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
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.