Real Happy Dogs » Documentary Dog Photography by Milla C. Photography

korean dog farm rescue

Story of the Week, Part 1:

The first few years of her life, she lived outdoors in an unmarked cage. She didn’t have a name or even a number, and she wasn’t the only one. As far as her big brown eyes could see, there were dogs of all breeds, shapes, sizes, and personalities lined up in rusted metal cages and dilapidated wooden structures. Some lay quietly while others stood and barked; some were alone, and others were crowded together with little room to move. As this scared Japanese Mastiff looked through the bars of the wire crate that had been the only home she’d ever known, she was simply one of hundreds of dogs who had two things in common: they were being raised for meat on Farm 3 in Haemi South Korea, and they were only days away from liberation.

dog meat farm rescue

Story of the week, Part 2:

She cowered in the back of her cage as they walked to the door and looked inside. She had learned from experience that humans were cruel, so she trembled and looked away as one of them opened the latch. However, instead of shouting and force, this time she felt a soft touch and heard them say, “You’re free now, girl…” as they pulled her from the cage. Hands ran down her back and over her ears, and though she trembled in fear at this unfamiliar experience, there was something different about these people. Though she had no way of knowing this at the time, they had just given this strong, beautiful girl a new life that would take her around the world and land her in a place where she would have a name, a family, and a very important purpose.


NOTE: The exact details of this rescue have been inferred based on the facts available and fictionalized to capture the essence of the story.

japanese mastiff tosa


Story of the week, part 3:


In July 2015, the staff of Humane Society International first visited Farm 3 in Haemi, South Korea and urged the farmer to release the dogs into their care.  Knowing that this farm was this family’s livelihood, they came prepared to offer another option: agriculture.  The farmer responded that he hated his job but hadn’t seen another option, so with their help, plans were made to replace dog cages with fields of blueberries and corn that would feed his family as well as the surrounding communities. “We will find homes for the dogs, tear down the cages, and help you start a new life,” they told him.  It was time for the cruelty to stop.  This farm was one of many that was closed as part of a combined effort between the Humane Society International and Change for Animals Foundation, and two months later, they came back to do just as they had promised.


On liberation day at Farm 3, Adam of the HSI and Lola from CFAF were two of those on the ground releasing and naming each of the 103 dogs.  A deep brown Tosa was one of the dogs who moved into freedom, and before she left the farm, she was given the first piece of her freedom, her new name: Katana.  Not only is naming practical for keeping track of 103 dogs who were rescued that day, but most importantly, naming signified that each dog was no longer a commodity but was now a valued member of society and would soon be a beloved family member.


For more information about the release of Farm 3 as well as the other farms liberated by HSI and CFAF, visit the links below:

Liberation of Farm 3: A Short Film 

Out of the Cage, Into Their Arms: Ending South Korea’s Dog Meat Trade (PDF)



Story of the week, part 4: 


When we turn on the news and open social media, it’s easy to wonder if anything positive is happening in the world.  One of my purposes in sharing these stories is to remind us that miracles do happen, that kindness does exist, and that for every one person who is causing harm, there are many more who are doing good.  Enter: Michelle.  When Katara (originally named Katana) and the other dogs from her farm arrived at the SFSPCA, she was shut down.  The SFSPCA has a groundbreaking facility with comfortable rooms and play yards for dogs to relax and recover, but Katara was too fearful to enjoy her new freedom.  Michelle is a volunteer who donates her time to train dogs who are difficult cases, and when she met Katara, she wanted to help.   Almost every day after work and on weekends when Michelle could have been resting, exploring, eating, or playing, she instead devoted her time to helping Katara learn to cope with new experiences so she could have hope of moving into the real world.


Katara’s first few years of life were spent in a cage, and Michelle told me, “It was almost impossible to get her to try new things.  It took a trail of treats and a lot of patience, but she slowly began to adjust, and eventually I was able to take her on her first day date outside of the facility.”  Michelle had a lot of guidance and support from other staff and volunteers a the SFSPCA, and with time they all saw this fearful brown Tosa grow in confidence and personality and knew that she was ready to find her new family.   



Story of the week, part 5:


She was sitting in bed on her laptop, scrolling through the San Francisco SPCA’s adoptable dog list when she first saw Katara’s photo and froze. “I knew she was the one,” she told me.  Kathryn had been working with the SPCA’s pet therapy program taking a dog named Lucy to provide therapy for people who had experienced trauma, but when she came back to her own home, it felt empty.  She wanted to meet Katara as soon as possible, but things kept going wrong.  Kathryn told me, “The first time I visited, the shelter was closed because of a computer crash.  The next time, I learned that someone had already applied to adopt Katara and she was on a hold.  But I still knew that she was my dog and asked if I could meet her.”  Thankfully, Kathryn was right, and after the other potential adopter backed out, she rented a car and set off to pick up her girl.


