Adopted Dog Gives Health Care Worker Love and Support

Who will care for the caregivers? The answer, my friends, is our dogs. Some heroes wear brindle.

Jessica + Cali

Cali’s happy nature brought joy to her new family — her pet mom, Jessica, a physician assistant working on the front line during COVID-19, and her tortoise sibling, Rocky.

"Cali has forever changed my life. Working in health care this year has been a unique challenge. Coming home to Cali’s wagging tail, playful spirit, and endless cuddles have meant everything to me."

The COVID-19 pandemic was only just getting started, and I sat at work during a rare lull and felt it somewhere deep in my bones: it was time to find my dog. I have wanted to adopt a pup my whole life.

I grew up with lots of dogs around me all the time; my family never had less than two and sometimes had up to four canine companions. Since adulthood, I had been waiting. Waiting for the right time, after I got my education and my career sorted out.

In April I celebrated my first-year anniversary of working as a physician assistant, my dream career. The experience so far has been everything I had hoped for and more, but little did any of us expect the arrival of COVID-19. The added weight of a global pandemic hit all of us hard. For me, it also created some space to find a lot of gratitude and left me with extra time on my hands. So, there I sat, in between cases in the operating room, scrolling through Lifeline Animal Project’s website. I’ve always felt that when the time is right, and when I saw the right pup, I’d know. Cali was second from the end of a list of over 500 dogs looking for loving homes. When I saw her, I knew she was perfect.

I arranged a meeting with Cali’s foster parents and had no doubt I was going to love her. The adoption was contingent on one other individual being ready for a new family member, though. You see Rocky, my sulcata tortoise, was technically here first. I loaded him up and off we went. As you can see, the two have been fast friends ever since. Cali is endlessly fascinated by her shelled older brother, and Rocky tolerates her with as much affection allotted by his species. The two can frequently be seen basking together, grazing on various backyard offerings, and patrolling the territory in tandem.

Cali has forever changed my life. Working in health care this year has been a unique challenge. Coming home to Cali’s wagging tail, playful spirit, and endless cuddles have meant everything to me. Her loyal companionship and excited energy have offered stability and so much joy during a time when I’ve genuinely needed it. We’ve found happiness and freedom roaming the trails together, taking a break from the heaviness of the circumstances. The love I have for her and the bond we already share is tremendous.

Folks have raised the question before, “Who will care for the caregivers?” I think this question is very important. Burnout is high amongst health care workers as we continue to pour our hearts, souls, and minds into helping strangers return to their families and lead healthy, happy lives. The answer, my friends, is our dogs. Cali is here making a difference in my life and in turn helping me do so for others. Some heroes wear brindle.

Each year, the Petco Foundation Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Jessica won Lifeline Animal Project in Atlanta, Georgia a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.