In 2011 we had the pleasure of fostering our first senior who was a 15 year old pittie mix pulled from a Los Angeles shelter. We had fostered many dogs before but the one who stole our hearts was Lionel. He was in horrible shape and wasn’t given much time to live but his spirit and will amazed and inspired us all. Lionel, known originally as Sad Lionel Boy, came to It’s the Pits from a shelter in Los Angeles at the age of 15. Looking at him, it appeared that he had little time to live. Extremely thin, barely able to walk, infested with fleas and worms, and his ear canals sealed shut from chronic untreated ear infections, he truly was sad as he gazed into our eyes. I could hear Sad Lion Boy saying, “Why? Why didn’t they take care of me? What did I do wrong? Ok, so I barked a little.”

We decided to take him in as a foster dog. He was afraid and untrusting of us at first, but soon understood we were here to love him and take care of him.

I realized Sir Lionel would stick around a little when he began to eat, and eat, and eat … like a lion! In fact, when he smelled someone else eating, he started barking for their food too. When he was finally able to walk down the street, he began to pull me searching for smells and spots to mark his territory. Curious, our cat Hercules decided to join us on our daily walks. Well, they hit it off and were the best of friends walking up and down the street together each day. Every once in a while, my two daughters would get on their scooters and join us for our walks; then Lionel would get so excited that he would take off in a sprint after them. Of course, he’d be done after 100 feet or so, but he showed that he still had the will to live and thrive.

After his passing, we soon realized the amazing gifts he shared with us and felt compelled to advocate for senior dogs in need. In the rescue world it’s an extreme gamble as adoption rates for seniors are low and medical costs often high. As a result, so many senior dogs are left behind at the shelter to live out their final days in confusion and discomfort. It is our goal to save and advocate for ONE senior furbaby at a time, and support anyone who is willing to do the same.

The second component to Lionel’s Legacy is the message we share with our children. As an elementary school teacher, I’ve learned how little we are doing as a society to educate our children about humane issues involving animals. As a result, we have a mounting problem that so many rescues are working to resolve each day. We have accomplished so much but still have a long way to go. Through our humane education program at Central Elementary, we will be working with Sweetwater High Animal CARE Club to provide an educational program to our students who have a passion for animals. The goal is for students to become compassionate, advocating, respectful, and educated animal lovers who can share their new found knowledge with their peers and leave a legacy that Lionel will remember!