Staying in touch: Palm Springs-based support group aims to help elderly, disabled remain connected with animal companions

A random meeting in the dog park turned into a friendship, as well as an idea for community service.

A random meeting in the dog park turned into a friendship, as well as an idea for community service.

“I met Dawn at the park, and we started to visit,” said John Moore. Later, a story she told him planted a seed in his brain — and in his heart.

“She told me she was walking her rescue dog, Gracie, when she ran into an older gentleman,” John explained.

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The man called Gracie by name and, curious as to how he knew the dog’s name, Dawn struck up a conversation with the man.

“As it turns out, he had surrendered his dog to the shelter because he got sick and could not care for her,” John relayed. “He told Dawn it was the most difficult decision he had ever made.”

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Dawn and the man formed a friendship, and she began taking Gracie to visit her former owner, Bud.

“I couldn’t help but think of the peace of mind this gave him,” John said. “What a gift.”

When Dawn lost her dog, Logan, recently, a light turned on in John’s head and prompted him to start a Facebook page called “The Dawn Of A New Day,” for people in the Palm Springs area. The idea is to assist persons who are elderly or disabled in the care of their pets when they are unable to do so themselves.

Dawn Austin provided a new loving home for Gracie, who still gets to visit with her former human companion, Bud.

John grew up on a dairy farm in Mississippi, “with every animal imaginable,” he laughed. This allowed him to get to know animals on a deep level and learn to love and care for them.

When his mother died about two years ago, he continued to try to honor her through his actions by helping those in need; however, it wasn’t until he spoke to Dawn at the dog park that he came up with the idea to form a local support group to help those with pet needs.

“Because of the COVID pandemic and the fact my mom was in a nursing facility, I was not able to see her regularly at the end of her life,” John said. “I have always been a mama’s boy and I wanted to please her — I think this would have pleased her very much.”

John and his business-partner husband, Ryan, care for two rescue dogs, and he said he knows how much a part of their family their four-legged friends are.

“I’m a 49-year-old grown man, but one of our dogs almost died recently, and let me tell you, it nearly broke me,” he said.

The Dawn Of A New Day will help pair people who want to help with those who need help. John said he will first assess the situation and see how a person can best be assisted, then pair them with a helper.

John Moore (left) and husband Ryan Cummings are no strangers to rescue dogs. They currently care for two of them.

“The first goal is to support them so they can safely keep their pets in their home,” he explained. This may mean helping purchase food, paying veterinary bills or helping with walking animals.

As he knows how much people love their pets, removing them would be a last resort.

“If someone has to move into a facility where animals are not allowed, or they are just too sick to care for a pet, even if it’s just for a certain amount of time, then that will be evaluated,” he said. At that time, fostering and/or adopting and visitations would be set up.

“Besides keeping the animal in a person’s home, the goal is to maintain the relationship and keep the animal in the person’s life,” he said.

Dawn, for whom the support group/community service organization is named, will also be involved and John said she was honored that her experience prompted this idea.

John reiterated that this is a voluntary effort, with no money exchanged.

“This is a community service to help those in need, and I know that we live in such a caring and giving community,” he said. “I hope we can make life just a little bit easier on this planet for people and their pets for as long as we can.”

More information: To volunteer, like The Dawn Of A New Day on Facebook, or call or text John directly at 760-774-9614.

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