Try to imagine life through Katara’s eyes as she settled into life in San Francisco.  The first years of her life, all she knew was the inside of a cage in the middle of nowhere, but now, she was surrounded by unfamiliar objects, places, and people.   To get outside, she had to walk up and down stairs, and to go to the bathroom, she had to brave city streets teeming with people and noise.  Her senses were on overload, and her mind was spinning.  According to Kathryn, “she was scared of everything.  She didn’t want to leave the apartment, and no bribe was working to get her to go outside.”  But, Kathryn was patient and gave her time to adjust.  “In the early days, she wouldn’t do anything unless I explicitly told her to. I was thrilled when she started getting in to ‘trouble’ at home because it was a sign that she was starting to be confident enough to have and express needs.”  Two years later, Katara walks the streets confidently and has learned to trust people.  Basically what helped her was to be in a safe, supportive home with a regular routine and lots of people around being nice to her so that she could learn that most people are good people.”  She still has residual issues from her past trauma, but her resilience is amazing.


Story of the week, part 6:


Two years after leaving the farm in South Korea, Katara’s life is different in every way imaginable.  She is a beloved family member who enjoys all that her city has to offer such as ice cream outings, beach romps, and play dates with other rescued farm dogs, but as her mom Kathryn relayed her story, I was deeply touched by how @rescuedogkatara has changed her life on a deeper level.  Kathryn told me, “Katara is my emotional support animal and a trained service dog.  I have a long history of recurring depression that is generally well managed with medication, therapy, self-care, support system, etc. But I do have to be vigilant about it and there are relapses. Katara helps as an emotional support dog by being a comfort but also because I have to get myself out of bed enough times per day to get her out for a walk.  She helps with my daily self-care.  I don’t typically need her as a psychiatric service dog because the conditions are managed in other ways but I’ve trained her in a few specific commands that we practice in case I do need her one day.” I had tears in my eyes imaging the good people who provided emotional support for Katara as she learned to overcome her fears, and then in turn, Katara has the opportunity to provide the same for her mama.  Aren’t dogs AMAZING?



Story of the week, part 7:


Dog meat farms have been under scrutiny with this year’s Olympics being held in South Korea, and incredible steps are being taken by groups such HSI and CAF to close these farms and find loving homes for the dogs.  However, the problem still exists, and it’s easy to think “this is happening so far away… what can we do?”   There are many answers, and I can give you more information about how to foster, adopt, or donate towards the care of these rescued dogs.  However, I can’t share Katara’s story without pleading with you to consider the reality of factory farming here at home.  When Americans hear about the conditions of dogs in meat farms, it’s easy for us to think “we would never…” but every day in the US, people are consuming unprecedented numbers of animals who have been raised and slaughtered in similar or worse conditions.  Farm animals are intelligent, empathetic, thoughtful beings, and most people don’t realize that their many similarities to our beloved dogs.  If Katara’s story has touched you, would you be open to learning more about how you can help?  Wherever you are on the spectrum from meat enthusiast to strict vegan, it is always possible to take a step in the direction of compassion.  If you be interested in learning more, I will post a few of my favorite resources in IG stories.


Check back each day this week to hear more of this incredible rescue and adoption story!


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He held the rusted chain link fence to steady himself as he stood and pulled the phone from his pocket.  He kicked the broken sidewalk while waiting for an answer and then said, “She’s still here.” He shook his head, “It’s locked.  No, not this time… but I have an idea.”  As he hung up his phone and brushed the dust from his jeans, he looked back over his shoulder through the fence.  She hadn’t moved at all, hadn’t even looked in his direction.  He often stopped by this lot on his walks, and it was always the same: she was lying in the dirt with a chain around her neck.  Sometimes her nose was turned up toward the sky, twitching as she took in the smells of the junk yard, but most of the time she simply looked deflated, like a forgotten balloon whose string was caught in a high branch while its life slowly leaked out.  Only, her restraint was a chain, and the depth of her eyes let him know that there was much more to her than what he could see.  As he began to walk away, he quietly said, “Don’t give up, girl. I’ll be back tomorrow.”


He had called animal control many times to report the dog locked in the junk yard, but the response was always the same: “We can’t remove her from the property as long as she has food, water, and some kind of shelter.”

He could feel heat rising in his cheeks,  “Yes I know, but they can’t leave her tied up out there!  It’s freezing at night, and I’ve never seen anyone around.”

“I’m sorry, sir, as of now there is nothing we can do, but please let us know if her circumstances change.”

“What would happen if she got out of the yard? Would you pick her up then?”

“Yes, sir, if she was reported to be running loose, we could move her into our care.”

“That’s all I needed to know. Thank you.”





He put the phone down and sat with his head in his hands, staring at the floor between his feet.  After seeing her again today, listless and alone, he knew what needed to be done and that he couldn’t wait any longer.

What exactly happened that cold night in March we can’t say, but we do know that the next morning, a small brown dog was brought to the ACC near Philadelphia and her paperwork says that she was found loose.  She had a collar partially embedded in her neck and was sick, but she was free.  As the intake worker took this dog into her arms and moved towards the holding area, the same soulful eyes who had spent years looking out from behind a junkyard fence now looked at her new surroundings.  It was the first day of the rest of her life, but for a dog who had only ever known isolation and abuse at the hands of humans, this new place filled her with fear.

After she was brought into the shelter, the little junkyard dog was shut down.  She was fearful and sick, so she was eventually added to the euthanasia list.  But thankfully, as is often the case, there were rescue workers and volunteers who were doing their jobs: watching shelters in search of dogs who were about to lose their second chance.  The word went out and someone at Mighty Mutts responded and came to pick up the small brown dog named “Fernanda.”




