Thulani Program in Pictures



STELLA!!!! Against the Odds



Against the Odds
A Tribute to the Best Cuddler-Ever, Ever, Ever

Stella was a dog that survived-against many many odds.
Stella lived in a field for 4 months. Jenny P., a college student home on winter break, persuaded Stella to come into their back yard. Stella had massive mammary tumors. Jenny’s family took Stella to the vet and the x-rays in December 2011 showed the malignant cancer had already spread into Stella’s lungs. Her prognosis was 3-6 months. Bob J. asked me to go pick up Stella. She had already passed the temperament test with flying colors and now needed a foster home until she could find her forever home for whatever time Stella had left. The local animal control had decided to put Stella to sleep as soon as they caught her.
Stella dodged that bullet-against the odds.

Stella Comes Home
I was originally charged with transporting Stella. Having lost my 13 year old Casador in July 2011 and my other 13 year old, Chancellor in July 2009, I was committed to getting a Thulani doggie. I had the honor to escort my two biggie boys in their final days and saw what a sweet, tender time it was. My intention was to repeat that honor with another older biggie boy; but then I saw Stella. An obvious GSD mix, Stella was a pocket shepherd size at about 45 pounds with doe eyes that just draw you in. Stella came to my home January 19, 2012. I had no intention of letting this dog go anywhere else, our chemistry was immediate and I decided to keep her. If she only had a few months, I wanted to be with her for those months and not shuttle her to still another home. Knowing my dog Ashley may not welcome another female, Stella was gradually introduced to, and became an integral part of the pack with Ashley and 6 month-old Wolfie.
Stella became an integral part of a 2 female 3-pack, against the odds.

Stella’s First Surgery
Stella’s mammary tumors grew and bled, they seemed to grow overnight. Stella had a short prognosis, yet the Thulani Program had her massive tumors removed at Adobe Animal Hospital. The staff at Adobe was grateful Stella was in our Thulani Program, and so was I.
Stella survived the massive surgery-against the odds.

Stella at Wags to Riches 2012 sitting 545580_374991765913912_1602191305_n (1)Stella is Shameless
Stella knew she was beautiful and used her beauty to get what she wanted. She batted her eyes at male dogs and strutted by them flirtatiously. Stella had play dates with a regal, senior Thulani dog, Zane. Zane immediately was attracted to Stella and would chase her around the house. The regal, senior Zane would rest from the exhaustion of chasing Stella miles inside the house. He was in a bit of a frenzy to catch her and Stella acted like she didn’t like being chased. Zane rested a bit and then Stella would go put her butt in Zane’s face and revive him, and the chase was on again.
Stella was a shameless flirt reviving a senior dogs “interests”-against the odds

Stella’s Second Surgery
Stella recovered from surgery and became a Thulani ambassadog. Her pocket shepherd size and her big doe eyes made many want to adopt her. She was the vast exception to the typical Thulani dog; young, healthy looking, no mobility issues. Stella attended Bark in the Park in September 2012 and the dogs just gravitated to her too, and for a good reason, Stella was in heat! September 2012 put Stella far past her 3-6 month prognosis given in December 2011. Stella was spayed in October 2012.
Stella survived still another surgery-against the odds.

Stella Fits In
Stella settled into a routine with Ashley & Wolfie and me. She was such a contradiction; a young, healthy looking Thulani dog. A pocket shepherd that could back up her much bigger, younger brother, Wolfie. A feisty pocket shepherd that would prevent me from getting any unsolicited hugs by bolting to me and barking the person away. Stella was feisty with other dogs and a major, constant cuddle bug with me. Stella loved her pack and adored me, and I adored her.
Stella thrived and enjoyed life to the fullest-against the odds.

Stella’s New Normal
Stella at Wags to Riches 2012 close up 229814_374991749247247_357650054_nMost who knew me on a personal basis also knew Stella. I took her to lots of GSRNC events and Thulani events. Stella paid it forward for many, many Thulani dogs so the public saw a gorgeous Thulani dog and asked about them and heard her story and heard what the Thulani Program does.
Stella advertised the Thulani Program and helped others dogs get saved-against the odds.

