Santa Barbara’s Pandemic Pets

The Fosters and Adoptions Who Brought Light to a Dark Year

Credit: Courtesy

We all coped with the pandemic in different ways. Some of us started new hobbies. Others buried themselves in work. Many just hung on by their fingernails. Whatever path we took, one thing was certain — having a furry buddy by your side made the days just a little more bearable.

This is a group of fostered and adopted pets who joined their new families over the past year, bringing with them an innocence and exuberance (and of course, a few challenges) that helped ease and distract from the challenges of lockdown.

We asked their proud new owners to give us the stories behind their names, explain what drew them to their new pet, and to describe their favorite activities.


By Pike Spector

I spent the summers of 2016/17 on research cruises across the Aleutian Archipelago, and Atka is an island in the central-east portion of the island chain. In 2016 we encountered very challenging conditions. In 2017 Atka “apologized” by giving us excellent weather. Atka, our pup, can be quite difficult at times, but really she’s as sweet as can be.

Atka’s mom was adopted by my partner’s friend from a blue heeler rescue ranch. After a week at home, her new family realized that she was pregnant. Surprise! Atka was one of the five pups that were born, and we couldn’t help but adopt her. Since she was both conceived and born in spring 2020, she’s a double pandemic pup!

Atka’s favorite activities include eating kelp wrack on the beach, chasing/eating her feet, waking people up with her tongue, and going on road trips! 


By Jillian Tempesta

Courtesy of Jillian Tempesta

Our cat’s name is Bash, short for Sebastian. His nicknames include Bassius Clay (when he throws paws) and Sebathstian (when he’s grooming).

He “bashed” us with great force and affection when we met him at the shelter. Those headbutts became his namesake. 

He chirps like a bird, teleports across the apartment with his black cat magic, and “helps” us unpack our groceries from the S.B. farmers’ market (see photo!). 



My cat’s name is Aubrey, a 13-year-old foster already named. At ASAP she was known as Queen Aubrey. I was drawn to her because we are both seniors who can be crotchety at times. Her previous two owners ‘died on her’ a trend I’m hoping won’t continue.


By C and P

Before my partner and I adopted Gael, he had quite the bumpy medical history and the very nice people at Cat Therapy originally named him Trooper. A fitting name no doubt, but I needed something more suavecito than that; I also knew I wanted something in Spanish. We both love the movie Coco, and Gael (after Mexican actor Gael García Bernal) sort of just stuck.

I was drawn to him because Cat Therapy writes a hell of a bio.

Gael loves going in places he shouldn’t: the bathtub, behind the TV, the kitchen sink, the innermost corner of the closet, my ofrenda. He and our other cat Nancy love giving each other tongue baths and play-fighting. I’ve only ever had dogs up until Nancy and Gael and have been trying to teach them dog tricks in Spanish. Gael is getting the hang of it! 


By Michelle Berman

Credit: Courtesy

I had two prior Australian shepherds named Maggie and Murphy, so when our application was approved by Spark Rescue, we started discussing M names. I suggested Molly, Millie, and Maisy to my kids, and they immediately stuck with Molly. I really wanted Millie Grace but I was the only one calling her that. I was outnumbered.

It was love at first sight! We had recently had some sad news about a family member and hadn’t had much to look forward to in so long. We finally had a fun distraction. As soon as we met her, the whole family fell in love!

She loves playing with toys. Any toys, especially ropes. She loves to snuggle and nag her older sister dog, Izzy. 

Credit: Courtesy

Violet and Cecelia

By Lisa Carlson

Violet and Cecilia (They go by Vi and CeCe) were rescued from the streets of Tijuana, and we picked them up in Studio City. They have sweet little lady names for sweet little ladies.

I was drawn to them because Vi reminds me of a Siamese cat I had growing up.

Their favorite activities are parkour and sleeping in the sink.


