By Janet McAfee

Bystanders do a double take when an amazing, doggie decorated limousine cruises along Coachella Valley streets. What celebrities could be inside? Curious stares are riveted when the limo stops, the door swings open, and the little 4-legged passengers trot out. Some of our Coachella Valley shelter dogs are on board, now living a good life in foster homes and on a journey around town to find their forever homes. Loving All Animals, a Palm Desert animal welfare organization, received a donated limousine and decorated the windows with a dog motif. It is a moving billboard encouraging the adoption of shelter animals with the message “From a Home in a Shelter to the Shelter of Your Home” written in large bold lettering along the sides.

Now Loving All Animals offers something unique to assist pet seekers to find their perfect match. In addition to transporting adoptable dogs to public venues and new homes, they now transport pet seekers to local public and private shelters. These limousine shelter tours are a big hit with pet seekers who may not know the location of our public shelters. Most people don’t know about the diverse private shelters and rescue groups that also offer adoptable dogs and cats. Karen, a passenger on last month’s shelter tour reported, “I live here part time and didn’t know where the shelters are located. This has been a fabulous experience. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable. We met dozens of dogs and had so much fun.” Karen’s Golden doodle dog, Kallie, accompanied the tour to ensure compatibility with her new sister dog.

Each tour includes as many shelters as time permits. The first stop is the beautiful Pet Rescue Center in Coachella where the homelike setting, beautiful grounds and agility course defy the stereotype of a gloomy animal shelter. Then we cruise down the 10 freeway towards Thousand Palms to the Coachella Valley Animal Campus. This modern structure with roomy indoor/outdoor kennels is our local Riverside County shelter which serves eight Coachella Valley cities. They have the largest number of animals, and we have the opportunity to visit with some of them in private visiting areas. Next door is Animal Samaritans’ state-of-the-art veterinary clinic, and if director Fred Saunders is around we might get a private tour of their facility. Tour participants get to meet more dogs and cats at the Animal Samaritans shelter around the corner on Ramon Road. Then it’s on to Desert Hot Springs to visit Save A Pet, a private nonprofit shelter where we are warmly greeted by kennel manager, Stacey Lawler.

If potential adopters are interested in large dogs, the Humane Society of the Desert in Palm Springs is a good resource. The newly built Palm Springs Animal Shelter, with a modern surgical suite and nicely designed pet boutique, is nothing like what you see on those tear wrenching ASPCA commercials. Sometimes we may make a stop at a beautiful pet hotel, The Pet Hotel at Barkingham Palace, where there are a few foster dogs seeking homes. Along the way, we point out rescue-friendly pet businesses such as Cold Nose Warm Heart pet boutique where many adoption events are hosted.

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These limousine shelter tours may be the only program of its kind in the entire country. The intent is to make adopting a shelter animal a fun and educational experience. The intent is to showcase rescue animals as wonderful and loving companions. The intent is to change the perception still held by some that shelter animals are “mangy flea-bitten mutts” and that shelters are depressing concrete buildings. Most shelter dogs and cats are gorgeous, loving, and grateful creatures that bring untold joy to the people who adopt them. They transform our lives with their joy and amaze us with their unique personalities. We believe this unique vehicle impacts public perception about rescue animals, perhaps having a subliminal effect to transform their thinking. Rescue animals are glamorous and wonderful creatures.

Are you looking for that perfect new furfriend? Know someone who is seeking a new animal? If you are looking for a specific breed, your local shelters and rescue groups can be a great resource. It is estimated that 30% of the dogs in public shelters are pure breeds. When you reserve your spot on the shelter tour, you can let Loving All Animals know what type of pet you seek, and they will check in advance with the shelters. This writer is happy to be one of the tour guides.

Shelter tours are offered twice a month. For information or to make a reservation, call Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000. Tours leave from their Palm Desert location. Upcoming tours are scheduled for Wednesday, April 23, and Saturday, May 3. Join the fun, and meet your “purrfect” match.

Loving all animals