By Janet McAfee

It was a summer morning at Whitewater Park in Rancho Mirage, an area inhabited by dog walkers. Wilma Sullivan was walking her own dog when she arrived at a clearing.  Another dog walker had just called County animal control about a stray dog.  Wilma peered through the bushes to see a small, badly matted, terrified dog who was infested with ticks.  The exhausted, emaciated animal could barely issue a weak little bark when the animal control officer arrived to transport her to the shelter.  

The dog’s past life is a mystery.  We do know that no owner came looking during the holding period at the county shelter, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus.  But Wilma Sullivan could not forget the dog we later named Kiera, “I couldn’t stop thinking about this little creature, and I felt compelled to make sure she got a good life in a new home.”  Wilma telephoned the shelter daily to check on her status and obtained her identification number for tracking purposes.  She learned the dog was treated for ticks, and her initial fearfulness had subsided so she could be adopted by the general public.

Sadly, it is not uncommon for people to abandon animals.  They abandon animals of every breed and of every age.  They abandon animals who have shown them love and loyalty for many years. They abandon puppies and adorable young animals like 1-year-old Kiera.  The evidence suggests Kiera was abandoned, and she likely mistreated by her former owner.  She shirks if you move too quickly or raise your arm.  Did her former owner purposefully drop her off in a park frequented by people where she might be found?


Wilma could not adopt a third dog because one of her two dogs had medical problems.  Determined to help, she contacted Loving All Animals and they arranged for a foster home for Kiera.  This strikingly beautiful dog appears to be a blend of Maltese and Havanese.

Kim Kirmss was amazed when Kiera arrived, “What a gem this dog is!  It’s unbelievable to me that anyone would allow her to leave their home and not go looking.”  Kim rearranged her vacation schedule in order to continue fostering while Kiera was groomed, vetted, spayed, and prepared for the next step….adoption.

Kiera was skittish when she arrived at Kim’s home.  But the dog was smart, and quickly learned how to use the doggie door.  She seemed to know boundaries, waiting for permission to enter each room.  Kim immediately thought of her good friends, Cecilia and Irvin Cohen who were in the market to adopt a small dog.  The Cohens were out of town, and Kim sent them an email with the dog’s photo with a note, “You’re going to love this one…I’ve found our next Precious!” (Referencing their Maltese who passed away several years ago).  One look at the dog’s cute photo sealed the deal for an adoption.  

Today Kiera is renamed Phoebe.  The Cohens are welcomed by a bouncing bundle of joy when they return home, as Phoebe races through the house, and bounces happily in their presence.  Cecilia Cohen reports, “We are just thrilled we have this precious little dog, and we thank Loving All Animals and Kim Kirmss.  She brings a lot of joy to us.  She especially likes getting belly rubs.”

Phoebe is one of the lucky ones, and she will never be hungry or terrified again.  As this small rescue dog learns how joyful life can be, she teaches us humans that we too may have a chance for a “second act,” a new lease on life if we just keep the faith.  There is a happy ending for Phoebe thanks to a good Samaritan, a loving foster mom, and a couple who shower their new pet with love.

Dogs continue to be abandoned during our hot summer.  Some roam the streets, emaciated and suffering.  Others end up at the county shelter.  You can help save one by becoming a doggie foster parent.  Contact Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000 or