When I think about what I am most proud of in 2014, of course, I think about the 501(c)3 status for The Samadhi Legacy Foundation and of the 51 dogs we personally saved. In a year that brought heartbreak with “rescues gone bad” and people borrowing money that they never returned, I was not deterred. I have worked relentlessly (I won’t say tirelessly) to take care of the dogs that found their way to me. I don’t know what brings a dog to a certain rescue; perhaps it is fate. 4 million dogs and cats are killed every year and in spite of our best efforts, most won’t make it out of the shelter. It is, in a way, an impossible mission to save them- almost every day I receive a call about a dog, “no longer wanted,” as if they are a pair of shoes that have worn out. For a person that doesn’t want to leave their dogs to go shopping, it is inconceivable that someone would choose to “get rid of” their most loyal companion. Many of us in rescue concede that the more we rescue, the more we dislike some humans: In rescue you see the best and the worst of our species.

I lost volunteers because of differences in philosophy: I saved dogs from California, while dogs in Las Vegas were losing their lives. I understand the desire to “save our own,” and even agree with the people who want to make a difference in our own home town: 2015 will see a strong commitment on our part to save the dogs in Las Vegas. However, I believe that a life saved, is a life saved and I believe that until one is in the position to save a life or watch it die, they can’t really judge. It is my sweat and finances (along with many generous donators) that determined the ability to save as many as I can. I have saved dogs from Taiwan, California, Texas, Arkansas and many from Las Vegas. I say yes whenever I am able. Ask anyone who knows me. The main reason that I didn’t register to pull from the Animal Foundation in Las Vegas, is that I can’t watch the rescue only list, know that a dog is going to die minutes from where I am and look the other way. It is the same reason that I cannot walk into the kennel part of a kill shelter. We must know our own strengths and weaknesses. In 2015, with support, I will register to pull from AF and save as many there as I can.

The dogs that found their way to me are: Renesme, Q, Mack, Lalo, Ellie, Ledger, Nikki, Ricky and Lucy, Jack and Daniel, Josh, Patches, Sapphire, Scarlett, Koda, Karma, Riley (all adopted), Jerome, Dexter, Kelly, Keats, Deja, Layla, Poppy, Grace, Apollo, Ginger, Pendleton, Zimbala, Cooper, Star, Nova, Texas Red, Dixie, Keno, Biscuit, Indy, Jake, Lucy Mae, Daisy, Kavi, Bo, Patty, Samson, Sable, Bella, Harly, Agatha, Joaquin, Bruce, Marley, Taquito and Kryptonite (all up for adoption). I gained volunteers that know why I do what I do. I am impeccable in my care of dogs. I won’t even allow them to eat food that isn’t highly rated. It is my opinion that once they have found me, I have made them a promise- that they will experience the best life that they can- before and after adoption, they are in my stewardship. I consider it an honor and I am proud of how they are served and loved. I have turned down more adopters than I have paired with my dogs. I am learning more and more what a dog needs to have a healthy and happy life. I can’t save every dog, but I can do justice to the ones I do.

I am proud of the t-shirt I created along with my brother Robert and my pit bull Dylan. My commitment is to change the consciousness of people, not just rescue dogs. Until we transform the problem at it’s root, we are curing a bleed out with a band-aid. I am proud of having attracted people that support our foundation- that took the risk to trust us and invest their resources in our vision. It was a year of many sad and bad stories of people abusing the very beings they purported to rescue- it was hard for people to trust. I am most proud of knowing that every penny donated is spent in the most honorable way. 100% and more goes to the dogs, as 70% of my own income (an income I have worked hard for and am proud of) goes to them also.

