Category Archives: Blog Posts

Finding Thelma ~ by Shirley Zindler

A text message that one of my former foster dogs had escaped from her new adopter caused my heart to miss a beat. Thelma is a precious girl who originally came to Dogwood Animal Rescue from an overcrowded shelter after being confiscated from her former owner. When she arrived, nursing 5 young puppies, she was in skeletal condition and very subdued. She was a kind, gentle dog and a wonderful mother and I grew very attached to her. Once the puppies were weaned, Thelma went into another foster home where she could receive further training and socializing while I focused on her puppies. I still saw Thelma frequently over the following month or so. She and her foster mom, Alex, often joined us at the beach or came to visit. Thelma also stayed with me when Alex traveled and I was thrilled to learn that she was adopted into a loving home.

Thelma escaped from her adopter only a few days after she was placed so she didn’t really know him or the area yet. She went missing on a dark, chilly evening on a busy road and her adopter was distraught.  Within moments of our post that she was missing, dozens of volunteers were out looking for her but hours of searching in the dark did not yield a single sighting.

Early the next morning we were back at it and finally had several sightings called in from one area a couple of miles from where she was lost. It was encouraging to see how many volunteers and friends arrived to search and post fliers. For the next four hours we walked the trails and paths nearby and drove all the surrounding roads over and over but there were no further sightings.

Exhausted and discouraged, I said to fellow volunteer Janet, who was searching with me, let’s go back one more time and drive through where she was last seen before we head home to rest for a few hours. Lost dogs are often seen in early morning and late evening so we made plans to come back later.


When we got to the place where the last sightings had been I decided to place a couple more fliers in the area. I parked, leaving Janet in the car with our dogs, and took a couple fliers to the walking path. I put one up, then decided to put my last one up a little farther down the path. It was quiet except for a few bird calls and the babbling of the creek nearby. It was beautiful place but my heart ached with sadness. In my experience, these things often don’t end well. I had literally placed an extra blanket in my car that morning to wrap her body in it if we came across it in the road. Even if they survive the busy roads, many lost dogs get into panicked survival mode and won’t even come to their owners.

I had my eyes on a pole I was going to put the flier on when I heard the click of dog nails coming up fast on the paved path behind me. As I started to turn around my heart was pounding and my mind was racing. It can’t be. It can’t be. But there was Thelma racing toward me, joyfully, ecstatically. I dropped to the ground and she was in my lap in an instant, wiggling, kissing, whining and pressing herself to me. I was crying, unable to believe she was safe and in my arms.

My leashes were all in the car so I scooped her up and started walking back toward the road, my cheek pressed to her fur. I was sobbing so hard I startled her and had to pull myself together for her sake. We were soon joined by her other foster Alex who also had a touching reunion with her before she was reunited with her frantic adopter.

The emotional ups and downs of those two days have taken it out of me, but knowing that darling Thelma is safe is worth all the heartache. And seeing so many out searching is a reminder how much people care. Thank you to everyone who helped and all who sent up prayers for Thelma’s safe return.

Room at the Inn – by Shirley Zindler

As a rescue we get requests for help every day, sometimes many times a day. The scenarios are endless and the people calling range from desperate to demanding. We provide rescue and spay/neuter services based on the number of volunteers and resources we have. We are a foster-home based rescue, and we can only take in as many animals as we have homes to care for them. We help as many as we can but we have to say no a lot too.

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The Nurturer – by Shirley Zindler

skunks poodle 013 The tiny infant wiggles in my hand, eager for her feeding. Her eyes and ears are still shut tight at two weeks of age. Her senses are reduced to the basics. She can feel the warmth of my hands holding her, and will be able to smell and taste the warm milk that she’s waiting for. Her hair is getting longer, the distinct white stripes are striking against the shiny black coat. There is even a little white stripe down the middle of her petite little face. Weighing in at only a few ounces, the baby skunk is a perfect miniature of the adult she will someday be. There is already a slightly sweet, musky odor to her coat, not unpleasant, but a hint of her future arsenal.

