Liberty was rescued from a chain in Liberty, Mississippi, where she lived in the scorching heat with no food, water, or shelter. She'd been badly neglected and abused, and she was also suffering from a severe case of sarcoptic mange, which caused her a great deal of pain. Even at her young age, I could also see that Liberty’s spirit was badly damaged.

But despite the misery she’d known all her life… the sparkle of eternal hope... still shined in her eyes.

While Liberty and Lola were rescued together, Liberty’s story is quite different from Lola’s. Following their rescue, Lola instantly received a ton of adoption requests… and shortly thereafter, she was adopted by her forever family.

But I knew in my heart... that things would be much different for Liberty…
And sadly, I was right.

I saved Liberty last June. One year later, she still lives with me. It took her a few months to recover from the mange, but even after she was better… no one wanted Liberty.

And so, Liberty has been with me for the past year.

But I should tell you that her name isn’t really “Liberty” anymore. I call her “Bibby” … Don’t ask me why. I think it started out as Libby… and then one day I changed it to Bibby, and for some reason, that silly little name just stuck. So Bibby is what she goes by… until she gets into mischief… and then it’s the full “Liberty!”

While Lola left me the day before Rudy died, Bibby was with me through the aftermath. She saw it all... the pain, the tears, and the despair. She saw me at a time when I didn’t know how to smile... when it physically hurt me to laugh. In short, Bibby witnessed the Ashley... that others didn’t get to see… the “me” that wasn’t really “me” anymore. And in all honesty, Bibby brought me back…

After Rudy’s death, Bibby was still very sick. She was in pain, she was afraid, and she needed me. At a time when I had little hope, all of Bibby’s hope... depended on me. So I told myself that I had to be strong for her… and that’s what got me through.

I was honored to watch Bibby’s transformation from a terrified, mangey little puppy... into an outgoing, beautiful adult. That rarely happens for me… since the puppies are usually the first to go. But I was able to see Bibby the whole way through... and it was nothing short of incredible.

Bibby began as a scared, timid little girl, who was in a lot of pain. She didn’t trust much at first… and for good reason. But I’ll never forget the first day she started to open up. We were out in the yard together, and suddenly… she became very playful, acting as if she wanted me to chase her. So, we ran and played in the yard together, and then she rolled onto her back to beg for a belly rub.

That was the first time I’d laughed since Rudy died. It was also the last day I ever saw “shy, scared Bibby.” After that, Bibby was happy, outgoing, and so incredibly funny.

But due to her contagious condition, she had to be separated from the other dogs... until her mange treatment was complete. My heart broke for her, because I could see how badly she wanted to play with the others. I remember how she’d cry when I’d let the others out together… her tiny whimpers begged me to let her go with them. I tried to explain to her that she was sick, and promised she could play as soon as she got better. But of course… she didn’t understand. During that time, I cried every day with Bibby, as she pleaded with me to give her the friends she’d never had.

So... I remember Bibby’s excitement, the first day I let her loose with the other pups. She ran circles around them… begging them to chase her… then jumping onto their backs, and hopping right over them like a game of leap frog. I laughed all afternoon watching her play… knowing that she’d been waiting for that day... her whole life.

Of course, Bibby and I have our own special song and dance. For some odd reason, I chose the song “Bad Girls” by Donna Summers, focusing on the part that goes, “Toot toot, Ahhhhh, beep beep!” When I sing the “beep beep!” part, Bibby thinks I’m saying her name, and she jumps up, smiling and dancing. I’ve tried to change the song from time to time… but that one seems to be her favorite, so I stick with it.

Bibby makes me laugh every single day. Some of her antics are absolutely hysterical. Bibby’s a “couch runner” like Noah, meaning she loves to run from couch to couch in the living room. She’s so proud of herself as she bounces off one couch and runs to the next… smiling and doing it all over again. Despite the chaotic nature of these couch running sessions, Bibby loves it,  so I just let her have fun… and then, I attempt to pick up the destruction when she’s finished.

Bibby’s really smart… so she quickly learned how to open some of the doors in my house. And lucky for me... she taught Darla how to do it too. I saw Bibby one day… jumping up to show Darla how to push the knob down, and then backing off to let Darla have a try. After that… it was over. Between the two of them, it’s nearly impossible to keep them in or out of any room. So, when it’s mucky outside, and they’re covered in mud… before I can even wipe their paws, Darla and Bibby have already opened the door, run through the house, and “decorated” my floors and furniture with their nasty foot designs. It’s so fun for all involved, especially me.

