It's almost too hard for Huntington Beach resident Gisela Campagne to count how many dogs she's owned in her lifetime, but she's knows it's more than 10.
Right now, she's the proud owner of two Chihuahua mixes named Franklin and Molly, both of whom came from local shelters. Gisela and her daughter, Ingrid Campagne, a Huntington Beach native, both own multiple Chihuahua mixes because after working with rescues and shelters over the past 6.5 years, they say they're the most unwanted, likely-to-be-euthanized breed.
"[Franklin and Molly] were foster dogs, we call them foster failures," Ingrid said. "[Gisela] fell in love with them and kept them, that's what tends to happen with my dogs, too."
Ingrid was embarrassed to admit how many dogs she currently owns, admitting to owning a number of them — many being dogs with "difficult" personalities that make them likely be euthanized if put in a shelter.
"Ingrid and I will do anything for dogs," said Gisela, laughing but not at all joking.
While Ingrid and Gisela have saved about a dozen or so canines by taking them in as their own, they've saved several hundred in the past 18 months through Waggin' Trails Rescue Foundation, which is based out of Huntington Beach. Gisela and Ingrid, a San Francisco resident, are the foundation's Southern and Northern California directors, respectively.
Gisela, a former employee with the city of Huntington Beach in the Planning and Community Service departments for 37 years, estimates the foundation, which operates a transport, has saved about 540 dogs since it was founded by transporting about 30 dogs a month to rescue facilities in nearby states.
Waggin' Trails primarily works with shelters in California, arranging to pick up their unwanted dogs that are slated to be euthanized, and transporting them to rescues in Washington, Oregon, Idaho or Vancouver, B.C. each month.
"There are states that don't have many small dogs in their shelters and these places readily adopt dogs," Gisela said. "That's what we do for these sweethearts that wouldn't stand a chance otherwise."
Bonnie Whiting, founder and owner of Alternative Pet Rescue in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, has been working with Waggin' Trails since June and figures she's received about 50 small dogs — Chihuahuas, Maltese, Pomeranians, poodles and more — from the transport.
Whiting specializes in lap dogs because they're in high demand in Coeur d'Alene for several reasons: they're cheaper to own than big dogs, eligible for renters, and appealing to the retired and home-school community in the town.
Alternative Pet Rescue, which pairs dogs and families based on personalities, mainly brings in dogs from California to fill its wait or "wish" list.
"It's always more than the dogs available; I run out of dogs, actually," said Whiting, a former Huntington Beach resident who moved to Idaho about 20 years ago. "People like to rescue animals instead of getting a puppy now."
Waggin' Trails was born after Gisela and Ingrid realized they could save more dogs through a transport than by teaming up with a rescue organization that saved four to five dogs a month.
"We could get a lot more animals into a lot more homes more quickly," said Ingrid, a civil-litigation lawyer. "We're able to place more dogs more quickly and find them homes a lot faster."
Waggin' Trails is hosting a fundraiser with Whiting, a dog whisperer and intuitive, at the Huntington Beach Central Library Room, at 7111 Talbert Ave. from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 24. Whiting will do some readings, with admission costing $25 a person. Funds will go directly toward Waggin' Trails, as it's looking to purchase a new van for its transports instead of renting one each month, as it does now.
"My dream is to one day to win the lottery and have the biggest rescue in the world," Gisela said.
For now, Waggin' Trails is a never-ending process, but Gisela wouldn't mind if it was no longer needed in California or around the world.
"I would love that," Gisela said. "I would absolutely love that."