Save the Animal Kisses

A lot of people have asked me to write about how I got started in animal rescue. Actually, I've been rescuing dogs all of my life. As early as 5 years old, I began taking in stray dogs and cats and finding them homes. Many of my rescues found their forever home... with my family.

As a kid, there were times when I'd arrive at a birthday party... but never even make it inside. I’d see a stray dog, wandering through the parking lot, and honestly, I was physically incapable of leaving the pup all alone.

While my mom would beg me to go into the party with my friends, I preferred to just sit on the concrete and comfort the scared dog. Sure... I’d go inside for a second... just to steal some hot dogs and hamburgers... so I could feed this poor starving baby.

Then, when it was time to go, my poor mother would wince... because she knew: we weren’t going anywhere... unless that dog was coming with us.

I helped at the local shelter as a kid. Every day after school, I'd beg my parents to take me to play with the dogs at the pound. Actually, many of our family pets were death row babies from the shelter.

Back then (much like today), I’d look into their eyes... and see a pain so deep, that it physically hurt me.

But despite the heartbreak I felt ... watching their suffering, I soon realized that I could save them.

So, as a little girl, I decided to dedicate my life to replacing their pain with happiness.
And that’s exactly what I’ve done.

All of my life, my goal has been to take care of dogs.  At age 9, I started my own business, The Pet Sitters Agency. Basically, I'd take care of pets when their families went on vacation, because I never wanted those pets to be sad while loved ones were gone.

Ironically enough... I grew up to own Lucky Dog Retreat, a boarding kennel, focused on giving pets their own special vacation when their families are away.

I guess this was always in the cards for me...
I was also an animal advocate as a kid. There were many times, when I’d boldly approach a neighbor, and say:
“Excuse me, Mister. I’m sorry to bother you, but your dogs look very hungry. I think they'd really like it if you fed them more. If you don't have enough food... maybe I could feed just them for you? And... also... if you aren’t ever going to play with them, could I maybe come over every day... and play with them for you??”

I'll never forget it... one particular neighbor said, “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Please, just go home now, and DON'T come back.”

Well... I was always taught to respect adults, but I have to be honest: when it came to this man, and his treatment of his pets... I knew it was wrong.

For weeks... I'd watched his 2 dogs... being insanely neglected in their own backyard. He'd  forget to give them water. He'd forget to feed them. He'd forget to play with them. He'd forget to love them.

And finally... at just 8 years old... I decided to do something about it.

Like I said... first, I offered him my help. Yet, I was rejected.
But did that stop me? No.

Instead... without his knowledge, I secretly fed them; I secretly played with them; I secretly loved them.

Every day, I’d rush home after school, and sneak over to play with his dogs.
Then... at 5:30 pm, when I’d see his car pulling into the driveway... I’d quickly climb his fence.... and run home as fast as I could, so he didn’t know I'd ever been there.

I remember the heartbreak I felt... because this man didn’t love his dogs. He forgot about them, every single day of their lives. 

So... I decided to take care of them myself. Every day before... and every day since... I've been doing the same... for other dogs who need help. 

Back then, I remember crying myself to sleep every night, because those poor dogs were outside all alone... with nothing, and no one.
Today, I cry for others... who know the same pain.

I've always been this way.

I've been active in animal rescue throughout my life, and I always knew that I’d have my own rescue organization when I grew up. There was never any question in my mind... or anyone else’s. This is why I was born.

Rescue is what I know... and what I do, and I’m just thankful to be able to make a difference... doing what I love.

Sooo... I told you all of that... to tell you this story. Yesterday, I got the following, very special message:
Ashley, My 13 year old daughter, Arianna, has started a website. It’s called 'Save the Animal Kisses.' It would really mean a lot to her if you would 'like' her facebook page and maybe check out her website. She visits your sites daily and is always showing me your pictures and videos. She is very special and a true animal lover. Her dream is to someday open her own rescue, and basically... follow in your footsteps. Honestly, I couldn't ask for a better role model for her to want to be like. Thank you for being you, and we appreciate all that you do.

Wow. I was touched beyond words.

I looked at Arianna, this 13 year old girl, with a dream of saving the world... and I saw myself. I saw me... as a little girl, desperately trying to make the world a better place for animals.

I thought back to the discouragement I received as a child... from those people who told me that my dream was silly or stupid. The people who said, "There are just too many animals who need saving. You'll never make a difference."

They’d say that I was “just a kid,” and kids can’t change the world. Or, “Why do you care so much? A dog is just a dog. Animals are just animals. They don’t matter.”

I remember crying, because no one cared… sobbing, because there were so many animals hurting, and so few people trying to help them.

And I remember coming to the realization... that I was different than other people… and if I wanted things to change... it was up to me to make it happen.

I looked at Arianna, and I wanted her to know that she CAN make a difference. At that age, hearing that you have the ability to save the world means everything.