By Rebecca Bucher

Nugget was found behind The Nugget restaurant in Goleta. We were told her two brothers are named BLT and Slider.

We chose her because we love her coloring and she was so cute and affectionate. 

Her favorite toy is a purple worm at the end of a fishing pole. We have had to tape it up about five times because it gets so much use. She also has a little tunnel that she likes to hide in and pounce at anyone walking by. She is super affectionate and loves to snuggle.


By Barbara Gilner 

Credit: Courtesy


By Judith Geiger

Our new pug was already named Pepper when we adopted her. It fits her personality perfectly, so we kept it.

Our old French bulldog, Peggy, had died six months earlier, and we weren’t really looking or feeling ready for a new dog. But my sister sent us a photo of Pepper from the rescue’s website, and we fell in love instantly. Although we were not first in line for Pepper, I guess it was meant to be because we were the lucky family to adopt her!

Pepper’s favorite activities are running after anything that moves — lizards, bunnies, bicyclists, and joggers. And speed eating!


By Kalai kennedy

Diesel pulls and zooms around like a Turbo Diesel.

Our good friends found this then-little guy in January 2021 and told us we had to come meet him. He had an unexpected detour from Santa Barbara up to the Santa Ynez Valley shelter, and a phone call said we needed to come get him within the hour because they needed to clear the shelter because of COVID exposure. It was a whirlwind adventure, to say the least.

This monster likes to EAT — anything and everything. Aside from that, he loves to play with his big sister, dig lots of holes, lay in the sun, and snore in his sleep.


By Sara Caputo

Credit: Sara Caputo

Jax came with that name, and we liked it, so we didn’t mess with it.

He TOTALLY chose us! We were looking at a few different dogs in a group, and this one came up to us and our sons and laid right down on their feet … something he still loves to do!

Jax’s favorite activities are (1) Bugging his brother, Mr. Bentley (our family cat), (2) running with other dogs and playing fetch (at Elings Park daily), and (3) Going to Hendry’s at sunset and soaking in all the good vibes with the other doggos.


By Meredith Klassen

We adopted a fur baby!!!  Although we lovingly refer to our new puppy as a “pandemic puppy”, we actually decided to adopt a new furry family member because our daughter recently left for college and we had a void to fill. Koda is our new 4-month old black German Shepard dog. We adopted Koda through Spark Rescue and we are so happy to be able to provide a loving, supportive home for this special pup. Koda’s favorite activities are playing fetch, napping and attending Perfect Puppy class with Ann Swan.


By Tony Cirincione

Lucca is our puppy’s name.  The story behind the name is Lucca is the city in Italy where some of our family roots are. 

What drew us to our furry friend is his non- shedding hair, intelligent mind, energetic personality and the local breeder.   When we went to choose from his litter, he was actually drawn to our children Gianna (9) and Emilia (6).   He found us!

Lucca’s favorite activities are chasing a soccer ball, playing in the snow, playing with other doodle pups and going on road trips.


By Roger Durling

Sophia was originally named Pepita, but because she was starting a new life in Santa Barbara, I thought she needed a new name as well. She’s Sophia now after the iconic Italian screen siren.

I like to say she rescued me. When I saw her profile at the Santa Paula Animal Shelter, I instantly fell in love. I couldn’t drive there for a week and was resigned to not getting her. But she waited for me.

Sophia watches movies with me all day and reacts to the visuals and sounds. Her black and white markings remind me of classic Hollywood films. Her soul and optimism have given me resilience. She’s brought great joy to my life.  


By Carol Deupree


By Andrea and Neil Di Maggio

Here is Molly! Adopted from Sparks Rescue. She was named after our one of our daughter’s favorite fictional characters. After fostering her for a few days we became quite attached to her loving and fun disposition. She likes all the things the kids like: board games, legos, and ribbons!


By Warner Anderson

Rhea, or Rheia, is a character in Greek mythology. She’s the Titaness daughter of the earth goddess Gaia and the sky god Uranus.

