Tag Archives: Adoption

Oliver on Day One

The Miracle of Rescue Dog Love

by Joya DiStefano

“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs? ~ Mary Oliver

The day was like most days, full of compelling things, distractions, and obligations, when a message came in the way they do nowadays, with the force of an urgent need. It was a Facebook message on a Saturday. Can someone please help? People had moved and left a puppy… Sometimes it is just the right time to do a good thing, and so an everyday woman left the demands of her day and responded to the call.

The small black and red creature felt like a newborn fawn in her arms as she lifted him out of the mud. He was leggier than he’d first appeared sitting hunched and boney, trying desperately to disappear into his own emaciated frame. A black harness, open at the girth, secured the pup to a fence. Once unfastened, the pup was free of the fence, but the harness strap had grown into the puppy’s flesh under his foreleg with the foul smell of infection – evidence that the harness would have to be cut off.   She placed him carefully on a blanket on the passenger seat of her truck and he watched her the entire time she drove. She glanced over often. She spoke with quiet reassurance. He lay on his side, head against the door, and watched. She named him Oliver.

Oliver on Day One

Oliver in the beginning

In the beginning, Oliver had a large elevated dog bed filled with soft clean quilts. In the beginning, Oliver did not need to move much more than his head each time small nutritious meals were placed beside him. She made a video when he first wagged the end of his tail. Then the pup moved to drink and to use the newspapers at the end of his pen, and she began to leave his food next to the water bowl. In the beginning, it was as if the miracles of food, water, safety and comfort were apparitions to a small creature for whom survival had been a questionable blessing.

OliverTwenty-four hours later, Oliver had developed enough confidence in the abundance that surrounded him to choose his own human, and a surprising choice it was. He did not choose the bearer of food and water, the one who ministered to his wound and maintained the cleanliness of his space. He was not concerned when she left his sight, nor did he delight in her presence. He did not cry if she moved through a door without him, nor did he sit and stare at the door until she returned. He chose the man, her husband, the one who had let him curl under his desk for a couple of hours that Sunday, with the sporting noise on the TV and the reassuring smell of a man’s feet. When the man napped, Oliver napped on his chest; when the man moved, Oliver followed as far as the man would allow. And Oliver quickly learned that when they went through the front door together, he made his man very happy if he peed and pooped.
A few days later, Oliver’s wound from the ingrown harness was surgically repaired, and for nearly two weeks he pranced around behind his man with the e-collar wagging – a bell with a tiny hound-faced clapper. His joy in life was not to be diminished by such an innocuous contraption, not after what he had been through.


“Because of a dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased,” says poet Mary Oliver in the opening quote. But the joy of a dog that started his life in the mud, without enough food or clean water, as its small malnourished body sustained every known southern parasite; the joy of a dog as it experiences the abundance of safety, sustenance and love; hikes, toys, rides and companions; the sights and sounds of family, is a joy that only rescue can offer. It is the joy of gratitude, the awareness of miracles. Living with that depth of joy is to be wrapped in the loving embrace of Creation.

Oliver and his new friend Sasha

On Saturday, February 20, PAWS will sponsor Bully 4 You & Other PAWS Too first adoption event at Tractor Supply on Whiskey Road in Aiken from 10 am to 2 pm. Bully 4 You will be joined by fostered adoptables from Molly’s Militia. Each of the dogs available for adoption has its own story, many much like Oliver’s. These rescue programs are proud to offer these special dogs with no additional charge for the depth of the joy they will bring a deserving family. Seeing is believing. Please plan to stop by. Maybe you have a role to play in their future. Buy a hat or shirt. Consider making a contribution to the worthy efforts that may one day offer you or someone you know that perfect dog. (Click here to see some of the adoptable dogs that will be on hand.)

In so doing, we spread the miracle of rescue dog love. There is nothing like it.

As for Oliver, he has charmed his way into the heart and home of a man whose wife always seemed to star in their canine productions, always, that is, until Oliver. The dog that was meant for you will find you, if that dog gets the right help along the way. Try it.

A retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist, Servant Leader, and co-founder of FOTAS and founder of PAWS, Inc.

PAWS Leaps into the Adoption Business with a Pibble Grin!


By Joya J. DiStefano

PAWS never ever intended to enter the adoption arena. When we formed our group, two very attractive new animal shelters had just opened in the City and the County, and Aiken appeared to be headed for membership in in the “Save Them All” movement sweeping the country. Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc. was organized in the spring of 2014 with a “root cause” focus on the problem of shelter over-crowding and high kill rate. PAWS would keep animals out of shelters through litter prevention and pet retention, and get animals at risk out of shelters by supporting existing rescue efforts.

Good plan, except for the one major obstacle: no one wanted to deal with the “pit bulls.” Transfer programs to Northern states would not transfer them. Fosters would not, or could not, foster them. Those that made it to the adoption floor often languished there. And so these dogs came into the shelters and most died there.

That was before Robin Mitchell and Toni King Smith joined PAWS.