Something stirred within Annette when she saw the call for help: a rescued junkyard dog needed a foster home.  However, she initially hesitated, wondering if she could take in a dog with such deep emotional and physical scars.  The words that kept floating around in her head were neglected, sick, fearful, and abused.  But as the day went on, she continued to think about Fernanda and finally picked up her phone to contact the rescue.   When Annette opened the door and saw the small brown Pit Bull looking up at her, the words that had previously described this girl disappeared.  All she saw was big brown eyes etched with kindness and uncertainty.  As she walked through Annette’s door, Fernanda was finally free, completely safe, and deeply loved.

Annette kept Fernanda in her Philadelphia home for 3 months while she went through medical treatment and took physical rest.  She put on weight and began to come out of her shell, but when she made the trip to NYC to begin to look for her forever-family, she still had a long way to go.  On one of her first adoption events in the city, a volunteer named Jill was tasked with keeping her company during the event and described her this way: “She was an absolute doll… friendly with everyone we met, a little underweight, but happy to lay froggy-style out on the concrete and eat ice cubes out of my hand on a hot day.”  Jill and her Fiancé were planning a wedding and didn’t think they could take in another foster, but Mighty Mutts needed help.  Jill told me, “the adoption coordinator knew my type and basically set me up by having me sit with Fern and laying it on thick… it took a little convincing for my fiancé to agree to foster another” but pretty soon Fernanda was on her way to Harlem to settle into her second foster home.



Fostering can teach us so much about compassion, patience, and love, and as Jill and Alex found out, fostering can also upend breed misconceptions.  The first time that Jill and Alex fostered, they were asked to take an abandoned breeding dog named Wanda, but the fact that she was a Pit Bull made Alex nervous.  He had heard negative things about the breed and didn’t have any personal experience; however, after bringing Wanda home, falling in love, and eventually adopting her out to his own parents, he was hooked on Pit Bull love.  When Jill told Alex about a new dog needing a foster home, though his initial response was that they should wait until after the wedding, it didn’t take much convincing before Fern made herself at home on their couch and in their hearts.  A few weeks later, when an adoption application came in from someone who wasn’t a good fit for Fern, Jill and Alex faced the reality of Fern leaving them and agreed upon what they both already knew.  They immediately contacted Mighty Mutts ask them to remove Fern from their adoptable list.  She was already home.


Hi there!  My name is @fern_the_wimpy_pitbull and you can probably tell by my big Pibble smile that I have an amazing life.  Mom and dad let me do somersaults on the couch, sleep in their bed, and burrow under the covers.  They laugh at me when I happy-snort and bring home lots of stuffed animals.  Life in the big city was scary at first because I didn’t like loud noises, the dark, and strangers who wear hoods (and did you know there are lots of those things in NYC?), but my people were very patient with me and helped me find something I did love: new friends.  I especially love little kids and give them lots of licks, and senior people are just my speed.  I feel really brave and proud when I make new friends, so mom and dad thought I might make a good hospital therapy dog.  I went through lots of training and tried my very hardest, and all the humans made a big fuss when they gave me my therapy bandana.  I know you heard some sad things about my past, but I never think about those things.  All I think about is my now, and every day is my very favorite day.




Fern’s parents found a way to distract her from her fears, by providing opportunities for her to be brave. @fern_the_wimpy_pitbullis now a therapy dog who proudly walks to a senior center on weekends to provide love to people hospitalized there.  When I first heard Fern’s story, what most amazed me was that a dog who was once left by humans to live alone in a junk yard could later turn around and provide hope to people who are themselves needing encouragement.  When these seniors gingerly pat her head and praise her for not giving up, I am sure that somewhere inside, those words of encouragement resonate with them.  Alex told me that some people are wary of Fern at first, but with time and consistency, she wins them over with her Pit Bull wiggle and kind heart. Rain or shine, Fern shows up, and according to Jill and Alex, these therapy visits are her favorite part of the week.

Certifying organization:  The Good Dog Foundation



While making plans to photograph @fern_the_wimpy_pitbull’s story, I realized that we all live in the same neighborhood and suggested that Fern come to our apartment and meet my daughter.  It’s really important to me to consistently share the message that Pit Bulls are great family dogs, and Fern couldn’t have been sweeter with Rinnah and our neighbor’s baby Elliot. Parents: it’s really important to teach children to ask before approaching dogs and to practice interacting respectfully, and when looking to adopt, families with kids should never overlook Pitties as a potential family member.  They are loyal, goofy, kind, and gentle with children as many of you have experienced.  As is always the case, certain dogs aren’t suited for kid-life, but never judge a dog simply by its breed.


When I am sharing stories of rescued dogs, I want to be careful to give an accurate description of life after adoption.  Just like us, dogs have distinct personalities and needs, and those those who have suffered abuse or neglect bear physical or emotional scars.  Signing adoption papers is only the first step towards healing, and the road from that point forward can sometimes be long.  Fern’s development wasn’t automatic; rather, Jill and Alex were patient with Fern’s fears and provided opportunities for her to use her strengths, and with time and training, the scared junkyard dog began to emerge into the girl we all know and love.  Thank you for the opportunity to share Fern’s love this past week. It was a joy to meet her, and it was an honor to share this story with all of you.


NOTE: The exact details of Fernanda’s rescue have been inferred based on the facts available and fictionalized to capture the essence of the story.