We were looking for a puppy during the lockdown, and we just kind of fell for her from her photos.

Rhea is a straight-up water dog and loves Hendry’s Beach and playing catch with her frisbee. And thankfully, she is always down for a road trip.


By Charles Clouse

Beau was a very young feral trapped in the “wilds” of downtown Carpinteria. In commemoration of Pride weekend, he’d been tagged as Boa, along with siblings Butch, Sequin, and Dragger and their mother Rainbow. 

He’s now the largest cat in a family of three and still vying for his place in the pecking order. Brought into ASAP’s care at an early age, he was ably socialized under their trademarked Tiny Lion program. 

Beau is still in the compulsive fetching-toy-mice-and-paper-wads stage.


By Carolyn Mausley

Archie’s foster mom named him “Archie” because he often arched his back when approached. I thought it was a cute and fitting name, especially since his fur color matched the hair color of the famed comic book character. 

Quite unexpectedly, and very fortunately, I had the opportunity to work from home during the pandemic. What better time to raise a kitten? I particularly wished for a bold, active little guy, hoping that he might enjoy travel. It wasn’t long before I met Archie at his foster home. He was a fearless, extroverted fur fireball. Perfect! I fell in love. Who wouldn’t? Just look at him.

Archie’s favorite indoor activities are chasing the red dot and hunting house flies. When outside on his leash, “Archie the Adventure Cat” enjoys climbing trees and chilling at the beach.  


By Rachel Gantz

Henry David Thoreau is our five-pound Chihuahua. We mostly call him Henry, but loved the long name for such a small dog. 

We met him through his incredible foster mama, Raquel Marquez. His calm, mellow nature drew us toward him — but he has quite the exuberant personality at the dog park!

His favorite thing to do is to sleep under the covers until noon, uninterrupted.


By Bill and Ellie Melton

We chose the name Lilah because it means “night” in Hebrew, in keeping with her black saddle markings.

We were drawn to Lilah because we definitely wanted a rescue. We saw her picture on the internet and thought she was very pretty. She was a bit shy when we first met her, but she has proven to be as smart as she first appeared to be. 

Lilah loves to pick up sticks and to chase after a frisbee. Her favorite place is Hendry’s Beach, where this picture was taken.


By Monie de Wit

By Meet” Kona”, our new puppy,  a rescue Shih Tzu mini Austrialian mix who  stole our hearts the minute we met him.  He is an adorable, playful companion to Sparkie our other dog.
We named him “Kona “because he is coffee colored and very active.  We were drawn  to  Shih Tzu  mix because they don’t shed and have a wonderful disposition. 

Raining Cats and Dogs

By Lee Heller

Adopted dogs—Roxy, 9 year old cattle dog; Samwise, 18 mo old ‘foster failure’ cattle dog, came to me with multiple pelvic fractures; Tigger, 16-year-old blind and deaf Shih Tzu.

Foster kittens—This is a selection. The two kittens in the basket were adopted by Cathy Murillo.

Raining Kitties

By Elizabeth Heuer

I fostered 3 sets of kittens in 2020, all so sweet and all were adopted to forever homes. I miss them ALL!!

Zazou & Mohammed

By Michele Neilson

Zazou (my mother’s nickname in France) literally showed up at our front door last February. We were leaving for a trip in early March, so my friend fed her in our absence. She stayed, got pregnant, and gave birth to five kittens. We were able to adopt out four to family members. We kept the tabby, Momo, short for Mohammed.

Activities besides sleeping? Chasing each other around the house, climbing trees, and bringing us mice and rats. Keeping it real!


By Susan Shalit

Santa Maria Valley Humane Society 

To the wonderful staff at this shelter: 

I want to thank you for taking such good care of Hermione until I adopted her in July. She is  now named Maya. She is at her proper weight, no longer the malnourished dog I met and that,  together with lots of good daily walks, has made her more energetic, strong, and active. She’s  quite the walker and we have a fun workout. Her coat has grown back, thick and glossy. 