I am proud of the team I have created: some have moved on and some have newly arrived: I seriously feel I have the best volunteers and co-creators of Samadhi- people whose heart is genuinely for the dogs. My first social media maven: Natalie Stephenson, helped the Samadhi Foundation page to launch and start to create itself and was one of the first people to believe in my vision- thank you Natalie, without you, there might not be an SLF! Joe Griffith designed the website. Our logo was done by Peter Senn Yuen’s team. Jenn did the final artwork. My brother, Robert Benson, is the backbone of my whole rescue life: someday I hope I win the lotto so I can make him rich- until then, he understands that most all of it is going to go to save dogs, He is also a kick ass photographer and without him, most of my dogs would be iPhone pictorials, screen shotted. 🙂 Megan Tomlinson was one of my first co-rescuers and undying champion of animals everywhere- she helped many dogs find their way to me and I am grateful for every one. She is a true warrior and even though she might want to quit (drama and politics in rescue is brutal), she loves animals so fiercely that she always jumps in again, Brie Ann brought a joyful, get it done spirit to events and activities- she moved to Arizona and we all miss her, Jessica Elmore made photographing dogs an art- she catches their spirit in a few clicks of the shutter and loves them with all her heart, Courtney Sue is a kick-ass advocate for animals and brought commitment and ease to everything she supported with. She fostered for me for awhile and every dog was the better for it. Amanda Ogle and I had an interesting past: it is her grace and care for the animals that brought us back together to save lives. Thank you Amanda for your beautiful humility and undying love of dogs, especially pit bulls. I really couldn’t do it without you. Erica Derring, one of my fosters, is a no nonsense, loving, zero drama, partner in crime. Amanda, thank you for bringing us together- and Erica, thank you for being so loyal and for loving (and saving) Taquito. It is a joy to be around you. Jerry Tang, you are a no nonsense kick ass foster. Your love for them is pure and total and you created Jessica getting an amazing home and now Deja and Keno are getting that same chance. I feel blessed that we met. Sheena Lane was my very first long-term foster- okay, we all agree, maybe a little too long-term 🙂   Sheena you became a true friend.  Thank you for keeping Kelly until you no longer could-  you saved her life and allowed me to rescue more dogs.  Kelly has her first meet and greet this week- I have a GREAT feeling about it.  She wouldn’t have been saved if it wasn’t for your willingness.  You saved her more than once.  I will never forget that first call from you that she had jumped over the fence.  It isn’t the best way to find out a dog is an escape artist.  Thank you for retrieving her, more than once.  You should probably receive a medal of honor.  Judy Paris Sheppard, thank you for taking in Roxy, (first as a foster) who deserved the best home and found it. Skye, you bring joy to every event you participate in and really help lighten our work with your willing service Jamie, thank you for the time you put into Samadhi foundation- there were times you kept me from drowning and I am forever thankful to you. You found us some great adopters with your home checks and “vibing” people. The dogs are lucky to have had you. To Rachel Waterman and her team of goddess warriors, Olga Gonzales, Margaret Reynolds and Erika Annette; there will be many hearts beating next year because of you. Thank you for being serious artists and committed beyond belief. Because of you, Samadhi has it’s first calendar and I know it will only get more powerful with each year. Tabitha Guzman- they don’t make people like you very often, you are an angel with hidden wings- you are as pure as they come and loving beyond belief- thank you for being their voice and their protector- thank you for adopting a dog “no one wanted.” Niki Sunset- thank you for taking a chance with Samadhi- you could have given up on rescue because people treated you wrongly. You are an amazing foster and there will be paws walking this earth because of you. I am lucky that we found each other. Mike Schillaci- yes, I pay you, but I couldn’t pay you for the love and care these dogs receive as if they are your own. You know how picky I am about where my dogs go, so that says it all. 🙂

Lara Mirkovich, I am excited to see what 2015 brings for Samadhi and Churchill. Thank you for treating my rescue as your own and for being an all around kick-ass person. Daniel Chavez- This is only the beginning for us, I think. I love the way you see dogs and I think we can save many together. Jenn Coppock: Well, I trust you with my dogs- that is an acknowledgment bigger than words. Thank you for loving them when I am not around.

To everyone at Gentle Doctor Animal hospital: The care and love you give these pups while they are coming from the shelter (or abandonment) to their new homes is nothing short of magical. I couldn’t have done this without you, so know that you have saved 100 lives in the past year and a half (not counting the other’s you save everyday).

