It was almost 9:00 pm, and the evening was cloaked in darkness during Erin Ell’s drive home. She saw a car stopped by the side of the road, and a little bundle of fur laying immobile in the street. She drove the couple remaining blocks home, worried about the condition of the animal, prayed, and realized she must return and offer assistance. Concerned the animal was deceased, she prepared for the worst scenario bringing a shovel and bag with her.


Erin explains her motivation, “I often stop to help if I see a stray dog. I have a heart for animals. God gave me a concern for those in need, particularly children with special needs and animals. Animals are helpless, and they depend on us for everything.”


When she arrived at the scene, Erin learned the small white dog was still alive. She met a woman named Julie who also stopped to assist. The young couple who hit the dog had stopped and were devastated.  They could not stop in time when the dog darted in front of their car. Erin was surprised to see there was a second dog at the scene, a small poodle who bore a slight resemblance to the injured dog. The poodle was presumably the traveling companion of the injured dog, and she did not want to leave its side.  Julie carefully put the injured dog in a blanket and moved her to the sidewalk, and leashed the second dog.


The local veterinary clinics were already closed, but they located the 24-hour VCA clinic on Jefferson Street in Indio. Once inside the car the dog now called Millie cried, wanting to be by the side of her companion to offer comfort. It was a frantic trip as the two good Samaritans drove down Highway 111 to the Indio clinic.


The dogs had no tags or microchip that might have solved the mystery of their origin. The injured dog was taken in for treatment, but sadly died shortly thereafter. Erin handed the poodle over to the clinic staff for a quick exam and microchip check.


The staff person told them they had to leave the poodle there for transfer  to a local public shelter. Erin began to cry, explaining that she would take the animal and find her a home. The clinic staff told her this dog could be someone’s pet, and the shelter would do a 3 day hold for the owner to claim. Erin recounts that episode, “I’m familiar with rescue. My last dog was adopted from Save A Pet. I knew this was a very adoptable dog, and I didn’t want to leave her there. I grew up with dogs, and they were rescue dogs or strays who ‘adopted’ us. I always carry water and dog food in the car in case I see a stray.”


Meanwhile, Julie contacted her friend Joy Diffendal who is active with Loving All Animals, a local animal welfare organization. Joy helped track the dog’s delivery to the local Riverside County Shelter, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus. The dog was placed in the shelter quarantine area due to fearfulness. Her owner failed to surface. Michelle Bergeron, the shelter’s rescue coordinator, arranged for Loving All Animals to take custody of Millie.


Things seemed to come full circle when Erin offered to foster Millie. Millie, though fearful at the shelter, is emerging from her shell.  The dog clearly remembers the woman who saved her that dark night, sticking closely by her side. Erin describes the dog that is now safe in her home, “She’s so sweet and calm. She conveys a feeling of warmth and loyalty.”


Erin describes her rescue experience, “This was a really hard thing for me to do, to step out of my comfort zone and face my fear of dealing with a dead animal that could have been someone’s pet.  What I saw in this experience was a group of people with compassion and a respect for all life.  It moved me that Julie would stop, and it touched my heart that the people who accidently hit the dog did what they did to make a situation better.”  Thanks to these good folks, the dog who didn’t survive did not have to die a slow death on a cold street.  And a dog named Millie can look forward to a bright future.


Here are some things you can do if you find a stray dog.  Any veterinary office will scan for a microchip.  Walk the dog on a leash in the neighborhood where you found him, and he may lead you to his home.  Make flyers and post them with the dog’s picture, and a poster boiler plate is available at If you can temporarily house the animal, post a free ad in the Desert Sun’s lost pet section, omitting one identifying trait to ensure it’s the actual owner.  Get your own pets microchipped in case they ever go missing!


UPDATE: Great news! Millie has been adopted into a wonderful new home and is doing well.