Every six weeks, volunteers gather in Fresno, California, to load several dozen chihuahuas on a plane going to frigid St. Paul, Minnesota. While the long months of freezing temperatures may not seem ideal for a dog usually found in warmer climes, there is something very important waiting for them—families with forever homes.

The weather will certainly be a shock to the tiny canines, but so will the unconditional love they receive. Many chihuahuas live in shelters, unable to find a home in California, where the dogs are common. Once the pups arrive in Minnesota, eager dog lovers snap them up, sometimes in a matter of hours.

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KVPR

University of California–Davis veterinarian Cindy Karsten came up with the idea for the program after noticing the extreme backlog of chihuahuas waiting to be adopted. Karsten is from the Midwest and knew there was a higher demand for teacup pups like chihuahuas there.

Karsten told KNPR News, “The whole reason it started is because I was at Clovis, and they had some chihuahuas that have been here over a year, and I was like, ‘this is insane.’” Karsten started figuring out the logistics, and soon Compassion Without Borders started doing their good work.

Costs are kept to a minimum by supplying all labor through volunteers. Veterinarians check the dogs extensively, as the breed often has eye, teeth, and heart issues. The dogs’ temperaments must also be evaluated before they can safely travel and be adopted. Volunteers drive the dogs to the airport and unload them for transport. The dogs fly in cargo, which only costs $60 per dog.

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KVPR

Once the dogs arrive in Minnesota, volunteers take them to local shelters like the Humane Society in Golden Valley. The average wait until adoption for the California chihuahuas is three days as compared with a 10 to 12 day average for the other breeds in the shelter.

Analise Ludwig was one of the chihuahua-loving Minnesotans to jump at the opportunity to own a California pup. She and her husband Nic adopted three California chihuahuas—Señor Pico, Lovella, and Sally T.

Ludwig told KVPR News that her husband “was even given the job of standing outside the humane society on a blistering cold day to make sure that we were the first people to get an opportunity to adopt Sally T because I had already fallen in love with her.”

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KVPR

Imagine going from a place where no one wanted you to a new place where people were waiting in below-zero temperatures just for the chance to adopt you. That kind of love is why we’re not worried about the chihuahuas adjusting to the cold. With a warm home and a family who loves you, even the coldest blizzard can’t reach you.

Brenda Mitchell is the other founder of Compassion Without Borders. She says that knowing that the chihuahuas are adopted into loving homes makes it easier to say goodbye to them.

Mitchell says, “It’s quite a production to load up 40 chihuahuas and fly them across the country, but it’s always wonderful to load ‘em up and see ‘em go and then to see the happy faces on the other end from the wonderful people there.”

If Mitchell and Karsten hadn’t started Compassion Without Borders, these happy families would never have come together. With a lot of love and hard work from volunteers and a little money donated by the public, this organization is changing lives in California and in Minnesota.

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This beautiful story of uniting unwanted dogs with loving families just goes to show what a tremendously positive impact you can have on others’ lives if you have the determination. If you love what Compassion Without Borders is doing, you can donate to their cause here.

In the meantime, we hope all of the chihuahuas going from the San Joaquin Valley to Golden Valley have a smooth trip to their forever homes. Life is about to get good!