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Have you ever wondered how dogs with terminal illnesses end up in a shelter? Perhaps their owners couldn’t pay for their veterinary care, or perhaps they grew ill in the shelter as they waited to be adopted. The next question then is: what happens to these dogs who are nearing end of life? Most people don’t choose to adopt a terminally ill dog, and for rescues and shelters to have them treated can be expensive. At first thought, it seems hopeless…. but I’m here to say that it’s not.

This week’s story is a very special one. It’s the story of one dog who was afforded the chance to live out his illness in a loving home instead of a shelter, but more than that, it’s the story of a movement to provide all dogs this comfort. I feel greatly honored and privileged to relay this beautiful story of compassion and hope, and I hope you’ll keep coming back each day this week to hear more of the story.


When Madhumita graduated from business school and started working on Wall Street, she had never owned a dog or lived in a home with one. In fact, her particular cultural upbringing didn’t view dogs as family pets, so this was a completely unfamiliar concept. She was working 14-hour days and simply trying to survive when the market crashed in 2008 and her life took a different trajectory… left without a job or a plan, Madhumita began to desire to have a dog as a companion. She was actively searching for full-time work, so in her own words, “I knew I wanted a dog in my life, but I couldn’t commit to a permanent situation, so I began to consider other ways I could help. A friend told me about a program raising service dogs for the blind and I attended an orientation.” Isn’t it interesting how the hard things in life often turn us towards something very, very good?



When Madhumita told her family that she was thinking of raising puppies to be service dogs for the blind, they thought something might be wrong with her. “Because of our cultural background, it was very upsetting for my mom and grandmother especially, and I think at first they were actually worried about me,” she told me,” but I was an adult by this point and had made the decision to move forward.”  She began raising puppies and through the process learned so much about compassion, training, companionship, and discipline.  It was hard, dirty, sleepless work that was also incredibly rewarding and fun. But, one thing kept gnawing at her… whenever she told people what she was doing, they would say something like “how wonderful to work with puppies!” and constantly reminded her of how fortunate these dogs are.  She began to think, “yes, but what about the less fortunate animals?  Is there anything I could do for them?”


Via social media, Madhumita was connected to a friend who followed Foster Dogs Inc. and social media kept “suggesting” that she follow.  Through this connection, she soon found exactly what she had been looking for: a way that she could help dogs who were on the opposite end of the spectrum from her beloved service puppies:  homeless dogs with terminal illnesses.  Madhumita told me, “As I read about Fospice for the first time, the idea seemed amazing.  It had never occurred to me that someone could abandon a dog at the time they needed it most.  This seemed like a great injustice, and one that I wanted to be involved in.”  That day, Madhumita contacted Foster Dogs Inc. to ask how she could help.



Madhumita sat frozen to her computer as she scrolled through theFoster Dogs Inc. website for the first time and stumbled upon information about their Fospice (Foster + Hospice) Program.  This program connects local rescue groups with foster families in order to take dogs out of shelters who have less than 6 months to live.  Fospice care provides each dog with beds, food, training, toys, a photo shoot, treats, veterinary care, and end of life care, and foster families provide each dog with love and a comfortable home.  Madhumita laughed as she told me, “I was raising puppies, but really, I feel more like an old dog myself.  I thought this could be a perfect fit.”


Meanwhile, an unnamed dog was sitting at the NYC ACC with matted fur, a myriad of health issues including blindness, lipoma, cataracts, a respiratory illness, and periodontal disease.  He was estimated to be about 14 years of age, and his prognosis was poor.  Thankfully, Ready for Rescue heard of this dog and pulled him from the shelter, and he became the newest member of the Foster Dogs Inc. #fospice family.  By this point, Madhumita was an experienced foster mom, so Sarah made the call to see if she would be willing to bring Taz into her home until he could find a permanent Fospice placement.  Taz was given a name, veterinary care, a grooming by Sam of Elite Pets, and he came home to what was thought to be a short-term placement with Madhumita and her current service puppy Owen.  Though Taz was thought to be at the end of his life, this was only the beginning of his story.



Story of the week, part 4: No one knew Taz’s history when he was pulled from the ACC, but when he became part of the @fosterdogs Fospice program and came home with Madhumita, his future was clear: he was going to be spoiled and comfortable for as many days as he had left. Madhumita was raising her 7th service puppy (Owen, 2nd photo) and was a fospice mom to Taz, so needless to say, she had her hands full! And, something else beautiful had happened before Taz joined the family… as Madhumita’s parents experienced dog ownership secondhand through being in and out of her home, their perspective slowly began to shift. At first they kept their distance from the dogs, but then they began to look forward to visiting them. With time, they signed up to begin raising service dogs themselves and have now been part of raising 9 service dogs to give guidance to the blind. Madhumita told me, “When you have any living creature share your space for a period of time, eventually they will start to feel like part of your family and they will think of you as part of their pack.” Though it was initially an unfamiliar concept for her parents to think of dogs as family members, now they can’t imagine their family without one.



