By Janet McAfee
How has a dog’s presence in your life changed you forever? How did an amazing rescue dog named Astro change the life of Stefano Filippelli and his family in ways they could never anticipate?
Hundreds of animal lovers following Astro’s story on Facebook collectively grieved when he left this world on October 21, 2020. The tributes poured in from those owning dogs Astro helped train. Tributes poured in from people who never met Astro, reporting how they learned and grew through following his journey. In September 2020, this 10 year old pit bull was diagnosed with Masticatory Muscle Myositis. He passed away from complications related to a twisted stomach after a valiant fight and supported by the best of veterinary care. His human left work to be with Astro on what turned out to be his last day on earth, by his side holding the animal who was his soul mate and inspiration.
Stefano Filippelli had no thought of adopting another pet when he took his family to the holiday pumpkin patch on October 21, 2012. Fur and Feathers Animal Sanctuary was holding a dog adoption event. Stefano reports he felt an immediate bond upon spotting a handsome blue nose pit bull at the event. He recalls, “The deal was cinched when his blazing yellow eyes were locked with mine. Astro joyfully traveled home, and he was a happy addition to our home enjoying his two new sibling dogs.” (Strangely October 21 was Astro’s adoption day and the day he left his earthly family).
One day two months later, a violent encounter changed the harmony in the home. Stefano’s buddy brought his dog over to their house, and the visiting dog attacked Astro who had to defend himself. Thereafter, Astro showed aggression toward other dogs outside the home. One day when he escaped from the house, Stefano’s wife Michelle insisted unless the dog could change, Astro had to go. For Stefano, used to challenges as a firefighter with the Los Angeles City Fire Department, the ultimatum left only one option. Astro was his “go to” dog, his soul mate, and best buddy.
Stefano recalls, “I was determined to fix him. My wife and my son Nikko loved Astro. Astro and I began training at Caesar Milan’s center with Jennifer Gray. I spent untold hours working with him and experiencing his transformation back to the dog he was meant to be. Soon I realized Astro could do even more, becoming an instrument to help train other dogs. I also learned how loving and helping a dog transform can change the trajectory of one’s life.”
Knowing there was a lack of help for dogs with these behavior issues, Stefano became a professional dog trainer. To accommodate their goal, the Filippeli family moved from their suburban Valencia home to a ranch in rural Acton. “We are learning to live on a farm, adding other animal species including cows and chickens, and building dog kennels. Astro and I launched K9 INTUITION, a training center to work with all types of canine issues as well as train their owners to be better with them. I specialize in aggression cases, taking on dogs other trainers gave up on, but if I can’t fix them I’ll say so. Astro was part of training the clients, and during my classes he would look so proud of the other dogs.” You can LIKE “K9 Intuition” on Facebook for great information and videos.
Stefano may retire from the fire department sooner than planned in order to expand his training program. His program will include boarding and more classes.
Every year in October, Stefano brought Astro back to the pumpkin patch where this handsome ambassador greeted visitors with a wide smile and wagging tail, breaking stereotypes about his breed. (Pit Bulls are the largest breed in public shelters, and millions are euthanized every year). National Pit Bull Awareness Day was this week, October 26, and we remember Astro and what can be possible for every dog and in turn, for each of us humans.
Have an open heart and a receptive mind like a dog. Watch your dog closely, accept the lessons they have for you, and travel down the journey they take you on. Stefano explains, “Astro was my soulmate, teaching me how to live in the moment and how to quiet myself. He taught me that if we get stuck in our mistakes and live in the past, we cannot move forward. He helped me understand the true nature of dogs, he knew what I wanted and he did it. Everyone we met fell in love with him.”
OCT 21, 2020, NANCY B. SAYLE, FACEBOOK POST
Today we lost our Astro the Wonder Dog. We here at the Fur and Feathers Sanctuary are truly gutted…..Their trip to the pumpkin patch changed their lives forever. Astro turned into a highly reactive dog who challenged and created the Stefano we know today. Because of Astro’s antics and ways of testing every boundary Stefano ever had, he turned him from a dad and firefighter into one amazing dog trainer. Without Astro, there would be no K9 Intuition. Without K9 Intuition, there would be a lot of dogs who never received the help they needed.
