Oreo, one of the dogs housed by the Brittany Foundation, looks through the bars of his cage as human "inmate" Aaron Reyes watches from inside the kennel. September 28, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal

Spending ‘A Day in Their Paws’ at The Brittany Foundation

As Sierra, an American Staffordshire terrier mix, wagged her tail, greeting each guest to her kennel at The Brittany Foundation Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter, on Saturday, you could see a noticeable pink scar on her little black nose, as well as a number of others all over her body.

As a puppy, she was used as a bait dog in dogfighting, yet that doesn’t stop her from being a total sweetheart, according to volunteer Carole Garson, who sat in the kennel with her.

“She still has all the love — it’s amazing,” Garson said. “She cuddles up with me, she gives me kisses when I’m sitting with her and she loves her tummy rubbed.”

Arlene Valenzuela, an “inmate” volunteering at “A Day in their Paws” stands in a cage with one of the dogs at the Brittany Foundation’s facility in Aqua Ducle. September 28, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal

Garson is in Sierra’s kennel not just as a volunteer, but as an inmate “on lockdown” as part of the Brittany Foundation’s 11th annual A Day in Their Paws event, in which the goal is to raise awareness on how rescue dogs live every day before they’re adopted.

“We’re raising awareness for shelter dogs and promoting adoptions,” founder Nancy Anderson said. “The money that we raise then goes into our fund to get more dogs out of the shelters and take care of the existing dogs.”

This is Garson’s fourth year volunteering, committing to sitting in Sierra’s kennel with her for 24 hours, leaving only to eat or use the restroom, while collecting sponsors to “bail them out” at $1 per minute.

Monte, a dog housed by the Brittany Foundation, was one of the pets visitors could meet at the “A Day in their Paws” event to raise awareness for shelter animals. September 28, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal

“It’s going very well,” she said, adding that she keeps doing this because she loves the foundation. “Believe it or not, I was looking forward to coming here today because of this. I was so excited. I just enjoy it because I love dogs and their unconditional love. They are the best, they really are.”

A total of 30 volunteers sat in kennels with their dogs, while some, like Aaron Reyes, were lucky enough to sit with two pups.

“This is my first year,” said Aaron Reyes, who was sitting with Oreo and Maxie. “My mom volunteers here, so she brought me a couple times. I did it because I love being with animals and it’s very important to volunteer at shelters like this.”

Brittany Foundation volunteer Shannon Hunter feeds one of the dogs she was locked in a kennel with as part of the “A Day in their Paws” event. September 28, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal

Karen Zelman started volunteering at the foundation when she retired from the Los Angeles Police Department, and said she loved it, so much so that there was nowhere else she would want to spend her birthday than locked in a kennel with her favorite boys, Red and Sonny.

“These two came in here abused with their sister (about three years ago), and it took us a while just to sit like this with them,” Zelman said, adding that to see them progress means everything to her. “These two have just come so far. Now, I can pick them up, snuggle them and love them. Those are the rewards, getting them out of a bad situation.”

Zelman worked at the foundation for seven years before moving to Palm Springs last year, traveling back to the area for a concert and making a special stop at the foundation to participate in the event.

Brittany Foundation volunteer Alexander Bordbar was an “inmate” at the “A Day in their Paws” event Saturday afternoon. September 28, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal

“This place is amazing,” she added. “During the day, these kennels are open and they get to run out and socialize with each other. It’s so rewarding.”

Though Zelman has four pups at home, she still wishes she could adopt the brothers. “I don’t have the yard that they need and it’s too hot, but we’re moving out of California in a few years, and if they are still here then, they are going to come with me because I am in love with these guys.”

For more information, visit brittanyfoundationonline.org.

A guest at the “A Day in their Paws” event put on by the Brittany Foundation in Agua Dulce looks in on “inmate” Arlene Velenzuela who sat in a kennel with a dog to raise awareness for dogs in shelters. September 28, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal

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