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On The Way To Bakersfield – by Marlene Augustine

Driving south through the dark of the Central Valley on 99 I look in the rear view. My artist and his musicians are asleep like little 4-year-old boys on a car ride.  They had been working day and night, performing at radio stations, doing live on-air interviews and ending the days with shows.

We are headed to Bakersfield and I realize we need gas.  We are nowhere near a real gas station like a Shell or a 76 because, well, we are in the middle of nowhere.

I see a gas station sign ahead and I know I would never venture to that sort of old, run down stand alone at night.   It is in the middle of the fields with transient broken down housing dotting the side road. But I feel safe with the guys.

I take the exit and the guys wake up. One begins to pump gas while the others shuffle inside to grab a water. I see 2 small brown dogs milling around. Continue reading

No More Dogs! -by Marlene Augustine

“No!!!! No more dogs!”, my husband said. I sighed as I looked out at my new Sonoma County home. It was complete  with an  acre enclosed  by a 6 foot  chain link fence. Perfect for a dog or two. But I knew why he kept saying that. Years before we had lost both our  17 year old rescue dogs. It broke my husband’s  heart. So “No more dogs” was a normal refrain when I broached the subject.   Plus we had lived in San Francisco with a tiny back yard. Not really conducive to having dogs.

But now we lived in the country! So, urged on by one of my new neighbors I contacted her dear friend named Shirley. I was just looking to foster a dog, not a puppy, a dog – one who needed a home for awhile so I could fill that dog urge.  And not get divorced! Ha! Because of this  I met Shirley Zindler. She  had a litter of puppies and a house filled with people and dogs and a few cats – everyone living in harmony.

SElsie Maehirley didn’t try to get me to adopt  a puppy but we spent a great deal of time together after that, walking her dogs around the back field, listening to  her stories and telling her mine in the world of San Francisco feral cat trapping and ‘on the road’ dog rescue. We were building a friendship on the shared experiences and our love of animals.

One day I brought one of the puppies home against my husband’s  wishes, just to foster until placed. And because of his constant complaining I returned the puppy about 4 times! I’m sure Shirley thought I was a nut case! But I couldn’t get the little guy out of my mind so one Sunday I went back to get him again remembering this was JUST to “foster”.

And that Sunday the puppy sat looking up at my husband as he watched a NASCAR race. Just sat on the floor, looking up, staring up, not moving or making a sound. Until finally my husband picked him up and placed him between his feet on the foot stool and said “Fine! Just STAY there!” Half an hour later they were both asleep as the cars went round and round on the screen, puppy chin laying on a knee and a big hand resting on a tiny white head.

MarleneAnd every night since that dog has sat between Larry’s feet on that footstool. 9 years worth of ball games and races and naps. We now have 2 dogs, HooverDog, the puppy I first saw at Shirley’s house and Elsie May, a pit mix who didn’t have the best puppy-hood. (But she is another story for another time.)

And our house is known to  have a foster or two running around now and then because of Shirley. So, Trust me when I say, Dogwood Animal Rescue Project will not be your ordinary rescue. Lots of love and care for every creature who lands there. But then again, who wants ordinary when one can have extraordinary!


Charlotte & “Us” – by Dominique Palma

charlotte-us-postGrowing up surrounded by animals – horses, guinea pigs, birds, cats, DOGS (so many special dogs), it was a rude awakening to graduate from college, move to San Francisco and wake up each day pet-less. Something was missing. In a matter of months I sought to remedy the situation by getting myself a kitten, and raising her to be the best dog a cat can be. Sushi has been my companion for over seven years and I adore her, and she ALMOST filled the dog shaped hole in my life, but not quite.

For years I’d torture myself by scouring looking for the perfect scruffy friend to adopt, sending links to my mom in the hope that she’d respond and say “Great idea! Go for it!”. She never did, because we both knew the timing wasn’t right.  I wasn’t ready to give up happy hours and after work Giants games to instead rush home and play with my dog each day.