Other than the door-opening mischief, Bibby is extremely polite and well-behaved. She knows how to sit and stay, and she actually listens to me… unlike some of the others (who shall remain nameless). Each time I leave the house, Bibby goes right to her crate, lies on her bed, and chews on her toys. She is such a smart girl, and sometimes I wish the other dogs would learn from her good behaviors, instead of just the bad.

But my favorite thing about Bibby is her loving nature. She’s honestly one of the most affectionate dogs I’ve ever known. I can feel her love and gratitude each time she looks at me, with those eyes that say, “Thank you, Mom.” She loves to sit right next to me on the couch, for an ear and neck rubbed… and she has the cutest little groan when you hit the “right spot.”

Today, I look at Bibby… and I see a precious little angel, a survivor, and an inspiration. But others look at Bibby… and see another black dog. She’s a Lab mix… like so many other black dogs… and she just doesn’t stand out in a crowd. It makes me sad, because she’s overcome so much in her short little life, but even still, that’s not enough for adopters to think she’s special.

I’ve accepted that Bibby may live with me forever… and that’s okay, because she has no idea that she’s a “foster dog” anyway. Bibby’s my baby… I know it, and she knows it. While my heart longs for the perfect family for my little girl, I know that she’ll be happy and loved with me until that day comes… or even if it never does.

Bibby is my family… my home is her home. And no matter what happens in the future, she will always live in my heart.

One year ago, I saved 2 broken souls, Lola and Liberty… and made them whole. Today, Lola lives with an amazing family who will treasure her forever… and Bibby lives with me. And so… 2 more dogs joined the “Lucky.”

But the luckiest of all… is me.

*Thank you Bibby, for healing my heart. I love you more than you'll ever know. "Toot, toot, Ahhh, Beep, beep!"



Last June, I got a call from an animal rescuer in Illinois named Patti. Patti found my name on the Dogs Deserve Better website, and she needed my help. She’d just learned that a distant family relative in Mississippi was severely neglecting and abusing his dogs.

Patti, a woman who dedicates her life to helping animals, couldn’t bear the thought of someone in her own family doing such a thing.

So, Patti called me and said, “Ashley, I’m so sorry to bother you on a Sunday, but I’m praying you can help me. There are 2 dogs who need your help now! Please, please tell me that you can help them!” 

One of the dogs, a female Husky named Lola, was living in a crate 20+ hours a day… inside a trailer with no air conditioning. The crate was 2 sizes too small for the dog, which inevitably stunted her growth, and caused her legs to splay outward.

Each day, Lola would try as hard as she could not to potty in the crate… because she knew the consequences if she did. But after 23+ hours... sometimes she just couldn’t hold it any longer... and she'd have to go.

Then, the man would beat the crap out of her for making a mess.
And when the horror of the abuse caused her to potty on herself during the beating… he’d beat her all over again

I'll share Liberty's story tomorrow
The other dog, a black puppy with no name, was living outside on a chain with no food, no water, and no shelter. She was also suffering from a severe case of mange, and she was completely emaciated.
Patti was devastated to learn about these poor babies. She didn’t know the relative personally, but she couldn’t let the dogs continue to suffer in his hands. So she begged me to help them, and she cried... when I said I would.

After the man agreed to surrender his dogs, the race was on.... to get them out, before he changed his mind.

The dogs were in Liberty, MS, about 4 hours away from me. So, I started working to find someone who could meet me halfway. Within a couple of hours, Michelle Lombas offered to drive to Liberty, to pick-up the dogs... and get them to Jackson, MS. From there, my friend Chrissy drove the dogs to Forest, MS, where I met her to bring the pups to Meridian.

When I met them, I saw 2 broken little babies… full of love... and hope. Lola the Husky was beautiful, loving, and special, and I immediately knew that she’d find a wonderful home very quickly.

The puppy was a different story. She was truly pitiful… and in her condition, I knew she wouldn’t find a home for quite some time. We named her “Liberty,” after the town from which she was saved, and also due to the fact that she was finally free from the chain and the abuse she’d known all her life. Liberty had a severe case of sarcoptic mange, which is contagious to other dogs, so she had to be separated from the others for several weeks. Even at such a young age, I could see that her spirit was already broken… as she’d been wasting away on that chain… slowly starving to death.

So, Lola and Liberty came to live with me. I called Patti to tell her the news, and she was overwhelmed with gratitude. Patti posted several sweet notes on facebook, thanking me for making this happen. Then, she started collecting money to send for their vet care.

