Our Story

“Who is the black and white dog on our website and how is that dog connected to PUP?”

We’d like you to meet Meka. Some people say that looking back on life events can be like a game of connect-the-dots. Meka is one of Laura’s most precious “dots” and she has connected Laura to PUP! This little pup has been instrumental in uniting all of us in our passion for bringing people and pets together!

It All Started With Meka

… the story of PUP

A Chihuahua! That’s what she wanted! Laura Tonkin had done research on toy breed dogs and loved Chihuahuas for both their history and their tenacity. It was 2003 and there weren’t many of these dauntless, diminutive dogs to be found in rescue in Washington State. However California had an abundance. Laura corresponded with several Chihuahua rescue groups, but as an out-of-state resident she received few positive responses.

Soon she began to explore local pet stores. On numerous occasions Laura was confronted with the sight of unhealthy dogs languishing in their cages or straw-filled pens. Tempted as she was to “rescue” these sick animals, she headed in yet another direction. She decided to find out the source of these pet store pups…puppy mills.

Laura next focused her efforts on researching Chihuahua breeders and ultimately decided she couldn’t go wrong if she went exclusively to those with AKC registered dogs. Armed with a list of questions, she selected a breeder and went for a visit. She had never seen so many darling little pups. If she hadn’t loved Chihuahuas before, she certainly did now! However, instead of picking an outgoing, playful, friendly one, her heart was captured by the pup who wouldn’t stay near her and acted as if she didn’t need a thing from anyone. A pup with “issues”… Meka.

With Meka at her side, Laura’s canine education continued. She studied about temperaments, training, what good breeders breed for, and the importance of genetics in producing a great dog. At the same time, she learned about the dog rescue industry.

Fueled by Taco Bell commercials and the “purse-dog” fad (carrying small dogs as fashion accessories), Chihuahua breeders proliferated in California. As a result, more and more of their dogs were showing up in the overflowing animal shelters. In spite of huge Chihuahua rescue efforts in the state, there were simply not enough homes to be found. Dogs were being euthanized by the thousands and still are to this day. As Laura perused these dog rescue websites one night she made a promise to those Chihuahuas, right then and there… one day she would do something to help them.

Her first step toward fulfilling this promise was to get involved in puppy mill rescue in the Midwest. She worked with rescuers who soon became her mentors and who taught her to always stay focused on the dog. In their honor, Laura has intertwined pieces of each of them into PUP rescue. The words in People United For Pets or the letters in PUP are, in one way or another, connected to each of these amazing individuals.

Laura was now ready to focus her energies back on the West Coast and she established relationships with rescue friends in Washington, Oregon, and California. In April 2006, she decided to start her own rescue organization, focusing on small dogs. Her plans were to have it up and running “in six months”, but she and a few of her newly gathered volunteer group immediately started pulling in dogs, vetting them, and getting them adopted into great homes… all within 30 days!

Today PUP is larger, better organized, and has more wonderful foster families and other volunteers. But PUP’s passion and love for these little guys is still the same as it ever was.

Learn More

  • Chihuahuas flooding animal shelters: “From Dec. 1, 2008, to Nov. 30, 2009, Los Angeles shelters took in 4,741 Chihuahuas, up from 3,779 the previous year…” read more.

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