By Janet McAfee

On November 16, 2016, a beautiful Basenji mix dog, emerged from a back room in our county shelter, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus, to much fanfare in the lobby.  Met by the media and a bevy of onlookers, the dog appeared startled by all the attention.  TenKay represented a milestone for Animal Samaritans’ “Adoption Alliance Animal Rescue Program,” as the 10,000th animal they successfully transferred to a private animal welfare organization.  Loving All Animals happily accepted TenKay into their rescue program, and transported the lucky dog to her awaiting foster parents. 

This successful example of a private-public partnership began in April, 2011.  Since then, this program has saved the lives of 10,000 dogs, cats, kittens, and puppies, in addition to an occasional horse, donkey, rabbit, tortoise, bird, rabbit, and even a snake.  Tom Snyder, Animal Samaritans’ CEO, notes, “Six years ago we embarked on a partnership with Riverside County Animal Services with the shared mission of saving animal lives.  Rescuing our 10,000th animal is a testament to that partnership and the many partnerships we’ve formed with fellow no-kill shelters and rescue groups.”  

michelle-bergeron-and-10000-dog-rescuedMichelle Bergeron is the woman who lovingly escorted those thousands of animals out of the shelter on their way to a new life.  As rescue coordinator for Animal Samaritans, Bergeron works alongside the county’s shelter staff to evaluate, select, and promote animals for rescue.  She helps socialize animals who are frightened, she cares for those who are sick or injured, and she comforts those who appear neglected and abused.  Out of a small office inside the shelter, Michelle contacts prospective 501(c)(3) rescue organizations.  Some of these rescue groups are breed specific, and Bergeron has a knack to know which rescues would be a good match for particular animals. 

Bergeron explains, “Every time an animal leaves the shelter through our program, I am reminded of how blessed I am to be a part of such lifesaving efforts, and I pray that I can continue to do so for many years to come.”  She maintains a list of over 200 rescue organizations across the United States and Canada, contacting the local ones by phone and email, and arranging for transports to distant locations. 

Most shelter dogs eagerly greet the public with happy wagging tails.  However, some are bundles of frightened fur wedged against kennel walls.  The latter are the ones that get the most attention from Bergeron, who optimistically tells the rescue, “I’ll work with him, and he’ll be ready for you next week!”  Personable and cheerful with humans, and possessing an innate ability to relate with fearful and abused animals, Michelle Bergeron is one of my animal heroes.   

TenKay is now enjoying life in her foster home with Lauren Blachley, a student at CSUSB studying to become an applied animal behaviorist.  Blachley reports, “She has transformed from a shy, untrusting dog into the happiest and most outgoing dog in our family.  TenKay will do whatever it takes to cuddle and give kisses.”  The dog loves the company of other dogs, and all humans including the small ones.  Anyone interested in adopting TenKay can contact Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000. 

Animal Samaritans relies on foundation grants and the generosity of individual and corporate donors to continue funding the Adoption Alliance program.  You can make a tax deductible donation online at and designate the “Adoption Alliance program” as the reason for your donation.  Imagine 10,000 once homeless animals now living in loving homes.  Animals like TenKay, abandoned and neglected, transformed into happy creatures, deserve the second chance this program provides them.