2016-07-29 / Neighbors

Social media gives dog a second chance

Rescue group helps animals in need
By Alicia Doyle
Special to the Acorn


RECOVERY—Zeus, at 6 weeks old, rests after surgery at VCA Westlake Village Animal Hospital earlier this year. RECOVERY—Zeus, at 6 weeks old, rests after surgery at VCA Westlake Village Animal Hospital earlier this year. His mismatched eyes, striking facial features and pointed ears give Zeus the unmistakable look of a husky.

The happy-go-lucky pooch has made a name for himself with a story that has attracted the love and attention of animal lovers worldwide.

Because of a birth defect, Zeus was scheduled to be euthanized late last year when he was just a few weeks old. But Paw Works, a Ventura County animal rescue group, gave the pup another chance at life by turning him into an internet sensation.

Via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Paw Works helped generate $25,000 to pay for the nine surgeries that Zeus—born in Delano, about 31 miles north of Bakersfield—needed to live a healthy life.

The problem was severe: His colon had not developed properly.

“He was brought into a shelter in Delano at 5 weeks old to be euthanized because in five weeks he hadn’t gone to the bathroom,” said Christina Morgan, CEO and co-founder of Paw Works.


SNUGGLE UP—Zeus, at 5 months old, is nuzzled by Camarillo resident Christina Morgan, co-founder of Paw Works, a Ventura County-based animal rescue organization. The husky became an internet sensation, generating over $25,000 in donations for surgeries the dog needed as a puppy. Zeus has since become a mascot for Paw Works. SNUGGLE UP—Zeus, at 5 months old, is nuzzled by Camarillo resident Christina Morgan, co-founder of Paw Works, a Ventura County-based animal rescue organization. The husky became an internet sensation, generating over $25,000 in donations for surgeries the dog needed as a puppy. Zeus has since become a mascot for Paw Works. The Delano shelter initially contacted Simi Valley Missing Pets about Zeus because the shelter had worked with the organization in the past, Morgan said. Simi Valley Missing Pets then transferred Zeus to Paw Works.

It didn’t take long after Paw Works shared Zeus’ plight with its followers that the social media world fell in love with the puppy.

“It was just crazy. He got this huge following,” said Morgan, a Camarillo resident. “Our village of supporters funded every single penny. People as far away as England and Australia made donations. . . . There were people that donated $3,000 and they didn’t even blink an eye.”

Today, the 7-month-old husky is the ambassador dog at Paw Works, an example of the hundreds of animals saved by the organization.

Zeus is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to how much the organization spends on saving pets.

“He was the most expensive so far,” said Morgan, noting that the most Paw Works had previously spent on a rescued animal was around $3,000.

Although Paw Works relies heavily upon public donations to survive, “our fosters and volunteers are critical,” Morgan said. “We could not be sustained without them.”

From January through May of this year, Paw Works spent more than $116,000 on medical bills for its animals.

“We’re growing at such an exponential pace the more animals we take in,” said Morgan, adding that Paw Works cares for animals with seizures and severe diseases as well as those that are missing limbs. “We have a lot of support from people, but we always need more.”

Since opening its first pet adoption center at The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks in 2014, Paw Works has placed nearly 2,000 cats and dogs in homes as part of its mission to give abandoned animals a second chance at life.

“We are the largest rescue in Ventura County by the amount of animals we pull and adopt,” said Chad Atkins of Moorpark, who co-founded Paw Works with Morgan. “From 2014 to today, we have been able to save 1,897 dogs and cats in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Kern and Los Angeles counties.”

In addition to its adoption center at The Oaks, Paw Works operates another center at Pacific View Mall in Ventura.

The nonprofit also relies heavily upon foster parents who care for the animals in their homes while the pets are waiting for adoption.

Some of the animals in need of homes are Amigo, a 3-year-old terrier mix; Apple, an 8-week-old tabby; Ariel, a 2-year-old American Staffordshire terrier; and Wendie, a domestic shorthair cat.

Many of the animals at Paw Works are obtained through local shelters where they are scheduled to be euthanized, Atkins said.

“We pull the animals and bring them to safety . . . to one of our foster homes,” said Atkins. “Then they are placed up for adoption to the public.”

The animals also receive any needed veterinary care, including vaccines and spaying or neutering, as well as microchips.

The idea for Paw Works began about five years ago with Morgan, who was involved at the time with the Humane Society of America in Washington, D.C.

“I just saw a need and thought, ‘How can I do something local?,’” said Morgan. “Then I met Chad a couple years later and we just decided this would be a really amazing thing to do.”

Atkins had experience running a doggie day care and boarding home facility in San Francisco before he moved to Ventura County.

“We looked at how we were really going to bring awareness and education to the masses, and free spay and neutering to underserved communities,” Atkins said. “We also wanted to address the issue of people who don’t like to go into shelters by having adoption centers that are friendly, casual and comfortable to create a calm environment for people to adopt animals.”

In related efforts, Paw Works offers a Child Pet Ambassador Program in which youths between the ages of 8 and 13 can participate in the work of the animal rescue community.

Opportunities include speaking to small groups of similar age children at local events and creating ways to spread the word about animal rescue.

“What this program is designed to do is educate and cultivate compassion in the next generation of animal advocates,” Atkins said.

“We are true believers that the only true solution to overpopulation is education and awareness. And if we’re not teaching our young people . . . we are doing our animals a disservice.”

For more information, visit pawworks.org.

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