Leap Of Faith

Big-hearted Key Biscayners share the inspirational stories of how their loving dog rescues came into their lives — one tail wag, one paw-shake, one sweet glance at a time.
Words // Jorge Arauz | Portraits // Josue Acosta | February 27, 2022 | People

The More, The Merrier

Ursula Castaneda started rescuing senior dogs 4 years ago from a variety of organizations including Miami Animal Services and True & Faithful Rescue Mission near Tampa. “Our first rescue was Lola; soon after, we got Coco — they were with us for almost two years each,” she says. “After they passed, we got the courage to adopt another senior, Gracie. She was an old soul with the sweetest eyes ever. She passed away unexpectantly from pancreatitis last December.” Before Gracie’s passing, Ursula adopted another senior, Cuki, and Rusty, a 12-month-old Pomeranian puppy who had been rescued from the commercial industry. “Adopting can be extremely emotional but also endlessly rewarding,” she says. “All we can do is love them and give them their best life ever!”

Made For Each Other

When Cindy Dodds went to Redland Dog Sanctuary in search of a rescue, it was love at first sight. “All of a sudden, a sweet Lab Mix jumped up and put her paws on my shoulders and her head on my heart and basically hugged me,” she says. “Everyone said they hadn’t ever seen a dog pick an owner like that!” Originally named Buttercup, Cindy re-named her new pooch Gracie, after hearing her horrendous story of abuse — she’d been chained up, beaten, neglected, left alone in the elements and malnourished. “She was truly saved by Grace,” she says. “People stop us all the time to tell us how beautiful she is —  when they ask about her breed, we tell them to get a petri dish and start mixing!”

Right Place, Right Time

One fateful day while driving through a parking lot, Celia Von Specht noticed a young man holding an adorably cute puppy. She rolled down her window to ask about the breed. “He told me it was a Pomeranian he’d acquired online but his new rental only allowed one dog, and he and his fiancé were keeping their poodle,” she says. Fast-forward 12 years and Yogi is proud to be Celia’s first rescue and one of the best things to have happened in her life. Today, Celia is active with Born Free Pet Shelter, donating funds and giving of her time to assist in the preparation of their silent auction at the organization’s annual fundraising event. “Dogs are completely dependent on the kindness of people — and the satisfaction of providing for them is immeasurable,” she says. “Equally gratifying is the joy they bring into our lives!”