Oct 21, 2020, STEFANO FILIPPELI, FACEBOOK POST
Eight years ago today you walked into my life, and with that my soul. You became my greatest teacher throughout our years together, inspiring me to help rehabilitate other dogs just like you……You went from the dog who wanted to kill every dog you saw to enjoying and helping other dogs in need. Your mere existence changed the lives of thousands of dogs and will change the lives of thousands more. You were more than my soulmate, you were my twin, showing me the good and bad within me and helping me move through them. Today, 8 years later, your work was finally completed and you left me to walk this road alone. I need you to know I am forever you and you are forever me. I can’t breathe without you right now, but I can still see you running through our home. My heart breaks today, and with it my soul. I thank you for all that you were. My friend, my dog, my teacher, and most of all my twin. I loved you from the moment I met you in the pumpkin patch, and I will always love you until the day I too cross the rainbow ridge. Goodbye my boy. Be good and run free.
Below is a partial list of shelters and rescues in the Inland Empire with animals for adoption. They are currently closed for walk-ins, and you must call for an appointment. You can view most of their animals online before calling. Thank you for rescuing!
COACHELLA VALLEY ANIMAL CAMPUS – The county shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. You can view the animals at all four Riverside county shelters at www.rcdas.org, and get the ID number of the animal you want to adopt. Email them the animal’s ID number at firstname.lastname@example.org, or schedule a virtual adoption appointment at www.rcdas.org, 72050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms, (760) 343-3644. (Public)
PALM SPRINGS ANIMAL SHELTER – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. They schedule appointments Wednesday through Monday. View their animals online at www.psanimalsshelter.org, 4575 E. Mesquite Ave, Palm Springs, (760) 416-5718. (Public)
ANIMAL SAMARITANS – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. View their animals at www.animalsamaritans.org. Email email@example.com to foster. Located at 72307 Ramon Rd, Thousand Palms, (760) 601-3918. (Private)
CALIFORNIA PAWS RESCUE – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Located at 73650 Dinah Shore, Palm Desert. View their animals at www.californiapawsrescue.com, (760) 656-8833. (Private)
HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE COACHELLA VALLEY – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt a dog or cat. This shelter has lots of big dogs in addition to small dogs and cats. View some of their animals at www.orphanpet.com. Located at 17825 N. Indian Canyon, Palm Springs, (760) 329-0203. (Private)
KITTYLAND – The shelter is closed so call for an appointment to adopt a cat. Located at 67600 18th Avenue, Desert Hot Springs, www.kittylandrescue.org, (760) 251-2700. (Private)
FOREVER MEOW – Foster based rescue for cats located in Rancho Mirage. Contact them at www.ForeverMeow.org, (760) 335-6767. (Private)
PRETTY GOOD CAT – Foster based rescue for cats located in La Quinta. Contact them at www.prettygoodcat.com, (760) 660-3414 (Private)
LOVING ALL ANIMALS – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Located at 83496 Avenue 51, Coachella, www.lovingallanimals.org, (760) 834-7000. (Private)
MORONGO BASIN HUMANE SOCIETY – Located at 4646 Sun View Rd, Joshua Tree, www.mbhumanesociety.com, call between 11am-4pm for updates (760) 366-3786 (Private)
CITY OF SAN BERNARDINO ANIMAL SHELTER – Shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Hours for adoption 10am – 4pm Tuesday thru Sat. Google “City of San Bernardino Animal Shelter” for website to view animals and get the ID number of the animal you want to meet. Located at 333 Chandler Place, San Bernardino, (909) 384-1304 or (909) 384-7272. (Public)
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER AT DEVORE – Shelter closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Call (909) 386-9280 daily. View animals at www.sbcounty.gov/acc and get the ID number of animal you want to meet. Located at 19777 Shelter Way, San Bernardino (Public).
DREAM TEAM ANGELS RESCUE – Foster based rescue located in Grand Terrace/San Bernardino area. Contact them through website www.DreamTeamangelsrescue.com, (360) 688-8884. (Private)