30 Before 30

It hit me this past weekend that I’m almost 30. For so long, 30 seemed old. Now it’s kind of the new 20 (but you go to bed earlier and can’t drink as much). It’s funny that at 18, I thought I would have been married for at least 5 years by now, and have a couple of kids, living in Raleigh, NC, and have a house-full of dogs, too. Even at 22, I thought I’d have kids by now.

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But we don’t. Instead, we have our two furbabies that I treat like kids (we celebrated Tucker’s 8th birthday this weekend with a trip to Petsmart for new toys that he picked out, a big belly rub and cuddle-sesh mid-morning, a long walk with the whole family and then cupcakes after dinner).

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At almost 30, I think we’ll definitely have a kid by the time 32 rolls around for me (35 for my husband), maybe even two – but we’re not in a hurry. First we want to travel more, starting with our European vacation this summer and South Africa next spring. Knocking a few more things off the list before we change up our lives completely.

birthday1I have always LOVED celebrating birthdays (or any other random holiday, or reason I can find to celebrate). Some of my favorite birthdays have been spent having large gatherings with friends, or visiting beaches with my husband (this year we did Key West). I was inspired by a few lists/challenges I’ve seen others doing to knock things off of a somewhat “bucket list” before they turn 30.

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Emily Thomas, author of Em For Marvelous is doing a 60 before 30 list. Some girls I went to college with are trying to rack up 30 race medals before they turn 30. I think I’ll stick with being my random self and doing just 30 different things before I turn 30.

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30 before 30

  1. Do 3 more 10k runs (equaling 30k) — 2nd goal? Get my sister-in-law to run one with me.
  2. Volunteer for 30 hours with a charity (or multiple charities)
  3. Do 30 hours of yoga
  4. Visit Paris
  5. Visit London
  6. Visit Ireland
  7. Foster (3) dogs (if I said 30, I might be getting divorced before I turn 30, so we’ll stick with 3)
  8. Go to Charleston
  9. Go to Savannah
  10. Read 30 books
  11. Write 30 blog posts
  12. Go on a tropical vacation (I’m thinking Costa Rica, Belize, Turks & Caicos, San Juan…)
  13. Take a cooking class
  14. Help 5 more items be crossed off the Pretty in Pink bucket lists
  15. Celebrate our two year wedding anniversary (and 6 year dating anniversary)
  16. Visit Tonya in Colorado
  17. Go zip-lining
  18. Have an album with our wedding/anniversary pictures created
  19. Run another half marathon | Hokie Half | Jekyll Island Half | Savannah Half
  20. Pay off another student loan
  21. Re-organize our master closet
  22. Get a porch swing (or my grandfather’s glider)
  23. Learn how to use my SLR in manual
  24. Learn how to do calligraphy (I have the class paid for, all the materials…. time?)
  25. See Florence + the Machine in concert
  26. Spend a weekend with my BFF Sarah
  27. Meet my BFF Brittney’s new son, Holden
  28. Go whitewater rafting
  29. Eat more tomatoes from our garden than the squirrels do this year
  30. Get my thesis published

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I know some of these items are technically already planned, and that’s okay. I need to follow thru with them. I’m excited to tackle these things in the next 10 months, and to continue working on saying ‘yes’ when people ask us to do things (instead of eating in our neighborhood and binge watching House of Cards), being more patient with people, trying to be more timely / not 5 minutes late to everything in life, and crushing it at work.

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The last one is tough for me because I’ve gotten in a groove and I feel pretty good at my job, I’m recognized for doing a good job and I’m in a good place. There have been some opportunities lately that I’ve looked into but they’ve all asked that I move to Boston if offered the job and I just don’t want to move to Boston. I LOVE Charlotte. I love our life here. I love our friends here. I love our house here. I love how close we are to both of our families. And I know that if I move there, I won’t have the chance to move back here and stay with the same company (most likely – things change!). NC feels like home to us. For the right opportunity, we might consider moving, but right now I’m in a good spot, and I’m okay. I don’t need a career change. So… yeah. Onto tackling my 30 before 30 list. I will update as items are able to be marked off.

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I’m still trying to raise money to help cancer champions mark items off of their bucket lists, you can read more and donate here. I heard about another lady in NC trying to do a similar thing (on a larger scale) and I am going to try to combine forces with her. Stay tuned!