I immediately posted Lola for adoption, and the requests starting pouring in, as I knew they would. It turns out that Lola’s abusive past would actually work in her favor... which is rarely the case.

Because that under-sized crate didn’t allow her body to fully mature, Lola’s growth had been stunted. Therefore, she had the look of a Husky... but was half the size of the average Husky. And while that breaks my heart to pieces, it actually made her more adoptable.

But even with all the adoption requests, I still hadn’t found the right family for Lola... just yet.

As each new dog comes in, I’m able to see their amazing personalities and get an idea of their individual needs. Then, I develop a picture in my head of the perfect family for that particular dog… and I wait for that wonderful adopter to contact me. My goal isn’t to simply stick every dog in a home, regardless of whether the family is right for that dog. My dream is to place every pup with the family that best meets their needs.

Since Lola had spent her years in a tiny crate with no attention—other than the daily beatings—I wanted her to have a family that could dedicate all of their time to being with her. Lola was very calm, gentle, and loving, and she was most content right by my side. So, I pictured her with an older individual, who was possibly retired, that could be Lola’s constant companion. This was my dream for her... but of course, dreams don’t always come true. 

Yet... within a few days, my dream for Lola did come true… when the perfect family contacted me.

I got a call from Sabrina Williams, who I know personally. Her father, Barney, lives across the street from Sabrina, and he was the reason for her call. Barney was having a hard time dealing with the pain of his wife’s death, which occurred the year before. Then, a few months after his wife passed, his beloved dog passed away... and he was truly devastated. Sabrina knew that her father needed another loving companion... to share his life and his love with, and when she saw Lola, her heart just knew that this was the perfect girl for her dad. My heart told me the same.

And so, Lola’s family was chosen.

Lola and I shared an incredible bond. So when it came time to let her go, I was beyond heartbroken. I was the first person in Lola’s life that had ever shown her love… and she was extremely attached to me… so I knew it wouldn’t be easy for either of us to part. But the day I took Lola to meet her new family, I could see the instant connection between Barney and Lola… and it made everything okay.

Even still... I warned the family that I would cry when I left, but I wanted them to know that I was so happy for Lola… and my tears were only because I loved her so much. They promised to keep me updated with pictures and stories, and I knew they would.

 As I went to leave, Lola tried to go with me. I wiped away the tears as I said, “No, baby. Stay here. This is your family now.” She cried and tried to scramble out the door behind me. So... they had to hold her back, in order for me to go.

With a broken heart... I walked to my car... with my head hung low and tears streaming, as Lola cried out for me from inside the house. In the driveway, I sat in my car and sobbed for about 5 minutes, hating myself for making Lola cry. Then, I put the car in drive ... and cried all the way home.

Sabrina would later send me a text, saying that Lola whimpered by the door, for at least an hour after I left.

As I cried myself to sleep that night… missing Lola and hugging my Rudy, I had no idea... that it would be my last night with Rudy too…

Lola got adopted on July 7, 2010. Rudy died on July 8th. I was still dealing with the pain of missing Lola... when I found Rudy’s body that day. And suddenly, my world didn’t even make sense anymore. Later that night, I sent Sabrina a text to check on Lola... and to tell her the news about Rudy.

Sabrina immediately called me in tears, feeling awful that they had taken Lola from me, the day before this happened to Rudy. She said, “Oh Ashley. I can’t stop crying. You lost 2 babies in 2 days… you don’t deserve this. I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do??”

I was a sobbing mess, as I said: “Yes. You can love Lola for me.”
Every day after, Sabrina would send me a text, to update me on Lola and Barney. I really needed the reassurance during that time, because Rudy’s death made me question everything.

It turns out that Lola would truly repair Barney’s heart, and he would do the same for her. Lola is so happy and loved, and my pain was so worth it... to give that to her. Today, Barney cooks Lola breakfast every morning, and takes her for walks every afternoon. She's truly spoiled rotten, which is exactly what she deserves.

I’ve actually been able to babysit Lola twice, when her family went out of town. One weekend, she came and stayed at my house. As they turned down my street, Sabrina said that Lola’s head perked up, and her tail began to wag uncontrollably, as she spotted my house. 

Then, Lola jumped out... and immediately gave me a big bear hug that said, "Thank you for what you did for me."

We had a great weekend being together again, with walks and playtime and lots of love. 

The second time, Lola stayed with me at Lucky Dog Retreat, where she was one of my very first clients.

Both times, the smile on Lola’s face told me that I did the right thing. And even though Sabrina and Barney have always felt extremely guilty about the turn of events last July... in my heart... I know... this was meant to be.

