If you have ever met someone who owns a rescue dog, chances are they have a story to tell about how finding their brown Tabby or black Labrador was just meant to be.
For Susan Dalhstedt, to find her Yorkshire Terrier Jack, it was not just coincidence that brought owner and companion together.
"He has been a miracle dog," she said.
Dalhstedt knew she wanted a Yorkie. Her parents had one, her sister had one, and in her eyes, they were the perfect dog. Because of her research into mill dogs, who are often found in horrible shape, Dalhstedt decided she would only accept a rescued Yorkie.
"I felt bad wanting a Yorkie because they were pure bred," she said. "I thought that if I get any dog, it's going to come from a bad situation."
Dalhstedt went to a friend who works with Phoenix Animal Care Coalition (PACC911), a local organization that works with pet rescues across the city, to see if she had any ideas of where to look for a rescued Yorkie.
"I knew the chances were slim, because they are very sought-after dogs," she said.
Her friend, Marcia Schaffer, gave a list of places in Arizona and one in Colorado. After contacting the local rescues with no luck, Dahlstedt almost gave up in her search.
"I e-mailed this place, Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado, just to say that I did it," she said. "I didn't expect to get anything back, but I got a response the next day saying they had one male Yorkie that was 3 months old."
It really was a perfect situation for Dahlstedt because the woman she was contacting was flying out to Phoenix and said she would deliver Jack herself.
"Recues don't do that," Dalhstedt said. "But she was willing to bring Jack along with her to Phoenix."
Dahlstedt and Jack's story is one of thousands made possible because of PACC911. The coalition has 100 partnering groups, all rescue organizations, and brings them together for adoption events, fundraisers and more, to help people find their perfect rescue dog.
The coalition began as an idea of Valley resident Bari Mears. Mears had worked in rescues before but saw a lack of communication, and worse, between her group and others. She was at a rescue conference in Chicago when the idea of a group effort came to her.
"They all bad mouthed each other, and it did not look good for the rescue community," Mears said. "I was very motivated from the conference because I realized there was no right or wrong way to do it and that we all needed to work together."
When she returned to Phoenix, she contacted Maricopa County about setting up an organization that would bring all the pet rescues together.
"They said ‘absolutely yes' they were on board," Mears said.
After contacting everyone she knew in the rescue community, 12 groups joined after hearing her vision and PACC911 was born.
"It was just common sense, let's stop bickering," she said. "The idea was to work together, it's a business of the heart and it's an emotional business."
To date, PAC911 has adopted out nearly 5,000 animals. In addition, they have raised more than $1.6 million and have paid out more than $300,000 in pet medical bills.
The coalition works on four fronts. The first is through the animal adopt-a-thons, put on several times throughout the year as a joint effort of PAC911 and its members. The second is annual fundraiser, "Bowl-a-Rama for Animal Rescue." The Emergency Medical Fund is the third front, which provides relief to rescues that are 501c3 non-profit organizations. The last is education of the public about what goes on in the recue world.
According to Schaffer, PACC911 is unique not just in Arizona, but throughout the nation.
"Arizona has had so much bad press that here is something really positive that the community should be proud of," she said. "We have developed a model that can be replicated throughout the country."
For Mears, it is confirmation that she was not alone in imagining a world where pet rescues work together.
"I get calls from all over the country from people saying they want to start these up," she said.
For an example of a successful rescue, look no further than Dahlstedt's Four Peak's Physical Therapy in Ahwatukee Foothills, where Jack is now a full-time employee as resident therapy dog.
"He has a lot of healing spirit in him," she said. " He acts like everybody who walks in the door is his favorite patient."
To find out more information about PACC911, visit their Web site, www.PACC911.org.