Along came Shirley, and her endless supply of rescue opportunities.  Curly puppies, scruffy puppies, big puppies, tiny puppies… I knew that one day, when the time was right, Shirley would have the puppy for me.  That time came sooner than I might have guessed.

Just a month before my wonderful boyfriend Matt was planning to move into my apartment, I stopped by Shirley’s with my mom and met Charlotte.  Her fluff, her wiggly little body, her precocious personality – I just knew she was the one for me!  But was she the one for US?  Could I choose a dog for myself when I was about to build a home with someone?  Charlotte wasn’t Matt’s definition of a “real dog” – not what he would pick if he had a say.

12583732_10207779461746116_730374213_nToday he admits that Charlotte is the exact dog he would pick.  There’s nothing a “real dog” would do that Charlotte can’t do. She just happens to be more portable and easier to bathe!  She is such a fit for our life – she goes to Tahoe and bounds through the snow, she goes camping and oyster shucking, and wine tasting, and holds her own playing fetch with dogs three times her size at the beach, and doesn’t quite hold her own in wrestling matches with Sushi.

Life wouldn’t be complete without Charlotte- the highlight of my day is coming home from work to cuddle her viciously.  We are so grateful that Shirley found her for us, and look forward to a lifetime of adventures with our Charlotte!

The Beginning of a Beautiful Thing – by Janet Palma

It was a beauFullSizeRendertiful September morning three years ago when my sweet husband asked me how I would like to spend my birthday. That was easy, I wanted to start with a walk on Dillon (off leash) beach with our two dogs. As it happens so often in life, I had no idea that decision was going to slowly change my life for the better.

It was most likely Tyra, the gigantic black Great Dane that started the conversation that morning with Shirley and Paul. I instantly liked this woman! Was it her bubbly, fun, easy-going personality that popped out, was it that I discovered within minutes that we both love dogs and horses, and rescues and fosters, and that we lived walking distance for 12 years and never met each other during that time? That we both raised a son and a daughter that went to the same schools, or that I used to be a flight attendant and Paul is a pilot? That their son, Scott was trying to get on as a fire fighter, and my husband George, had just retired from the Fire Department?   Maybe it was all the smiling, laughing and talking we crammed in to those few minutes. As we went to continue on our way, Shirley caIMG_1966lled out, “friend me on facebook”! And Paul made a little joke about her 400 fb friends!

That evening I did friend her on facebook. And not too long after that it turned into a “real” friendship. A friendship you can’t thoroughly describe, but that you can only feel with your heart.

Shirley and I have stayed up a few nights watching homeless mommy dogs deliver their unwanted puppies. We have kissed those puppies daily, played with them over glasses of wine, and watched them go off to their new loving homes. All the while we were developing a strong bond as we got to really know each other. We shared stories, secrets, hopes, dreams and heartaches with each other. We laughed often, cried occasionally, and talked constantly! We never took for granted that luxury of time. The time it takes to grow a close friendship. We appreciated the rare and unique chemistry we shared.

Our Monday morning beachIMG_0324 walks started spontaneously with just the two of us and a pack of dogs. Shirley would pick me up in the “clown car” with 4 or 5 dogs and my 2 would jump right in, and off we’d go. On the way home, we would stop in Tomales at the deli and split a turkey sandwich, and bet each other we couldn’t get the sandwich guy to smile! (Now he has our sandwich waiting for us with a big smile on his face!)  Shirley would post all her fabulous photos of our fun morning on fb, and soon other women began showing up and joining us on Monday mornings. Now our ritual has become somewhat famous with 20 dogs at times running and playing on the beach! It’s therapy for all and a great way to start the week!

I was also honored to be in on the very first discussion of a possible non-profit. Now here we are…off on a glorious adventure! Shirley has already done so much for animals in need, now the sky is the limit! Shirley has a heart of gold, and I am so grateful to hold a place in that heart.

Written by Janet Palma