After Taz moved from the shelter into his fospice home and began to receive veterinary care, grooming, and love, his physical condition began to improve!  Most dogs in the @fosterdogs fospice program are only expected to live a handful of weeks or month, but it soon became clear that Taz was going to be an exception.  When I asked Madhumita about Taz’s life and personality, she described him as follows: “He’s a quirky, grumpy old guy who knows what he wants.  People see him and think he’s delicate or helpless, but he’s definitely not either of those things.  He’s the boss of now-80-pound Owen, and he keeps us humans in line, too.”  Madhumita told me that people have called her morbid for wanting to help dying dogs, but according to her, “it’s not morbid at all.  Death is just a moment, and every moment up until death is still living.  We’re providing the best conditions we can for all those stages, and when the time is right, I hope it Taz’s transition out of life will be easy for him.  It’s natural to feel bad for a dog who is nearing the end of his life, but we shouldn’t.  Taz doesn’t feel sorry for himself… he is just living each day.”

Taz moved into Madhumita’s home three years ago, and though he is still struggling with some of the same health issues, his quality of life is good.  He has a labrador brother Owen (a service puppy who didn’t pass his tests and was adopted by Madhumita) and Auburn, another service puppy in training who is being raised by Madhumita’s parents.  Madhumita has the financial, emotional, and physical support of Foster Dogs Inc., a team of veterinarians, and friends/family who are happy to help when needed.  Though it’s not certain how much longer Taz has with her, her only goal is to ensure those days are good ones.



The @fosterdogs fospice team headed by @melissaottstadt believe that life is worth celebrating, so when Taz’s 17th birthday and 3-year fospice anniversary was approaching, they planned a party fit for a king!  So many wonderful dog professionals came together to shower Taz with love.  He received homemade pupcakes from Maison de Pawz, had an in-home grooming from Sam of Elite Pets NYC, received a new fancy tag from Rebel Dawg, was lounging on a bed previously donated by Harry Barker was showered with love by everyone in the room, and even had celebrity friend/guest @chloekardoggian in attendance!  I was fortunate enough to be there to take photos of the festivities, and it was so meaningful to see the beauty of the fospice program in action.

I want to end this week’s story by coming full circle.  Taz is one example of many the many dogs who are living out their final weeks in shelters, and the Foster Dogs Inc. team can only place as many fospice dogs as they have families who are willing to open their homes.  Though it’s not always easy, fospice caretakers are supported financially, emotionally, and physically by Foster Dogs Inc. and each dog’s rescue group, so it’s truly a team effort.  Sarah told me, “People might think that the fospice program is sad, but actually, every Fospice caretaker has come back to say they want to do it again.  We want it to be a positive experience for both the caretaker and the dog, and though we all mourn when these dogs pass, we are so happy knowing that they were comfortable and loved for their final days, weeks, or months.”  Would you consider opening your home to a dog in his or her final months of life?  What kinds of questions or concerns would you have?  At the very least, joining the conversation is a good place to start.




Thank you so much for following the story of Madhumita and Taz this past week.  It was a joy to photograph and share it, and I hope that many of you learned about Fospice for the first time!   A few people have asked how they can help if they don’t live nearby and/or aren’t in a place to be a fospice caretaker right now.  Most of all, Foster Dogs, Inc. always needs financial help to ensure that their caretakers are supported.  You can contribute to a dog’s medical treatments or end-of-life care, or you can donate items or services to help fospice dogs be more comfortable.  If this is something that sounds interesting to you, please contact me via DM and I will put you in touch with the right people!

Remember the puppy in the crate with Taz at the beginning of this story?   This is baby Owen now!  He didn’t pass his service dog exams and is now a permanent member of Madhumita and Taz’s family. 🙂

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A woman was out for her morning walk when she heard cries coming from the dilapidated barn.  The grunts and calls of animals frequently filled the morning air as she walked these country roads, and she normally wouldn’t have thought twice, but something about this noise was different.  It wasn’t just the sound of the world waking up… it was the sound of an animal in distress.

The cold fog was hanging low and grass was covered in dew, and as she moved towards the barn, she shivered as she felt the moisture seeping through her shoes.  She was alone and uncertain if she should continue through the yard littered with rusted tools and forgotten junk, but each time she heard the faint cries, she kept moving forward.  As she pulled her sweater tighter and slowly pulled a door open to look inside, she couldn’t believe what she saw.

This was the day Dubby was found.    

These details are largely imagined because we couldn’t speak to the person who found Dubby.  All we know is that a neighbor responded to the cries of a dog who had been left in a cold abandoned barn, and when she entered, she found a senior English bulldog who was crippled and extremely emaciated.  The neighbor took this abandoned dog to a local shelter, and after examining her, it was decided that the most humane decision would be to euthanize.

Thankfully, this day wasn’t the end for Dubby.  It was just the beginning of the rest of her life.



photo by Mighty Mutts


She weighed eighteen pounds when she was found.  To put this number in perspective, eighteen pounds is the normal weight of a Pug, Shihtzu, or Papillon.  A large English Bulldog this weight is considered extremely emaciated, and this senior girl was on the brink of starvation.  She was crippled by a back leg that had been broken in two places, and not only that, she was a senior dog who had little chance of recovery from her extremely damaged state. A @mightymutts volunteer who was is in contact with shelters in the south heard of this bulldog’s condition and immediately came to her rescue, pulling her from the shelter and transporting her to NYC for surgery, treatment, and rest.  

