Like many animal advocates, I follow several animal rescue accounts on social media, from large well-known organizations to small independent rescuers. While the landscape of Insta-famous rescuers is vast, there are a handful whose passion, expertise, and authentic intentions radiate through the screen.
Angela Adan of @deservingdogs is one of those few. One look at her Instagram account, and it’s clear she is dedicated to saving lives and that her work with animals is the most meaningful aspect of her life. I had a chance to interview Angela on Zoom in 2021 to learn more about her work and chat about the rescue world. I was met by the exact same person I saw on Instagram—kind, humble, and excited to talk about how she has curated her life around her passion for saving the lives of animals.
At the top of 2022, she invited me to her home to see what a day in the life is like, and to meet her pack of personal pets and her current fosters. When I arrived, she was out in the yard exercising a few of her dogs, all in wheelchairs. The dogs were calm and playful, romping across the grass without a worry, and when she greeted me in person, she was warm, present, and ever focused on the dogs playing among us.
As the day progressed, I was able to watch her interact with her pack of fosters and her personal pets. In addition to the enormous amount of work she does to keep everyone heathy and happy, the thing that stood out to me was how deeply connected she is to the dogs in her care. When you enter their space, where she’s surrounded by her pack, you can sense the reciprocal togetherness and the flow of gratitude and love that radiates in both directions. Angela is as grateful for them as they are for her.ALICIA BAILEY»@DESERVINGDOGS PHOTO BY: @CHERYLLYNNPHOTOGRAPHY»
I arrived at Angela’s home with this idea that she was “simply” a full-time foster working with various organizations. Instead, she operates like an entire mini rescue ecosystem! She does it all, from personally pulling a dog from a shelter to placing them in their forever home.
Meet Angela Adan
Angela has cared for animals her entire life, and prior to doing rescue work, she thought she wanted to be a veterinarian. She became a veterinary technician, working in the veterinary field for 14 years. She thought her next logic step would be veterinary school, and so she began to take all the necessary steps toward that goal. Along the way, she became a professional pet sitter, dog walker, and trainer.
A move to Santa Barbara a little more than a decade ago changed all that. She decided to go visit her local shelter, to see if she could perhaps volunteer. As she took a look around, she was approached by a shelter staff member who told her she was looking at the “death row” dogs. In that moment, as she stood looking at these dogs facing certain death through the bars of their kennels, she was struck with a compassion that would drive her with a whole new purpose, in a whole new direction.
The First Rescue
Around the same time, Facebook emerged as a sort of miracle tool that connected rescuers and other animal advocates. It was there that she saw images of two dogs who were on the euthanasia list, posted to a photographer’s page. Angela committed to picking them up from the shelter, thinking they were the only dogs on the list. However, when she arrived at the shelter she learned that the two dogs were not the only ones on the list. And even worse, this was happening every day. She left the shelter that day knowing she had to do more.
Curating Her Life to Serve the Animals
A few years into rescuing, she started her own non-profit rescue but realized that running a rescue was not for her. “Running the rescue meant doing less hands-on care of the animals and more administrative work and drained my energy in a way that I felt like I wasn’t giving my best self to the animals,” Angela explained. “I decided to instead become a full-time foster. That way I could work with organizations I knew and respected and could dedicate all my time to the hands-on care of saving the most vulnerable souls.”
Over time she began to build her life around fostering and focusing more and more on animals who had severe medical needs, behavioral challenges, or other issues that deemed them less adoptable at shelters. The reason? “Because a dog, cat, or any animal with special needs requires a human being who will go above and beyond for them, someone dedicated to them having a great quality of life. Someone who believes in them and knows they deserve the best.”
To date, Angela has fostered approximately 1,000 animals in her 10+-year career. Dogs, cats, kittens, and birds, to name just a few.
A Day in the Life
Being a foster to special and uniquely abled pets requires a higher level of care—it’s not just petting dogs all day. While there is plenty of play time and affection shared between Angela and her animals, there is also an enormous amount of work that goes into each day.
■ Wake up
■ Take everyone out to potty, which includes getting dogs into wheelchairs, and physically carrying some dogs outside and back inside.
■ Once everyone is back inside, Angela prepares everyone’s meals and sets them up for feeding.
■ Some stay in their wheelchairs to eat, while others must be hand fed. Mealtime can take up to an hour or more, depending on who she is fostering.
■ After mealtime, she gives everyone their medication and supplements.
■ While the fosters and her pack have a postmeal snooze, Angela begins her cleaning regimen, which includes changing all the dog bedding, litter boxes, and bird cages if applicable, cleaning up mealtime dishes, mealtime messes, then sweeping and mopping the floor. Her cleaning routine takes about 2 hours.
■ After cleaning, she takes everyone outside again for exercise and enrichment. Sometimes it is feasible for everyone to be in the yard together, but if she has a behavioral case or dogs who are working on getting along, then she splits up play time to work with the animals as needed.…»
■ After play time, Angela answers emails from the potential adopters, her rescue contacts, and checks in with the shelters she works with to see if there are any animals that need to be saved that day.
■ Depending on the day, there are vet and physical therapy appointments to get the animals to, and prescriptions to be filled.
■ Next, she screens adoption applications, arranges meet and greets with potential adopters, and accompanies her fosters through the entire adoption process.
■ There is an enormous amount of laundry to do every day.
