ENCINITAS — A sign above Larry Abgarian’s computer says it all: “Heaven’s the place where all the dogs you’ve ever loved come to greet you.”
He won’t know if it’s true until he dies himself. When that day comes, his sister has been instructed to bury his remains with those of the dogs he’s loved and lost.
Abgarian is more than a sentimentalist. He’s a man of action who has spent almost 20 years rescuing dogs from San Diego to Lake Elsinore. Some are brought back to his Olivenhain home. Others are boarded at kennels until he can find a suitable home.
Abgarian’s dogs come in all sizes, from Chihuahuas to German shepherds, and all the mixed breeds between.
Some are frisky. Others are brought home to die with dignity and love.
One was a deaf and blind poodle he came across when the Carlsbad shelter was being renovated several years ago.
“The door of the kennel touched him and he didn’t move,” Abgarian remembers. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s dead.”
Abgarian got permission to take the pup to the shelter vet who advised him that she didn’t think that he’d make it through the night. He took the dog home, named him Frosty and surprised everyone when he got him walking again. He nurtured Frosty until he died two weeks later.
Another blind and deaf poodle was more fortunate.
“I told Friends of County Animal Shelters (FOCAS) that I wanted to take him home,” Abgarian said. “Then I had him groomed. He went from a matted mess to a little prince.”
Abgarian named the pup “Golf Ball.” He took him on outings tucked in a baby’s knapsack that he wore on his chest. The world’s luckiest poodle became a celebrity when he was featured on Channel 8 News.
Golf Ball lived another four years, impressive considering he was estimated to be 20 at the time of his death.
Today, Abgarian’s family consists of two cats, Larry, Jr. and Jessie. He’s also got Cody, a 13-year-old German shepherd mix he rescued through the Safe House program at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society. Cody is best friends with Rosie, 11, an English bulldog who belonged to a friend of Abgarian’s who died last year.
Although Abgarian works with several rescue groups, he’s particularly active with Coastal German Shepherd Rescue. In addition to fostering dogs from the Animal Rescue Resource Foundation, or ARRF, Abgarian maintains the website which includes photographing and writing bios for the animals.
Currently Abgarian is fostering two pairs of rescue dogs he’ll only adopt together.
Wendy is a white German shepherd he placed temporarily at a kennel in San Marcos last year. She led him and his team in a pursuit that took them from Elfin Forest to the Palomar Business Park north across Highway 78, where she was found exhausted in the bed of a stranger in a home behind Palomar College.
Today Wendy in housed in a kennel at Abgarian’s home with Teddy, a homeless malamute who lived outside a warehouse in San Marcos. This spring Teddy took second place in the “Most Handsome” dog competition, part of the 2010 Ugly Dog contest, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Recently Abgarian brought Titan, a young pitbull mix, home from the Carlsbad shelter the day he was scheduled for euthanasia. He’s become fast friends with Chloe, a Chihuahua mix. The two will only be adopted together.
Each of Abgarian’s animals enjoys a privileged life that includes a television with the channel set to Animal Planet.
Abgarian makes no excuses for his dedication to man’s best friend.
“I think it’s in my DNA,” he said. “Dogs have gotten me through tough times. At one point I got down to one and the house was so empty.”
He adds, “It’s wonderful to know you can save a life.”
These days Abgarian’s biggest concern is for Rusty, an older German shepherd mix housed at a kennel for several months who needs a home without other pets.
“When he looks at you with those deep, soulful eyes, he’ll make your heart melt!” he wrote in his bio. “Rusty likes morning and evening walks, and spending lazy afternoons lounging at home.”
For information about adopting Rusty, call (760) 230-2780.