By Janet McAfee

I moved quickly through the kennels at the San Bernardino City Shelter checking the availability dates on the dogs’ kennel cards, not wanting to lock eyes with the pups longer than necessary. Many of the animals were still on hold for an owner to claim, though sadly the percentage of owner retrievals is small. I spotted an interesting looking male poodle mix that was available. He was listed as part Maltese, but was clearly a blend of several breeds with a distinctive pink blotch on his nose. His kennel card contained the notation “fearful”.

I waited in the fenced in grassy visiting area to assess the pup. A kennel attendant told me they were having trouble getting the dog out of the kennel, and finally it took three kennel workers to retrieve him for our “meet and greet”. Most shelter dogs bounce joyfully from their kennels, tails wagging and welcoming a friendly petting. This time was different. The dog spun wildly around the enclosure, not coming near me. My heart sank when he wouldn’t stop, and I wondered if he would ever calm down and become “adoptable”. I quit gesturing to him, sat on the ground, and just waited. His frenzied run continued for about 15 minutes, though it seemed like an eternity. Finally he calmed down, inched toward me, and let me comfort him. I uttered the words, “I’ll take him,” the words that were his ticket to freedom and undoubtedly saved his life.

A private adopter would probably not have selected this pup, but rescue organizations such as Loving All Animals have foster homes that can assess and help train them. “Chance” seemed like a fitting name for a dog that now had a second chance for a new life. During the car ride to his foster home, Chance metamorphosed into the sweet and charming fellow he was meant to be. We don’t know if he was an abused animal, or simply frightened in the shelter setting.

Foster mom Jeni Greenfield operates Mighty Paws rescue, and has a lot of experience with dogs. Jeni’s Mobile Pet Grooming service was another blessing for the badly matted Chance who gratefully let her bathe and transform him into a handsome fellow. Jeni recalls Chance was a bit shy when he arrived and was not housebroken. Eager to please, he quickly learned to use the doggie door and became a happy pack member, becoming best buds with a Chihuahua named Champ. She recalls this foster pup, “Chance was great. He came out of his shell quickly. When guests came over, he would bombard them with affection.”

Sara Fenimore and Steve Stoddard saw Chance’s photo on our website, and he reminded them of their dog Parker who recently passed away. They were waiting at the adoption event at The River before it even opened to meet him. Chance didn’t disappoint, greeting his new “mom” and “dad” with kisses. Sara recalls how well Chance adjusted to their home, “Chance has been a joy! He strolls around our home and yard with great confidence. It was special at the adoption event when everyone from Loving All Animals gathered around to say goodbye to him. We knew then he was a special dog. Thanks to Loving All Animals for saving lives, finding homes, and bringing joy to humans and animals!”

Chance and the couple’s other rescue dog, Sophie, soon became best of friends. Sara notes, “He’s brought out Sophie’s personality and made her more playful. He makes cute little monkey sounds when he plays. Always in play mode, he has a stuffed monkey he loves to toss in the air and play fetch by himself.”

Now renamed Caesar, this fellow struts around like a little emperor. He has his own chair in the front room where he loves to look outside. Caesar has 5 doggie beds, and 2 doggie doors give him access to the lovely landscaped yard. Once a fearful stray on the mean streets of San Bernardino, he is now a treasured pet living the high life in a beautiful home with his adoring humans.

Steve enthusiastically describes Caesar, “He won the dog lottery! He runs this place. His personality is incredible. He’s glued to my side, and wakes up every morning expecting a belly rub. He filled the ‘hole’ we had after losing Parker and now it’s like he has never NOT been here. Caesar has a lot of “Parkerisms” including the funny way he lays down. He’s a gigantic smile walking on 4 legs!”

What is Caesar’s message? Some animals are frightened in the shelter environment, but they make fabulous pets given the second chance they deserve. If a dog appears frightened, relax, sit on the ground, and let him approach you. You can contact the San Bernardino City Shelter at (909) 384-1304. Contact our Riverside county shelter in Thousand Palms at (760) 343-3644.

For assistance with getting a rescue animal, or to save a life through fostering, contact Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000 or Every “fearful” dog we have rescued is now living happily in their adoptive home, proving that love and patience can overcome the darkest past