Stella continued to have a fabulous life. Stella cuddled with me many times, every day. Relaxing in the bedroom, Stella jumped on the bed and wouldn’t get off. Stella took her half of the bed in the middle. I called Stella my hemorrhoid dog because she was always near my butt.
Stella had been undersocialized and gave affection with enthusiasm-against the odds.

Most would think a dog who lived in a field for 4 months wouldn’t be able to connect with dogs or people. Stella was so attached to me, that she would stay in the bedroom when I ran errands and refused to go outside to go potty with her other dogs. As soon as I came home, Stella came out of the bedroom and would go potty.
Stella had lived by herself in a field and adored her pack-against the odds.

Stella’s Third Surgery
Another mammary tumor started to grow. I wondered if she would survive still another surgery, if she would still be the same feisty Stella, and hoped my tough little Stella could handle still another recovery. Stella’s tumor was extremely slow growing and in December 2014, yes 2014, the tumor was removed. It was major surgery and it took Stella a full month to completely recover.
Stella survived still another surgery-against the odds.

021Stella Seemed Different
Stella recovered physically from her third surgery just fine. X-rays done with her December 2014 tumor removal showed the malignant cancer had spread even more to her lungs and all throughout her torso. Soon after her surgery though I noticed she no longer ran out the sliding door with the rest of the pack, the way horses bolt out the gate. Stella tried to avoid the other dogs outside and inside. Stella had to be coaxed to go outside when the other dogs were out. She would eventually go out, but it seemed obvious she was worried and not enthused to be among her fur buddies. This was a huge change from the Stella that had dripped with attitude in her dog-pack before and had to be in the thick of any fun to be had. Stella’s closeness and cuddling me never wavered or decreased. Often while cuddling, Stella would squirm her way closer. Those doe eyes would stare into mine, and love was everywhere.
Stella loved unconditionally, even when she didn’t feel well-against the odds.

You May Get Another 3-6 Months
All the dogs were getting ready to go outside one evening and one of the other dogs bumped into Stella and she screamed; a very loud, bad injury type scream. Stella couldn’t walk on her front left leg. I took Stella to the emergency vet and the x-rays showed Stella had a fractured humerus. Just that minor bump from her buddy doggie had fractured her bone. That vet said one option was to amputate her leg and maybe get another 3-6 months out of her. In obvious pain, Stella was determined to go home and jumped in her Jeep to go home. Stella finally let me push some heavy meds in her and her whimpering subsided a bit. Stella was in such pain. One thought repeatedly going through my mind was that if the cancer had weakened one leg, realistically it was spread all over her, especially after more than 3 years. How could she have a leg amputated, shift her weight to compensate for the amputation, and only possibly do well, then have another inevitable bone break. Stella’s regular vet described it as termites eating wood over a very long time. Her December 2011 x-ray showed the cancer had metastasized, and it was June 2015, far beyond her original 3-6 month prognosis. Stella’s bones were brittle, she didn’t want to play with her fur siblings and tough, tough Stella was in extreme pain.

I kept hearing in my mind that I could possibly “get another 3-6 months out of her”. The question was, at what price? What if she had her leg amputated and then another bone broke while she was still recovering, or soon after? I didn’t want to “get another” anything out of her. I didn’t want to wring the last bit of life out of her to get more time with Stella. That was not what was best for Stella.
Stella would do anything I asked her, and too painful to be touched, she limped and whimpered to the Jeep and hopped in with a broken arm, as I asked.
Stella did anything her mom asked, even when it was extremely painful-against the odds.

Stella at Wags to Riches 2012 standing 603328_374991685913920_19807204_n (1)Stella Lives On
Our regular vet had to carry Stella from the Jeep.
I asked Stella to hop on the low-sitting table in the vets office. Of course Stella did what I asked and it was a bit less painful thanks to her meds.
I made the difficult decision not to possibly have another 3-6 precarious months with my baby girl. It’s all a guess about how Stella would do, and what if Stella is miserable. How possible is it to regret wringing a bit more time out of her; again, at what price?
Stella was welcomed at the Rainbow Bridge by her predecessor GSDs: Jordan, Casador, Chancellor, Shiva and Mikey.
Stella learned to answer to:
Stella Bella
Baby Girl
Mama Girl

Stella survived and thrived and lived and loved every day-against the odds.