Glacier, passed over because he of his breed type.

For Robin, it began with trying to save Glacier. She went to the County Shelter last May to rescue him from imminent death and was told that she was too late. He was “in the back.” She had no access. No! Unacceptable, she thought. Robin had lobbied strenuously for a week to save this lovely eight-month-old, blue-eyed, heartworm positive “bully” dog that found her while she’d been on another mission. His looks had given him his death sentence. No one wants a bully dog, so why spend $700 to save one? The shelters are chock full of bully breeds, and in the south they have 1:2 chance of having heartworm. Robin managed to locate Glacier, already caged in the room with the county vet, waiting his turn to die. She got him out and ended up keeping him. Today, he wears a special vest to indicate that he is a therapy dog in training.


Sophie: heartworm positive, pregnant and doomed!

Summers are slow and the demand is low for any dog in need of a home. In September, PAWS got an urgent Facebook plea to save a dog called Sofie: black, very pregnant, and heartworm positive. She, too, was doomed. The local program that saves heartworm positive dogs does not handle puppies, and black dogs are hard to place. But Toni had just come to PAWS, and Toni loved to raise puppies. The miracle of Toni offered another unlikely rescue a chance – lucky Sofie and her nine puppies born the day before she was pulled!

Sweetie Pie pushed PAWS into the adoption business.

Sweetie Pie pushed PAWS into the adoption business.

Then came Sweetie Pie, who was wrapped in an inmate’s arms as Robin entered the shelter one day in late September. The man in prisoner’s garb began to plead as soon as he saw Robin. Please help save this one! Please! The pup’s gentle gaze looked out from under over-sized ears folded across the top of her head. Sweetie Pie has the distinction of being the dog that pushed Palmetto Animal Welfare Services officially into the adoption business. If none of the other organizations were ready to rescue, rehabilitate and find homes for pitbulls, PAWS would fill that gap. It was a big step . . would we be able to find homes for the dogs we saved? The answer was a resounding yes. In the very first month they operated the program, Robin and Toni placed 20 dogs in vetted and approved forever homes. Twenty.

How do we save the unlikeliest dogs from an unnecessary and untimely death in our public shelters? By placing them in good homes. How do we do it again and again? The answer begins with people like Robin Mitchell and Toni King Smith, two determined, dedicated and knowledgeable women with a passion for rescue, especially for saving those dogs that need them the most. PAWS named the new program Bully 4 You (& other PAWS too!). The Bully 4 You program has stepped up to help move “America’s dog” back into the mainstream for dog-loving, dog-desiring households.

Robin Mitchell at HIC Warehouse Skateshop.

Robin with Glacier and Victoria at the HIC Warehouse Skateshop in downtown Aiken.

Why do we say, “America’s dog?” If you are a “baby-boomer,” you might recall Petey from the Little Rascals, or the RCA Victor dog, or “Buster Brown” shoes – all bully dogs.  Yet recently, much of our nation has jumped on the band wagon to vilify and discriminate against “pit bulls,” as a “breed,” one that is unpredictably aggressive and a dangerous liability. Legislation abounds that prevents these bully dogs from being shipped into some states. Locally, there are rules proscribing pit bull ownership for some households. There is no statistical evidence that “bully breeds:” bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, boxers, bulldogs, or any combination that produces the sleek, blocky-body-and-head-look known as “pits,” are any more aggressive, or even as aggressive as breeds such as German Shepherds, Dobermans or “Rotties.” The new term, “Pibbles,” more accurately connotes their personality: funny, affectionate, loyal, playful and very, very smart.

Robin and Toni are a team, and together they lead the PAWS adoption efforts through Bully 4 You, which was created for pit bulls, but will serve any dog in danger of slipping through the rescue cracks. They identify the lucky dogs for the program and make sure that the dogs get the care and training that will make them healthy and desirable pets. The dogs are spayed or neutered and up to date on all shots and vaccines. Adoptables are posted on a variety of adoption websites all accessible through the www.paws4nokill.org link. Applications are available online. Applicants are interviewed and meet-ups are arranged by the two women. In the first six weeks of the Bully 4 You program, 24 adoptions have been completed and two more are pending. This is a magical beginning – and your support is essential to sustain it. The success of the Bully 4 You program proves that, if we all work together, we CAN save them all. But we need everyone’s support to do it.

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Bully-4-YouHere is the current Bully 4 You “Wish List:” insulated dog houses, collars, leashes, food bowls, crates, and toys. They need money for food, training treats, and to pay for both basic and critical veterinary services. They need foster homes and people who would like to help fund-raise. The program needs people to help staff community events where it can demonstrate to our local communities what it means to have a good healthy loving dog as a family member.

If you want to help Bully 4 You & Other PAWS too, you can go online to www.paws4nokill.org or the “Bully 4 You” Facebook page for all the program information. To contribute you can also mail a check to PAWS, P.O. Box 392, Aiken, SC 29802. Put B4Y in the “For” line. Or donate online here.

Please help. Lives, good lives, depend on it.