Because... as I’ve always told them: “Lola was never mine… she was always your’s. God just asked me to get her to you.”

*In a heartbreaking turn of events... Rest in peace, Lola, my heart. I'll see you in Heaven.


The Truth About Fostering

Every day, people make the decision to have children… knowing that their kids will one day grow up, and leave them for families of their own. That’s a painful, heartbreaking time for any parent… the day that their child finally leaves them... forever.

But does the inevitability of that day... dissuade people from having children? No.

However, when it comes to fostering a pet, I constantly hear the excuse, “It would be too hard for me. I’d get too attached. I could never give them up.” And thus, people opt not to foster, and dogs die.

But those very people… who say they just can’t take the pain of letting go… have children, children who will soon leave them for college, marriage, and lives of their own. Those very parents often dread that day in the distant future… the day that their kids no longer need them.

But when the time comes, they’ll deal with it, as best they can.

Sure, they’ll likely cry. Their hearts will hurt... as they let their baby go… and send them off to start their own life with their own family. But does that pain outweigh the years of joy, laughter, and love with their child? Never.

It takes a lot of strength and courage to be a parent. Parenting requires patience, love, and selflessness. For a while, you’re everything to your child. They depend on you to be all that they need, to provide them with love and care, and to guide them through this life.

Yet... the entire purpose of parenting is to prepare your children for that day in the future… when they’ll go off  to start their own life and family. People don’t expect their kids to stay at home forever... just to avoid that dreadful pain. Because if they did, those children wouldn’t be fulfilling their own needs, dreams, and purpose in this world.
Fostering a pet is no different.
Well... it's slightly different, in one aspect: when people don’t step-up to foster… animals die. That’s the cold, hard reality… a reality that YOU have the power to change.

Otherwise, the foster experience is very much like parenting a child, and every bit as rewarding… if not more so, in certain ways. Fostering is about taking a deserving creature into your home, during their greatest time of need, nursing them back to health, removing the pain of their past... loving, teaching, and guiding them… and then... sending them off to live the lives they deserve. Fostering is about giving a dog (or cat) the one thing they’ve never had… hope. And with the simple act of opening up your home to them, YOU are able to grant their one wish. YOU are able to make their dreams come true. YOU are able to save their life.

How many times have you actually been able to save a life? I don’t mean simply watching on the sidelines as a life is saved… I mean literally pulling a dog or cat from death, and bringing them back to life. It’s an incredible experience… there’s nothing like it. But far too many people let the inevitable pain at the end of the experience... blind them from the joy of the journey.

Consider this: Everyone who is currently on this earth... will one day die. Death is painful—often devastating—for those left behind. But death is an inevitable aspect of life. So, if we know in our minds that the people we love will one day leave us, should we never love at all? Of course not… because then, we’d miss the entire purpose of life.

I also think back to my parents, on the day I left for college. I’m lucky to have incredible parents, who have loved, encouraged, and supported me all my life. From the day I was born, they knew I would one day leave them to go to college… which was their ultimate goal for me. And so, they treasured each day with me along the way... and prepared me for my own journey.

When that day finally came, my mother’s tears conveyed the indescribable pain in her heart… a sadness that was ever-so real for her, because her baby girl was all grown up... and leaving her. But on that day, did my mother regret ever having me? No. Did the pain of that day outweigh the years of overwhelming happiness she experienced as my mom? Of course not. That day was bittersweet for my parents, because everything they’d done for the last 18 years… had prepared me for that day. Along with the tears in their eyes, I saw something else… pride. Pride for what they'd accomplished, joy that their dreams for me were finally becoming reality, and the resolution in their hearts that everything in my world ... was exactly as it should be.

Would my parents have ever stopped me from leaving for college, just so they could keep me with them? Never. That’s exactly why they gave me life… so that I may one day... leave to have a life of my own. The act of loving enough to let go is the greatest gift one can give in this world. It’s always about the journey… and when the end-result is bittersweet... it makes the journey that much sweeter.

Often, I write about the pain I feel at the end of each foster journey. I write about that heartbreak, because it’s a very real emotion for me, and a very relevant aspect of fostering. However, these stories from my heart are never meant to discourage others from joining in the incredible experience that is fostering. It’s never meant to say that I regret the weeks, months, or years of unbridled joy, uncontrollable laughter, and unconditional love. That journey is what I live for.

