This tale is about coincidence and friendship, decisions, destiny and falling in love. As matchmaker and adoptive grandma Liz Bannon said proudly, “This was meant to be.”
At the center of it all is an entrancing bundle of feistiness named Honey, and how fate changed her life and the lives of the Cambrians who love her.
Honey is a nearly 4-month-old, 5-pound dog … a leprechaun in a Chihuahua costume.
Few dog adoptions have such an interwoven back story.
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Liz was a casual friend of Kathy and Bob Unger in the 1980s and 1990s, when they had separate businesses in Cambria’s historic East Village.
The Ungers, after more than three decades as high-intensity entrepreneurs at their Moonstones Gallery, closed their popular shop last year and began adapting to their newly, unfamiliarly sedate lifestyle as retirees.
Liz and husband Paul had restaurants in Cambria and Paso Robles. The Bannons moved from Cambria to Paso in 2004, after Paul got seriously ill. The Ungers and Bannons drifted apart. Sadly, Paul died later that year.
But, for the past 20 years, Liz also has rescued, fostered and personally placed more than 100 abandoned, mistreated or donated dogs. She kept a few rescue dogs of her own, including her current furry family members, Mister and the elderly Pinkie.
In 2013, Liz retired from the restaurants. Three years later, she moved back to Cambria.
Since then, the dog rescuer reconnected with the Ungers, and a deeper friendship blossomed.
Then Honey arrived.
The pup’s original owners had loved her (how could you not!), but told Liz they couldn’t take care of her as well as they wanted to or as well as she deserved. They regretfully gave Honey to the dog-rescue lady.
Liz posted Honey’s photo and story on Facebook. Almost immediately, six people wanted her, from as far away as Ventura. But Liz wasn’t really sure if she wanted to find a home for the pup or provide one.
By then, Liz knew that the Ungers were dancing around the edges of getting a dog, probably a big one like the ones they’d had years before, prior to having a seven-day-a-week retail business.
Kathy was enchanted by Honey. But Bob was more hesitant. “She scared me,” he said. “She was so small, so smart, so much a puppy.”
In the meantime, Liz decided to keep Honey herself, so the Ungers volunteered to be the dog’s godparents and occasional dogsitters.
The latter designation sealed the deal.
After two stints of having the tiny canine charmer in their home, both Ungers were goners, madly in love with the sprightly pup and her quirky sense of humor.
In fact, when Liz went to the Ungers’ house to pick up Honey after a 24-hour godparent dogsit, she found a sign on the door that said, “We left town, no forwarding address!”
Liz knew what was happening. Fate had intervened.
Honey spent another night at the Ungers’ house. Then, before church the next day, the Ungers regretfully gave Honey back to Liz.
But when Bob and Kathy left the service, Liz was sitting on the church stoop, holding the beguiling little creature. She had decided that “this dog and these people were meant for each other.”
Liz handed Honey to the Ungers, who still get teary-eyed when they remember that moment and the canine adoption that has changed their lives so much.
Now, not only does Honey have her forever home, and the Ungers have their new boss (nobody can order you around like a little dog!), but the three humans have adopted each other, big time.
The Ungers’ home and yard are veritable funhouses for the now-famous Honey. Liz visits often and checks in daily. And the queen of all she surveys prances around her new domain like a canine commander.
Kathy describes Honey as “a large dog in a tiny dog body” and “hell on paws, but she’s adorable, so who cares?” She adds, “Until we had Honey, we didn’t know how much we hadn’t been laughing.”
As a misty-eyed Liz watched Honey and the Ungers interact, she said quietly and proudly about the dog adoption she engineered — but which fate had decreed — “This pup landed herself a really good gig.”