In the early hours of April 1 (Easter morning), my husband Zach and I were on our way home from visiting a friend when I spotted an animal walking near the side of the road. I initially thought it was a cat — there are lots of feral kitties here in Orlando — but as we got closer I realized it was actually a small dog.

It was still dark outside, and we were crossing a busy intersection. I couldn’t bear to think about what could happen to the pup if she darted into the street. “That’s … a dog,” I said to Zach, who was driving, as we passed.

He asked, “Do we need to turn around?” but he’d heard the concern in my voice and had already slowed down and put on his turn signal before I could respond. He’s an animal lover, too.

We made a U-turn. I hopped out and jogged along the sidewalk where the dog had been, worried she may have already trotted off. I called for her and, to my surprise, she appeared from behind a bush and came running right toward me — tail wagging and all! She lay on the ground at my feet and rolled on her back. I knelt and patted her belly, then scooped her up.

Back in the car, I held her in my lap and conducted a brief inspection: She appeared to be a shih tzu mix of some sort, with long fur that was matted and filled with prickly burs. She also had a collar, but no ID tags.

At home, we set out small bowls with food and water. We supervised closely while she and our two (larger) dogs sniffed and circled and introduced themselves, and were pleased when all three gave us approving looks as if to say, “Okay, we’re good now. This is fine.”

Right away, I posted a description of the pup on Nextdoor (a social media site for neighbors), in Orlando pet Facebook groups, and in the local “Lost and Found” and “Pets” sections of Craigslist. I searched a variety of other sites, too, with the hope of finding a “lost dog” post that matched our new guest. Nothing.

On Monday I took the pup (whom we’d nicknamed “Hoffa”) to our veterinary clinic, where a vet tech scanned her for a microchip. She did have a chip; however, the registered phone number led us to a dead end. According to the vet tech, the person who answered said they “didn’t have a dog.”

This was discouraging and seemed a little suspicious, but the tech suggested one more option: file a 311 report. In Orlando, residents can dial 311 to report non-emergency issues such as lost and found pets. If Hoffa did have a guardian and they called the police or the county animal shelter, we’d be contacted. (We could have taken her to the shelter, but it made sense — and was convenient — for us to foster.) So I filed the report and waited.

Over the next few days, Hoffa allowed me to trim the mats out of her fur and give her a bath. Sometimes she played in the fenced backyard with our other dogs, but most often she stayed by my or Zach’s side. At night, she slept on a blanket next to our bed. Unfortunately, we realized she wasn’t completely housebroken and that she didn’t get along with cats (we also have a kitty), so we did our best to work with her during potty time and kept an eye on her whenever our cat was nearby. Overall, she was well-mannered and sweet.

Lost Shih Tzu After Bath
“Hoffa” looked and smelled fresh after her haircut and bath!

At the end of the week, I contacted a local rescue group specializing in small dogs (Florida Little Dog Rescue) and asked if they had room for one more. They did! The following Monday, I drove Hoffa to meet her new foster mom, who asked me to fill out some simple paperwork and informed me that Hoffa’s first vet appointment had already been scheduled. She also told me that Hoffa would stay with her until at least the end of the month — 30 days from the date I found her — to make sure we’d exhausted all attempts to locate a loving family that may be looking for her.

Hoffa is still with Florida Little Dog Rescue, and she’ll likely be up for adoption within a week or so. (They tell us she’s doing well, and that her new name is “Pearl.”) We’ll provide another update here on the MUTTS blog when she’s ready to find a new home.

Ali Datko is the digital content manager at MUTTS. She lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband, two rescue dogs named Jager and Holly, and a mischievous cat named Ava. 

Comments (15)

I am very interested in adopting Pearl, formerly Hoffa.

Would you let me know when she becomes available? I live in Ocala, not very far from you, and would love an opportunity to meet and play with her before giving you a definite “YES!”

Thank you for all you do – it is so appreciated.

Susie von Ammon

Thank you so much for everything you did and are doing to help Pearl, I’m sure she’s so confused right now , especially wondering why she was “dumped “ by her family. Thank God for kind people like you. You’re a true angel for this little dog. I look forward to seeing her with her furever family.

Betty Jo Montgomery

Sherry, being cared for in a foster home is not “abandoned.”
Ali, thank you for what you did and for sharing your story.


Hi Sherry,

As an animal lover, I do hope this dog’s next home is a “forever” one, where she can stay and live out the rest of her years in safety and comfort. And unfortunately, because she didn’t get along with our cat, it didn’t make sense to keep her with us. (It would have been unfair to her and to our cat, who isn’t afraid to use her claws when threatened.)

I contacted the rescue group because they have experience in matching animals with guardians whose homes and personalities fit the individual needs of each dog — to prevent them from ever being abandoned again. I am still in contact with the rescue group and have checked on this dog to make sure she’s doing well. (She is.) I’m also looking forward to the day in the near future when she’s available for adoption so I can share her adoption details and continue to assist in finding her a loving home.

— Ali from Team MUTTS


Hi Iris,

We’re so sorry to hear about your issues. We are a very small team but we do our best to help our customers with anything we can, as long as we hear about it, of course! Have you tried contacting us at to report your issues? This email is located in the footer of our site as well as on our social media accounts and in our emails. We have also recently added a chat function to the site so you can contact a member of Team MUTTS directly during normal business hours – if we are unavailable or it’s after business hours you can leave a message and we’ll get back to you ASAP. We hope that helps and hope to hear from you soon so we can resolve any issues you may be having. Have a great day! – Veronica, Team MUTTS

Veronica Jancuk

As the mother of three adopted special needs dogs, I am confused by your comment. Perhaps you have adopted a pet, realized it was going to be difficult, and then abandoned your rescue? Can’t think of another reason for your jaded commentary.


As an inveterate Mutts reader, I refuse to allow myself to have a bummer feeling about this. I’ve been doing foster and rescue for quite a while and find that even though things sometimes turn out as Sherry put it—we wouldn’t have shelters and rescues if they didn’t—more frequently, they do not. I’ve seen plenty of good and some bad—those situations stick out, don’t they?

All Datko went more than the distance to find a good outcome for Hoffa, and I have hope for his future. I thank you for having done this.

Kate Karp

So abandoned one more time, in foster, then off to another home hoping they will live up to the cute but meaningless name “furever home”

Sherry Miller

Is there some logical reason why the photos cannot be viewed on this page? (Mutts Team Members…)

Also, The Daily Quote is only coming through as two quotation marks. No quote in-between…)

Carole Henry

As a fellow Orlandoan (is that a word?), it warms my heart to know there are kind people like you out there who will take the time to do the right thing. If my Penny ever gets lost I hope you’re the one who finds her.