The Long Way Home: Neil the Heartstrings Dog

Dear Friend of Animal Aid,

Neil first came to our rescue in the fall of 2011, a young adult dog from a large county shelter who was suffering from the stress of life in a kennel. At the time, that’s pretty much all we knew about him. As we came to understand his likes (neighborhood walks, playtime in the yard, barking at friendly passersby), his dislikes (cats, lazy mornings, people invading his personal bubble), and his needs (patience, perceptiveness, an appreciation for his independent nature), Neil’s unique personality revealed itself to us. Three homes and seven years later, our journey to find Neil’s match continues. Neil is a Heartstrings animal: a harder-to-place dog in search of a meant-to-be companion.

Many of our Heartstrings cats and dogs are long-time residents who are still waiting for their forever family. They may be senior pets getting overlooked for the youngsters, animals with a medical condition, shy pets in need of extra reassurance, or animals with behavioral struggles due to abuse, neglect, or under-socialization.

That last description fits Neil. It’s likely that at some point during his early life, Neil experienced trauma that has made him react defensively to hands reaching for him. We can only guess what Neil encountered to create this reflex, and we can only imagine how hard it must be on him in a world where the common response to his wide, toothy smile and energetic disposition is to want to praise him with petting. What we do know is that Neil is in need of a little extra space, the freedom to be himself, and help to navigate his path through life with both tools for managing his fears and respect for his particular framework of happiness. When you give to the Heartstrings program, you help us provide the best care for every animal who enters our rescue and enters your heart—especially the ones, like Neil, who may be taking the long way home.

We know that you know Neil’s story, because it’s a story that is becoming all too familiar for homeless animals across our city and across the nation. It’s common to label dogs like Neil “difficult” or a “challenge,” but the real challenge lies with us. Will you join us in stepping up to that challenge? Together we can honor every Heartstrings pet’s individual needs. Together, we can work to make the world a safer, healthier, happier place for them. Together, we can be their next good thing.


Paige España
Director of Operations

P.S. Interested in learning more about Neil? Check out his full bio on our website and send your questions to Or, if there isn’t room in your home for a special needs pet, we hope you’ll find room in your heart and donate to the Heartstrings program and animals like Neil today.

Introducing the 24 Karat Kitty

Dear Friend of Animal Aid,

“Give me your hand, and I’ll have all the strength I need.”

If Goldie could speak our language, we think this would be her motto for life. Arriving at our shelter as a trembling bundle of matted fur, Goldie had every reason to feel a little more than fed up. At twelve years old, she looks closer to sixteen and weighs less than half of that, battling a persistent barrage of ailments: hyperthyroidism, kidney issues, a shaky body, an irritable left eye, and a right leg that goes in whatever direction it pleases (the result of an old, unknown injury). Having had a person to call her own for at least the past two years of her life, her human’s passing left Goldie homeless once more.

The key word here, however, is battling. Having come to us in an understandable state of duress, it was this frail kitty’s inner warrior that came out immediately. We see it in the way that she steels herself for her daily medications; in her resolute steadiness during another trimming to get rid of the mats in her fur; in the way that she approaches a tough road to better health with patience and a bit of well-placed moxie. She has patently refused to give in, and in spite of all that she’s dealing with, Goldie’s love for people shines through, bright and dazzling. It’s unmistakable, radiating outward when she looks up and sees you heading her way. Or when she’s fresh and rested and feeling particularly spunky. Or when you manage to find exactly the right spot under her chin that sets her foot tapping to a fluttering beat. Or, sometimes, when she simply rests her paw on your hand as if to say, “Please, won’t you stay awhile?”

When Goldie looked into our eyes and asked us this question, there was only one way we could respond: Yes, we’ll stay, for as long you need us.

At Animal Aid, that’s our commitment: To be there for homeless cats and dogs—whenever they need us, however they need us, for as long as they need us.

It’s a commitment to welcoming animals into our facility who aren’t thriving in larger shelters and working diligently to find them the best possible furever homes. It’s a commitment to operating a no-kill, free-roam shelter and a network of foster homes so that they never have to live in cages. It’s a commitment to arranging any and all medical care and training that will allow them to live the healthiest, carefree lives they can. It’s a commitment to providing a place to stay for as long as they need, even if that means the rest of their lives, and a lifetime return policy so that they will always have a safe haven. It’s a commitment to remodeling our shelter so that we can rescue more animals, and to partnering with other organizations so that pets and their people can stay together whenever possible. It’s a commitment to standing by our animals during all the stages of their life: young or old, healthy or sick, shy or headstrong, easygoing or in need of extra tenderness and time.

It’s a commitment that, like Goldie’s paw, we hold close to our hearts—but the truth is we can’t do it without your help. Will you join our commitment to Goldie and all of the animals in our care?

Your support allows us to serve our rescue animals in every way:

  • A $10 donation provides flea treatment or a microchip for an animal.
  • A $60 donation provides a month of high quality food for a homeless pet.
  • A $100 donation provides veterinary exams for four animals.
  • A $300 donation provides a specialist exam for a special needs pet like Goldie.
  • A $500 donation provides spay/neuter operations for 10 animals.
  • A $1,000 donation provides surgery to treat an injury or medical condition.

And if you are able, please consider the option to give monthly: With a gift of just $5 a month, your generosity will have an ongoing impact on the life of a homeless pet in need.

When you hear about animals like Goldie, a senior pet with a laundry list of special needs and more to come, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. For us, however, it’s part and parcel of our mission to reduce animal suffering and honor our pledge to be kind, compassionate, respectful, and responsible stewards. And in return, we’re gifted tenfold—with animated chirps of greeting in the morning; with gentle head butts of affection; with intricate, impressionistic nap time poses; with sage eyes full of love ready to be shared at the touch of a paw.

