April Volunteer Spotlight : Julia Hope McAdams

 Meet Julia! 

Julia joined SGA (Saving Great Animals) as a volunteer in 2022 and has a huge impact since! Not only has she fostered and adopted – she supports events, spends time at our rehabilitation house, and donates! We had the chance to ask Julia a few questions – keep reading to check it out.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: 

Hi, I’m Julia! I’m a dog-mom of three rescues ranging in age from 12.5 years to 8 months. I have always loved animals, growing up on an avocado orchard in Santa Barbara, CA and raising dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, other birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, and fish. I work in hospitality, love food and beer, and have a wonderful and supportive partner who is a chef. I love taking the dogs camping and kayaking, hosting dinners and board game nights, and the few precious moments between being free of the dogs and missing them.

What’s one of your favorite memories with SGA?

I loved when the “Box Puppies” were delivered by Jacintha to my house! They were so little, so sweet, so innocent, and smelled worse than anything I’ve previously encountered. It’s so rewarding directly helping an animal in need, and knowing that even though it’s not convenient, and it’s often gross (puppies pretty much universally make up for their cuteness in volume of poop) that their lives are better- that day and hopefully forever- because of your efforts.



What made you decide to join SGA?

I have always wanted to be a foster, but felt that I couldn’t while renting with my, at the time, 2 permanent resident dogs. When I bought my house and didn’t have to answer to a landlord I knew it was my opportunity to help more dogs in need!

What’s one of the weirdest things your dog or foster has eaten?

Through some stroke of luck my dog’s don’t usually eat weird things! The weirdest is probably that Ravioli, our puppy, loves ice cubes, and will wait by the fridge each night before bed to be awarded one.

How long have you been volunteering and fostering with SGA?

I started fostering in SGA in 2022, and have hosted 5 dogs. I’ve recently put a hiatus on fostering, as it seems my oldest dog is having vision problems and I’d like to let her adjust, but I hope to get back to it soon! In the meantime, I volunteer at Doug’s Place, help with events, and contribute monetarily as I can!

How have you supported SGA and what does it mean to you? 

Supporting SGA as a foster and volunteer really rounds out my life! I am so blessed to have a wonderful family of both pets and people, to enjoy my career, and have the opportunity to maintain hobbies; however, it means a lot to me to be able to contribute outside of my direct sphere as well, and SGA really allows me to do that! It was an aspect of my life that was comparatively empty, and now that it’s filled it’s something I know I want to maintain!

What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering or fostering?

Try it out! Fostering is a big commitment to a dog, but a relatively small one to a person! Any amount of love, attention, and training is better than they’d be getting in a shelter, on the street.

What is one of the funniest things your dog or foster has done?

Each one of our dogs are absolute clowns, however Solar, my 3 year old pocket-pitty is the probably the funniest. Solar can walk on her hind legs absurdly well, and if you bump into her, she will not be knocked to all fours, but instead will readjust. She can even walk uphill, backwards or forwards, on her hind legs!

What do you enjoy most about volunteering with SGA?

I love working with SGA because of the flexible commitment! My partner and I both work full time and have somewhat regular personal commitments, but we can always carve out a few hours to help as it’s needed or when we have some spare time!

Let us know anything else! An impactful moment, a funny story, anything!

Impactful! Our first foster, for reasons unknown to me, did not get along with one of our resident dogs. It was a heart-wrenching experience to take in a dog in need and have her not feel comfortable in our home environment. Even though my partner and I both loved her, she ultimately had to be moved to another foster home, who ended up adopting her and giving her the chance she deserved. I was so worried that the next time we fostered it also wouldn’t work out, and that I’d have to give up my fostering goal before it had even started; but the next time (fostering the “Box Puppies”) went far better, and even though it was hard, tiring, and real dirty-work, it was more rewarding than anything else.


Meet Julia’s dogs!

Ravioli – 8 months, 60lbs lab/collie/shepherd mix. Ravi is our SGA alum! She was part of the Box Puppies litter and is our foster fail. She may have lived her first couple of months in a plastic tub- but (after a lot of love and special care) as far as she’s concerned has never known a bad day in her life.
Baylie – 12 1/2 years old, 75lbs pit, shepherd, lab, chow mix. Baylie was found as a stray and was pulled from a high kill shelter in Merced by Wonderdog rescue. Baylie is a highly reactive dog, but she is also my head and soul.
Solar – 3 years old, 35 lbs pibble/chihuahua/min pin mix. Solar was found as a stray, pulled from a high-kill shelter in Atwater by Cat Adoption Tails rescue, then returned by first her first adopters. We are so happy she found her way to us!











