If operating a volunteer, nonprofit dog-rescue organization that saves dogs from disease, starvation and abuse in Mexican cities isn’t hard enough, try doing it during a pandemic. That hasn't stopped San Diego-based Animal Pad. In fact, it made them much stronger.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of full-time volunteers at the rescue organization doubled to 90. From March 1 through April 28, the Animal Pad rescued 270 dogs and facilitated 187 adoptions. They also received 1,000 adoption applications in the period, matching the number from all of 2019. Last year, the organization rescued 318 dogs in total. They’ve beaten that number already, too. 

Roadblocks, even literal ones, have been tossed at this nonprofit in each and every way during the pandemic: New US-Mexican border restrictions, new lockdown orders in Mexican cities, Mexican martial law, decrease in access to veterinary care and fewer personal donations from cash-strapped citizens suffering through an economic crisis, to name a few.

Those negative forces, however, have been trumped by the resourcefulness and strength of what owner Stephanie Nisan calls her “community.” It's humanity at its best: volunteers have opened their homes as fosters. More volunteers than ever are making trips to Mexico. And despite regular charitable contributions going down, people are responding to social-media campaigns and donating in record numbers. Places like the Imperial County Humane Society shelter have also reached out to help.

The overall result: a record number of pups have been saved. And they're not done.

“This time has really actually been motivating people to do good,” said Nisan, a real estate broker in San Diego who started the Animal Pad 10 years ago after she learned dogs were being euthanized at shelters for no good reason other than they couldn’t find homes. “I think at first people were scared and nervous, and we weren't sure what was going to happen. We knew that they were going to do a partial border shutdown. So literally at first they announced it at 9 a.m, on a Friday. And by 2 p.m. we were down there with a van and loaded up as many dogs as we could and got them back across the border.”

Dozens of volunteers from the Animal Pad dog rescue team pose for a picture.

The Animal Pad primarily rescues dogs from the streets of Mexico, mainly up and down the Baja Peninsula, and also throughout California. They spend a lot of time in Tijuana and Ensenada. They’re accustomed to seeing dogs in really bad shape and it's not getting any better in the pandemic.

But if the Animal Pad can help it, many of those same dogs will end up in foster homes on their journey up the Baja Peninsula and into the US. Teams from the Animal Pad bus down to Mexico on their rescue journeys and have had to pivot their operations because of COVID-19 town lockdowns. For example, meetups happen in towns that don’t have lockdowns.

“As bad as it’s been for these dogs, on the flip side we’ve got these beautiful foster homes that they get to go to, which again benefit the human as much as they do the dog,” Nisan said. “And that's been really amazing for all of us, especially me. I am an emotional nutcase when I talk about it. But it's been so cool. It's been a really cool, day-to-day changing experience, and a roller coaster. And we don't know what will happen when people go back to work.”

The dogs, of course, don’t magically get from Mexican streets to American homes. The Animal Pad provides a shelter for quarantine and ensures proper veterinary care. But that’s naturally a challenge because vets charge money. Nisan estimates that the Animal Pad has spent $3,000 per day in vet care recently, which she said is not sustainable. Donations are down roughly 30%. The organization does not qualify for a lot of grants because it rescues from Mexico and most grants are reserved for American dogs, she said.

“It’s been a battle forever,” Nisan said.

But, again, the community has stepped in. The Animal Pad posted a story April 23 on its social channels of a dog with a large abscess on its head in the streets of Tijuana and asked for donations. Within a few hours, it raised $10,000. “We’ve never raised $10,000 that quickly ever,” Nisan said. “It was pretty phenomenal to see again the community being there for us. It's been so beautiful.”

More from the good news department ...

Employees Get 'Stimulus Package' to Spend on SMBs

When the shelter-in-place order came down and companies were forced to transition to work from home environments, Nathan Christensen, CEO of Portland, Ore.-based Mammoth HR and Think HR, announced a $50,000 company-wide “stimulus package.” He distributed the funds to every employee as a cash bonus ($250) in their paycheck and asked them to spend it on small businesses in their community.

Nathan Christensen headshot
Nathan Christensen

The employees followed through. Beyond placing takeout orders from their favorite local restaurants, employees bought books from the neighborhood bookstore, stocked their kitchens with coffee beans from their favorite roaster, decorated their new home offices from their favorite Etsy shop, pre-paid for haircuts from their barbers and stylists, and started community gardens with seeds from their local nursery.

Learning Opportunities

Employees also sent thank-you notes to their local businesses, doubled the tips they left, posted about these businesses on social media, and made donations to nonprofits that were short on funding. One employee even gave their entire stimulus check to their cousin, a waitress and a single mother of an immunocompromised child.

People Are Being Funny

Here’s some good news: people are being funny through the pandemic. Daniel Burstein, senior director of content and marketing at Jacksonville Beach, Fla.-based MECLABS Institute, featured earlier this week in a piece about webinars, told us about a colleague who pranked him and others pretty good.

Burstein was finishing up an email as things were getting started at the beginning of a Zoom web conference. Suddenly, he heard, "Steve, are you in Daniel's house?" Turns out, MECLABS Institute senior systems manager Steve Beger took a screen capture of Burstein’s typical web-conference background in his home from a previous meeting and created a Zoom virtual background for himself — a match of Burstein's background.

“We gotta laugh through this novel coronavirus pandemic,” Burstein said, “even if we are not around a water cooler and are all working from home.”

Screenshot of two men on a Zoom conference call.

Meals on Wheels for Local Businesses

Matthew Sallee, a sales VP at Denver-headquartered Motili, initiated a weekend project to deliver meals to the local community in Denver. It has since now grown into a company-wide program delivering over 1,200 meals to local businesses in Denver and Binghamton, NY, where Motili has an office.

The initiative, #MotiliCares, is bringing employers, employees and the local community together. #MotiliCares is funded entirely by employee contributions, with Motili matching up to $500. The initiative is designed to help both restaurants and front-line medical staff responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A pizza box from Nirchi's Pizza in Binghamton, NY that has the words, "Thank you for your unwavering service" written on it.

#MotiliCares is directly connecting people who want to provide meals to local emergency staff, and to those who do not always have access to a cafeteria or even have time to get food. This is all part of an effort to engage local food businesses to provide additional work for their employees, and to help healthcare workers in ICUs around Denver and other locations.

During a recent week of deliveries, Sallee delivered 100 pounds, or around 4,000 cups of coffee, to Denver Health and National Jewish on behalf of Girls Inc. and meals to the Denver community.

Got any good news? We're listening. This is not in our customary wheelhouse of digital customer experience and digital workplace news. But we've tossed out the playbook just a bit in favor of some weekly good news through this pandemic. We all need it now, right? Send your feel-good stories to [email protected] Check out the other pieces in our ongoing series to help keep the good vibes coming in a time of crisis.