Be Spontaneous

GIVEAWAY IS STILL HAPPENING – ENTER HERE!

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My husband and I saw that one of our favorite bands was going to be within 4 hours of us (they haven’t been to Charlotte yet!), so we scooped up tickets and booked a hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee for the following weekend. We realized that we would be going right through Asheville, NC on the way and made plans to stop in for lunch and a stroll.

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First stop was at Lexington Avenue Brewery (LAB) for some beer and lunch. We walked around a little beforehand but quickly decided on a place when our hunger set in. This place had a creative menu, craft beer and no wait. Triple winner.

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We each got soup (roasted pepper bisque with cilantro oil for me, stew for him) and then split a couple small plates (or ridiculously large portion of bison nachos).

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After loading up on some dried lavender from the Herbiary shop, we started the second leg of our trip to Knoxville. I searched for bears on the mountainside while my husband drove.

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We had a great view of Knoxville from our hotel. My only experiences with Knoxville previously were one short stay for work two years ago (oddly enough, same hotel), and many stops through on my way as a kid from VA to Nashville to visit my cousin. I had no idea what Knoxville was really like!

IMG_1051We had about a half mile walk into the ‘Old City’ area, where we had planned to have dinner. I took this opportunity to play with the art in the city.

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Dogs? YES. Also, can I get a replica of this for our yard?

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The old city area was ADORABLE. It was bustling with people who were watching March Madness games, heading to our same concert and just out and about. The place we really wanted to go (Stock and Barrel) had a two hour wait. They served s’mores and nutella milkshakes which sounded amazing, so I debated on this wait for all of three seconds before realizing it was absurd to wait that long. Next time, Stock and Barrel, next time.

IMG_1064We ended up at Not Watsons, which was delicious. My husband had chicken and waffles, which I found to be amazing. His only complaint was that it was chicken tenders versus a whole breast. That syrup though!

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I got a black bean, kale and avocado wrap which was also amazing and healthy. I felt pretty good about that choice after seeing how heavy the chicken and waffles were (but again, they were delicious). After dinner, we headed towards the Tennessee Theatre for our show.

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The inside of the theatre was intricate and beautiful. And the sound…. wow. It sounded incredible. The openers were surprisingly good, although new to the scene.

IMG_1089Alabama Shakes were everything we expected and more. Brittany’s voice is even more incredible than it sounds on their records. I loved watching her on stage. She’s so passionate and full of energy and just totally rocked that place. It was definitely worth the four hour drive.

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We figured we might as well explore UT’s campus while we were there and check out the football stadium. It was pretty impressive in size (compared to Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium) but the design looked industrial and uninviting.IMG_1124
I’m sure it gets pretty rowdy in there and clearly people love going to games but aesthetically it’s not the best looking stadium.

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But it’s always fun to check out other stadiums when we’re in town. Looking forward to the UT/VT game in Bristol! GO HOKIES.

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We made our mid-morning commute back to Asheville with plans to stop in for lunch again. We walked around a little, enjoyed some street music and then grabbed some burgers at Jack of the Wood.

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No pictures of the food because we devoured it but we did decide to make a stop in French Broad Chocolate Lounge for some dessert.

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And I snapped pictures before we scarfed it down. We couldn’t decide on one thing (or even one thing EACH) so we picked three small items to share and the hubs got some coffee for the ride home.

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I loved our weekend getaway and roadtrip. We saw so many things in so little time. We had amazing food, heard great music, and had lots of time together. spontaneity worked out for us on this one – now maybe I can convince my husband to take that spontaneous trip to Belize, Honduras or Costa Rica? *Wishful Thinking* But I can say that we both thoroughly enjoyed this trip!

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Don’t forget to enter the giveaway to support breast cancer champions!

THE BIGGEST GIVEAWAY OF THE YEAR!

It’s been a little over six months since I started trying to raise money for breast cancer champions to help them mark items off of their bucket lists. We’ve done some great things through donations, including:

  • Beth: Horseback riding
  • Elaine: Trip to Bald Head Island
  • Adrienne: Race car driving experience
  • Michelle: Hang gliding experience in OBX
  • Julie G: Learn to speak French

But I think we can do more. And I have all of these items that were donated to help raise money and I’m going to give them ALL away from March 10 – April 10, 2015.