There truly are no words to describe how much I love my Sterro.

Thank you Sterro for doing all you did-against the odds.

Celebration of Nemo’s Life


Join us in celebration of life in honor of Nemo

“A bright spot in the universe”


Sunday August 2nd 10am-4pm

 “Nemo came to us at 10 weeks. I was intending to “find him a home” because I knew that as a pituitary dwarf he would likely have lifelong health problems. When I saw his adorable little face and “Big Dog” attitude, I was smitten. My friend Beth who often came to visit shared a special bond with him, and one day when he was six years old, he jumped into the back of her car and declared he was going to live with her. He had a special knack for always knowing when people needed some soul-soothing, and visited in rest homes, churches and in general was an ambassador for the GSD breed. Under Beth’s special care he remained quite healthy into old age. All the books say dwarves do not live past 5 or 6 years, but Nemo never read the book. We finally helped him over the Rainbow Bridge at age 16 1/2. He was surrounded by the people he loved and given gentle care and as much comfort as possible. His passing was peaceful, and although our tears were many, our hearts were at peace because we knew he had the best life a dog could have. When I thought of the disgraceful way in which some people discarded their ill or older dogs to die alone and frightened in shelters or worse, and the wonderful work that Thulani volunteers do to give them comfort and care instead, I knew the spirit of Nemo needed to come and help. He is our inspiration and we hope we can raise awareness and aid for these deserving senior dogs.”

Good Food, Good Friends, Dog Demonstrations, Meet Some Thulani dogs—Bring Your Dogs (On Leash).

A BBQ will be served to all

Check out the doggie demos:

10:15 Rally/Obedience: presented by Nicole Charles of Focused Canine Academy

11:00 Schutzhund: by Cherie Flores of Gold Country Pet Resort/Training

11:45 Agility: presented by Jessica Clough of Precision Chaos

Bring your dog and practice an obedience run through ($5.00 donation fee)


A great day in the shade graciously hosted by

Nemo’s family, Julia Priest and Beth Shea.





 Location: Micke Grove Park / Stanislaus Shelter

   111793 N. Micke Grove Rd., Lodi Ca. 95240


     Please RSVP by July 25th to Celia Driscoll @

(Please let me know people and dog count…..)

We look forward to everyone attending and celebrating Nemo’s life.
If unable to attend please consider supporting the Thulani Dogs in Nemo’s honor at:
Micke Grove Park has a $6 parking fee.

Lotto T. in Pictures

Sweet Lotto

Sweet Lotto

The Passing of Sweet Lotto T.

Karma played a central role in the rescue of Lotto T. — Karen Barnes was at the right place when Lotto needed her most. But that same karma was not enough to stave off the cancer that took her two days ago.

Lotto’s time with Thulani was much too short, but it was not in vain. In the words of Karen who cared for Lotto for the brief time she was with us “2.5 weeks with this gentle soul was a gift; I think she enjoyed her stay and knew she could call our place “home.”

Let your thoughts be a warm gentle tailwind to ease Lotto’s passage over the Bridge.


Lotto and her favorite passtime

Lotto and her favorite passtime

Lotto and Junior

Lotto and Junior



Mackenzie: Game On!!



Mackenzie is anything but. On his way to Thulani Central, he stopped at the Lady S Ranch, popped out of the car to say hello to a big male shepherd, then grabbed a toy, well three toys actually. He found a ball—game on!! He is a ball nut that knows that humans are part of a good game—chases the ball, retrieves it, then drops it at the human’s feet and stares, waiting for something good to happen.

Welcome to Thulani, Mackenzie, but did we get the right dog? What happened to that dog with the skull fracture and the bone chip in his head?  To quote one of our followers “Thulani Happened!!!!”


Foster or Adopt–Mackenzie would love to live with someone who will dote on him, and enjoy a moderate level ball game on occasion.  Oh, and take him for walks of, course.






