Actress and dog trainer Bethany Wilson spends most weekends at the Burbank shelter with her husband, Chris, a screenwriter. They volunteer during Saturday and Sunday adoption hours. They walk dogs up and down North Moss Street, which runs past the shelter's front door, in a largely industrial area and bring them outside to meet prospective owners.

Whenever she can, Wilson also throws in quick bursts of basic training. First impressions are everything when someone shows up looking to adopt, but dogs that have spent months in a shelter can forget their manners. Some are so excited by the attention that they can scare a family away with all that wiggling, wagging and, worst of all, jumping. Others, like Sid, lose their ability to make eye contact. They come off as unfriendly.

Oddly enough, Sid never lacked for visitors. Nearly every weekend, Wilson retrieved Sid from his kennel run to meet a visitor lured there by a write-up on the rescue website that detailed his abandonment and good nature.

But Sid had two strikes against him. The first was delicate. He had not been fixed when he was a puppy, perhaps in the hopes that it would help make him a more aggressive watchdog. He was neutered at the El Monte vet's office. But removing his testicles left behind a hanging flap of skin. Men, especially, seemed turned off by it.

Then there was that chronic skin infection, which left his lower back and haunches hairless and enveloped him in an invisible cloud of stink.

On Sept. 10, Wilson brought Sid out to meet yet one more visitor.

He refused to make eye contact.

He ignored a dog biscuit waved beneath his gray muzzle.

Wilson spoke her fears out loud. "No one is going to adopt him."


The visitor with the biscuit was me.

One day earlier, my husband and I had lost Biggie, our 13-year-old shepherd mix, to a tumor. We decided we'd adopt a dog no one else wanted and spoil him rotten, in tribute to Biggie.

Now sitting before me was the canine equivalent of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Shy and smelly, he was perfect. A few days later, he was in our back seat for the drive home.

In the months that followed, Sid was introduced to luxuries like a treat jar, dog beds and long daily walks. He soon tipped the scales at 133 pounds. His fur grew in thick and glossy thanks to a daily cocktail of supplements and medications. His skin condition is vastly improved, but will probably never be cured. He is still a tad stinky.

It wasn't long before I began to wonder about his rescuers. I wanted to thank them, of course. But I also wanted to know: Why were they moved to save a long shot like Sid?

Sid came with a few pages of documentation containing the little that was known about his medical history. A neutering certificate led to the El Monte clinic. Phone calls helped piece together Sid's journey. In addition to Patlogar, Browde, Pespisa, Evans and Wilson, dozens of others had helped in ways big and small.

Saving a dog can be like rereading the same mystery novel over and over — only the final chapter is always missing. Animal rescuers rarely, if ever, know the fate of the dogs they temporarily save. That "not knowing" can eat at them.

Several of Sid's rescuers began to quietly sob when they learned he had made it and had a new name: Rambo. They delighted in details about his everyday life, asking questions about whether he got table scraps, barked at the mailman or had a favorite place to sleep. Several want to visit him. They asked for photos to hang over their desks and in their offices.

Nearly all animal rescuers treasure such rare mementos, fuel for the blind faith that keeps them going in the face of daunting odds.

"People always say they are going to keep in touch and let us know what happens, or send us a picture," Patlogar said. "But then they get busy."

Mostly, though, they just wanted to hear the news I was happy to give them.

At last, Rambo had found his forever home.

VIDEO: Rambo's journey

PHOTOS: Tale of a luck dog