When she arrived in NYC, Dubby underwent surgery and was boarding outside the city at the home of @mightymutts founder.  She was safe and cared for, and she slowly began to put on weight and heal from her injuries.  She needed to be moved to manhattan so she could more easily be transported to adoption events and veterinary appointments, so the plea went out for a foster home for this girl and was met with no response.  Though Dubby had a sweet personality and was loved by everyone who met her, it was hard to place her in a foster home because she had no social skills such as potty training, leash walking, or house manners. As the weeks turned into months and Dubby was not finding a foster home, it began to sink in that though Dubby was now rescued and safe, finding a forever-home for this girl was going to be a very long road. 



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Week after week, Dubby grew stronger and more healthy, and month after month, she drove into the city with her temporary foster dad to meet people looking for a new family member. Dubby greeted everyone with a big bully smile and showered people with snorts, licks, and joy, but one after the next, people met Dubby and then walked away looking for something different. Many couldn’t commit to adopting a senior, and some wanted a dog who was housebroken. Some wanted a dog more energetic, and others wanted a dog of a different size or breed. The reasons varied, but the answer was always the same: “she’s sweet but not right for me.”

Dubby’s case was growing more hopeless as the months passed without interest, and she desperately needed to move to a foster home in the city so she could more easily attend veterinary appointments and adoption events. So, @mightymutts began a social media crusade to help Dubby. Erin from @susiesseniordogs came out to film a special on the senior girl in need of a home, and a volunteer named Michele decided to launch and manage an Instagram account just for Dubby. Everyone was falling in love with the bulldog with the crooked underbite, and as the Instagram community began to spread the word, a woman named Alex who had been watching her progress online decided to make the phone call that would change Dubby’s life forever.




It had been a long day, and Alex was getting ready for bed when she picked up her phone to see if there were any new updates on Dubby’s Instagram account.  She’d been following her progress for some time, and though she hadn’t met her yet, Alex had fallen in love with the crooked underbite and sweet personality that she saw in her photos.  That evening when she opened Instagram, she saw another urgent plea from @mightymutts for a foster home in Manhattan so Dubby could recover from surgery.  Her building allowed dogs, and she didn’t have one of her own… but could she possibly take Dubby in?  She held her phone in her lap and stared into space as she tried to imagine how this might affect her schedule, apartment, and life… sure, it would be challenging and would certainly take some adjustment, but it would allow Dubby a better chance of finding a family.  So, at 10pm on Tuesday evening, Alex picked up her phone and responded to the plea.  The @mightymutts director called her back that very evening, and two days later, after meetings and home checks, Dubby was in her new foster home on the Upper East Side.  As fate would have it, Dubby’s new foster home was just 6 blocks away from Michele, the @mightymutts volunteer who had been managing her Instagram account all along.  

Michele and Alex lived just a few minutes apart and quickly became “Team Dubby”!  Alex kept her most of the time, but Michele would take over when Alex was traveling, and as the months went on, Michele started asking to keep Dubby on weekends and holidays.  As Michele told me this story, she said, “It only took a few months for me to know that I was going to adopt Dubby.”  Surprisingly, it was Dubby’s difficulties that made Michele decide to adopt.  She told me, “Dubby was a special case.  She had broken teeth, no doubt from her abuse and starvation, she didn’t know any basic commands, she couldn’t walk well, she wasn’t housetrained, and she was very dog reactive.  These were all signs that she was never loved or socialized and needed a very patient adopter.  At that time, @mightymutts had so many adoptable dogs who would have been easy, but I decided to take the hard case.   Quite frankly, I was afraid no one would love her like I did, so I decided to make it official and adopt my Dubby.”





One year after Dubby was found in the abandoned barn, she moved to her forever-home with Michele.  Her wonderful foster mom Alex had kept her a few extra months while Michele found an apartment building that would allow a bulldog, and in March 2017, Dubby walked into Michele’s apartment, jumped up on the couch, and settled right in to her new normal.  In one year, Dubby had increased in weight from 18 pounds to 54 pounds and had developed into a happy, friendly dog.   However, Michele was realistic about the fact that she had just adopted a senior dog who still had major obstacles to overcome:  she wasn’t housebroken, didn’t understand basic commands, couldn’t walk far because of residual issues from her broken leg, wasn’t social with other dogs, and generally wasn’t used to living in a home.

Michelle started at square one: sit, stay, down.  She treated her newly-adopted senior dog as a puppy as she repeatedly took her outside and helped her learn when and where to go potty.  She believed in Dubby and gave her the chance to learn… and the girl who had been passed on by so many potential adopters responded to the training with great understanding!  When I came to visit Dubby to photograph this story, she proudly showed me all her tricks and behaved like a dog whose place had always been in a home.  I was so touched by how Michele and Dubby interacted with each other, and I am so thankful to have had the chance to witness the mutual love and respect of a girl and her new (old) dog.





@dubbybulldog’s body still bears the signs of her past abuse and neglect.  Her leg that was broken still bothers her, and she generally moves slowly.  Michele told me, “I am a very active person, so if I could haven chosen my ideal dog, it would have been one who could join me for long walks around the city… but on a good day, Dubby can barely make it around the block.”  This doesn’t get these two women down, though!  When telling me about Dubby’s physical limitations, Michele waved a hand toward the stroller and told me, “It’s OK though!  Her Fur-cedes gets us anywhere we want to go.  Dubby gets to enjoy the city just like any other dog – she just doesn’t have to do all the work!”  Michele and Dubby go on daily slow walks so she can keep those bulldog legs in shape, but on longer evenings and weekends, Michele loads Dubby in the Fur-cedes and they take off on adventures.  They recently walked all the way home from Central Park to Sunnyside!  As you can imagine, Dubby has become well-known around her neighborhood and constantly gets stopped for photos and love.  This old lady bulldog certainly doesn’t mind… after all, she’s in no rush!   