■ Play time, training time, and further exercise and enrichment time happens again in the afternoon.
■ Then the evening shift begins—mealtime prep and clean up, giving medications and supplements, and cleaning again where necessary.
■ Somewhere in the day, she finds time to post to her social media accounts to share about her fosters, the animal cases she is working on, and what the animals need from her Amazon Wishlist.
If time permits, she will take dogs on a bike ride or to the dog beach for a field trip. These outings are fun for both her and the pack, and it allows them to be seen by people who might be interested in adopting them. Imagine seeing a bike going down the beach with a wagon and a basket full of dogs, and multiple dogs in wheelchairs running alongside. It really gives the term “joyride” a whole new meaning to those who see it in action! More importantly, these outings help change people’s minds about what a uniquely abled pet can do.
Asked how she does it all and stays sane, Angela reports that keeping to a regular schedule is important, staying flexible a must, and laughter is at the heart of it all. Angela says, “I laugh throughout the day, and I stay joyful because I truly love what I do, but also because the animals feed off my energy and they deserve to have happy, positive energy surrounding them.”Ferris Wheeler @DESERVINGDOGS»Faith & Polly ALICIA BAILEY»…»
When asked what her favorite part of fostering is, she says, “Watching them transition from shelter dog on a euthanasia list to a joyous, bouncy, happy dog who learns how to trust again, learns how to play, learns how to receive love … it’s magical and it affects me on a very deep level.”
What I found during my visit is that my assumption that she is simply a full-time foster working with various organizations was way off base. When a dog comes into her care, she is there 100 percent of the way, from rescue to adoptive home. She feels it is her responsibility to honor the lives in her care, and that means being involved in every part of their rescue journey. Because, she says, “When it’s time for a dog to go to their adoptive home, I feel that I have a responsibility to continue to advocate for them. Give them the dignity and security of a loving transition, and let the adopters know I am here for them if they need me.”
Meet Angela’s Pack
Angela’s personal pets are integral to her fostering process, as they serve as guides to the new animals who come into their home. Each member of her pack is uniquely abled, and each one entered her life when she needed them most.
Ferris Wheeler was adopted several times and returned because his needs proved to be too much for his previous adopters. Born with spina bifida, he is incontinent and does not have use of his back legs. He motors just fine in his wheelchair, though! Ferris became a therapy dog, and prior to COVID, he and Angela would participate in a program where kids would practice reading to Ferris and got a chance to learn that what makes him different, what makes him super special!
Faith was left in the backyard when her owner went to the hospital, and she eventually ended up at a shelter. At the time, she was 20 pounds overweight, and with the help of a rescue, Angela was able to take Faith to her home. There she lost weight and began to live the dog life she deserved. Currently though, at 12 years old, Faith’s health has begun to decline—her mobility is limited, and Angela must pick her up for potty breaks and to get outside.…»
Juniper arrived at Angela’s when she was just 4 months old. She had been hit by a car, which broke her spine and left her paralyzed. Because of her injuries and the accompanying incontinence, her owners realized they were not suited to care for her and did not want to turn her over to the shelter. Thanks to Angela and 23 loving volunteers, Juniper was transported across the country into Angela’s care. After 6 months of physical therapy, Juniper became strong enough to use a wheelchair and is now thriving among the pack.
Polly was confiscated from a home in San Francisco, a victim of severe neglect. Assuming she was a hospice case because of her appearance, Animal Control contacted Angela to see if she could take her in for her final days. Angela agreed, and once Polly received medical care, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that caused her bones to weaken. The vet determined that she had several broken bones because of this, including her front paws. Despite her rough beginning, Polly has thrived in Angela’s care, and is no longer considered a hospice case.
When Freddie was 6 months old, she was abandoned in duffle bag outside a shelter in Hesperia, California. This little dog weighed less than 5 pounds and would stand up on her back legs with her front legs out to the side. Her pointy little face was host to a very distinctive smile that showed off her teeth. When Angela saw her online, she immediately connected with that smile and arranged for her rescue.
It would later be discovered that prior to arriving at the shelter, a child had picked up Freddie and dropped her. No medical care was sought, and that is why she developed her upright stature, to compensate for not having use of her front legs. Freddie doesn’t use a wheelchair because it isn’t comfortable for her. The wheel life isn’t for her—she prefers to walk around in her own special way.
Angela fell in love with Freddie, and the two had an instant bond. She started an Instagram page for Freddie so she could share updates to those who were asking, and it took off. The Dodo (thedodo.com) ran a story on Freddie, and she became a viral superstar. Freddie brings joy to thousands of followers each day and also promotes the message that looking different is okay.
Eventually Freddie had to have her teeth pulled as a result of never having received dental care, and that caused her jawbone to disintegrate. Angela now hand feeds Freddie three times a day, and each feeding session takes about 30 minutes. You can follow Freddie on Instagram @ready_freddie_.
How to Help Angela and The Deserving Dogs
Join her Patreon page: https://patreon.com/AngelaAdan Shop her Amazon Wishlist (for animal supplies): https://amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2ASQB1VAZCR3L?ref_=wl_share Visit Angela’s website (starring Freddie) at freetobestore.com, where you’ll find links to Freddie’s Cameo, her line of CBD oil, and fun Freddie merch! Be sure to follow her on Instagram @deservingdogs and follow Freddie @ready_freddie_