Saving Great Animals is extremely lucky, and thankful to have Julia on our team! 


Update from Pepper

Pepper was adopted this year by Meg, together with her husband, John. Please read this open letter from Meg about Pepper’s incredible journey from feral dog to loving house-mate!

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I am so excited to share the story of my dog Pepper who was rescued by Saving Great Animals after years of sitting in a cage.

I hope that you will be inspired by my story to make a gift that helps save other dogs – from their worst days to the day they finally go home.


Pepper stands with her tongue out.

When I first met Pepper, she glanced up at me and quickly turned her eyes back to the floor. Her head hung down, her ears drooped. She just looked deflated.

Our first instructions from Saving Great Animals were to sit with her in her kennel. “Don’t make eye contact. Do not touch her. She needs to get accustomed to the presence of humans. She needs to know there is nothing to fear.” I spent the first visit sitting on the floor of her kennel against the door and she on the opposite end of the kennel leaning against the wall as if she was trying to disappear into it. I sat and read her affirmations and told her that she was loved.

Pepper sitting in a kennel. A long-haired person pets under her chin.

I  told her that a great life was now beginning for her.


Gradually we were able to sit closer. Peppers eyes met ours. It took a long time for her to be comfortable enough to lie down with us in her kennel. She would sit, falling asleep, head bobbing, but lying down made her too vulnerable.

Eventually we could brush her and we knew we had gained a little trust when she would lick “squeezy cheese” from our fingers and finally she was willing to lie down and even sleep pushed up against us.

On Christmas Eve, 2019, I helped take Pepper on her first walk outdoors. She was so excited! She was coming to life.

Pepper, a tan colored dog, walks on two leashes with her future owner.

She loved her walks outside. On days when the weather didn’t allow an outdoor walk and we walked around inside the building but she would stop at the windows and paw at them. My husband, John became her best buddy. He would run with her through the nearby park and Pepper, who had not run for the majority of her life, absolutely loved running, maybe more than anything she had experienced.

When Pepper was ready to move to a foster home, John and I decided to volunteer. The night Pepper came home, she ran and did her goofy bunny hops through the house with our dogs. She had never been in a house but seemed so happy and comfortable. The next morning Pepper literally bucked and jumped around the kitchen and woofed at me as I prepared the dogs’ food. At one point she ran into the room and gave me a kiss when I bent down and then she ran back out. Her personality was really coming out!

She began playing with toys and playing with us, doing play-bows and jumping and running around the house. When we were able to let her off-leash in the yard, her favorite game became one of hiding in the trees at one end of the yard and then jumping out and running as fast as she could, tail flopping around, nose out, running past us, daring us to try to catch her.

We knew we couldn’t part with Pepper. We had to adopt her.

Pepper laying in the grassPepper is adorably mischievous. She wags her tail and gives kisses when we come home and she follows us around the house, always wanting to be close. This sweet, playful, goofy girl who had no hope, now has a life in which she has other dogs to play with. Pepper knows love and gentle touches, soft beds and good food, treats and toys – something she never experienced until Saving Great Animals rescued her.Pepper gets out of her dog bed every morning, wags her tail, and approaches everything with a playful, happy attitude. She shakes her toys and throws them around. She plays chase with our other dogs, she whines while I prepare her food, and she runs to the bedroom at night and waits for her “night-night” cookie before we all go to sleep.

Pepper is soaking up life and she reminds us not to dwell in the pain of the past but to be grateful for what we have today, every day, and to look for the even the simplest and greatest joys.

I can’t imagine any other life for her now. I’m so grateful for Saving Great Animals and the incredible work they do to give dogs like Pepper a chance!

Please consider making a gift this holiday season to help other dogs find immense joy as Pepper has done.

Thank you and warmest wishes,

Meg & John
Pepper’s Parents

Pepper, a light tan colored dog, with future owner, Meg.

We just want to adopt a dog please!

You’ve decided you want to adopt a dog. It’s the right thing to do and surely there are many dogs in need! So why is it so hard? Why is finding a rescue dog so frustrating?

We hear this complaint often. Sadly it is often followed by “I guess we’ll just go to a breeder then.” While we understand that it can be a frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking journey, sticking with it and waiting for the right dog to come along is worthwhile.

