continue to read our blog and follow us on social media to get updates on our new adoptables and amazing success stories. Please follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat (username: wagsandwalks). Also, don’t forget to sign up for our e-mail newsletter, and check our website for available dogs. Who doesn’t love cute animal updates?