For a short time, I am everything to these dogs. I'm their world. I represent comfort, love, and hope… when they’ve only known pain, hatred, and despair.  In providing these gifts, I receive so much more in return… more than I could ever describe in words. During that time, I make them whole, and in turn, they make me whole. They remove any sadness, anger, or hopelessness I may feel, and replace all of the bad in the world... with the purest good that exists. In truth, they repair my soul.

At the end, I will feel immense pain as I let them go. I feel this hurt, because I love them. But when I let go, I’m releasing them to amazing families, who will pick-up where I left off, and cherish them forever. Incredible homes… that they never would’ve had… without me.

I take them into my home… knowing they will one day leave me. But that’s exactly why I save them… to catch, restore, and release. And each time I let go… I’m fulfilling my purpose in life, and I'm able to save another.

Just as with any parent… you let your children go, because you love them... more than you love yourself. It would be selfish for me to say that my pain is worth more than their life… that my sadness at the end is somehow greater than the hurt they’ve known since birth. Without me, they would’ve died… but now, they live.

Never forget, that without YOU, others will die too. Please... don’t let your fears, anxieties, and anticipation of the pain be the reason for their deaths. I’d say that the sadness of their unnecessary deaths is far more devastating than any heartbreak we could ever feel. And trust me… the love you’ll receive during your time with them, is far greater than the pain of letting go.

To put it simply, this is why I foster:

Fostering is the most rewarding thing I've ever done. It’s given me more joy, laughter, and love than I deserve. At the end, there's always heartbreak. But never for a second does the sadness outweigh the joy. Never do the tears outweigh the laughter. And never does the pain outweigh the love. Heartbreak heals... but love is forever.


The Wait is Over

Last October, I got a call about some puppies... who had been thrown in a trash bag... and then dumped in a ditch.

At the time, I was already overloaded, but these pups had no other hope. So, I made the decision to take in four, very emaciated, terrified little babies… and I slowly brought them back to life. Within a couple of months, they'd all been adopted…

All… except one.

That one puppy... was Ali. Ali was a simple black puppy… nothing more, nothing less. While I thought she was extremely special, I knew the reality for a little black puppy like Ali. Her age was the only thing working in her favor... and that wouldn’t last long.

During the puppy phase, I can feel the “time crunch” for each dog. As a young puppy, their chances of adoption are highest… especially for a “black puppy” … who will soon grow up to be a “black dog.” Families can fall in love with a black puppy, and go on to treasure them forever. But adopters rarely look at a simple black dog and say, “Yep. That’s the one.”

So... I worked hard during Ali’s younger months to find the perfect home for her… before it was “too late.” Then, last Christmas, I found a wonderful family who wanted to adopt Ali... and my soul was on-fire...

But... just before she was meant to go home… the family chose another dog instead.

After that, I wrote a special blog post … letting Ali tell her story "in her own words."

My hope, upon hopes, was that someone would read her story... and fall in love with my Ali.

But... no one ever did.

Months passed… and soon, Ali was no longer a puppy. Suddenly, she was just another black dog.

And while I never give up hope… I knew…

I knew the chances of Ali ever finding a home of her own were so slim. I knew that her hopes may never be realized… her dreams of a family may never come true. I knew that Ali may live with me forever… and while I was okay with that… I knew that she deserved better.

How did I know all of this? Well, I currently have six “black dogs” for adoption: Ali, Pepsi, Freddy, Lucy, Liberty, and Maddie. Five out of the six have been living with me for months or years. In addition, every other rescue and shelter across the nation... is packed with “black dogs.” Further, Ali looks like a smaller version of Pepsi, the black foster baby I’ve had for 2 years and counting… with no adoption requests.

So… I knew.
I hoped, I wished, and I prayed… but I knew.
Ali can be a little camera shy

For the last few months, Ali has been my child, my little Bali Boo. She’s been every bit as much my child... as my own dogs. From the moment I met her, I fell in love with her precious spirit, her fun personality, and her unwavering devotion to me. I’m the only mom she’s ever known… I’m her family… and she’s never had any idea... that she isn’t “mine.”

Because... in truth, she is mine… she’s my heart.

I’d accepted that Ali would probably live with me forever, but I never lost hope that the right adopter may come along one day. Either way, I knew she’d be happy and loved.. with me, forever... and that’s all that really mattered to me.

Even still... every now and then, I’d re-share my blog post about Ali, in hopes that maybe --this time-- the right family would read it.

And yet… no one ever wanted Ali…

And so… my home... became Ali’s home, and that was that.

Well... this week, I was checking emails, when I saw an adoption application in my inbox. I opened it, and at the top, I saw the name: Ali.

