Column: Down-on-their luck pets helped by shelter, but need your help for new homes

Dog and Cat

(Upper left) At Pasadena Humane, we always root for the underdogs (and cats!). Elfie was adopted after 9 months bouncing between the shelter and foster homes. (Upper right) Skrunkly came to Pasadena Humane in need of urgent medical care for a painful skin condition. (Lower left) Elfie is now enjoying an adventure-filled life and lots of naps with canine brother, Tofu (left, in the basket). (Lower right) Skrunkly happily said goodbye to his days on the streets and is now living his best life as a cherished (leash-trained) family pet.

Everyone loves a good underdog! Stories of people or animals who overcome adversity and come out on top speak to our compassion and survival instincts. My own dog, Sueshi, was an underdog.

Sueshi was abandoned in a park when she was 3 months old, a tiny shih tzu puppy. She had ear mites, worms, kidney issues and an underbite (which I find adorable). A good Samaritan who witnessed her being “dumped” brought her to the Virginia Beach SPCA where I adopted her.

I was told she might live only a year due to her kidney dysplasia. Now 8 years old, Sueshi has gone from underdog to “wonderdog”!

At Pasadena Humane, we, too, have our own underdogs (and “undercats”), from orphaned newborn kittens to abused dogs who come to us suffering from unimaginable trauma.

As an open admission shelter, we take in a variety of animals without regard to their age, breed, health or temperament.

Our veterinary health team goes above and beyond to rehabilitate sick and injured animals and to keep them physically and mentally sound during their stay. Of course, our goal is to get pets ready to find new homes.

Most pets are adopted quickly. But some experience a more extended stay. These underdogs often become staff and volunteer favorites. So, it’s always special when we receive happy updates from their adopters.

I’d like to share two of our recent underdog success stories with you. Hopefully, these stories will bring some joy to your day and maybe even inspire you to bring home an underdog of your own.

Five-year-old Elfie originally came to Pasadena Humane as a boisterous stray dog. Elfie’s love for people quickly endeared him to our staff and volunteers, but his exuberant and over-the-top personality made it difficult for him to find a forever family. Sadly, Elfie bounced between foster homes and the shelter for 9 months.

Then, Elfie found the Moreno family. The Morenos were searching for a new companion for their dog, Tofu, who you may remember from a previous column. Always a fan of the underdogs, the Morenos decided to take Elfie home on an adoption trial.

Elfie soon made himself right at home with the Morenos, including Tofu. “He is the sweetest addition to our family,” they shared. “He reminds us that patience and love bring out the best in everyone.”

Ten-year-old Skrunkly was the epitome of a hard-luck case. He arrived at the shelter in rough shape, showing the scars and battle wounds of a cat who was not adapted to life on the streets.

Skrunkly also suffered from scabies, a painful skin condition causing sores and missing patches of fur throughout his body. Our veterinary team immediately started him on treatment.

Despite his rather patchy appearance, he caught the eye of the Campos family about a month and a half after he arrived at the shelter. Skrunkly, or Skrunks for short, is now always by the side of his new “paw-rents.”

Grateful for his loving home, “Señor Skrunks” has even learned to walk on a harness and joins his family on trips. He equally enjoys spending time outdoors and snuggling up in a cozy cat bed or blanket.

Right now, shelters in our area are filled with underdogs and cats waiting for a home of their own. You can make a difference by adopting a new best friend.

If you are not ready to adopt, consider fostering newborn kittens for a few weeks until they are old enough to be adopted. These itty-bitty kitties need lots of extra care to survive and thrive.

Learn more about how you can help animals in need at


Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on March 29, 2024.