So, my mission for the day became: Make Arianna's dreams come true. On my personal facebook page, my Lucky Dog Rescue Blog fan page, and the Pet Pardons fan page, I put out a plea: please show this special girl how amazing she is... by Liking her page.

Her page started the day at 19 Likes, and my goal was to get her to 100... before she got out of school for the day.

Well, those 100 Likes happened within the first 20 minutes...

And by the time Arianna got out of school.... her page had 1000 Likes! She had messages from across the globe saying, “You are amazing. You CAN save the world!”

And then, I got the most touching follow-up from her dad... about Arianna's reaction:

Words cannot express my gratitude for what you did for Arianna today… and all of her tomorrows. It was a very inspiring day, to say the least.

You are truly a wonderful person, Ashley! When she got home from school, Arianna was absolutely speechless, excited, and grateful... but mostly--motivated.

Her mom and I were very emotional while reading the comments people wrote on her facebook page; knowing how touched Arianna would be when she got home. You truly touched our hearts today!! Thank you so much.

PS- Arianna, you are amazing. Never forget that. Never let anyone take that from you. Never let anyone stop you from saving the animal kisses. If anyone ever tries to put you down for your big heart... you send them to me. Your dreams... are my dreams… let’s make them happen together!

Please visit Arianna’s Save the Animal Kisses facebook page!
Click here to visit the Save the Animal Kisses website!


  1. ashley you are a daily inspiration

  2. Wonderful Ashley! You are a good role model for Arianna to have!!! :)

  3. It is so wonderful to see young people interested in helping animals. I hope many of Arianna's friends help and support her. We need many more people like her and you in this world.

  4. special indeed! both of you!

  5. Great post! It's wonderful that you will take the time to inspire the next generation. We all appreciate that!

  6. I am always touched by kids who are just freaking awesome! So many children are constantly discouraged from following their dreams... and it breaks my heart. Especially when they have a dream of saving the world. Arianna is so special, and her parents must be so proud. I know I'm proud of her :)Arianna, you are a rockstar, girly!!!

  7. I second everything already stated above. Thank you, both of you, for your daily efforts to make the world a better place!

  8. Thank you so much Ashley! Your are amazing! It means so much to me that you have helped me and got the word out! I now know i have a forever friend that has the same dream that I do, yours has came true, and mine is just starting. You have made them start coming true. I can never say in words how much i appreciate everything Ashley! You are an amazing person that i look up to!(:

  9. You are a true inspiration to so many every single day, not least of all to me.

  10. you are a good person ash, a DAMN good person....

  11. Reading that reminded me so much of myself as a young child! Anywhere I went, I would always get distracted by animals. I would sneak food to strays when my parents would tell me to stay away from them because they had diseases. All my conversations were about animals and I had a hard time making adults take me serious. I begged for different kinds of pets but was always given an excuse. While riding my school bus I would notice every house that had pets outside. Once I got brave enough to tell my Dad, "Stop saying we cant afford pets! I see poor people all the time with a yard full of dogs! My dad, a little shocked that I even talked back to him, said, "well, maybe that is why they are so poor." :)

  12. Hi I am 15 years old and am proud to say that this story is identical to my life! I LOVE pets so-so-so-soooo much! am already volunteering at my local animal shelter, have 3 adopted pets, and have rescued countless others. Similar to your stories, I was at my uncle's wedding and a majority of my time was well spent with my cousin, sneaking out food to the stray cats we found outside. I even named them, we grew so fond of each other!
    My goal in life is to work hard, earn money, and then start a NON-kill shelter/animal haven for those 'unwanted' death row animals. They ALL deserve a chance, and reading about how many people out there are willing to help and support these ideas, I am excited to pursue them even further. (: Thank you for a wonderful article, and I hope to be in contact with you!

  13. We love animals too! That's why we started K9 Club Cares! Please read our story at www.K9clubcares.org.

  14. Ashley, my name is Brenda, I am 51 years old and I have had the dream of starting a rescue since I saw a cat get hit by a car a few years ago. I stopped, scooped it up, called my vet, and met her at her office at around midnight. Then I searched and found the owners and returned it to them. That made me realize just how passionate I felt about rescues. I just had to put my Golden Retriever down from bone cancer in her hips, which has completely broken my heart. At the same time, it seems, it has rekindled my passion for rescuing. My situation is this...My parents live on about 25 acres of land and they are getting on in age and are having trouble keeping it up. They are talking about selling. I grew up here. My brother's memory, who died at 12 yrs, is all over the property. It would break my heart to see it go to a developer. The problem is, I don't have the ability to come up with $125,000.00 to buy it and wouldn't be able to afford the taxes and such. I was thinking about grants, etc. but don't know how to go about it. Can you advise me or point me in the right direction to get this thing started. I just buried my baby on this property so it's even more reason to try to move forward with it. Sincerely, Brenda Whaley 614-354-9048


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