When California resident Lisa Lomeli arrived at an animal shelter to meet a cattle dog named Baby Dog, the staff at Placer County Animal Services warned her that the dog was traumatized and pretty “shut down.”
On Jan. 31, a search party had found Baby Dog in the snow protecting the body of his owner, David Deshon, who died after his car got stuck during a snowstorm in a rural area near Sacramento, California. Deshon, Baby Dog and his other dog, Buddy, had been missing for several days when Buddy made it to a neighbor’s house, barking and clawing at the door for help.
That helped the searchers know to continue looking in the area. Meanwhile, Baby Dog stayed on her owner’s chest, trying to keep him warm and providing faithful companionship until the very end.
Lomeli happens to be neighbors with Deshon’s daughter, who had galvanized the community to search for her dad and his beloved dogs. She told Lomeli it was comforting to know her dad didn’t die alone and how heartbroken she felt that she couldn’t take in his dogs since work keeps her away from home so much.
“She was telling me, ‘No matter how bad I want them because they’re a part of my dad and I love those dogs, if I can’t give them the attention they need, it’s not fair to the dogs. I have to think about what’s best for them.’ And that was very selfless of her,” Lomeli told TODAY.
While she learned about Baby Dog’s loyalty to her late owner, Lomeli started thinking about someone else who could benefit from that kind of devotion: her mom, Peggy Morrill.
Morrill has been battling cancer during the pandemic. Just a few months before her diagnosis, she lost her own loyal dog, a black Lab named Raelyn who always stayed by her side. Morrill longed for a new dog but lacked the energy to find the right one.
Lomeli thought she had a solution.
“I said, ‘Shona, Would you mind if I call the shelter and tell them that I’m interested in meeting Baby Dog because I think he would be a perfect match for my mom?’” Lomeli recalled asking Deshon's daughter. “She said, ‘Oh my gosh — yes.’ So we set it all up.”
On Feb. 8, Lomeli entered the shelter’s play yard, expecting Baby Dog to be depressed and potentially standoffish after his ordeal.
She sat on a bench and offered, “Baby Dog, can you come and let me pet you?”
To the amazement of everyone in the yard, Baby Dog came right over and put his head in her lap.
They took a walk together and Lomeli felt it was meant to be. She asked the 5-year-old dog, “Baby Dog, do you want to go? And do you want to have a new family?”
“He wagged his tail and he kissed my face,” she said. “I called my mom and said, ‘Mom, we found you the dog.’ She was so excited.”
The next day, Lomeli and her husband picked up Baby Dog from the shelter and drove him over two hours to her mom and dad’s house.
“He was totally letting them pet him and kissing them,” she said. “My mom said he’s been amazing already. He’s never had an accident in the house. He learned how to use the dog door. He plays ball and has little places in their house where he likes to sleep. He just fit perfectly.”
Like Baby Dog, Buddy also found a loving new home after being treated for a urinary tract infection. The team at Placer County Animal Services got him the veterinary care he needed and made sure to spend lots of cuddle time with Buddy and Baby Dog while they stayed in the shelter to help them cope with their recent trauma.
Buddy was adopted on Feb. 11 by a man who wants to provide the sweet senior with everything he needs, according to Katie Ingram, animal services manager. She said the shelter’s staff and volunteers are overjoyed that Baby Dog and Buddy found such wonderful new homes.
“Both of these dogs are just the sweetest, most sensitive little guys,” she told TODAY. “I think our staff really felt like this is one of those powerful moments where it takes the whole team and the whole community to come forward to help.”
Ingram said the community came through in many ways, including donating money and goodies to give to potential adopters. She hopes the public will become aware that shelters are more than just places for stray pets; they pour care and resources into special situations like helping a grieving daughter find the right homes for her father’s dogs.
“It was such a great outcome for such a difficult situation,” she said. “This is why we do what we do.”