By Janet McAfee

My friend Sam Dabir recently contacted me to help her find a small female rescue Chihuahua.  I soon spotted an adorable brown Chihuahua on the Desert Hot Springs Animal Shelter’s Facebook page.  The 1-yr-old pup came into the city’s shelter after a Good Samaritan found her running the streets, thin and exhausted in the heat.  She had no microchip and was not spayed. As it is often the case, no owner came looking to claim her. Tragically there are more strays on the streets and relinquishments coming into crowded shelters due to the current economic downturn including people losing their housing

The little Chihuahua’s sweet face framed in fur stole Sam’s heart.  It was love at first sight when they finally locked eyes at the Desert Hot Springs Shelter, and she quickly completed the adoption application.  The tiny dog had to be spayed before leaving the shelter, and Sam could hardly wait those few days to take her home.

This little dog has a personality larger than life, befitting her new name Gatsby after the Great Gatsby.  Sam tells us, “Gatsby is awesome! She’s my new best friend and we go everywhere together. I showed her all her things when she arrived home, and she was immediately comfortable.  I bought a doggie backpack that fits on my chest, and Gatsby comes running to leap inside ready for an outing.  Our favorite thing to do is take hour long walks around the golf course and the lake, meeting other people and pups on the way.  Gatsby is super playful.  She goes into the down position and starts drumming with her front legs and then digs into the blankets and sheets while I copy her.”


A lifelong dog lover, Sam did some research and discovered Gatsby is a Long-Legged Deer Head Chihuahua.  She tells us, “When I arrived at the shelter, I could not believe the beautiful pure breed looking dogs there.  I walked past gorgeous German Shepherds, poodles, terriers, and others.  The stereotype of mangy mutts in shelters is just not true.  I was impressed with how clean and organized the shelter is.  The animals have misters to cool them in the heat.  There was a man there taking the dogs out for walks. The staff was wonderful.”

The Desert Hot Springs Animal Care and Control shelter opened in 2015, upgrading the same building used many years ago as a shelter.  Their City Council realized it was more cost effective to operate their own animal control and shelter than to continue contracting with Riverside County.  Animal advocates welcomed the move, which meant keeping the city’s strays closer to home in addition to reducing the huge intakes at the county’s Thousand Palms facility.

Shelter Supervisor Sergeant Stephanie Zamora tells us, “Our goal is to keep stray animals local, work to return them to their families, and work diligently to find a rescue for all adoptable animals without families.  Some people have the misconception that when they bring a stray animal here it is euthanized with no effort is made to adopt it.  We never euthanize due to lack of space.  Veterinary care is provided for sick and injured animals, and only those with extreme medical and dangerous aggression are euthanized here.  We have a great area for the cats, and the dogs are walked three times a day.  During September we offer $25 adoptions and offer $5 microchipping to the public. We try to encourage pet owners to be responsible and do everything they can to keep their animals”.


The facility welcomes volunteers.  Duties include walking dogs, socializing cats, feeding animals, cleaning kennels, and possibly transporting to appointments.

Sam Dabir tells us, “There is no need to pay thousands of dollars to a breeder when so many wonderful dogs are in shelters.  I was mind blown by the caliber of dogs at this shelter. My dog Gatsby is so healthy and happy, she brings me joy every day!”

The Desert Hot Springs shelter is located at 65810 Hacienda Avenue in Desert Hot Springs.  Their office is open 7 days a week 9:30am to 4:30pm.  Contact them at (760) 329-6411, extension 450 or 451.  You can view their available animals at Call to make an appointment to meet the cat or dog you would like to adopt.  There is nothing like the grateful heart of a rescue dog or cat that will bring joy to your life.