As she feels safe her real personality has come out. Oh my goodness, there isn’t  another more adorable dog anywhere! She is such a delight. When she’s excited she acts like a  pogo stick and leaps around the house. She makes me laugh out loud. Sometimes it seems  we’re doing a clown act here. She’s a real snuggler and has learned to expect lots of tummy  rubs. In the morning before she gets out of her bed, she now knows to go belly up for lots of  loving before we start our day. Maya is the most fun, silly, playful girl, yet also quite mellow. My  friend suggested I call her Velcro because she follows me around like a part of me. 

I’ve been encouraging some independence to build on her confidence and help with  separation anxiety. She’s clearly afraid of dogs. We’ve attended Woods Humane Society small  dog classes to help. I’ve been working with her every day to lower her stress level. She has  learned to play with toys, and happily carries them around with her. (Along with her bed when  she gets tired!) The best part too, is now her tail is not only up instead of down or straight out,  but how often she wags it. She’s a happy girl and I am grateful to have this little angel in my  life. 

Maya comes with me just about everywhere. She loves car rides and watches and naps  while we’re at the ranch as I work with my horse. We are such a well suited and happy team,  and Maya is the best companion.  


By Sheri B.

Meet Lily. We chose the name to continue the alliterative nature of previous pets: Way back we had Sienna, then Sierra, then Cara, then Cody and now we have Cami and Lily. (The pet rescue organization had named her Hazel, but we couldn’t keep it because that is the name of my husband’s mother, so not an option!)

We were drawn to Lily because, well, look at her face! Such a cutie with a huge personality.

Lily’s favorite activity is to follow me around the house all day, get me to chase her around the patio, and play with the hand-me-down stuffed animals she inherited from her older/now-gone siblings.


By Peter Nehaus

This is Buddy 2.0, a 2-year-old purebred golden retriever I adopted from the Humane Society in January 2021. (Originally, he was “Charlie,” but he looks SO much like my first golden, “Buddy,” that I kept calling him “Buddy” by accident, so I finally renamed him.)

I was looking for a golden for a while, and when he became available, I jumped on the opportunity.

Buddy is OBSESSED with tennis balls and his favorite activities are going for walks, playing with the neighbor’s golden doodle, and lying on the floor somewhere near me.

Ginger and Nutmeg

By Mary Genis

The first dog pictured is Ginger Rogers Ginsburg Genis. As a mini Aussie, she is light on her feet and able to maneuver with the elegance of Ginger Rogers. But she’s more than just a pretty face with agility skills; she’s intelligent, so she needed a name that gave her “intellectual gravitas.” As a petite little thing, we felt she was akin to Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, hence her rather long name.  

Our second dog is named Nutmeg, who we adopted 11 months after getting Ginger. We felt she was so special she needed only one name, like Björk, Adele, or Madonna. Due to her coat, we felt she looked like Nutmeg.

Together, Ginger and Nutmeg are referred to as The Spice Girls. They enjoy greeting neighbors who walk, cycle, bike, skateboard, and roller skate past their house on busy Anapamu Street.


By Taryn Ouellette

This is Bo, short for everything from Bowie to Bobie to Bing Bong, and hereally really knows all his names!
My boyfriend and I adopted his through SB Aussie Rescue from the Barstow Humane Society. You might notice he’s not an Aussie but the Barstow Humane Society offered him up when Leslie from SB Aussie Rescue had an extra spot available and asked for a dog that would surely get adopted!
He’s a 5-6 year old Boxer/Great Dane and he loves walks, treats, and playing with humans. He snores and farts louder than anyone we know! Other pups find him a little large to romp with but he’s more afraid of them than they are of him!
We knew we had to adopt him because of his sweet nature and the way he loved his foster parents. He’s a great big softie and the ultimate snuggle bug. 


