Animal shelters across the U.S. – including more than a dozen in San Diego County – teamed up with NBC Saturday to find loving forever homes for pets in need.
The third annual Clear the Shelters nationwide pet adoption drive kicked off at 10 a.m. Bright and early, starting around 6:30 a.m., San Diegans lined up at participating shelters, including the San Diego Humane Society on Gaines Street and the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services Southern Region in Bonita, in search of a furry friend to take home.
This included couple John and Ardis Rowland, accompanied by their daughter, in search of a black dog.
“I love dogs. I lost my dog. And I’m not to be without a dog,” John told NBC 7.
For the Rowlands, owning a pet is important because it provides them with companionship. The couple's kids are grown and out of the house, so they have time and love to give.
"[A pet is] somebody else to love,” said John.
“And to love you,” Ardis added.
Combined, the animal facilities participating in San Diego County said they had more than 1,200 adoptable pets available for Clear the Shelters. The goal was to match each one of those animals with a home.
By 7:30 p.m., a total of 739 animals had been adopted in San Diego, including a chicken, dogs, cats and rabbits.
A Shih-Tzu named Luna found her forever home in retired San Diego teacher, Margarita, who just turned 70 years old. The teacher told NBC 7 that she and her daughter and granddaughter had been visiting San Diego shelters, looking for a dog to adopt. Two days ago, they locked eyes with the Shih-Tzu.
"She came to us. She was at the back, back, back of the cage. We called her Luna, and immediately she came up. There was something in her eyes. She came right over to us, and she licked my granddaughter first," Margarita explained.
She knew right then Luna was her match.
[G - 2017] San Diego Helps Clear the Shelters
"I am going to enrich my life with this most beautiful doggy named Luna. I’ve already got a name for her; I’ve been dreaming about her for two days," she said.
On Saturday, Margarita adopted Luna. She said she had already embroidered some special items for her new pet, as little welcome home gifts.
"I have a lot of time just to give, a lot of love and emotion," Margarita told NBC 7. "And just have this dog give to me like I hope I gave to my students, for 34 years."
More sweet adoption stories unfolded, with NBC 7's resident animal enthusiast, Dagmar Midcap, speaking with locals adding new members to their families at the Gaines Street shelter.
This included a boy named Nathan who adopted an 8-year-old dog he named Rex. When asked why he wanted to take Rex home, the boy's answer was sweet and simple: "He needed help, so I chose him."
Two girls left the San Diego Humane Society Saturday each with a rabbit: Midnight and Cocoa.
The girls are best friends and planned to pass that down to their bunnies.
"We're planning a buddy play date," one girl said.
Sarah Sweeney, 12, also adopted a rabbit. The girl told NBC 7 her favorite part about her new pet was "hit cuteness."
"He's very sweet and shy, and he's very soft," she said, cradling her new pet.
Sweeney said her bunny will make a great companion for her; the pair will soon be watching TV together, the girl said.
In addition to the Gaines Street and Bonita shelters, other local facilities participating in Clear the Shelters include Shelly's Shelter in Bonita, the National Cat Protection Society in Spring Valley, City of El Cajon Animal Services in El Cajon, and the San Diego Humane Society's Escondido Campus. For a map of all of the shelters taking part in Saturday's event, click here.
Clear the Shelters 2017: NBC 7 Viewer Pet Photos
San Diegans shares their sweet adoption stories with us as they added the new members to their families. We hope to hear similar tales this time around, too.
In August 2015, the inaugural Clear the Shelters found homes for 777 pets in San Diego County, including one lucky rabbit adopted by NBC 7's Midcap.
Nationwide, since Clear the Shelters launched in 2015, the NBC initiative has secured forever homes for 73,411 pets.