Bailey, a long-haired Chihuahua mix, is living her best life in Orange County where her owners and their grandchildren give her plenty of tummy rubs and affection.
But Bailey's life wasn't always this easy. She was a stray, rescued by an animal shelter in Huntington Beach, California. Bailey was one of the lucky dogs adopted last year during NBC and Telemundo Owned Stations' Clear The Shelters pet adoption campaign. The nationwide pet adoption initiative has helped more than 250,000 pets find forever homes since 2015.
Don and Joann Winderman camped out overnight to adopt Bailey after seeing the puppy a day earlier at a local shelter and "falling in love" her. They were first in line at the Bella Terra Mall event, which happened to land on the couple's 39th wedding anniversary.
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Don is a veteran who served in the Marine Corps for six years. He was an aviation ordnance missile tech stationed at El Toro before being transferred to Tustin where he worked as a helicopter gunner.
Don said their three rescue pups, including Bailey, serve as emotional support animals. He calls them "velcro dogs" because of their love for cuddling.
"They sense when you're not feeling good," he said. "And they're happy to see you every day."
It's been one year since Bailey's adoption into the Winderman home, and she fit in seamlessly.
"She has just come in and taken over with our other dogs," Don said. "She's very loving."
He said that Bailey gets along well with the couple's four grandsons, who enjoy giving her daily tummy rubs.
"The only one she barks at is my son-in-law," he said, laughing. "But everybody kind of barks at him."
Don Winderman believes that adopting a rescue animal isn't just about saving an animal's life, but also what the animal does for its owner.
"The love that these dogs give you is worth it," he said. "All they need is love. And really, if people gave out more love than hate this country would be a lot better — and the whole world would be better."
Animal shelters across Southern California are full of pets waiting to be adopted, including cats, rabbits, snakes, turtles and many other species.
Every year, millions of companion animals end up in shelters across the country. Rob Silverstein, the public service administrator for Santa Monica Animal Shelter, said that animals end up in their cages over three primary reasons.
"Either the owner will relinquish the animal and because they can't care for the animal, they rely on us to find them a new home," he said. "Sometimes they might be stray, or they were in a situation of abuse. Our officers will find them in the field or remove them from that situation."
And while shelter adoption rates have been steadily rising since 2011, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 1.5 million animals — 860,000 cats and about 670,000 dogs — are still euthanized each year due to overcrowding.
The number of euthanized animals could be reduced dramatically if more people adopted pets instead of buying them. And, by adopting a shelter animal, you actually save two lives.
"Every single pet that is adopted frees shelter staff up to work with and prepare the next pet for potential adoption," said Kenny Lamberti, director of strategic engagement and companion animals for the Humane Society.
So if you’re thinking about taking home a new furry friend, consider heading to a local animal shelter to adopt during this year's Clear the Shelters event on Aug. 17.
Editor's Note: For more information about 'Sweet Pea', the dog up for adoption at the end of this video, contact the City of Santa Monica's Animal Control Division (310) 458-8594.