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Published in Long Beach Magazine March 2008

Written by Josie Gavieres

 

Who would guess that an advertisement would lead to laughter, tears, and joy while volunteering with animals?

 

About ten years ago, my son Chris saw an ad about raising puppies to become Guide Dogs. We took the puppies to stores and restaurants and taught them to be well behaved. My son loved taking his "chick-magnet" to high school classes. We laughed at each dog's funny antics and cried as each one left for training.

 

Raising the pups led me to transporting animals from shelters to foster or permanent homes - anywhere from Arizona to Seattle. On one occasion, I picked up an emaciated shar-pei at the Long Beach shelter and took her to Santa Clarita where another person took her on to Northern California. She was scared and I couldn't bear to put her in a crate so she sat on the passenger seat. As I put the car in gear, she placed her paw on my hand. I tried to pet her as much as I could while driving. I reluctantly handed her over to the next transporter who, thinking I had fostered the dog, said, "Oh, you've gotten attached - how long have you had her?" Through my tears, I had to admit, "About an hour and a half". Usually I have multiple dogs in crates in a cargo van. I sometimes wonder what people in rest stops think as they see me unload a Lab mix, a Pit Bull, two Shar-Pei, and three Chesapeake Bay Retrievers by myself!

 

During the San Bernardino Fires in 2003, I joined Noah's Wish in sheltering over 1,000 evacuated animals. With the San Diego Firestorm, we took care of dogs, cats, bunnies, birds, llamas, snakes, and horses. Sixteen-hour days and sleeping in your car is not fun, but there is nothing like calming a stressed animal or reuniting a family with their pet, especially when they've lost their entire home.

 

When our sixth puppy, Groucho, did not complete the formal training program at Guide Dogs for the Blind, he was returned to me. I decided his calm temperament and happy nature would make a great therapy dog.

 

This September, Groucho and I started BARK (Beach Animals Reading with Kids) where volunteers and their dogs "listen" to children read out loud. We began at Bryant Elementary and now have three schools waiting for us. Sometimes the dogs fall asleep and we tell the children the dog listens better with his eyes closed!

 

Years ago I had wanted to be a 1st grade teacher and now, because of an ad ten years ago, I found out I was an animal person too. With BARK, I am able to combine my love of animals with helping children learn the joy of reading.

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