By Janet McAfee

This is a “tail” of the love between two dogs, the foster parents who lovingly cared for them, and the photograph that found them a home where they would always be together. We don’t know Scooby and Ina’s history, but it is believed they were together in a previous home.

Ina and Scooby showed up almost magically one day outside the gate of Curtis Sweesy’s and Vanessa Ruggles’ home. The couple are foster parents for Loving All Animals specializing in saving German Shepherd dogs. They have a “wall of love” on their dining room wall, a collection of photographs paying tribute to the many shepherd foster dogs they have cared for and rehomed.

How did these two shepherds know the right home to pick? We will never know, and they can’t tell us. The timing was perfect because Mahko, the couple’s previous foster dog, was adopted two days earlier and there was a “vacancy in the inn”. A neighbor, not distinguishing these were different dogs, called to report, “Your dogs are sitting outside your gate!” The dogs were abandoned and emaciated, and no owner could be located. The 100 pound male who was a German Shepherd/Great Dane mix was named Scooby after the famous cartoon character. The smaller female German Shepherd became “Ina” which means “little mama” in Lakota Sioux. Ina had recently given birth to a litter of puppies.

Soon the foster parents saw the unbreakable bond between the pair. When the dogs were separated at the veterinary clinic for spay and neuter, their reunion was a loud, joyous affair, even in their semi-sedated state. These best friends tumbled and wrestled every day, their games playing like a well- choreographed ballet, with the dogs jumping and rolling in synchronized timing. After playtime came nap time, and the two dogs sleep with the tops of their heads touching. Scooby nuzzles Ina’s back, nibbling on her fur. Although significantly smaller, Ina is the Alpha dog who took charge of the pack that included Scooby and her foster siblings. Wherever Ina goes, Scooby is not far behind.

The decision was made to keep them together as a pair for adoption. It’s always harder to find a home willing to take two dogs, particularly when their combined weight is 175 pounds. We made flyers with their picture and promoted the dogs on Facebook. Occasionally someone would call, but inevitably they were interested in just taking the smaller dog. The months passed, the dogs thrived, but no home appeared.

Then master animal photographer, Nanette Martin, arrived in Palm Desert to teach a photography workshop. Nanette founded Shelter-Me Photography, a nonprofit endeavor which promotes the adoption of shelter animals through beautiful photography. Nanette describes her work, “As time passed, we began to realize our images were accomplishing something much bigger than just creating adoptions. We were changing the way people perceive shelter animals.” Her photographs connect through the animal’s eyes and freezes a moment that captures their soul. Nanette set up a temporary studio in the foster parents’ back yard, and within minutes had the perfect image with Scooby and Ina looking into the camera, ears pricked. It was amazing how she got the two dogs to sit still simultaneously.

Loving All Animals posted the new flyer on Facebook and on bulletin boards around the Valley. A phone call came quickly. A friend of Donna and Phil Dempsey knew how sad the Pasadena couple was after losing the second of their two rescued German Shepherds. This friend was visiting Palm Springs and spotted the flyer on a Starbucks bulletin board. When Donna saw the photo, she immediately connected with the look in Ina’s eyes and felt the spirit of her dog who passed.

The Dempsey’s soon headed out to the desert, and Donna describes their first meeting, “We love the dogs! We’re empty nesters, and the dogs are a good fit. We knew the moment we saw them.” She had already changed the foam in their homemade dog beds, preparing for the newcomers.

The dogs now have a huge yard, the size of a small park, and also enjoy a second home at the beach. The Dempsey’s report that Ina is the brains in the family while Scooby is the brawn. Scooby is the gentler dog, and looks to Ina for direction. Ina sets the pace and gives the orders. The pair enjoy outings on their new boat wearing lifejackets for safety. Most important of all, they are together. The joy of pet ownership multiplies when you are lucky enough to have animals who love their humans AND each other. Thanks to a photo, their love story continues.

For more information about Shelter-Me Photography see their website at or for information about adopting a rescue dog go to