New rescue group hopes to help both people and pets in need

Carmel Valley's Alix Smith recently started the Second Leash on Life dog rescue.

Carmel Valley’s Alix Smith has started her own dog rescue organization, Second Leash on Life. Along with adoptions, her mission is to train rescues to be service dogs that can be donated to veterans and children with special needs.

Second Leash recently took in Mama Mia and her four border collie-Jack Russell terrier mix puppies Aggie, Annie, Benny and Bjorn (named after the members of the band ABBA). Now nine weeks old, Aggie and Annie are the last of the supergroup who remain to be adopted as the rest have found forever homes.

She has also just rescued a German shepherd and a pug who were relinquished by their elderly owners who could no longer care for them.

“They’re really, really sweet dogs,” she said of Greta and Kona the pug, both seven years old.

Greta and Kona, available for adoption at Second Leash on Life.

Smith has been involved with local rescues for a long time, working as a dedicated foster mom. Through her time as a volunteer, she learned enough about rescue administration, behavior training and managing adoptions to decide to go out on her own this February. She recently received her 501c3 nonprofit status and has successfully rehomed seven dogs in her first official month.

She is just now starting to get the word out so she can get more foster support: “The more foster families that I have, the more dogs I can rescue,” she said.

The goal is to get as many dogs as possible into good, loving homes.

A well-known saying in the rescue world is “Who rescued who?” and for Smith’s family, it couldn’t be more true. Smith’s vision for Second Leash on Life was formed by her daughter Dakota’s experience with her rescue service dog April.

April came into the Smiths’ lives as foster fail: a loyal, one-year-old loyal basset-dachshund hound mix.

As Dakota struggled with severe anxiety, Smith had April trained in alert and response to seizures and panic attacks. The service dog accompanied Dakota to school every day at Carmel Del Mar, to sports games and other activities, helping to calm her down when she felt overwhelmed in social situations. Four years in, Smith said Dakota is doing amazing and April is still attending school with her at Learning Choice Academy charter school.

“She’s the face of my rescue,” Smith said of April. “April has completely changed that child’s life and that’s the thing that I want to do, I want to help other people.”

With Second Leash on Life, she is hoping to remove the barrier of cost that many people face when trying to get a service dog.

She plans to work with professional dog trainer Saheed Lawal, (who also trained April) who will offer discounted services to Second Leash to certify animals as service dogs or emotional support dogs.
Through fundraising, she hopes to be able to pair service and support dogs with people who are most in need.

Since getting started, Smith has made connections with local veterinarians, Facebook groups and the San Diego Humane Society as a rescue option for dogs in need. Unfortunately, there are always dogs in need.

“I feel like I can help,” Smith said. “You wish you could save all of them… you just do the best you can.”

To learn more about adoptable dogs or serve as a foster, visit