Goodbye Rudy T., Your Gentle Soul Touched Us Deeply




Sunday, April 5, 2015

Today, out of habit, I moved some food away from the edge of the kitchen counter so that the tallest dog nose in the house wouldn’t be able to tug it down to the floor. Suddenly I remembered the tallest dog nose in the house has been gone for two days already.

Christine and Rudy

Christine and Rudy

“Rudy T.” came into our lives on August 23rd, 2014. He had been picked up by Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control the month before. My husband Lindsay and I took our three small breed dogs to the home of Bob Jachens to meet Rudy and brought him home that same day.

Rudy came into the Thulani Program as “Dakota”. He had spondylosis, hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy and infected skin from embedded foxtails. His body had been shaved so his coat was coarse but his face was silky soft.

Best Buddys

Best Buddys

Rudy vocally notified us that he couldn’t stand being separated from us even by just a screen door. He loved snoozing on the lawn and supervised every step of food preparation in the kitchen. His best friend was “Dottie” a seven-pound Chihuahua mix. He loved grooming her which really just produced a slimey, spit-covered tiny dog.

Earlier this year Rudy developed a cough which was diagnosed as megaesophagus with secondary aspiration pneumonia.  Mornings involved the whirring of a blender to make his meals and medications into a slurry. I often wondered if the neighbors thought we had a heck of a daiquiri habit at 4 AM.

20140825_181405This past week Rudy stopped eating and water would not make it to his stomach any longer. On Friday, April 3 I  took him to the vet and held his beautiful head in my hands and kissed his nose until he stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating.

Later that day my husband said, “I can see there’s a breeze but it feels still.” We hugged and cried missing our big furry breeze.



Christine Hitchner and Lindsay Thompson


Greta Was With Us Only Briefly, But She Accomplished Her Purpose

GRETA  Rest In Peace

GRETA Rest In Peace

When my 12 year old GSD passed away a week before Thanksgiving last year, I was filled with such incredible sadness. He had been with me his entire life. The holiday season was here and I was all alone. Rather than wait, I decided to get another GSD right away.  I walked into the Northern California GSD adoption event in San Jose hoping to find a middle-aged sweetheart whom I could provide a loving home. And then I saw her.
Named Niurka T. at the time, she looked at me with her big fluffy smiling face. I recognized her from the website and remembered her being much older than middle-aged. In fact, she was a proud member of the Thulani program. My head told me that she was very senior, not middle-aged and that I needed to find a GSD that was a bit younger. But I looked at her again and my heart was telling me something entirely different! After spending about 20 minutes with her, I knew in my heart that there was absolutely no way I could allow her to spend her remaining days without a forever home. I already loved her.
I'm Home

I’m Home

I named her Greta. She filled my home and my heart with love from the very first day. I had to make a few adjustments at home to ensure Greta was happy and safe. Her legs couldn't support climbing 2 flights of stairs up to the bedrooms, so I put a bed in my family room. I didn't care how funny it looked. I just couldn't fathom  being away at work for 10 hours and then retreat upstairs for bed at night. That would be too much time all by herself! Her memory foam dog bed sat comfortably near the dog door and more importantly, near me. I also purchased 70 cinder blocks and built an ad hoc barrier around my pool because I feared her unsteady legs might lead to a fall. They did the trick and she was safe. And she was happy.
Greta and Lisa

Greta and Lisa

Yes, I rescued Greta and gave her a loving home. But the truth is.....she rescued me. She took away my sorrow and she filled my heart with love. But sadly, Greta was in my life for only 3 months and 22 days. Not nearly long enough! Her legs would no longer allow her to stand, and combined with her other health conditions, I had to make the toughest decision of my life. I desperately needed more time with her. I wasn't ready to let her go so soon. But I also couldn't let her continue to live when her quality of life became so poor.

Losing Greta has hit me harder than anything else in my entire life. It's been just over 2 weeks and I still cry everyday. Her dog bed is still in its place, as are her food dishes. Only now, her ashes rest atop my fireplace.  But she is still in my heart. In such a short period of time, she touched my heart like no other.  Greta was special in so very many ways and every time I close my eyes, I see her big fluffy face smiling down at me. 