Do rescues just want to make things difficult and are they overly picky with applicants? We don’t think so. Are rescues sometimes overly protective of the dogs they are trying to place? Perhaps. You see, when the dogs we rescue come to us, they have often already encountered multiple difficulties. Many are lost, confused, afraid and have been let down by humans. When they come into our care, we make them a promise. We promise them that we will find them a home that is a good match for them, so that they won’t be re-homed again when their people decide they are too active, too noisy, too difficult on the leash, too anything. We promise them that their next home will be one that fits them just right. While a dog may receive many applications, not all of those applications will be right for that dog. Aside from this, we also want to make sure that you end up with a dog that is just right for you. If you apply for a dog that will not be a great long-term fit, we will tell you. No one is served by giving you a dog that isn’t right for you. Our dogs typically spend some time in a foster home before being placed so that we can get to know them and their personalities and needs. We do this so that we can make good decisions for the dog as well as the applicants.

But I have applied for so many dogs and the one I want is never available!

It’s true that some dogs receive a great deal of interest right away and are placed easily. It can be sad to fall in love with a cute face on a website only to find that dog already has a pending application. But here’s the thing… another one will come along. Perhaps not today, perhaps not this week. But if you are open to the process and allow a rescue to help you find your match, it will happen. Finding a dog should not be an instant gratification kind of endeavour. Just like with people, you typically don’t marry the first person you meet. Rather than falling in love with a face or a look, try to expand your view and look for a personality that matches your circumstances. Everyone wants the cute Maltese with the little ribbon on her head. Everyone wants the little fluffy poodle. But there are other dogs out there waiting to be loved. Try to keep your heart open and there will be a lovely dog just waiting to take up that space. And, if you really just want a specific breed and are not open to other types of dogs, be willing to wait for that dog to come along. If you narrow your field, you automatically narrow your chances of success. There are dogs of all breeds, ages and sizes in need so don’t give up.

So what’s with the endless questions on the application? And references? What on earth…?

We ask these questions not just for the sake of of snooping around in your private business. The questions serve a purpose. They guide us in our matching efforts. Why do we need to know how old your kids are or how long you are at work? Because not all dogs like kids and not all dogs like to be alone while you are away. We love it when people write things about their family and their lives in the application. We love it when people are thoughtful in their application and take the time to explain who they are and what they are looking for. It really helps, and it shows that you care. That you have put some thought into getting a dog and are invested in the outcome as much as we are. Skipping most of the application questions because it’s too much work to fill hem out, doesn’t exactly inspire us with confidence that a dog will be the light of your life and is worthy of more than a few minutes of your time. If you email us and ask “how much for the dog” we hope you will understand that our reply will be in equal measure.

And references… sadly we need those because life is unfair and sometimes people are not who they say they are. Most rescues will have experienced placing a dog in good faith only to find out that the dog was poorly treated, neglected or abandoned once again. It happens more often than you think. And it never ends well for the dog. So yes, we’re a little protective. Because we think that our dogs deserve that. And because we need to sleep at night.

It is truly our goal to partner with you to find the right match. This is not a simple business transaction. We deal with living beings. We care about our dogs. We care about you. We do our best to make this a good experience so that you and your new furry friend can live happily ever after. Let’s be patient with each other.


Unsung Hero

You may have seen posts on the SGA Facebook page about our trip to South Korea. We’d like to share a little more background about the trip and introduce you to the unsung hero that is Gyungmi Kang.

About 4 years ago, we were introduced to a rescue group in South Korea called Empathy for Life (EFL). One of our local vets, Dr. Min, is from Korea and she had just traveled back with some dogs. It was through her that we learned about the hardships that dogs face in Korea, where the dog meat trade is alive and well. While SGA’s focus is mainly on dogs in need in US shelters, we are always open to helping other dogs in need if and when we are able to. After learning about the dog meat trade, we became passionate about helping dogs escape this horrible fate. We were connected with Mrs. Kang, who started Empathy for Life, and that is when our journey with Korean dogs began.

For the past 4 years, our communication with EFL happened solely through email and messenger. Mrs. Kang would forward us information about the dogs in most urgent need and we would then plan to fly them to Seattle and get them into foster homes. We saved over 200 dogs from South Korea this way. While we had never met, we always knew that Mrs. Kang and her team worked tirelessly to bring dogs to safety, provide them with medical care and give them all the love they could muster. In a society where most dogs are not seen as beloved family members, but rather as a nuisance or a source of food, Mrs. Kang fights a battle each day to right the wrongs and to change a long-standing cultural mindset.