I want to end Dubby’s story by thanking all the people who came together to make her rescue possible.  First of all, @mightymutts are the heroes.  They pulled Dubby from the shelter, brought her to NYC, fostered her outside the city for 5 months, funded her medical expenses, and gained her exposure at adoption events and online.  Without rescues like @mightymutts, Dubby would not be here today.  Secondly, Dubby’s foster mom Alex saved Dubby’s life on the very day that she needed it.  She fostered her for eight months and loved her despite her lack of training or house manners.  And Michele, thank you for giving Dubby a home.  It’s obvious how loved and secure she feels in your home, and that’s the very best gift you could ever give her.  She was always meant to be with you.  


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Story of the week, part 1:  Sarah always knew she wanted to work with dogs, and as an adolescent and young adult, she tried to find her place by volunteering at local shelters and working at a veterinarian office.  She decided not to pursue medicine, but as she walked the halls of her local shelter as a volunteer, she felt alive.  She told me, “Visiting the shelter for the first time was a thrill for me.  I had always heard people say that shelters are sad, but I didn’t see it that way… I saw an opportunity to help each dog have a better day.” Not only could she help dogs by giving them food, attention, and exercise, she also loved the way that she could help people by introducing them to their next family member.
Years later, after graduating college and spending time at the ACC, she also learned about a program that she hadn’t known about: the foster program.  She wasn’t in a place in life where she could adopt, but she agreed to begin giving homeless dogs a comfortable home until they were permanently adopted.  When she brought her first foster dog home, she had no way of knowing that the trajectory of her life was about to change forever.


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Story of the week, part 2:  Meet the dog who started it all:  Mocha.  Sarah’s second foster dog was a ‘death row’ Pit Bull who had been overbred and abused. She was only 25 pounds (half her normal weight) when Sarah took her home, named her, and provided her with love and a stable place to rest while she waited for an adopter.  While Sarah was fostering Mocha, she realized that there weren’t many fostering resources, so in July 2009, Sarah launched a simple website dedicated to providing support for people and exposure for dogs being fostered.  This website would soon grow into @fosterdogs, a robust community and non-profit organization serving NYC and beyond, and it all started with a little homeless Pittie with big brown eyes.
Within a month coming to Sarah’s house, Mocha found her forever-home with a mom (another amazing Sarah!) who loved and worked in chocolate and had always dreamed of starting her own company.  After adopting Mocha, she started @rescuechocolate with the vision of raising awareness for animal rescue and donating 100% of the proceeds to a different rescue group each year.  Mocha’s face is on the front of each chocolate bar, and the chocolate bar names such as Bananas Foster Dogs, Peanut Butter Pit Bull, and Mission Feral Fig each represent different groups of animals in need.  At the end of this story, I am going to hold a giveaway to send some of this delicious chocolate to honor Mocha and other dogs in need.


Story of the week, part 3: “If you want to date me, I have to know that you’re serious about fostering and adopting.” Sarah had met a man named Mike and was beginning to fall in love, but she had to know that he would also embrace her life’s passion of helping dogs in need.  Before they moved in together, Mike fostered a small homeless black puppy named Ozzie.  Sarah told me, “I was sure not to try to convince Mike of anything… I wanted to see that he wanted to do this on his own. You have to really want to adopt.” Mike fell in love with this little soul and Ozzie soon became a permanent member of the family. Soon after, Sarah and Mike decided to get married and join their lives permanently.
During this time, @fosterdogs was continuing to grow, and Sarah met a dog named Shaggy at an adoption event who no one volunteered to foster.  She brought him home thinking it would be short-term, but Ozzie and Shaggy bonded quickly and it was soon evident that Shaggy was never going to leave.  Sarah told me, “Shaggy wasn’t what we expected from a second dog.  We thought our next dog would be small, old, and portable, but Ozzie chose Shaggy, and we knew that he was family.”

Story of the week, part 4: Sometimes our dreams are big, and sometimes our dreams are modest.  We chase some that sprout and grow, and others simply fizzle with time. But sometimes, just sometimes, we have the joy of watching a dream develop into much more than we ever imagined.  Nine years ago, Sarah started @fosterdogs as a small website with one person managing but had dreams of seeing it turn into something that would truly help people and dogs in the city.  Now, it’s a non-profit organization with a 20+ person volunteer staff, a board, grant funding, and an ongoing schedule of adoption events, trainings, and fundraisers year-round.  Hundreds of people and dogs have benefited from the work that Sarah and her team are doing, and in the coming days, I am going to share more specifics about the exciting work that is happening in NYC because of this big-hearted operation. This is the most exciting part for me, and I can’t wait to share and to encourage everyone to chase dreams and see how they might grow.