Many thanks to Bob Jachens and Brigitte Donner for allowing me the privilege and honor of caring for Greta. She was truly an angel, and she will never leave my heart.


It Not Only Takes a Village, But…


…sometimes the stars need to align to bring about the happy ending we wish for every senior German Shepherd.  In the case of this sweet, 10-ish year old red sable lady, her village came in the form of big-hearted doctors and staff at VCA Arden Animal Hospital in Glendale, CA, where, in September 2014, she was brought in as a stray in desperate need of medical care.  She was emaciated, deaf, sick with infection and open Pyometra, mammary tumors, and very arthritic.  Her prospects were looking dim.

Amelia with Vet Hospital Angels

Amelia with Vet Hospital Angels

Undeterred, the kind vets at VCA Arden treated her infection, spayed her and, discovering she was micro-chipped, notified the owner of record that she was at their clinic.  But no one came to claim her.  As weeks stretched into months, she was lovingly cared for by the staff, walked several times a day, doted on, and given a new name:  Amelia Faith Shepherd.  Despite their efforts, the clinic was unable to find a new home for Amelia, and everyone realized that living in a hospital kennel was not the quality of life she deserved.  Everyone wondered what would become of Amelia.

Then, several weeks ago, the stars began to twinkle for Amelia Faith Shepherd, when one of the vet techs shared Amelia’s story with her Nose Work instructor, who also happened to be a Thulani volunteer!   Soon, Elaine B. met Amelia and – twinkle, twinkle – the stars moved into alignment.  Amelia’s evaluation and circumstances were reviewed and she was accepted into the Thulani Program and was listed for transport as soon as a spot opened up for her.   Until then, the kind folk at VCA Arden agreed to keep Amelia in the only home she had known for months.  Two weeks later, Amelia’s Amazing Adventure began with a drive up to ‘Thulani central’ where she is now enjoying life in a loving foster home!

Amelia Imagining Her New Life

Amelia Imagining Her New Life

Our appreciation for the doctors and staff at VCA Arden Animal Hospital in Glendale, CA knows no bounds.  Everyone at VCA Arden truly loved this sweet old lady.  Not only did they provide Amelia a safe haven, food and medical care for 6 months, they did so without compensation.  And it didn’t stop there; they also sent Amelia off to her new life with a generous care package of food and medication to keep her comfortable as she transitions to her new life.  To say they went above and beyond the call of duty is an understatement!   You can leave a kind word of thanks to VCA Arden Animal Hospital for their care of Amelia on their FB page:

Will You Help?

Will You Help?

Amelia Faith Shepherd is one lucky girl, and there are many other seniors out there who need a bit of her luck, too.  You can help us save more senior GSDs by becoming a foster or adoptive home.


A New Life For Jacco T.

Jacco T. Relaxing in the Green Grass

Jacco T. Relaxing in the Green Grass

Jacco was rescued last Saturday and is now safely in the Thulani Program (, but unfortunately his ordeal is not over. He went through a terrible time recently, and probably even before that.   He was turned into the shelter severely malnourished and emaciated. He probably had been neglected for a considerable time. And then he was held in a shelter run for two months, on an evidence hold. Concrete floors, limited exercise, and limited human company—just a horrible situation for a German Shepherd. Today his muscles have atrophied, his hips are arthritic, he can barely walk short distances without dragging his hind feet and eventually falling.

20150127_172532_HDRBut his spirits are great, and he wants to be a regular GSD. He so deserves our help to recover!!!

Thulani is going to help him get there in any way we can. We don’t know how much of his mobility issues were caused by the shelter stay, but we are going to try to reverse the damage with good food, gentle care, and physical therapy. As you well know, PT can be expensive and time consuming, so if anyone can help us fund the PT, we would be very appreciative.

10945589_10152659734418247_4421775821195344003_nBottom line, Jacco has awakened from his nightmare, and we will give him the best life possible.

Joey Is Starting To Walk


Below is a video clip of Joey before he started his physical therapy.  Good Luck Joey!

.Joey Starting to walk video

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