If you ran into Samira Tapia in any situation, whether through her residential real estate business, at a dog park or volunteering with a local dog rescue organization, you would instinctively know: this is a woman who is deeply passionate about dogs. Her enthusiasm for rescuing animals and her love for the husky breed squeezes its way into even the most casual conversation; she pays adoption fees for her clients; and, just a glance at her social media feeds tells you that she’s very much involved in the Los Angeles rescue community, where she resides.
So, you’d probably be quite surprised to know that Samira is incredibly allergic to dogs! In fact, her allergies would probably be a show-stopper for even the most big-hearted among us, but Samira has found several strategies to manage her allergies. This allows her to do something she fell in love with many years ago: volunteering, fostering and adopting big, fluffy, energetic huskies.
When dog adoption and severe dog allergies collide
“I do have a severe dog allergy,” Samira said. “We had always wanted to adopt, but we worked long hours and were also working on our house. One of our neighbors had a husky. We would walk the dog all the time, and we’d take her for hikes. And then it dawned us on us. If we can handle this dog, then we can probably handle adopting one for ourselves, too.”
An allergist gave Samira guidelines for how to live with a dog while navigating the complexities of her allergy. For example, it was suggested that she have zero carpeting in the house, take a shower every night to wash the allergies off before bed, wash hands after handling the dogs, etc. She’s also on medication. That first week she had her dog, she lost her voice completely; with every new foster animal that she takes in, her allergies do flare up again.
Hooked on huskies
“We would always go hiking at Runyon Canyon, and we’d ask people what kind of dog they had,” Samira reflected. “And we always loved huskies, but we heard how crazy they can be. But the first thing I did when I wanted to adopt was contact a local rescue organization and volunteer with huskies. Then I realized that we could totally handle it.”
Samira said many huskies in shelters are about one-year old. This is because huskies tend to go from being a very cuddly, teddy-bear animal and then right around age one, they become incredibly active. They demand a heck of a lot of training, they don’t listen well, and they need a lot of patience. (Samira likened it to their teenage years).
“Having a husky is like having a hobby. It’s not a pet,” Samira said. “It’s just going to be more work than a lab or a golden retriever.” She noted that in Southern California alone, 300-500 huskies make their way through the shelter system—and that’s just in a single month.
If you do love huskies, and you want a “lazy” one, then Samira suggested you try a foster-to-adopt approach. Get involved with a local rescue, take a dog home and test it out. See if it fits in with your lifestyle.
“It’s like dating before getting married. And more people should be prudent to make sure that a dog works with their lifestyle before officially adopting.”
To date, Samira’s adopted Chili (he’s now passed), a stray husky from Montana, Frosty, a female husky (also passed), and Skylie, her newest addition.
Why it’s all worth it
For Samira, adopting isn’t a one-time deal. She continues to volunteer at shelters (one of her favorites is Two Dog Farms, the only official Jindo rescue in the U.S.) When pressed about why she adopts and rescues – despite all the roadblocks standing in her path – Samira didn’t hesitate. She knows that the dog loves in her life have come to her because at some point, someone down the line rescued the dog first. They eventually ended up brightening Samira’s life and becoming a part of her permanent family.
She wants to pass on that feeling. She’s indebted to the service of those before her and she wants to pass on her good fortune.
“To know I have saved dogs and saved their lives, it’s an incredible feeling. I want to do that for others,” she said. “It’s a part of my life now.”
Photographs courtesy of Julie Shuford Photography