Fostering Hope 5

How Watching Dogs Blossom into Beloved Family Pets Inspired One Valley Resident

For as long as she can remember, Denise Batistelli has loved animals. Looking back, she credits her grandmother for fostering her interest in four-legged creatures.

“She would rescue stray dogs and cats out of the middle of six-lane highways in Southern California,” says Batistelli.

In 2007, she began volunteering for the Arizona Humane Society as a dog walker and as a foster parent for medical need dogs. After deciding to focus her volunteering energy on no-kill rescues, Batistelli discovered Arizona Small Dog Rescue (AZSDR), a Phoenix-based no-kill, non-profit that’s devoted to rescuing dogs and cats.

“I actively started fostering and volunteering with the Arizona Small Dog Rescue in August 2014, after I rescued a young puppy that was being given away for free on the app ‘OfferUp,’ says Batistelli.

Because she knows that the biggest sustainability factor for a small, non-government assisted 501c3 like Arizona Small Dog Rescue is the donations from and the good will of the community surrounding it, Batistelli began hosting several fundraising events for the shelter.

“In September 2015, with the Arizona Small Dog Rescue under new management, I accepted a position on the Board as their Fundraising Chair,” she says.

In addition to constantly looking for new ways to generate funds to keep AZSDR’s doors open so the rescue can continue its mission, Batistelli fosters both puppies and many of the rescue’s long term medical dogs. She is the proud mom of three rescue dogs, Zoe, Charlie and Rudy, a 16-year-old cat named Diablo, who she rescued as a kitten, and three lovebirds.

The most rewarding part of volunteering with AZSDR, Batistelli says, are the connections that she has made with the animals, and with the other wonderful, like-minded people that volunteer alongside her.

“I also find it very fulfilling to watch dogs that have lost hope and trust in humans, and are sick or injured, blossom into loving, playful, normal pups that go on to become wonderful family members and companions for others,” she says. “Of course, happy tears flow whenever a foster finds their new family.”

While Batistelli puts in a lot of time volunteering for AZSDR, she says there are plenty of spots for people who have just an hour or two each week or month to volunteer. This includes helping bathe dogs on Saturday mornings before adoption events, or spending a couple of hours helping take care of and walk the dogs at the shelter location. Older kids and teens who want to help out at AZSDR are definitely able to do so, too.

“We also offer two volunteer training classes a month at our shelter location, and we welcome our young rescuers between the ages of 10 to 18 to get involved, under the supervision of a parent or legal guardian, who are required to volunteer with them,” she says.

“The only thing that is required to volunteer is the desire to do something for the greater good; for that one thing that you are passionate about. For me, that is animal rescue and being the voice for those who do not have one.”

For more information on Arizona Small Dog Rescue, please call 602.944.2440 or visit