The instructions are simple, and you can earn extra entries simply by sharing on social media. My goal is to double what we’ve already raised and help at least 5 more champions mark something off of their bucket list by the time summer rolls around. Want to enter? Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mandatory steps include DONATING $10 TO FUNDRAISER and COMMENT ON THIS BLOG POST.

Best of luck to everyone. Please share (even if you don’t donate to enter) so that we can help as many of these champions as possible. I’m looking forward to the Pretty in Pink Fashion Walk in Wilmington this year and being able to see so many of these smiling faces. Learn more about the Pretty in Pink Foundation and the work they do to help women with breast cancer.

It’s not always puppies and rainbows

I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve stayed up late sharing links to pictures of dogs in shelters with rescues. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried sobbed hysterically over the dogs that I can’t save. The perfect, healthy, friendly, adorable dogs that are in the shelters due to no fault of their own. I can’t tell you how much it BREAKS MY HEART to know that I can’t save them all. Hell, some days I can’t even save the ones I desperately am trying to. So tonight, when I was berated by someone about how I shouldn’t share pictures of dogs who are on the “euth list” at the local shelter if I’m not able to save them, it took everything I had to keep my cool.

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I run social media accounts for a local rescue and I VOLUNTEER my time to share details of dogs in need of fosters, to make sure I include pictures and whether they are kid and pet friendly. I respond to every message we get. I share details on how to get in touch for anyone who wants to foster, adopt, volunteer on the weekends. I control the messages on the site but that’s it. I don’t control the dogs that the rescues choose to pull. I don’t control the adoption process. I don’t control anything but social media. But I can tell you this…

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In order to save a dog’s life, fosters are needed. A foster home is not a permanent home for the dog. A foster home for a dog is similar to a foster home for a child. You provide shelter, love and attention. The rescue will provide food, collar/leash, crates, and any other necessities. The rescue will cover the vetting of the dog. If you can’t transport the dog to the vet appointments or adoption events on weekends, most rescues will have other volunteers that can assist. But without foster homes, dogs can’t be saved. Most rescues do not have shelters of their own and therefore, they rely on volunteers who will open their homes and save a life.

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I can also tell you that all that money you think rescues are making from adoptions, doesn’t even begin to cover their expenses. The average, healthy puppy would cost you around $500 to get vetted through it’s puppy shots and spay/neuter. However, puppies that come from shelters often have kennel cough, or worse, parvovirus or heart worm. Both of which are incredibly expensive to treat. Heart worm treatment can be $500 alone. Parvo, even if treated, is still sometimes deadly. So sometimes, rescues make the call not to pull those dogs that are heart worm positive, have tumors, have parvo, or whatever disease/issue it may be because they simply don’t have the funds. Adoption fees and donations help. Rescues are run by volunteers who spend more time than you could ever imagine working hard to save dogs from high-kill shelters and bad situations (neglect, hoarding, fighting, puppy mills).

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And for those of you who say you couldn’t go in the shelter… I understand, BUT DO IT ANYWAY. Go visit your local shelter. Take pictures. Take videos. Volunteer. Walk the dogs. Reach out to rescues and tell them how the dogs are on a leash, with people, with other dogs/cats/kids. Help with adoption events. Ignorance may be bliss, but I promise it’s much more blissful when you get a response from a rescue saying that they’ll help. Or your video of a broken down dog gets 1900 views in less than 12 hours and people are begging to foster that dog. It is so much more blissful to know that you helped, however little it was, to save a life.

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“I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed.” – Robert Schuller

I must have shared thousands of dog posts over the past couple years. And begged my husband to let me foster/adopt half of them. And now that I have the lovely TimeHop app, I get reminders of the ones that were saved and the ones that weren’t. Did you know that some shelters have folders for pictures of the dogs that didn’t make it out? It’s heart-wrenching. It’s a powerful reminder that you can’t save them all. BUT, there’s also an album full of pictures of the ones who were saved. And hopefully, there are a lot more pictures in that album than the other. (Gaston County Animal Shelter is a high-kill shelter in rural NC (outside of Charlotte, NC). And while they have made GREAT strides over the past few years, there are still too many GOOD dogs being put to sleep). Cumberland, Rowan and Union County are all high-kill shelters, too. They all need more people to get the word out.