Story of the week, part 5:  Have you ever considered what happens to terminally ill dogs who are part of the shelter system? In order to help rescue groups move terminally ill dogs from shelters into loving homes to live out their diagnosis, Sarah created the @fosterdogs Fospice (foster+hospice) program.  The fospice program finds foster homes for dogs with less than 6 months to live and provides each dog with beds, food, training, toys, a photo shoot, treats, veterinary care, and end of life care. Foster parents just have to be willing to provide the dog with love and a comfortable space to live out their retirement.
17 year old Taz (pictured above) is currently in fospice care. He has lived longer than expected because of the care of great veterinarians and the love he receives from his foster mom Madhumita. The program is now large enough to have its own coordinator, Melissa (pictured on the right), and in the five years since it started, more than 50 terminal dogs have been spoiled by #fospice foster parents.
Sarah told me, “People might think that the fospice program is sad, but actually, every Fospice caretaker has come back to say they want to do it again.  We want it to be a positive experience for both the caretaker and the dog, and though we all mourn when these dogs pass, we are so happy knowing that they were comfortable and loved for their final days, weeks, or months.” Would you consider caring for a dog with a terminal prognosis? Contact @fosterdogs for more info!

“Fostering dogs is something that many people don’t even know they can do, but it’s simply being willing to bring a dog into your home until he or she finds a permanent adopter.  Fostering does demand some flexibility, but if you know yourself and are working with a rescue group who can pair you with a dog to fit your lifestyle, it can be such a positive experience.  If people could feel the joy of fostering just once, they would probably continue doing it.” – Sarah (@thedogmatchmaker)
@fosterdogs is an inclusive organization that brings together rescue groups from all over NYC and beyond and helps them find foster families for dogs in need.  But, even more importantly, Sarah and her team offer in-person trainings, seminars, adoption events, and social media exposure to ensure that each fostering experience is a positive one.  Additionally, Sarah runs @thedogmatchmaker to help people who want to adopt but feel overwhelmed by the process.  I mean, can this amazing woman possibly do anything MORE?! 💛
Would you be interested in helping by fostering, training, posting about adoptable dogs on social media, donating, attending adoption events, or becoming more involved in the #fospice program?  I am including a link in my profile to sign up for the Foster Roster to learn more about potential foster dogs, and you can always contact Sarah at @fosterdogs or @thedogmatchmaker for more information about becoming involved.

When Sarah heard the news, “You’re pregnant” she really had to process it.  She was running a busy non-profit with multiple off-shoots, was constantly attending trainings and adoption events, was caring for two large dogs, and on top of that was married to a man with his own career and interests.  She told me, “When we found out we were pregnant, one of our first thoughts was how the dogs would react.  My initial excitement quickly turned to nervousness about the boys because they hadn’t spent time with infants and hadn’t lived with a child before.” But, Sarah and Mike’s priority was ensuring that Ozzie and Shaggy would adjust well to this huge change, and they were committed to this no matter what.
Baby Liam joined Sarah’s family last fall, and Sarah and Mike began working to integrate the dogs from day one.  Thankfully, Shaggy and Ozzie’s personalities both allowed for a easy transition, but even still, these new parents were careful to prioritize not only their baby but also their two dog-boys by giving them ample exercise and love and by allowing them access to Liam gradually and carefully to avoid unnecessary stress.  When I came over to photograph their family, I was so touched by how well they made the transition work and how much love their family shares.

Thank you so much for following the story of @fosterdogs this week!  It was a joy for me to share more about this wonderful organization and Sarah (@thedogmatchmaker), the heart behind it all.  In closing, would you consider joining the effort to move dogs out of shelters and into foster homes?  No matter where you live, you can foster dogs from a local shelter or rescue group, and even if you don’t live in NYC, please take advantage of the Foster Dogs Inc. resources and education series.  Additionally, you can tag @fosterdogs in the photos of YOUR foster dogs so they can share/encourage adoption. If you are local, there are many ways you can help Sarah and her team of volunteers: foster, donate, help with #fospice, attend educational classes or adoption events, share on social media, etc.  I have a link in my profile to the “foster roster” to join the fostering team.


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Andrea spends her days surrounded by dogs. As New York City’s leading dog trainer for more than 20 years as well as a prolific author and behavior expert for Animal Planet and other TV shows, Andrea has a big heart and brilliant approach to helping dogs live full and healthy lives in the city. However, there’s so much more to her than this.

When the training dust settles and the day draws to a close, Andrea returns to her home in Chelsea to find her sweet Nora waiting for her with excitement when she opens the front door. Nora has been with Andrea since she adopted her 13 years ago in Paris as a tiny puppy, and these girls have faced life together ever since.

Though Nora is showing signs of aging, she still has that kind soul, sharp mind, and playful spirit that Andrea brought home 13 years ago. More than anything, that’s what I hope these photos capture.

Thank you for welcoming me into your world, Andrea. It was a joy and an honor.

– Milla

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Anyone who has walked through the doors of Strand Bookstore more than a few times knows Gizzy, the resident shop dog who is affectionately called the “littlest bookseller” around the store. She brings customers joy with her adorable underbite and sweet personality, and she certainly helps sales by maintaining a “Gizmo’s favorites!” book table.

When Gizzy isn’t wandering the stacks, she keeps the employees of Strand on track by sitting in laps, licking faces, and begging for treats. Gizmo is one special girl, and I was privileged to capture a day in her life.

More of Gizzy’s adventures are captured on her instagram site!

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