To The Rescue

Local groups offer hope to homeless pets

By Cathryn Rakich
February 2022

A post on Nextdoor caught my eye. A senior gentleman looking for canine companionship asked for suggestions on where to adopt an adult dog. Dozens of people responded, citing Sacramento’s two municipal animal shelters and no fewer than 12 nonprofit rescue groups from Auburn to the Bay Area.

There are as many as 50 dog, cat and breed-specific rescue organizations throughout Northern California, reports the Sacramento Area Animal Coalition. Following are two standouts in our own backyard.


Divya Thompson was not supposed to start an animal rescue group until she retired from her job as an IT analyst. But a motorcycle accident in 2016 that took her husband Walter’s left leg changed everything.

“When the accident happened, we were very depressed,” Divya says. “We decided to change our losses and depression into victory.” 4ever Yours Rescue (originally Sugar Mama Rescue) was born. “We started it to keep spirits high,” Walter adds.

Divya moved to the United States in 2000 from India where street-roaming canines are common. “I grew up taking care of stray dogs,” she says. “Mom made them go outside, so I’d hide the puppies in my closet.”

Divya adopted her first dog, a shih tzu mix named Sugar Mama, from the city’s Front Street Animal Shelter. That experience led her to volunteer at Front Street and eventually foster 82 dogs. “Front Street gave me an insight and exposure to dogs,” she says. “I didn’t realize so many dogs need help.”

When Divya and Walter established their own foster-based nonprofit rescue in Del Paso Heights, it was “on our own terms with the best adoption process and policies,” she says. When adopting from 4ever Yours Rescue, prospective adopters fill out an online application, which is reviewed by Divya and an experienced dog trainer. If approved, Divya and the trainer conduct separate phone interviews. “The trainer is very thorough—it’s a 30-minute grilling session,” Divya says.

The next steps include a meeting between dog and adopter (all family members must be present) and a home visit. Current pets must be spayed or neutered and up to date on vaccinations. Applicants must be 21 years or older. Renters must provide a letter from the landlord confirming pets are allowed. All yards and swimming pools must be fully fenced.

“At the end of the day, we are the dog’s advocate,” Walter says.

Adoption fees are $450 for puppies and $400 for adult dogs. Veterans and seniors receive a $50 discount. All dogs are altered, vaccinated, microchipped, heartworm tested and receive a dental if needed.

If an adopted pooch requires medical care beyond the adopter’s financial means, the group will raise the necessary funds. Pre and post training support is provided. If the adoption does not work out, 4ever Yours Rescue takes back the animal.

“We back our dogs during their entire life,” Divya says. “We may adopt out a dog, but not close the loop,” Walter adds. “The dog does not end up back in a shelter ever again.”

4ever Yours Rescue works with Front Street, the county’s Bradshaw Animal Shelter, and shelters in Stockton and Yolo and Solano counties, fostering and placing approximately 100 dogs a year into new homes.

“We don’t know their past, but we will change their future forever,” Divya says. “Rescue is my passion. My blood, sweat and tears. My reason for living.”

To volunteer, donate or adopt, visit


When Susan Call retired as a financial consultant in 1996 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she needed “a reason to keep going.” A senior herself, Call established the nonprofit rescue group Old Dogs New Tricks specifically for older, homeless, large-breed canines.

“When I started this venture in 2009, I wanted a project that was bigger than myself,” says Call, who uses a wheelchair. “Since I love dogs, why not make it about them?” Rescuing unwanted mutts “gives me a purpose.”

Through a network of volunteer drivers and pilots, Call takes in homeless dogs from all over California. The majority of dogs she rescues are 7 years or older. “I chose to rescue senior dogs because they are often the first to be euthanized,” Call explains.

Based out of her home in Carmichael, Old Dogs New Tricks has about eight volunteers who help with walking, grooming, socializing and fostering. Two boarders assist with feeding and medical care. Most of the pet food is donated. With senior dogs, vet bills are the biggest expense.

“When we take in a new dog, their eyes say it all,” Call says. “They look up as if to say thank you for a safe place to rest.”

To volunteer, donate or adopt, visit

Cathryn Rakich can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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