Seeing her name on the app... was enough to make me cry.

But as every rescuer knows, the application itself means nothing. It’s the content that matters.

As I read further, I saw that this was more than just your average adoption application.
This was the home I’d been dreaming of for Ali... for the last 9 months.

I read it several times… stunned and completely speechless. A home? For my Ali???

I rarely get my hopes up anymore, but I quickly called the adopter... to talk about Ali. I asked how he’d found out about her, and he said, “The blog you wrote about her… I fell in love with her story, and I wanted to make her part of our family.”

So, it turns out… the "Ali blog" that I’d put my entire heart into writing… worked after all. For months, I’d been beating myself up... over that very post… because I felt like I’d failed Ali... in my one chance to tell her story…

Once I'd approved the adoption, I ran in, scooped-up Ali, and held her in my arms.

 My tears had her concerned, but my smile told her it was okay. And finally… I was able to look at my baby girl and say, “You’re going home, Bali Boo! You’re going home forever!”

Ali and I have a special “Bali Boo dance” that we do every day. It’s one of her favorite things, because I sing in a funny voice and jump around like a crazy person, which makes her so excited. It’s really hard to explain the lyrics of the Bali Boo dance without sounding completely ridiculous, but it goes something like this:

“Bow, chicka bow bow, chicka bow bow. Bali’s a bow wow, chicka bow bow…”

So we danced, we sang, and we laughed. Then I cried, hugged her, and cried some more. I held her… rocked her… and promised her... that I’d remember this moment... for as long as I live.

Then, I held her little face in my hands, looked her in the eyes, and said:

“Just so you know… I’m going to cry tomorrow… and you won’t understand why. You’ll be leaving me forever, and you won’t understand why. But soon… I promise… you’ll understand why I did it. I did it for you. One day, you’ll be happy with your new family... so happy... and you may not even think of me anymore. And that’s okay. But just know… that no matter where you are, or what you’re doing, I’ll be right here… thinking of you, missing you, and loving you, forever.”

Ali kissed me on the cheek, like she always does when I’m sad, and I reassured her that I was so happy for her… and I really am.

But while the joy of an adoption is overwhelming, the pain of giving up my child is undeniable, inconsolable, and heart wrenching. I didn’t want to let her go… I never want to let them go…

But… there comes a time when you have to do the right thing for them, even if it hurts you. And for Ali, the right thing… was to let her go…

And so, with the happiest, broken heart I’ve ever had... I said goodbye to my little Bali Boo today. She was excited to meet her new dad, Paul, and her new pup sister, Annie. And I know she'll go on to live a life of happiness and love.

But she was very unsure... as I loaded her into the car... with tears streaming down my face. She couldn’t understand why I wasn’t coming with her… and she tried to stay behind with me.

It ripped my heart to pieces, but soon… she’ll know that I did it for her. Everything I’ve done, since last October, has been for her.

Then... as Ali left with her new family, I was finally able to say:
“Thank you… for taking my baby home. She’s been waiting for you her whole life.”

As they drove away, I saw Ali watching me through the car window, with hope and uncertainty. I blew her a kiss, and kept watching... as her little face... got smaller and smaller…

And then, she was gone.

My Ali is home tonight. She’s home... for the first time in her life… and I gave that to her. While I’ll probably never see Ali again in this lifetime… I’ll love her every day, for as long as I live. And I know that one day, as she’s running through the yard, happy as can be... she’ll stop… she’ll smile… and she’ll think of me.

And I have no doubt… that at that very moment… I’ll be thinking of her too.

Because I’m her mom… and that’s what moms do. They love... forever.

*I love you, Ali. Thank you for the joy, the laughs, and the love. I will never, ever, ever forget you.


Random Acts of Kindness

Small, random acts of kindness may not always seem like much. In fact... these actions may even seem trivial, insignificant, or lackluster... to the giver. 

But for me... these thoughtful gifts... make the world go round. They represent the one thing we could all use a little more of… hope.

Recently, I’ve been extremely blessed by random acts of kindness. If only these people knew just how much their generosity has touched my heart... and the impact they've had on my life.

While I could never fully describe my gratitude in words, this is my lame attempt to express what these things meant to me…

The other day, I was working hard by myself at Lucky Dog. It was a blazing-hot afternoon, and I was trying my best to get all of the dogs taken care of... without passing out from the heat.