There are many stories about the dog meat trade in South Korea and also many misconceptions. Without going into too much detail, it is important to understand the situation a little more. Traditionally, dogs have been a food source in many countries, and eating them was often seen as offering special health benefits. In South Korea, there are still many dog meat restaurants to this day and in particular the older generation will still eat dog meat on a regular basis. While in Seoul, we googled ‘dog meat restaurants near me’ and were sad to find that over 200 search results came up.  The restaurants get their dogs from either dog meat farms, where dogs are specifically bred for consumption, or from city pounds, where stray dogs are taken if found on the street. The farms are not strictly legal, but authorities often turn a blind eye. The breed and size of the dog are mostly irrelevant, though larger dogs are more typically used. Small dogs like poodles or Pomeranians have become quite popular as pets with the younger generation in South Korea and they have a chance of being adopted. The larger breeds (anything over 15 lbs) are unlikely to find homes and are therefore in danger of ending in the wrong hands or are destined for a life roaming the streets. The dogs used for consumption are killed in very cruel ways, as the belief is that the more pain an animal suffers, the more tender and healthy the meat will be. To be clear, not all dogs rescued are from the meat trade. Some are simply strays, who wander around searching for food, sometimes injured, cold and afraid. However, if they were not rescued, they are again at risk of falling prey to those on the lookout for dog meat. While there is a long way to go, there is also hope as the younger generation is more open to change and sees dogs in a different light. It is likely that the consumption of dogs will always continue to some degree, just as our Western societies will likely always consume pigs, cows, chickens and other kinds of meat. You can learn more about the dog meat trade here though the numbers in this article seem rather more optimistic than the reality.

When we finally met Mrs. Kang on our first day at Empathy for Life, she told us that she used to be afraid of dogs. It was hard to us to wrap our minds around that. Mrs. Kang is a small woman with a powerful presence. She takes care of over 90 dogs at a time and knows them all by name and can tell you each of their stories. The dogs follow her around when they are out in the yard and with one word from her, go back in their individual cages. They love her, they follow her, they allow her to pet them when no one else can come near them. The love she has for each dog is evident in her every move and every touch. She tells us that years ago she was introduced to a big Malamute. The dog didn’t like her much and the feeling was mutual. Over time though, they got to know each other and formed a bond. When the dog passed away from cancer, it seemed that life had suddenly lost its purpose. The deep love and connection with this dog had changed her profoundly. In searching for a way to honor her dog’s life, she started volunteering at a local pound and that is when her passion for rescue was truly ignited. Now, years later, Empathy for Life has become her life’s work. Mrs. Kang is there every day, seven days a week. The dogs are fed, medicated, taken to the vet, given play-time, clean kennels and as much love as time allows. Not only is it physically backbreaking work, it is also emotionally taxing. Some of the dogs arrive in horrendous conditions, having suffered at the hands of others, or are simply too afraid of humans to allow any interaction. The dogs live in outdoor kennels, where they suffer from the unbearable heat in the summer and the dreadful cold in the winter. It is not ideal, but the dogs are safe. Some have been there for years and some only spend a few months there.

EFL is located in Goyangsi, in the outskirts of Seoul, surrounded by fields and run down buildings. Sadly, by spring 2020 they will have to move to another location, as the current land has been designated as the site for new apartment buildings in an ever-expanding city. Finding a new location is difficult for many reasons. Where do you go with 90 plus dogs, little funds and little public support? Saving Great Animals has committed to helping as many dogs as possible to move out. As much as we want to help them all, it is not an easy undertaking. Flying dogs to the US is costly. Each dog needs to be thoroughly vetted, crates need to be purchased, volunteers need to be found to fly with the dogs and flights for the dogs need to be booked and paid for. We know we cannot help them all, but we will do our best to take some of the burden from Mrs. Kang.

We know that bringing dogs over from South Korea and other countries can be controversial. After all, there are plenty of dogs in need right here at home. The majority of SGA dogs have always and will continue to come from US shelters. However, it is important to us to also support those who dedicate their lives to helping animals, no matter where they are from. For Mrs. Kang, there is no rest, no time for complaining, no time for tears. There is only endless work, passion and dedication. Without support from rescues like ours, willing to re-home dogs in the US, the dogs at EFL would have no future. We hope that you will support us, and EFL, and the wonderful dogs who need us.

If you are so inclined, donations can be made via our website by clicking on the ‘donate’ button on the home page. All of our donations go directly to the dogs. (For those wondering, our trip to South Korea was paid for entirely out of our own pocket and not from SGA funds). For more information about EFL, please visit their Facebook page.

Thank you for all your support. If you would like to learn more or have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at

Welcome to our new blog!

Lots of things happen in rescue every day. Some good, some not so good, some interesting and some mundane. We plan to use this blog to keep you updated on what goes on in SGA behind the scenes, to help foster a better understanding of the work we do. We hope you will enjoy following our stories.