By Paula Hatley

We adopted Bosley (Boz for short) from ASAP in August after the death of a beloved senior cat.  He is named in memory of my husband’s father, William Bosley Goldrick.  When we saw his photos on the ASAP website, it was apparent he was a goofball, just the sort of cat we love!  He is a bundle of mischief and silliness and has brought us so much joy during this trying year.  His favorite activities include eating (this boy loves his food!), watching birds and squirrels from the window, playing with his wand toy, and tormenting our two older cats.


By Nancy

This is Foxy! She reminded me of the  beautiful Santa Cruz Island fox.
I found her photo listing on
Those eyes spoke to my heart!
Foxy loves going to the beach and playing with her 4 legged friends at Eilings Park.
She has kept me active during COVID.

Lucky and Groovy

By Kiki

Hi my name is Kiki and during covid we adopted 2 amazing guinea pigs named Lucky and Groovy!
Groovy is the fluffy one with lots of colors. Our family chose the name Groovy because we think he is cute and groovy and the name brings out his attitude. We chose him as our guinea pig because when we went to the BunsSB shelter in Goleta he was the one guinea pig that came walking up to us and he still does it every morning and night. When Groovy is not sleeping he loves to eat veggies, play, and run around in the backyard. Groovy is a great guinea pig with a sassy attitude.
Lucky is the one with the beautiful brown fur. Lucky’s name has a lot to do with his past. He was born to be fed to snakes but was rescued by a shelter in Los Angles, LA Guinea Pig Rescue, and when he was there he got in a fight with one of his brothers and lost an eye. You can’t see it in the photo but his entire right eye is missing and so to have survived that he must be the luckiest guinea pig in the world. We got Lucky because Groovy needed a pal. Guinea pigs can get lonely.  As soon as I saw Lucky I wanted to bring him home. Lucky’s  favorite things to do are eat herbs and cuddle. Lucky is super sweet and I could not ask for a better cuddle animal.


By Mary O’Toole and Jim Thweatt

Our beautiful little 1.5 year old female cat is named “Kinsey,” in honor of the late Sue Grafton’s fictitious female detective, Kinsey Milhone. She does however, have other “pet” names such as “Candy” (short for Eye Candy), and “Kinky Boots”, in reference to her wonderful paint job.

We have always loved cats, and unfortunately, our two pet rescue cats died unexpectedly last Spring/Summer. After months of mourning, we decided that we were ready to adopt again.  When we saw Kinsey’s picture on ASAP’s website, we fell in love. We joke that she looks like the love child of our previous two cats.

Kinsey’s favorite activities include running around the house at 30 mph, chasing her ping pong balls incessantly, and eating.


By Kathryn and Will

Rocco joined our family during the pandemic. His old man face, goofy strut, and short legs were too adorable to pass up. We were shocked to learn that he is just a puppy! He soon became a shadow of our current dog, Moose (pictured in the background)!

Name inspiration: Rocco’s Pizza

Rocco’s favorite thing to do is instigate a dual with his big brother, resulting in a crescendo of barks that lands Moose in time-out.  Rocco loves to run on the beach and roll in anything with a lasting, unpleasant scent. Belly rubs, face licks, and cuddles are part of his daily routine. He’s also becoming quite the beach bum!

Tango and Daisy

By Debbie & Greg

My husband & I lost our 17 year old dog in 6/20 & our remaining dog was lonely. We got on the internet & adopted a bonded pair, Tango & Daisy from a rescue in Hesperia. We picked them up on July 4th, 2020. They came with those names & at 10 & 8 we were not going to change anything. Our 14 year old dog, Manrico is thrilled at his expanded pack. They all love to snuggle on the recliner with me as I knit & read, run around the backyard & go for walks in the neighborhood.  These are our 9th & 10th “elder” rescues – they are just the best!


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