So, I went inside, to work in the air conditioning for a bit... when I suddenly heard a loud-ass, weed-eater outside. In that moment, I was pretty confused…

I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there that day. So, I walked outside… and it turns out... my friend, Matt Mathis, was out there, weed-eating the yard. When he saw me standing there, with a puzzled look on my face, he simply said: “I’m here to volunteer.”

It was seriously one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. The act itself seemed small to Matt, but it was huge for me. It was so much bigger than he could know, and it went far beyond the weed-eating itself.

 Yes… the grass here was looking pretty rough... and I just hadn’t had anyone to help me take care of it. But my heart was so touched, because Matt was going out of his way... to help me with something I really needed. He didn’t want credit… he wasn’t even going to tell me he was there doing it.

Honestly, he was planning to let me walk out the door... and see a freshly trimmed lawn... with no bill to pay. Thank God the weed-eater was so loud, because it gave me the chance to say, “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

Matt didn’t need to hear those words, but I needed to say them.

Then, later this week, three of my sweet friends, Joy Henson, Maygen Crowe, and Dana Smith, blew me away with their generosity. On their own, they began to promote Lucky Dog Rescue in the Care2 Shelter Contest here locally... something I haven’t had the time to do at all.

On their own... Joy, Maygen, and Dana got together, contacted the local media, and worked to get our community more involved in voting for Lucky Dog Rescue. They had the local news station come out to interview me, got the local paper to run an article about the contest, and set-up interviews for me with radio stations as well.

Also, Joy writes a very popular blog, and she wrote a special post about me, my rescue, and the contest. Joy has written several touching blog posts about me in the past... and her words leave me speechless each time. Joy not only loves and appreciates my work with dogs, but she knows me personally. She’s one of my biggest supporters, and I value her friendship more than she’ll ever know. In this town, everyone loves and respects Joy Henson.

I’m honored to know... that Joy Henson loves and respects me as well.

In addition, Dana started a facebook event, inviting all of the local residents to join, vote, and ask their friends to do the same. Dana is another huge supporter of Lucky Dog. She loves what I do, and she fights for the things my dogs deserve. Her support and encouragement honestly mean the world to me. So, Dana and Maygen started working to promote the facebook event... and the response was truly amazing.

I should also mention that Maygen volunteers her time at Lucky Dog each week. She helps me clean kennels, walk dogs, play with dogs, and on and on. More than that, she and I have the best time laughing together, while we work. Maygen is the bright spot in my day... every time she comes out... and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her. The dogs all love her, but I think I may love her a little more.

Every time she leaves, I thank her immensely for her help. But she always says, “I’m the one who should be thanking you... for letting me be here.” I freaking love it Every action on Maygen’s part is truly a God-send for me.

There’s another friend who always touches my heart with her kindness, Pippa Jackson of ARF of MS. Yesterday, I was having a rough afternoon, and I sent Pippa a text... to say that I was really struggling. Pippa is an insanely busy woman, but she immediately dropped what she was doing... to call and cheer me up. Throughout our talk, she listened, gave advice, and made me laugh.

In doing that, she totally turned my day around. Pippa does this for me... every single time I need her, no matter what she has going on in her own life.

Sometimes, a simple phone call is all it takes to make a difference for someone, and Pippa proves that to me each time we talk.

Caring, giving people are truly the heart of this world. With all the suffering I witness, sometimes I begin to lose faith in humanity. I’m surrounded by inhumane actions each day. I see the abuse, the neglect, and the indifference… and at times, I wonder if my continued optimism is even warranted.

But then, amazing people go out of their way for me and others, and I’m reminded of the goodness that still exists. Seemingly small... random acts of kindness have the ability to restore my faith in the world... and give back the hope that many have tried to take away from me.

I’d say that’s not “small” at all. That’s huge.

Never underestimate your power to make a difference. Never assume that there’s nothing you can do… everyone can do something. Never forget that even the smallest actions on your part, can change the world... for someone who needs help. You may be their only hope.

*While I couldn’t list all the names here, this post was written for every Lucky Dog Rescue donor, volunteer, foster home, and supporter. Thank you... I could never do this without you.


Lucky Dog Retreat

A few years ago, I came up with this idea: I wanted to build a boarding facility for dogs, that also functioned as an animal rescue facility.

Basically, my dream would allow me to make a living working with dogs, while also having space to house rescue dogs. I had a fun “doggie vacation” type-place in mind, where boarding dogs could have fun while their families were away, and rescue dogs could get the same treatment, for free.

I wanted to build a facility with 2 distinct, fully-separated sides… one side for boarding, and the other for rescue dogs. I had a certain area of town in mind for the facility, and a picture in my mind of exactly what I wanted to build.

