By Janet McAfee

There is no place like a “home for the holidays,” and a little dog named Johnny knows that better than most.  Johnny was a stray homeless dog who ended up at the now closed Indio animal shelter.  He faced an uncertain future at this crowded high kill shelter.  Christmas angel, Lori Weiner, owner of the Pet Hotel at Barkingham Palace, changed Johnny’s luck when she rescued him along with a little black terrier named Shawna four years ago. 

Eventually Shawna was adopted.  Johnny remained behind, hoping that one day someone would take him too.  Unlike many homeless dogs who are kept in kennels, Johnny was a royal resident at the Pet Hotel, well fed, loved, and he romped in the indoor dog park with the four-legged hotel guests.  He lived in a beautiful suite with loving staff, but his heart longed for something more.

Last year, Johnny attended a Super Pet adoption event.  He looked longingly at prospective adopters, hoping to catch their eye.  As usual, pet seekers favored the “white fluffies,” the Bichons, the Shih Tzus, and the Poodle blends.  Johnny, a terrier mix, had a hard time getting noticed among the throngs of specialty breeds and cute puppies.  


But sometimes those who wait the longest get the best home.  A couple operating a vendor booth at the event noticed Johnny’s sparkling personality.  Johnny left for his forever home that day. While he was happy and content at Barkingham, Johnny transformed into a radiant, joyful dog once he had a family to call his own.

Jennifer Nelson, Johnny’s human mom reports, “We’ve never encountered such a grateful little being.  Johnny is so loving and happy!  He’s like a circus dog, throwing the rope in the air, practically jumping over my son’s head to catch it, and then proudly trotting away.  When I took my son and our 10-year-old dog Brando to the dog park, Johnny was practically jumping out of his skin with excitement.  He was truly in his element, and was appointed the role of “leader” by another large dog, Draco.  Johnny sleeps in bed with my son every night, while occasionally jumping down to pop up on our bed to visit and give soft kisses. We are so grateful for him.”

Nine-year old Nic describes his new best buddy, “He’s an awesome dog, he’s so happy.  Johnny is like a little jumping bean, and he follows me everywhere.  I’m going buy him some squeaky toys and balls for Christmas!”  This year Johnny celebrates his second Christmas in his own home with Nic, six-year-old Hanna, and his dog brother, Brando.  

Shelters and rescue groups sometimes worry that pets adopted during the holidays would be returned, victims of impulse buying or unwelcome gifts.  Experience shows that carefully made adoptions during the holiday season save more lives, and people need to be encouraged to visit shelters rather than expensive puppy stores.  Exercise caution when thinking about gifting a pet to another adult.  That dog you select for your mother-in-law might not be the best match.  Instead take someone to a shelter or rescue and pay the adoption fee for the pet THEY select. 

Dreams to do come true for those animas like Johnny, who believe and wait with patience and optimism.  There is a home for every dog, and no home is complete without a loving rescue dog or cat.  If you are still “dogless” head out to the Coachella Valley Animal Campus, our county shelter in Thousand Palms, and meet some fabulous dogs and cats.  Call them at (760) 343-3644 and view their adoptable animals at   Take a second look at those mixed breed pups like Johnny, who have hearts of gold, fabulous personalities, and who will reward you every day with loving loyalty.