Two women unleash compassion for dogs in crisis


At our house, all it takes are two simple words—dog park—to send our dog, Callie, scrabbling across the wood floor toward the front door. We can’t get out to the car fast enough. Georgetown’s dog park, Bark Park, is her favorite place in the world. The six-acre, off-leash park is full of pecan trees that, to many dogs’ delight, harbor chittering, taunting squirrels. And then there are all Callie’s friends, dog park regulars that she chases and cavorts with until she’s plumb worn out. (That’s the idea.)

The funny thing about the dog park is that everyone there goes by their pets’ names. I’m “Callie’s mom.” Other people are “Layla’s dad,” “Max’s person,” and “Little Bear’s and Betty’s people.” Recently, however, I asked the real names of two ladies that I met months ago at the park. Once I got their names, I realized that I’d been walking the perimeter of the park, squeezing in some exercise, with angels. Both women had swooped in like winged saviors when dogs in trouble needed them. If not for them, those dogs might not be alive and well.

Gila’s Gang

When Gila Craig arrives at the park, four dogs trail happily behind her. Three of the dogs, however, weren’t always so happy. When Gila and her husband, Doug, moved to the Georgetown area in 2004, they went to Town Lake Animal Shelter seeking a companion for Kylie, their yellow Lab. “One of the dogs caught my eye because she was doing backflips in the kennel,” Gila says. Despite being caged with dozens of other dogs, Ally, a black Lab mix, was exuberant. Of course the Craigs took her home. But they didn’t stop there.

In 2007 in Montana, they found Sam, a white Dachshund, among dozens of dogs hoarded by an elderly woman. “Sam had spent most of his life locked in a crate with several other dogs,” Gila says. “He was malnourished and nearly bald, and his tail had multiple fractures. He was deathly afraid of people.” Now, Sam toodles along behind Gila, occasionally barking at people and dogs, but healthy and well loved.

Lady, a black Lab, was “curled up and cowering” in a cage when the Craigs spotted her on an adoption day outside a Round Rock PetSmart in 2011. “We knew she was a dog with a great personality; it was just buried beneath a mountain of fear,” Gila says. They adopted her and have spent a year gently training Lady to overcome her fears. Now, she tentatively takes treats from people at the park. She’s come a long, long way.

The Tolinger Twins

When Jill Trolinger lost her dog, Murphy, to old age in 2006, she was bereft—and afraid to get attached to another dog. Six jet-black, month-old puppies in a sack changed that. In 2010 she got a call asking if she’d foster a couple of the puppies, which had been abandoned in a field. Jill remembers seeing the “three- to five-pound babies scared to death and covered in feces” for the first time. Somehow she ended up fostering all six.  “When I got home, I thought, ‘Uh, oh, what am I going to do with all these puppies?’” Jill says. “I ended up getting a big crate and a few play yards and setting them up in the kitchen. They were too young to be housebroken, so for weeks my life was all about cleanup and puppy love.” But, she adds with a big smile, “I realized how much happier I was.”

Jill helped find homes for all the puppies except two, which she kept. The two black Lab/Great Dane mix twins, Zach and Dobby, now patrol the dog park for squirrels. Thanks to Jill, they’re alive to do so.

Gila and Jill are just two angels at the dog park. I have a hunch that, if I start asking, I’ll find more—many more.

By Meg Moring
Photos by Rudy Ximenez

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