By Janet McAfee

Sometimes dogs, like people, become better and happier in a new environment. Sometimes dogs, like people, take on the attitude of the humans around them. Sometimes dogs, like humans, miraculously transform when given a second chance.

Bacchus’ life story did not start out well. He was born on a cold December night on a cement floor at the Riverside County Animal shelter in Riverside. His mother was a beautiful Bichon, labeled fearful” by the shelter staff not realizing the dog was about to give birth. Loving All Animals was looking for a rescue Bichon for adopter Doris Hale. A surprise awaited when I went to rescue the Bichon dog…. she was in a basket nursing four puppies less than a day old! The late wonderful animal advocate, Cookie Briney, fostered the family. 

The beautiful puppies were posted on Loving all Animals website asking, “Who’s the Daddy?” as none of them looked like their mother now named Valentine. Puppies are easy to adopt, and soon Bacchus, Cupid, Romeo, and Juliet went to new homes. However, all was not well at Bacchus home. Nine months later Loving All Animals received an email about his “issues.” 


Bacchus’ owner had a myriad of unbelievable complaints about the dog. Loving All Animals offers support and training consultation to help folks keep their pet. But this family had clearly decided they wanted Bachus gone. They reported Bacchus was “out of control”, periodically going into a “trance” in which he growled and attempted to bite them. They stated he chewed everything up including their furniture, and he urinated all over the house. They said the no local dog training class in the Long Beach area would admit Bacchus. Like most private rescue organizations, Loving All Animals’ policy is to accept return of their adopted dogs, ensuring they don’t end up back at the pound.

How could we possibly find a foster home for a dog with so many problems? However, Bacchus appeared to be a happy animal, seemingly unconcerned when his owner drove away forever. Bacchus did well on our first temperament test, a trip to pet friendly PetSmart. Next stop was a dog park, where I carefully tested Bacchus’ reaction to the canines and the people. Bacchus played happily, and showed no sign of aggression.

Jerry and Cheryl Miller recently lost their beloved dog Kramer. Still grieving, they thought fostering might be a good way to have a dog without the obligation. They agreed to take a dog that might need special help. Bacchus wisely greeted them both with kisses. Jerry teasingly asked his wife, “Are you going to fall for this one?” Soon Cheryl and I looked out the window to spot Jerry playfully wrestling on the ground in the back yard with Bacchus. I sensed Bacchus might have already found his next forever home.

Cheryl explains, “Bacchus has a way of looking at both of us that touched our hearts. It’s almost like he was pleading with us to just give him a chance, so we did.” The Millers credit Bacchus’ participation in a dog training class taught by Sandy Miller for Loving All Animals’ dogs. Cheryl adds, “If he was allowed to be the Alpha, Bacchus would be a different dog. Sandy Miller’s training made him happier and more secure.” Bacchus was the star pupil in the class, an intelligent dog eager to learn new behaviors, a special dog now adopted by the Millers.

We will never know for sure what Bacchus’ behavior was like with his first family. However, he has never shown aggression, never went into a “trance”, never was destructive, and never urinated inside the Millers’ home. 

Did Bacchus really have the serious behavior problems described by his first family? Were there some problems in that home that the dog was reacting to? Why did he change so dramatically in a new loving home? Bacchus’ most serious problem now is snatching Jerry’s socks from the laundry room. As Cheryl describes it, “Once they touch your heart, how do you give them back? Bacchus is a wonderful addition to our family.” 

To contact dog trainer Sandy Miller call (760) 360-4085 or For information about rescue animals or becoming a foster parent, contact Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000 or