Joy Anderson is a strong woman. She spent decades working in law enforcement for the Los Angeles Police Department and the United States Marshals before retiring four years ago.
At 69 years old, she still has ramrod straight posture and a no-nonsense demeanor.
Get her in front of a rescue dog, however, and you’ll quickly see a whole other side of Anderson.
“Hello, sweetheart. I know, you’re excited,” she cooed to Nani, a three year old Miniature Pinscher at New Leash on Life in Newhall.
She stepped into Nani’s kennel, where the small dog enthusiastically greeted her by hugging Anderson’s legs.
Anderson leashed the dog and opened the door.
“OK, baby. Come on girl,” she said enthusiastically as the two, both wearing jackets to stave off a rainy winter chill, set off for a walk around the no-kill, non-profit rescue where Anderson volunteers at least twice a week.
“It’s just a great satisfaction, knowing you’re helping these dogs,” Anderson said with a smile.
Anderson loves them all, big or small, she stopped by another kennel and praised a purebred Doberman who was surrendered at a shelter by a family who no longer had time for the dog.
“Ferdinand’s had some training. He’s a good guy,” Anderson said, rubbing him behind his ears to the dog’s clear delight.
Anderson has been volunteering at New Leash on Life for four years and can always be counted on, according to supervisor Briana Fugitt.
“She’s happy to do whatever we ask of her, even in hotter weather,” Fugitt said.
When the staff goes to a shelter to rescue dogs or needs help with laundry, Anderson, who lives in Newhall, is often just a phone call away.
“We only have two staff members, so we couldn’t function without our volunteers,” Fugitt said. “Senior volunteers are the best. They come with a great skill set and a lot of life experience.”
When she’s not walking or socializing dogs, Anderson can also be found at New Leash on Life’s mobile adoptions held on weekends at locations throughout the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond.
“We’ll go for three hours and take as many dogs and volunteers as we can,” she said.
Seeing the homeless dogs find a family is always a happy time for Anderson. Bessie, a 200-pound Mastiff mix, was adopted over the holidays.
“She was a hard one to place, so that was really wonderful,” Anderson said. “Little Nani here should go home soon.”
Speaking of homes, Anderson, took a New Leash on Life dog into her own home in February 2016.
Her older dog had passed away, leaving behind a heartbroken canine pal. Anderson chose Hercules, a three-year-old Chihuahua mix, to help them both overcome the loss.
“He’s been good for my other dog. Because of him, she’s been more active,” she said. “Hercules’ nickname is Cute Little Dude.”
Anderson has had dogs since she was 12 years old.
“They are the greatest animals on the planet,” she said.
Volunteering has been as positive for her as it is for the dogs she interacts with.
“It keeps you active. I was so used to getting up and going to work, but this is real purpose, helping these dogs,” she said. “If you’re an animal lover, you can’t help getting involved in this.”
For more information on New Leash on Life, visit www.nlol.org, email [email protected] or call 661-255-0097.