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So, I won’t apologize for the Facebook news feeds that I’ve blown up with pictures of sad puppies in the shelter. I won’t apologize for begging for fosters. I won’t apologize for bashing buying from breeders and pet stores. There are thousands of dogs dying in shelters EVERY DAY. Don’t get angry at the people who are working their asses off to save lives day in and day out. I’m sorry that we might not be able to save that dog. Trust me, it hurts my heart, too. I shared the picture to TRY to help that dog. I shared the picture in hopes someone would want to adopt. That a rescue would want to pull her. But not so you could tell me how wrong it was that I shared her picture in the first place. At least I did something.

Want to help? Research local rescues or shelters in your area and ask them what you can do. Pictures, transport, foster, helping at adoption events. You can’t make a difference by sitting on your ass and wishing. Do something. Anything. Every little bit helps. Even if it’s just a “like” and a “share” on a Facebook picture. EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS.

Warm Weather Dreaming!

I woke up to a blanket of snow on the ground and big, fluffy flakes falling from the sky. Not quite what I expected after a pretty warm weekend. Also, not what I expected as I’ve been daydreaming of spring for a while now. We made the best of it and had a little fetch party before I had to start working.

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Since we’re all going to need warmer clothes for the foreseeable future, I decided it’s time for another giveaway!

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This gorgeous original Bostonian scarf (My2Shay) is up for grabs (and trust me, it will KEEP you warm!).

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Also, two fun sets of earrings are looking for a new owner (Painted Pearl), keep one for yourself and give one to a friend!

Simple rules: 

1. Donate $5 (or more! Feel free to be generous) to the Pretty in Pink Bucket List project (read more here)

2. Share the blog post on Twitter or Facebook with buttons

3. Comment on the blog that you donated (make sure your comment has your same name that shows when you donated)

This cause is near and dear to my heart and I would love to continue making dreams come true for some breast cancer champions. Last year, there were so many items crossed off of bucket lists because of generous people like YOU. Let’s do it again in 2015! 

Giveaway runs through midnight on Thursday (3/5/15). Only open to U.S. participants. Must do all three steps (will be verified) in order to win. *Entries from past giveaway will be honored for those who donated $25 or $50*

Weekend Wrap Up [Valentine’s Day]

I must say, this was one of my most favorite Valentine’s Days EVER. Mostly because we were involved in saving Stella, but also because we had lots of time together. Friday was mostly spent crying over dogs at the shelter but we did have a yummy dinner at a new local restaurant and ran into some of our neighbors (goal this year? Spend time hanging out with the neighbors).

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On Saturday, we started the day with a stack of pink pancakes, a side of eggs, and lots of smiles because I had confirmation that we could bust sweet Stella out of the shelter. Next time, I’ll add more food coloring to the mix. I was going for ombre but it was a little off; although, still delicious.

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My husband got a record player for Christmas, so he’s slowly been building his collection. We don’t usually do Valentine’s Day gifts (just a nice dinner and some quality time together), but I surprised him with two new albums: Bruce Springsteen (Tunnel of Love) and Percy Sledge (When a Man Loves a Woman). The Springsteen album even had a song called “Valentine’s Day” on it. I also got an adorable bottle of wine called “Monogamy”, which seemed fitting for newlyweds.

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After we got Stella out of doggie jail and to her foster’s house, we decided to stop in Ass Clown Brewery in Cornelius. We had a few flights of their super creative beers (I can’t believe how many they have!). Even more so, I can’t believe we ran into my husband’s cousin and his wife who live in Charleston at the brewery. Small world! We had a great time catching up with them and may have indulged in a few more beers while we chatted.

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My pretty pink Lilly Pulitzer “Elsa” top got RIPPED by the crate for Stella before we got to the brewery. Of course, I didn’t notice until we were in a public location and then I wanted to cry. But my hubs made it (somewhat) better when he told me our dinner was at Passion8, which has been one of our favorite restaurants to go to as a couple.

