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Gone to the Dogs

When an ex-addict’s life had figuratively gone to the dogs, her path to self-improvement literally went to the dogs–dog rescue, that is.

Animal Shelter

Pali Boucher’s life has literally gone to the dogs. Of course, you could say it began that way too.

Pali is the founder—and prime pup protector—of Rocket Dog Rescue, a San Francisco-based all-volunteer organization that saves dogs from overcrowded shelters, where they might be put to sleep, and finds them loving homes. She’s known for taking on the hardest cases, dogs many would consider unadoptable because of their disabilities or behavioral or medical problems.

That’s because she can relate to their plight. Inside every troubled or ailing dog, Pali sees herself, or at least the person she used to be before she turned her life around: the street kid who became the drug-addicted adult written off by society. “My whole life I’ve been an underdog,” she says. “For me to be where I am today—to be productive, save lives and make things happen—it feels pretty amazing.”

Pali might never have escaped the streets or gotten clean and sober if it wasn’t for a canine companion. Even at her lowest, she’d befriend junkyard dogs and stop by animal shelters. On one visit, she met Leadbelly, a black and tan hound. He was baying mournfully, and Pali fell in love. She was homeless, in and out of jail—in no shape to take on a dog, but she couldn’t let him be put down. So she faked an address and adopted him.

Not long after that, Pali landed back behind bars. This time, though, she actually had someone to worry about, someone who was depending on her. The fear of losing Leadbelly spurred Pali to enter rehab the minute she was released. She says  taking care of Leadbelly taught her to take care of herself.

Sober, Pali got a job with an animal rescue group. But “the old dogs, the one-eyed dogs, the less desirable dogs” still went overlooked. She knew they just needed a chance, the kind of chance that had been given to her. Which is why she started Rocket Dog Rescue. “I can give animals an opportunity for a future,” she says. “It just feels so great to be doing good that carries out into the world.”

Pali’s Tips

1. Decide what’s important to you and make sure your needs are met.
Then take care of others.

2. Be honest with yourself.
You can’t overcome anything if you’re not willing to face it.

3. Keep your heart open.
You never know what gifts may be coming to you.

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