Spring 2023 was a time of growth, but this was something I failed to realize at the time. On that sunny Sunday morning, I took Bandit, my 12-year-old Chihuahua, on one of his daily walks. Then came Milly Mae, and changed our life forever.

We followed our usual route: the one we had gone thousands of times before through the neighborhood park and then by the coffee shop, where I got a latte many mornings on my way to work. But this morning was different. I certainly didn’t know that something extraordinary would come from this ordinary walk.

Strolling along, suddenly in our path was this small, leggy white dog. Her eyes were very striking, almost as if she had purloined some of Elizabeth Taylor’s mascara for Cleopatra. No more than 20 pounds, though full of life—desperate, even—for a friend.

She had no collar and would later be found to have no microchip at the vet’s office. She was a Jack Russell terrier mix, though her pleading eyes and wagging tail spoke volumes on their own.

I was in a state of shock. I knew I must do something. I took her home, fed her, and gave her water, hoping to find her owner. We put up posters, shared her picture on social media, and asked around the neighborhood, but nobody responded to it. After some days, we rather sadly decided that she must have been abandoned.

Milly Mae – The Pup That Changed It All

It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, and something inside just told me Millie Mae—after we decided to finally name her that—was supposed to be part of our family. The vet figured that she was probably only about two years old.

She was now part of the household, and she seemed to adjust really well to her new life with Bandit and me. I couldn’t imagine how much this little dog would end up changing my whole life.

Millie Mae brought with her unexpected joy, energy, and love that we didn’t realize we were missing. She was a balm to the real, unspoken sadness of losing Bandit’s big sister, Zohie, the 15-year-old Chihuahua who had been a part of so much for so many years of our lives. Millie Mae was our new beginning, our chance to heal and grow again.

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My mind kept going back to the many other animals that desperately needed someone to speak on their behalf. One article I read brought me to tears regarding Metro Animal Care and Control in Nashville, Tennessee.

That shelter was so full that rolling kennels held dogs. Matt Peters of the Metro Public Health Department said it was the worst he had ever seen, and their partners were also at full capacity.

Almost to punctuate the same report, around 900,000 cats and dogs have entered and remained in shelters since January 2021 in the United States. It showed that it was a matter of so many animals waiting for their turn to have a better life.

Milly Mae - the pup that changed everything
Milly Mae – the pup that changed everything

Why Fostering Matters

Reflecting on my personal journey from fearing dogs as a child to now finding joy in Millie Mae’s companionship, I became very aware of the importance of adopting and fostering animals in need.

I remember how my father, raised on a farm in Colombia, viewed dogs as outdoor animals. My tough Chicago childhood—the cold winters, the crowding—took pets out of the question for my siblings and me.

I didn’t become a dog owner until I started my adult life. Dear companion, Bubba, my miniature Schnauzer and first dog, lived until 2012. The loss was huge, so in a sense, it took time in my heart for another dog to enter.

When we took in Bandit and Zohie from a neighbor six months after Bubba’s passing, it was a step toward healing. Now Millie Mae was here and brought a new kind of joy and connection into our lives. I always hear people say, “She chose you,” and there’s truth in that, I think.

Stories like South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s confession to having shot and killed her 14-month-old wirehaired pointer, Cricket, just because it was developing behavioral issues, are understandable.

Stories like these, however, show the importance of giving dogs a chance, working through problems, and finding solutions rather than just giving up on them.

Wrapping Up

Now, any stories about dogs in need of a shelter crisis always bring back the remembrance of what one single rescue, Millie Mae, taught me about making a difference.

Millie Mae came into our lives at a time of quiet reflection. In return, she gave us thousands upon thousands of blessings. Her story is one of the very real, powerful ways rescue dogs can change our lives—often beyond anything we could ever imagine.

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