We’re committed to serving animals, and with your help, we’ll continue to shape new beginnings for the ones who need us most. On behalf of Goldie and all of us at Animal Aid, thank you for your support.


Paige España
Director of Operations

P.S. Though pets like Goldie never ask for much, they often need extra care to help them stay healthy and comfortable. Please consider making a one-time or monthly contribution to Animal Aid today so that all of our animals can put their best paw forward.

Become a part of the fabric of our shelter by donating to our facility remodel this season

“The heart dog is born with great purpose, but he looks like any other.
He will find you, walk by you, and leave you better than you were…
The heart dog is one you needed more than he needed you.”

– Cristine Dahl, “My Heart Dog”

Dear friend of Animal Aid,

If we asked you to tell us about your heart cat or dog, what would you say? Would you describe their physical characteristics in vivid detail or delve straight to the core of their personality? Would you share the day you met, your life together, the moment you knew they were the one? Would you break out in a smile or in tears? Perhaps you’d simply look us in the eye and share something that goes beyond words.

Our work at Animal Aid began from this same ineffable relationship. In 1969, we set out to provide for the animals in need in our community, and what we were provided with in return was an identity and a purpose. We found ourselves in the hearts of our rescue animals and made it our lifework to serve their needs first.

Now, nearly 50 years later, that bond and the mission that emerged from it are stronger than ever. But we need your help to see us through the next 50 years and beyond.

This summer, we broke ground on our Shelter TransFURmation Remodel Capital Campaign, a two-year, $300,000 renovation project that will expand our rescue capacity by 25 percent. Phase 1 of the remodel—completed this November—saw our ground floor converted from basement storage space to a second operational level of the shelter, including the construction of two new cat intake rooms, a new meeting room, and the refurbishment of our emergency dog kennel, laundry nook, restroom, and animal care supply storage.

When we begin Phase 2 in 2018, we’ll add three new cat rooms to our upper floor and undertake major renovations to our current animal care, administrative, and exterior spaces, including an upgraded lobby, a pedestrian walkway, and a giant cat tree that will serve as the focal point of our main free-roam cat room.

But what does all of this mean for the animals we serve?

It means we’ll be able to rescue more animals with behavioral needs like Bixby and Eugene, who both came to Animal Aid extremely frightened of the world around them. Now, through the attention and care of our staff and volunteers, the benefit of a free-roam shelter environment, and the time necessary to build their confidence, both cats have made considerable strides, with Bixby’s forever mom describing him as “the sweetest cat I’ve ever known.”


It means we’ll be able to foster more senior dogs like Barney and Ruthie, for whom a larger shelter environment is particularly overwhelming. Today, both pups enjoy the tranquility of their foster homes, with our emergency dog kennel ready to serve as a home-away-from-foster-home should the need arise.


It means we’ll be able to shelter more cats with medical or dietary needs like Gloria and Diego, whose food allergies used to leave them feeling itchy and uncomfortable and who subsequently benefit from a room of their own to maintain their special diets. These days, both kitties enjoy their own cat suites and room service meals catered to their specific needs.


Our work is only made possible through your generosity, and every dollar counts, now more than ever:

  • $10 will help pay for a giant cat tree and bench seating in our largest cat room, for greater enrichment and interaction.
  • $50 will help pay for a walkway between parking lots, for enhanced safety.
  • $100 will help pay for new windows throughout the shelter, for increased comfort and decreased utility costs.
  • $500 will help pay for cat condos, to give animals new to the shelter a chance to adjust to their surroundings.
  • $1000 will help pay for one of the 20 new or renovated animal care and administrative spaces throughout our facility, to expand our rescue capacity.

When you donate to our Shelter TransFURmation, you quite literally become a part of the fabric of our shelter, contributing to a loving refuge for countless animals now and in the future—animals who may be abandoned, abused, injured, or elderly; who may have special behavioral, medical, or dietary needs; who may simply need a safe place to rest their paws while they wait to find you.

On behalf of all of us at Animal Aid, thank you for supporting our shelter, our programs, and the animals that we passionately serve.


Paige O’Rourke
Director of OperationsP.S. Interested in other ways to contribute to our remodel? Visit our website to learn about room sponsorship opportunities and our donor recognition wall!

Turn your old items into funding for Animal Aid

Declutter for the animals! We’ve partnered with Mighty Good Things to provide you with a way to turn your old possessions into fundraising for Animal Aid: Look around your home and collect items you’re no longer using, then send them to Mighty Good Things using the prepaid shipping label they provide. Items are sold on marketplaces like eBay, and our shelter receives 100% of the net proceeds (just make sure you select “Animal Aid” as your nonprofit of choice). Mighty Good Things will also send a donation receipt to you for tax time.

PLUS, from now until Giving Tuesday (November 28), if you sign-up and pledge to donate a pre-loved item someday, Animal Aid will receive $1 dollar today!

Click here to donate your stuff to support Animal Aid:

Hard to place, but easy to love

KOIN 6 stopped by Animal Aid this week to meet some of our adoptables like Harriet who are featured on Core Paws. Fun fact: Animal Aid was Core Paws’ first-ever partner nonprofit, and we’re so thankful for all that they do to help promote our hard-to-place but easy-to-love shelter and foster animals!

If you haven’t been acquainted with Harriet and our other adoptables yet, be sure to stop by the shelter soon to meet your purrfect match or read more about them here.