To Laura Jones, Kay Nash, and Amy Bellomy- my first team of “Muskateers:” you all are true rescuers and gave me a strong foundation and great role models. The number of lives you have saved is uncountable . We have shared the best and the worst of rescue and I am proud to call you my friends.

Darlene Horvath: There are no words. There are stadiums of animals alive because of you. You are my rescue sister and I am honored that you trust me with lives. You know i will never disappoint you. You make me a better rescuer.

Brigitte Hollowell: you are family and we have never met. I would walk to the ends of the earth for you- you taught me what true rescue is and my only choice is to live up to your example. I love you more than I can say.

Teresa Oliver Maston: We were destined to meet and I have a feeling that our destinies are not done with us. I love you like a sister and I trust you completely. You have given me a great model of relentless commitment and undying love. You are a kick-ass rescuer and I adore you.

Mike Levitt: We have never met and you had me at “hello.” You have saved more dogs than you ever will know. If there is a hall of fame for rescuers, you are in it!

Patty Fairchild: you saved my life a million times. To whatever God or fate brought us together, I owe a great debt: your friendship and partnership is better than winning the lottery. Money can always be made, friendships like yours are once in a lifetime. Your love is unquestionable. You truly only care about the animals- I think you would give me the clothes off your back- I hope i am a worthy friend to you.

To Hope Joline La Fave and Kathy Hodge: You two never give up. You amaze me with your dedication. I think you truly believe we can save them all and because of you we save so many. May you be proud every night when your head hits the pillow. Thank you for your personal support of me- you have no idea the difference it has made. Look in the eyes of the babies we have saved together; it will give you some idea.

I am realizing that this list would never end….. to the people that supported Samadhi this year with their hard earned money: Tamara Diedrichs: Baby wouldn’t have the life she has if it wasn’t for you- two vets told us to put her to sleep because she was so neglected and damaged- now she is having an amazing life, Mandy Le Roux- You are Deja’s fairy God Mother- I don’t know if I can express what it means that you chose her- she is a magical girl and now is going to live a charmed life- that isn’t the way it was destined to end- I hope someday you can meet her and that I can meet you, Kat Trabert, you never stop giving- you are amazing and a life saver, literally; Virginia Ng & John Hon, you are two of the most generous people I know. I wish you could meet all of the babies you helped to feed. Eddie Chang, your belief in my vision and your support in every way is immeasurable: Sometimes I feel you are the voice of my father (even though too young to be) since he never knew about this vision of mine. Thank you for believing in me and for loving the pups as much as you do. Howard Taylor, your generous support and love of two very special dogs was destiny- it started a long time ago. Cindy Malloy, Lori Wheaton, Lori Dunn, Mark Rolnick, Nancy Cantor, Lisa Francis, Ida Ferraz, Lori Dunn, Donnie Graves, Jeremy Cornwell, Lori Dunn, Melinda York, Jerry Brainum, Donna Reames, Kim Blair (and others I am afraid that I am forgetting, but I will never post this letter if I don’t risk that. Please feel free to remind me by pm if you have donated regularly)- There are 51 hearts beating and tails wagging because of you.

To all of the people that pledged on and paid their pledges for one of the 51 dogs I rescued this year- the difference you make, whether you pledge $3. or $100 can’t be spoken. You save the ones that cannot save themselves with your generosity. To all the people who have adopted my dogs: You are the cream of the crop- truly, I could not have asked for better guardians. If the world was filled with people like you, I would have to find something else to do. May that day come soon.

In the end, we are all doing something impossible and heartbreakingly inadequate. We know we are headed for grief every day of our lives, for failure that ends in the highest price paid. We are picking snowflakes out of a blizzard and calling it success. We are perhaps insane in our level of commitment and undying belief that one snowflake matters in this whole mess of a storm. We lose more than win. We are in a battle against all odds and reason. But we never give up and never stop playing. And one dog at a time, we say that we will speak for the voiceless and the ones that are at our mercy. I couldn’t be more honored to walk in the blazing path you all have made. May the foundation I created do you all justice. You are warriors. You are nothing less than angels.