So, for about a year or so, I searched for a piece of land where I could make this dream come true… with no luck.

Then…fate stepped in.

One week --to the day-- after Rudy died, a girl I went to high school with tagged me in a photo on facebook. I hadn’t talked to this girl in years, so I was surprised to see a tag from her. When I clicked on the photo, I saw that she’d taken a picture of a flyer she’d seen in a vet clinic… a flyer about a boarding facility for sale in Meridian.

The caption read: “Ashley, someone told me you might be interested in this.”

Lucky Dog Retreat, before I finished the work
I looked at the flyer, and my mouth fell open. I saw a brand-new boarding kennel facility, in the exact area of town I’d been looking to build mine. I saw a building ... fully-separated down the middle, with 2 distinct sides of the facility... just like I’d wanted. I saw that the building was set on beautiful piece of property, with plenty of room to add the outdoor play areas I’d always dreamed of having.

Sure… this may not seem like a big deal... but trust me... this situation is eerily unlikely. What are the odds that a brand-new boarding facility would even be for sale here?? I’ve lived in Meridian my entire life, and there’s never been a kennel for sale here, especially not a new building. Even more, this facility was in the exact location I’d wanted, with the exact features I’d wanted to build.
Looking at the flyer, I was absolutely speechless.

Some of the Lucky Dogs at Lucky Dog
I’m not an impulsive person by any means, but as soon as I saw the flyer, I called and made an appointment to go view the building.

When I pulled up for my viewing, I honestly felt like I was driving up to the kennel I’d built in my head... years before. When I walked inside, I saw everything... just as I’d wanted it to be.

It's really hard to explain how I felt... seeing all of this. But in my heart, I knew: This building was built for me. This was meant to be mine.

The building structure itself was complete, but many of the features weren’t exactly finished. The owners had essentially run out of time, energy, and money to finish things out. The asking price wasn’t inexpensive by any means... but luckily, I’d been saving for years to make this dream happen.

The very next day, I placed an offer on the kennel. There was some negotiating back-and-forth, but I never once doubted that this was meant to be. I just knew that we’d somehow reach an agreement. Then… exactly 2 weeks after Rudy died, they accepted my final offer. I had just turned 26 years old.

So, I took a leap of faith… and quit my high-paying, stable job, to make almost no money doing what I love. At the time, very few people in my life could understand that decision… especially because I almost never make seemingly irrational decisions.

But...  gotta be honest with you... even as broke and exhausted as I am these days, that’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Rear-view of Lucky Dog Retreat
And so... Lucky Dog Retreat was born. Lucky Dog Retreat is not a “boarding kennel.” It’s so much more. The dogs in my care have a great time while their families are away, and I’m able to work each day, doing what I love.

My clients (and their dogs) adore me, trust me, and appreciate me. Families tell me that they feel so comforted, because they don’t have to worry about their dogs while they’re gone. That honestly means the world to me.

But the best part about Lucky Dog Retreat... is that it supports Lucky Dog Rescue. It allows me to pay the bills... so the rescue dogs can stay for free. Out of my own pocket, I donate half of the facility to housing rescue dogs... paying for their food, vet care, etc.

The rescue pups get daily walks, plenty of outdoor playtime, and the love and fun they’ve always wanted. Each rescue dog is fully vaccinated and vetted before they’re ever allowed to enter the facility --and on top of that-- they have their own separate area from the boarding pups. So, it’s a safe, fun place for every dog that stays there.

The day we closed on the property, I couldn't help but think of Rudy. It was the very first time I could begin to understand why Rudy had to leave me.

Rudy died… so my dream could come alive. Rudy died… so all of the other deserving dogs could be saved. Rudy died… to give me exactly what I’d given him… hope.

I saved many dogs before Rudy, and many more while he was with me.
But honestly, as long as Rudy was in my life, I was so content, so happy, and so fulfilled.
And then... the second he died… there was suddenly a massive void in my life. At the time, I had no idea how to fill the emptiness.
So... Rudy showed me how to go on…

After we closed on Lucky Dog, I went home, sat on my special bench next to Rudy’s grave, and cried. The only words I could muster were, “Thank you, buddy. Thank you.” At that moment... I swear on my life... one of the flower buds I planted on top of his grave… opened-up… right before my eyes.

And in my heart, I felt the words, “You’re welcome, Mom.”

*Lucky Dog Retreat & Lucky Dog Rescue were founded in loving memory of my Rudy.