Gayle M Irwin

Gayle & Jeremiah,
her rescued shih tzu.

The Sorrows and Joys of Pet Rescue

Mar 07, 2023 by Gayle M Irwin

Her name was Precious. She followed me home when I was seven years old. A decade later, I said goodbye to the first cat I ever had.

Later came Kalli who kept me company during college. She escaped from a new apartment one day but returned three weeks later. Three years later she died from feline leukemia.

Ama, the princess, came into the local shelter after her elderly person went into a nursing home. For more than 15 years, this lovely orange long-haired cat shared life with me, through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Acute kidney failure brought us to goodbye.

Earlier this week, my husband and I lost one of the sister cats we adopted more than 17 years ago. Diabetes and acute kidney failure took her from us.

Through the sorrow of loss, one remembers the joy of pet rescue and adoption.

Precious riding in my bicycle basket and sleeping in my bed. Kalli sitting near me as I studied for finals. Ama, the lap sitter and ultra-purrer. Bailey sitting in a cat tree and ‘talking’ to the birds and squirrels outside the window. Smiles, comfort, companionship – death doesn’t destroy those memories and joys.


I’ve also lost dogs: Sam and Cody, cocker spaniels who enriched my life at different times and in different ways; Sage, the blind springer spaniel who launched my book writing career; Mary, trained as a therapy dog and in need of a new home after the passing of her owner. Although Sam, Sage, and Mary died too young from the wickedness of canine cancer, Cody, at nearly 18 years of age, simply ran out of steam. Considering he was used for breeding until the age of 10, I was elated when he turned 12, then 13, then 14 and so on – such a trooper! Each dog’s passing affected me, and though time would pass between adopting another dog, that is part of the joy of pet rescue and adoption: providing a loving, safe home for animals that might not have that chance.

I support rescue groups not only through adoption, but also through donations of money, supplies, and time. Recently I traveled more than 150 miles to bring a rescue dog to its adoptive family; it’s the first canine transport I’ve done in several years. Her name is Dolly, and she needed to get from her foster family in Colorado to her adoptive family who lives in Montana. That family drove 4 hours to meet me and pick up their beautiful Boston Terrier. I drove nearly 3 hours to meet them. Two other people drove 1 to 3 hours north to get her to me. Transporting, just like rescue and adoption, takes a crew, a group of people who believe animals deserve loving, loyal homes.

I may be transporting again this weekend. I’m happy to be back doing this vital volunteer work!

Those who rescue, whether taking in puppy mill survivors or people who decide they don’t want, or can’t have, their pets anymore are true heroes. Adoptions are down and intakes are up, increasing significantly since people are returning to work, school, shopping, travel, hobbies, etc. etc. after the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Sadly, however, the animals are suffering, being abandoned by those who promised to care for them. Our disposable, undevoted society leads to death of thousands of animals because there isn’t enough room in shelters or fosters/rescues. What Best Friends Animal Society envisioned years ago, a no-kill movement, has taken many steps backward because of economics and lack of commitment.

Thankfully, there are those who don’t give up, no matter what.


Her name was Jazmine, and she was a Great Pyrenees mix who was abandoned in a desert with 12 puppies. Everyone survived thanks to a Good Samaritan who found them and took them to a rescue organization. She was my first transport many, many years ago. A family in Canada adopted her, and she traveled more than 1,000 miles to reach her forever home. She met at least 7 different people who helped her get home.

I’ve conducted many dog transports since then. When I transport animals like Dolly, Jazmine, Theo, Luna, and Boone, to get them to their forever home, I cry – but for joy, not sorrow. Knowing these animals’ lives were saved, and that their new human family has been vetted and likely paid a hefty adoption fee, so the commitment and loyalty are there, lets me rejoice. Not only will these dogs be loved and cared for, but I helped them get to that place.

It’s an honor, a privilege, and a joy to be part of a team that saves lives. Yes, a death will come eventually, but as Bailey, Cody, Sam, Ama, and my other pets have taught me, there are many years of joy to savor together. What a blessing!


Adopting animals and helping rescue them are the primary reasons I weave pet rescue and adoption into my sweet, contemporary romance books. Rhiann's Rescue starts the series. Rescue Road is the first full-length novel, and My Montana Love follows that story, showcasing Rhiann and Levi a few years later. Paws-ing for Love is their Christmas story, and Finding Love at Compassion Ranch is the story of Rhiann's sister, who volunteers time at an animal rescue sanctuary.
If you haven't read any of these of these stories, or if you want to gift a copy to a friend or family member who enjoys positive stories about animals and human love, pick up a copy, in print or e-book, on Amazon.

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