The majestic dog runs along the mountain trail, pacing himself in synchrony with his slightly older companion dog. The pads of their feet are silent on the damp earth, the crackle of fall leaves the only sound. The dog spots a raccoon in a tree, startled by a strange creature he’d never seen before. He glances at Elmo looking for a cue about what to do next. Their human runs just a few paces behind, and they look to her for direction.
Mahto stands for “Bear” in Lakota Sioux, the name given by his foster dad. A handsome German Shepherd with perhaps a bit of Akita, this young dog is a sweet loving animal whose demeanor is more that of a teddy bear. Mahto came within hours of being another statistic at the high kill San Bernardino City animal shelter, a rustic building at the end of a dismal dead-end street. Sadly, 85% of the cats and dogs entering there are euthanized.
Social media is revolutionizing how we find a spouse, a job, a house, and even a pet. Facebook connects “friends” who share information and promote their causes. There are almost 800 million Facebook users worldwide, averaging 130 friends each, and about half of them log on daily. The photos and stories of homeless animals go out electronically to increase adoptions.
Magen Arquette, volunteer at the San Bernardino shelter, advocates for her favorite breed, the German Shepherds. Foster parents Vanessa and Curtis saw Magen’s posting on Facebook. They fell in love with the dog’s expression and the beautiful face with a distinctive ring of freckles around his nose. They emailed Loving All Animals about sponsoring him. I wrote a comment to the growing chain of Facebook posts asking someone in San Bernardino to evaluate the dog’s temperament and approximate age. A Facebook “friend” soon reported back, “He’s a sweetheart, gets along with other dogs, about 2 years old.” Time is of the essence in rescue, and I notified the staff we were coming to pull him.
Curtis joined Lynne and I on the trip down the 10 freeway. The dry desert landscape gave way to the greener hills of Banning, and then we entered the bleak sprawl of San Bernardino littered with fast food restaurants and empty commercial buildings. Would the dog be healthy? Was he really friendly to humans? Would he still be there? Lynne and Curtis escorted the grateful dog out of his kennel before I could complete the paperwork. With the gait and confidence of a show dog, Mahto pranced into the parking lot and leaped eagerly into our waiting vehicle.
To those who think going into a public shelter would be too sad, I would counter there’s nothing like the feeling of jubilation when you escort an animal out the door and sense its incredible relief at being freed. Our happy trip home was filled with conversation about this new dog. Mahto thrived in his foster home, and after a brief skirmish with his foster sister Sapa, became an integral part of the foster family, acknowledging Curtis as both savior and pack leader. The eager to please dog was house trained and following basic commands within a day.
I posted Mahto on both Loving All Animals page and my own Facebook page. My friend Kathy Barnes “Shared” the posting and for some unknown reason I checked her page and saw the comment from Cathleen Coombs-Stephens, a former co-worker, expressing her interest in getting a second dog. I was pleased to see a picture of their shepherd Elmo sitting on the living room couch. Elmo Stephens even had his own Facebook page! I immediately sent a Facebook message to Kathleen, and two days later she arrived for a “meet and greet” with her 2 boys and dog Elmo in tow. A kiss goodbye to his beloved foster dad, and Mahto was off. Our goodbye tears were soothed by knowing Mahto was going to a wonderful home. Mahto was both rescued and adopted through Facebook.
Cathleen kept us updated on Facebook, “Can you imagine the joy I am experiencing watching Mahto and Elmo play? Mahto is also regularly getting in the kiddy pool. Today was a good day….Right now my son Declan is sitting on Mahto and he’s not even moving!”
Mahto now leads a charmed life, living on a 3/4 acre mountain property with a loving family. Cathleen reports, “He is highly affectionate. The minute I sit down, Mahto forces his head under my hand for a pet. He learns really fast, and looks to Elmo for guidance. There is a definite camaraderie between the two dogs, and Mahto matches Elmo’s calmness in the house. The boys, Miles and Declan, are so excited to have him because he plays catch and chase. It’s also good for Elmo who didn’t use to be as playful, but now when we bring out Mahto’s toys he doesn’t want to miss out. There’s a new puppy energy in Elmo now. We made the best decision to adopt this dog.” Mahto is currently preparing to take part in Race for the Rescues at the Pasadena Rose Bowl.

Check out Loving All Animals’ Facebook page to see more adoptable animals. To help a dog get a home, click on “Share” rather than “Like”. Guess who else now has his own Facebook page? Send Mahto Stephens a Facebook friend request to see his latest adventures!

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