Paws For A Cause

Story by: Tatia Calhoun



Photo: UD


Abused, abandoned and neglected animals need your help, and Dan Garland has answered the call. Clouds loom in the sky on a windy winter day in Palmdale as you pull up to enter the Garland Rescue. As one enters the property, a volunteer is throwing trash into a giant trash bin.  The barking dogs greet you as they sense every footstep nearby, especially Garland’s.

Garland started rescuing animals over 30 years ago in Long Beach where he and Mercedes Atwood started Garland Rescue with 15 dogs. Garland is a war veteran, having served in World War II, Korea, and the Vietnam wars. However, his personal war is right here on US soil; Garland’s purpose in life is to save man’s best friend. The abused, neglected and unwanted animals that roam the streets, the other fallen soldiers, need his help.

Garland, 87, gets into his white truck with his two dogs and his employee, Larry, as they head off to purchase another pallet of food for all of the animals. When Garland asked if he could acquire all the old food before they destroyed it, Science Diet employees replied, “We do not donate to any animal sanctuaries, and we don’t want to be held responsible.” He even offered to sign a release of liability, yet they still refused to donate any food for the animals.


Rescued dog Rudy gives her owner Mercedes Atwood lots of love. Photo: Tatia Calhoun


Garland enlisted in the military in 1935 and retired in 1962. For more than 30 years, he worked for the Los Angeles County. 30 seems to be the magic number for Garland. “We offer a safe haven for animals young and old; that’s what we do,” says Garland.

Garland Rescue is in dire need of monetary donations, as well as building supplies for the entire two and a half acre rescue. “The sanctuary is run entirely off of my SSI and retirement income, and we still fall short of the needed income to run the rescue,” says Garland.

Atwood is Garland’s sergeant at arms and his partner in rescue. She is a petite framed woman,65, with long grey hair and an unconditional smile. Her hands are ripened with age and hard work. “I’ve got to start cleaning the dog kennels, is it okay that we talk while I work,” she asked. Huge blue stackable bins full of newspaper line the walls as she walks to a shed that is half full of blankets and towels. “This is all we have; we need so much more and we are struggling, but we love and care for all these animals,” says Atwood.

The phone rings, and without hesitation, a powerful voice begins talking to someone on the phone and giving them advice about what to do with a rescue dog. Atwood is trying to make arrangements and make room to take in yet another homeless animal. The phone is ringing constantly while she walks through the rescue.

“We have to make sure the dogs and cats are warm especially the older ones,” say Atwood, while tying up some sweaters and making sure that their blankets and bedding are fresh. Volunteers and employees at Garland Rescue separate what needs to be washed from what needs to be thrown away in a mounting pile of soiled linen. All of the dogs bark with delight when they hear Atwood’s voice; the voice of the person that rescued them from death itself. She calls every one of their animals by name, asking if they’re okay while their eyes beam with love and appreciation.



Dan Garland of Garland Rescue works to replace a damaged ceiling joist in a kennel. Photo: UD


Atwood begins to tell the story of Pickles, one of the old cats at the rescue that she was keeping alive with IV fluids and medicine. Pickles eventually died, but Atwood was glad that she was able to be there in her last hours to keep her comfortable. “This is what I do: Mr. Garland and I do this all on our Social Security and retirement benefits, we have no funding,” says Atwood.

A lot of people talk about what they will do to help, but Atwood and Garland are all about action. “No one knows how much of a sacrifice this is, but it is so gratifying to know that we are making a difference,” she says.

The Garland Rescue is committed to the animals 24 hours a day. “These animals need us because they have no one,” says Atwood. “I have seen people do such horrible things to animals.” She has stacks of prayer books sitting in plastic bins in the corner labeled by year with prayers for every animal.

Stuck to the refrigerator door is a large note with a picture of money and a prayer asking God for grants and funding of $10,000 a month to run the non-kill rescue. There are several volunteers at the rescue and a few employees that pay to keep things running 24 hours a day. “We have to be extremely careful with regards to who works with the animals because we don’t want anyone here that might abuse or be cruel to the animals,” says Garland. He would rather feed and clean every one of them himself.

The average life span for an animal that becomes available for adoption after the waiting period, which allows the owners to find and reclaim their pet, is seven days or less, according to a source who was previously employed by Animal Care and Control who asked not to be identified.

If you find an animal that you like and you want to extend their life, go online to the Animal Care and Control website where you can input the animals kennel number. This will extend the animal’s life for about two weeks. Animals that come in very injured or ill are usually euthanized immediately, according to Atwood.

“There have been times that kittens less than four days old have been put to sleep,” says Atwood. “What the community doesn’t know is that the dead animals are picked up and sent to a rendering plant.” Animal shelters do assessment testing on what they consider aggressive breeds such as pit bulls, Rottweilers and German Sheppards. There are at least 3,000- to 5,000 of these breeds in the system. There have been occasions when customers come back saying that the animal they adopted was ill, and they had to take them to their veterinarian to be treated for parvo or kennel cough.



One of the dogs that Garland saved waits for permanent adoption.Photo:Tatia Calhoun


Garland rescue has had an ongoing relationship with PetSmart for more than 15 years. “This helps tremendously with a lot of rescues to have such a large forum for adoption,” says Garland. The adoption fee of $200.00 includes spay or neutering, shots and microchips for the dogs.

Adoptions have slowed down a little with the current economic climate. “If someone, for whatever reason, decides that they can not keep their commitment of adoption, we will gladly take the animal back; we are also looking for people who will foster animals,” says Garland. “We work together with other rescues and non–profit organizations; we are all like a pipeline of information, such as Actors and Others for Animals, Rainbow Rescue, Butterhouse Foundation, Easter Seals and plenty of others,” says Garland. Atwood is working on getting Garland Rescue on cable channels when they feature pet adoptions.

“We have even tried getting grants or hiring a grant writer with no success, sometimes it feels so hopeless that we just do it ourselves, but we really need help,” says Garland. They are working on getting better with technology and becoming more Internet savvy. Garland Rescue is on Facebook and Twitter @GarlandRescue. They will be working on a website next, but for now, you can find Garland Rescue’s dogs at the Rainbow Rescue website.

Garland Rescue is standing on the front line in the war of saving man’s best friend and giving them a second chance at life. “We have taken an oath to provide love and shelter to these animals, we rehabilitate abused animals to teach them how to trust again,” says Garland. “They are all my personal pets.”


Donations can be made to:


40939 16th Street West, Palmdale, Ca 93551

(661) 267-2848