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They had a special menu for Valentine’s Day and only three seatings for the evening. My favorite courses were the soup (it was cold outside) and dessert. I passed on their creative cocktails because of the beer we had earlier in the day. Everything was delicious, as always, but again… that desert. It had NUTELLA. Always a winner for me.

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Like I said, it was a perfect Valentine’s weekend, with my perfect Valentine. I love this Walt Whitman quote (and print by Makewells). Hope your weekend was filled with love and happiness, too!

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Saving Stella

On Friday, I decided to meet my old neighbor at Char-Meck Animal Control to check out a dog she wanted. That was probably mistake #1. Animal control is a bad place for me to go for a number of reasons: 1) I will inevitably leave crying (which happened); 2) I will want to adopt/save all of the dogs – and won’t be able to(which happened); 3: I will feel helpless (which happened).

I walked through the kennels and let the dogs sniff/lick my hands, all while my heart was breaking. I did a pretty good job of holding it together until I met Stella. She couldn’t make eye contact with me. She looked like she was ashamed of being there. Hopeless. Lost. Confused.  Sad. Her eyes were the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. I lost it right there.

I made another loop through the kennels, falling in love with Casper, the white boxer, Cooper the small shepherd mix, Jimmy, the border collie, Choppa, the big bully mix and Calley, an adorable pointer mix (all pictured above). I stopped to talk to Stella again. I wanted to hug her and tell her it would be alright. She leaned into the kennel to let me touch her as I sobbed about the situation these dogs were in. I promised her I would do all that I could for her and I would be back. That was a big promise, especially for a dog that I knew nothing about. I had no idea how she was with kids, dogs or cats. She wasn’t overly friendly. She wasn’t a puppy. She was a pit bull, for Christ’s sake. I got it together long enough to walk back through animal control, past the officers and then sobbed all the way home. Falling into my husband’s arms when I walked into the door and mumbling some non-sense about quitting my job to save dogs full time.

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I posted the video publicly on Facebook and asked friends and family to share her story far and wide. I tagged my friend, Laura, who founded a foster non-profit in Charlotte, (Dog Days of Charlotte) who I know loves pit bulls and she immediately started helping me find rescues to save Stella. We had a rescue (Catering to Cats and Dogs) within half an hour of posting and then we just needed a foster and/or donations for medical care. Some incredibly generous soul donated $160 right away. While a wonderful lady volunteered to foster and/or adopt Stella. We worked until about 11 PM solidifying details and once the plan was set, I cried some more. We were going to get this sweet girl out!

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On Saturday, my husband and I drove to animal control and busted Stella out. I had prepped him that I had no idea how she would be out of the kennel. I told the foster she would probably need a few days to decompress in a quiet place and realize she was safe before introducing to other dogs/kids. She probably wouldn’t want to give attention or play much those first few days. And then she came out, and she was… amazing.

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She gave us hugs and kisses. She took treats gently and let us put the collar and leash on her with no issue. She even played with the leash for a minute. She walked happily out of AC and hopped in the car and I swear she knew she was free.

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She took lots of opportunities to give us more kisses and rest her head on us. I may or may not have cried a million more times.

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We stopped at Petco to grab something from the rescue and let a few gals meet her and I grabbed her a stuffed squeaky toy and a bone to take to her foster’s house. She LOVED her toy.

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She was super sweet when meeting her foster family (and they hope to adopt her, too!). She was gentle with the kids, and didn’t want to put her toy down. The hardest part was saying goodbye. She kept pulling on her leash to come with us, which made me run back and hug her a few more times and tell her to be a good girl. We waved from the window and then drove off and as soon as we were driving, she turned and walked happily with her new family into their home. And yes, I cried again. Happy tears, though. I am so grateful for everyone that helped save her and that she will now live a happy life. I encourage everyone to check out your local shelter or rescues and adopt instead of buying from pet stores or breeders. There are a million dogs like Stella out there.

Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.” ― Karen Davison

Also, I know spending the morning at Animal Control, saving dogs, transporting, stopping by an adoption event and meeting fosters wasn’t my husband’s idea of a great Valentine’s day, but to me, it was perfect. I’m so glad he was with me for all of those moments yesterday. I think Stella was glad he was there, too. <3

Find these amazing rescues on social media: 

Dog Days of Charlotte: Facebook and Twitter

Catering to Cats and Dogs: Facebook and Twitter