Jeri Galloway holds Ollie, a Chihuahua-Dachshund mix "Chiweenie" dog that she and her husband adopted from the Ani-Care animal shelter south of Ontario. Jeri and Ollie’s story earned national recognition through the Petco Foundation’s Holiday Wishes Campaign. (Photo submitted by Jeri Galloway)
ONTARIO – When Jeri and Paul Galloway took home Ollie from the Ani-Care Animal Shelter, the couple didn’t think they were going to keep the small, black dog for long.
They just wanted to help relieve the overcrowded shelter by fostering the Chihuahua-Dachshund mix.
That was two years ago. Ollie is still at their Ontario home, rewarding them in unexpected ways. His story is not only touching but has brought $10,000 in much-needed funding to the Ontario-area shelter. If online voters select Ollie’s story, Ani-Care could earn another $25,000 for the program.
This all started in November 2016 when the couple’s eldest daughter, Cori Grimaldo, called to ask if they could foster a little black dog. At that time, Grimaldo was a regular volunteer at Ani-Care and noticed that the nervous, scared dog needed better social skills to make her more adoptable.
Jeri Galloway had reservations. She was facing stage four breast cancer and feeling too old to care for a dog.
“I was going into my third year of cancer treatments,” Galloway said. “I went through immunotherapy and chemotherapy, and I wasn’t feeling good at all. I also thought there was just not much time and energy to adopt another dog.”
The family was grieving two dogs who died from age and illness – their 10-year-old Basset hound, Cole, who died in June 2015 and 17-year-old Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix, Steve, who died in August 2016.
“Our hearts were still broken,” said Galloway. “Our two dogs both died on the same month.”
Her husband also hesitated about bringing in a new dog. Paul Galloway was preparing to retire and didn’t want the extra work or costs to care for a dog while his wife was ill.
“After a bit of time, I thought ‘You know what? I’m being selfish here.’ My wife wants a dog,” he said.
Paul Galloway paused as he recounted his decision, sitting silent as tears welled in his eyes.
“I just wanted her to get well,” he continued. “I was so torn. But I remember thinking ‘Jeri is not getting well, so let her get a dog and maybe it’ll help her feel better.’”
They called their daughter and told her they would give the dog a chance. They went to meet Ollie during the first week of December 2016.
Shelter staff and their daughter warned the Galloways that Ollie had serious medical and psychological issues. Ollie was a stray who had been abandoned on Malheur Butte and volunteers suspected she came from a rough home.
A one-week commitment to help the dog warm up to people turned into three as the Galloways fell in love with Ollie’s sweet face.
“She started to become a good friend. She was getting better emotionally, too,” said Paul Galloway. “I could see that she was having a better outlook at life. And she was brightening up our lives, too.”
By Christmas, they signed her adoption certificate.
The couple found that Ollie’s companionship was a powerful medicine.
The Galloways said Ollie gave them the opportunity to get their minds off the tough stuff in life – disease, treatment and other stressors. Jeri Galloway’s energy increased despite undergoing cancer treatment. Having Ollie motivated her to get outside more and to go for walks. By February, Jeri Galloway’s cancer went into remission.
Ollie’s adoption has been good for more than just the Galloways.
In August 2018, Jeri Galloway submitted their story to the Petco Foundation’s annual Holiday Wishes Campaign, which highlights the life-changing effects shelter pets have on people.
The shelter and the Galloways learned Nov.16 that the foundation was awarding $10,000 to the shelter because of their story. A presentation is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 12.
Ollie’s story also is a contender for the “People’s Choice Award,” which could win the shelter an additional $25,000. Anyone with a valid email address and Facebook account can vote in favor by going online through 11 a.m. Dec. 19 at petcofoundation.org/holidaywishes.
“Ani-Care shelter is our only dog shelter out here,” said Jeri Galloway. “And it needs a lot of help. It’s old and always overcrowded. We at least got them $10,000 but if they could get anything extra, that would be amazing.”
Amanda Grosdidier and Brian Feeley have been operating the facility since February 2015 and took ownership of the shelter a year later. After nearly four years and 5,000 dogs – about 60 on any given day – Ani-Care faces challenges.
The chain link fence that separates the dogs have holes. The kennels are getting old. The insulation is wearing away. The operators are overworked.
Grosdidier and Feeley also take care of dogs at their home.
“We have eleven dogs total at home, but two are mine,” said Grosdidier. “Nine of them are what I call ‘hospice dogs,’ they’re dogs that are usually over eight years old and may or may not have cancer.”
She said she began taking home elderly dogs after seeing one older dog die at the shelter.
“After one passed away at the shelter, that just broke my heart,” Grosdidier said. “I mean, that’s the end of what they knew – being in a shelter.”
With the $10,000 award from the Petco Foundation, Grosdidier and Feeley hope to fix a clogged septic system, which can cost up to $3,500. Grosdidier said they also hope to build a fence around their 1.5-acre backyard to let the dogs run around.
“Ollie’s story is not for us. It’s for Ani-Care, so they can get help from the community. Amanda and Brian have a great shelter,” said Jeri Galloway. “And they don’t have to take in any more dogs when they’re over capacity, but they’ll do it regardless because they really love their animals.”
Paul Galloway hopes area residents will vote in support of Ani-Care because he has seen how Grosdidier and Feeley have changed the dogs’ lives.
“You can see just how every single one of those dogs love those two,” said Paul Galloway. “They want to help as many animals as they can, but they can’t do it alone. So I’d love to see good things happen for them.”
Reporter Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or (541) 473-3377. Click on the following links for more information on voting and Ani-care.