Clear the Shelters Dog Provides ‘Emotional Support’ for Veteran, Family

Clear the Shelters
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Bailey, a long-haired Chihuahua mix, is living her best life in Orange County where her owners and their grandchildren give her plenty of tummy rubs and affection.

But Bailey’s life wasn’t always this easy. She was a stray, rescued by an animal shelter in Huntington Beach, California. Bailey was one of the lucky dogs adopted last year during NBC and Telemundo Owned Stations’ Clear The Shelters pet adoption campaign. The nationwide pet adoption initiative has helped more than 250,000 pets find forever homes since 2015.

Don and Joann Winderman camped out overnight to adopt Bailey after seeing the puppy a day earlier at a local shelter and “falling in love” her. They were first in line at the Bella Terra Mall event, which happened to land on the couple’s 39th wedding anniversary.

Don is a veteran who served in the Marine Corps for six years. He was an aviation ordnance missile tech stationed at El Toro before being transferred to Tustin where he worked as a helicopter gunner. 

Don said their three rescue pups, including Bailey, serve as emotional support animals. He calls them “velcro dogs” because of their love for cuddling.

“They sense when you’re not feeling good,” he said. “And they’re happy to see you every day.”

It’s been one year since Bailey’s adoption into the Winderman home, and she fit in seamlessly. 

“She has just come in and taken over with our other dogs,” Don said. “She’s very loving.”

He said that Bailey gets along well with the couple’s four grandsons, who enjoy giving her daily tummy rubs.

“The only one she barks at is my son-in-law,” he said, laughing. “But everybody kind of barks at him.” 

Don Winderman believes that adopting a rescue animal isn’t just about saving an animal’s life, but also what the animal does for its owner.

“The love that these dogs give you is worth it,” he said. “All they need is love. And really, if people gave out more love than hate this country would be a lot better — and the whole world would be better.”

Animal shelters across Southern California are full of pets waiting to be adopted, including cats, rabbits, snakes, turtles and many other species.

Every year, millions of companion animals end up in shelters across the country. Rob Silverstein, the public service administrator for Santa Monica Animal Shelter, said that animals end up in their cages over three primary reasons.

“Either the owner will relinquish the animal and because they can’t care for the animal, they rely on us to find them a new home,” he said. “Sometimes they might be stray, or they were in a situation of abuse. Our officers will find them in the field or remove them from that situation.”

And while shelter adoption rates have been steadily rising since 2011, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 1.5 million animals — 860,000 cats and about 670,000 dogs — are still euthanized each year due to overcrowding.

The number of euthanized animals could be reduced dramatically if more people adopted pets instead of buying them. And, by adopting a shelter animal, you actually save two lives.

“Every single pet that is adopted frees shelter staff up to work with and prepare the next pet for potential adoption,” said Kenny Lamberti, director of strategic engagement and companion animals for the Humane Society.

So if you’re thinking about taking home a new furry friend, consider heading to a local animal shelter to adopt during this year’s Clear the Shelters event on Aug. 17.

Editor’s Note: For more information about ‘Sweet Pea’, the dog up for adoption at the end of this video, contact the City of Santa Monica’s Animal Control Division (310) 458-8594.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Valley Animal Center - Adopt a Cat

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Miss Winkles Adoption






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  • Towels and blankets - Shelters are often cold and animals like to have a blanket to curl up on. Towels are a big help to dry animals off after being bathed or if they come in wet. Towels can also be used to line the bottoms of cages. The towels or blankets don't have to be brand new or in perfect condition. The animals won't mind, as long as they're usable.
  • Canned and Dry Food for Cats and Dogs-Healthy - Healthy pet options for nourishment
  • Kitty litter and cat boxes - Cats go to the bathroom- a lot. Shelters are constantly using bag after bag of litter. Their supply runs out fast.
  • Puppy or kitten formula and nursing bottles - Sometimes there are situations where a young puppy or kitten who is not weaned gets separated from their mother. In these situations they need puppy or kitten formula to survive.
  • Old newspaper - When you're done with your newspapers you usually just throw them away or recycle them, right? You could help animals at no cost to you if you just save up your old newspapers. Newspapers are used in the bottoms of cages. They get soiled quickly, so they're in constant demand.
  • Collars, harnesses, and leashes - Dogs who are taken out on walks need a leash and collar or harness. The shelter loses some because adopted dogs often go home with their leash or harness.
  • Grooming supplies - Grooming supplies can include shampoo, brushes, combs, haircutting scissors, etc. Dogs and cats often come in dirty or end up getting dirty. Grooming supplies can keep them fresh, clean, and adoptable.
  • Toys - You would get bored if you had to lay in a crate alone all day, wouldn't you? Animals in shelters get bored, too. It keeps the animals from being so lonely and bored and allows them to get exercise. You could go out and buy new toys, or you could donate toys your pets or children may have not gotten much use out of. It's as simple as that.
  • Crates and carriers - Animals need to be transported somehow, and the cost of multiple crates and carriers can add up quickly. You can donate ones you stopped using that are still in good condition or you could go buy one for a decent price. This helps the shelter tremendously.
  • Paper towels and cleaning supplies - There are a lot of situations that get messy, so paper towels are a big help.
  • Hand wash and hand sanitizer - People who work at shelters need to keep their hands clean for their and the animals' health.
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener, and bleach - Towels and blankets get soiled often so the washing machines are being used a lot
  • Dog and cat beds - this can offer the animals a soft place to lay instead of a kennel or cage floor.
  • Heating pads - Many animals come in cold or are young and need warmth. Heating pads can replace a mother's warmth.
  • Copy paper and pens, pencils, post-it notes and staples - You can't forget about all the paperwork that has to be done. Donating these items makes it so the shelter doesn't have to buy them on their own.
  • Garbage bags, mops, brooms, and sponges - The shelter uses these every day and clean up supplies can get expensive.
  • Food bowls - As new animals come in, the shelter needs new places to put food. Having an adequate supply could mean life or death for an animal in a shelter.
  • Rubber and latex gloves - A lot of messy stuff happens and gloves are necessary to lessen the spread of germs.
  • Plastic shopping bags - Plastic bags can be used to clean up dog mess and to store things in.

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