By Janet McAfee

“Just wondering, what would your husband or wife say if you called them up and told them you were moving into a motel with a very sick dog for a few weeks? My wife has been amazingly understanding through all of this, and that’s why I love her so much,” Steve Miller explains from his Redlands motel room. Miller, one of the wonderful volunteers at the San Bernardino City Shelter, has spent the past two weeks sequestered at a motel with Portia, a very sick and contagious 3-year old Pit Bull Retriever mix pup he rescued from the shelter.

Miller, an ardent animal lover, had never been inside an animal shelter until four years ago when his cousin posted a Facebook photo of an abused pit bull named London. In spite of his horrific injuries that led to the amputation of London’s front legs, the dog proved to be loving and happy in his specially made wheelchair. Miller traveled to Crescent City for the abuser’s trial, meeting this incredible loving dog who forever changed his impression of the breed. London also led Steve Miller down a new path that he would never have imagined.

Miller started volunteering at the city shelter, focusing on the pit bulls, getting them out of their kennels for exercise, walks, and play. He states, “I’d heard all the bad publicity about the breed, but after meeting London I wanted to find out for myself what they were like. I discovered that pit bulls crave human interaction more than any other breed I’ve come in contact with.”


Miller eventually started a small program to provide medical care to a few of the shelter’s dogs in need. A shelter employee approached Miller about helping a stray dog that came in appearing very sick. Portia was about to be euthanized when she was diagnosed with mycoplasma pneumonia and tested positive for distemper.

The shelter is located in a low income area, at end of a dead end street, in a city that declared bankruptcy. While the staff struggles valiantly to help the animals, there is scant funding for veterinary care for the stray and discarded pets that stream endlessly into the shelter. Once Miller realized Portia’s kennel mate, Chevy, was exposed to her disease and scheduled for euthanasia, he arranged for The Barking Lot rescue in San Diego to save him.

Miller drove Portia to the Pet Care Center in West Los Angeles where they agreed to provide free medical care to this rescue dog. Not only was Portia contagious and could not go to a foster home with animals, but she also requires special medical treatments every eight hours. Miller provides Albuterol vaporizer treatments three times a day, followed by cupping massages and tapping. This procedure loosens the phlegm in Portia’s lungs. Portia is on three medications.

Portia is on the mend. Tonight she’s a happy dog, lying on the motel bed, watching television with her savior. Miller has his laptop, and networks more homeless animals that need rescuing when he’s not tending to Portia or talking with family by phone. There is a magical bond between a dog and his human rescuer, and these intelligent sensitive creatures repay you in ways you can never imagine.

Portia will soon be ready for a family of her own. This sweet natured, loving and grateful dog deserves a fantastic second chance home. Contact (951) 906-1874 for more information about adopting Portia.

Volunteers are the heart and soul of an animal shelter. To volunteer at the San Bernardino City Shelter, contact Cathy Nisbet at (951) 892-8028, or fill out an application at the shelter. Coachella Valley residents can contact volunteer coordinator, Priscilla Dewing, with the Coachella Valley Animal Campus at (760) 343-3644. You probably will not need to camp out in a motel with a dog, but the animals will benefit immensely by having you walk them and spend time with them. The joy of helping these beautiful animals prepare for their forever homes when you foster or volunteer, is your reward.