CASA GRANDE — After a trip to her hometown in Wellington, Kansas, Casa Grande resident Shelley Pooler has a new best friend — a black Labrador retriever named Katie.

And it took lots of moving parts, a plane ride and several volunteers to bring the dog from Kansas to Casa Grande.

Pooler runs Girl With A Black Dog, a nonprofit organization in which she sells pet-theme T-shirts, clothing and other items to raise money for animal shelters.

In May, when she visited the animal shelter in Wellington, she learned of a dog named Katie in need of a good home.

“Her story was sad,” Pooler said. “In January her elderly owners had passed away. Unfortunately no other family members wanted this sweet soul, so Katie was dumped at the local pound.”

At 8 years old, the odds of Katie being adopted were not good.

Senior dogs have an adoption rate of only 25% while younger dogs have an adoption rate of about 60%, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website.

“Unfortunately for Katie, a lot of people don’t adopt senior dogs, and it’s a known fact that black dogs are less likely to be adopted as opposed to other colors,” Pooler said.

As the months in the shelter went on, Katie became depressed.

“She was so confused as to why her world had been turned upside down. She had been her owners’ pride and joy and lived her eight years of life being by their side,” Pooler said.

When Pooler visited the animal shelter to see how her nonprofit could help them, she had no intention of adopting a dog.

But as she left the shelter and headed back home to Arizona, Pooler could not stop thinking about Katie and her story.

She went online and filled out the adoption application to bring Katie home to Casa Grande.

“Her story broke my heart and I knew I could give her a wonderful life,” she said.

She considered making the 36-hour round trip car trek back to Kansas to pick up Katie and drive her home, but an internet search led her to Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit organization that pairs private pilots with animals needing transport.

A volunteer with Pilots N Paws agreed to fly Katie from Kansas to Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

A friend in Santa Rosa met the pilot to pick up Katie and drove her to Socorro, New Mexico, where Pooler picked her up.

The story of Katie’s cross-country trek to her new home was covered by Wichita media, Pooler said.

“Our sweet girl who no one seemed to want, all of the sudden became a super star. It was a magical day and I am forever grateful for everyone who had a hand in Katie’s journey. I wholeheartedly believe she was meant for me and me for her,” Pooler said.

Pooler started Girl With A Black Dog earlier this year in honor of her previous dog of 10 years, who died due to bone cancer in 2020.

Pooler had adopted Tatum, a black lab mix, from a Kansas shelter as a puppy.

“In his short life, he had been dumped at the shelter twice,” Pooler said. “Dogs and cats end up in shelters when people fail them. There’s nothing wrong with the animal but I couldn’t imagine what he must have felt.”

Whenever she took Tatum on walks or hikes, she became known as the “girl with a black dog.”

Every item sold by Girl With A Black Dog includes a message aimed at inspiring others to give shelter dogs a chance.

“Thank you for supporting Girl With A Black Dog,” the message on the clothing says. “My dream has always been to find a way to give back and save shelter pets. Girl With A Black Dog’s mission allows my beloved Tatum’s legacy to live on while giving hope, love and second chances to homeless animals because he was one once too. My hope is you will wear our brand with pride and share our mission far and wide.”

Katie is also a black dog.

“She is an absolute perfect girl and I love her more than I knew was possible. It feels as though we have been together from the beginning and I pray we have many, many wonderful years together,” Pooler said.

Pooler said Katie is settling into her new home in Casa Grande.

“Maybe it’s just her sweet personality, but I like to think she knew she was finally home and would be loved forever. She is absolutely the perfect dog, I swear my Tatum and God hand-picked her for me,” Pooler said.

By sharing her story, Pooler hopes to encourage others to consider adopting senior dogs and other animals that may be overlooked in animal shelters.

“I hope Katie’s story saves a life,” she said. “And out-of-state adoptions are possible. Resources are available and most likely transports can be arranged.”

More information about the organization is available on its Facebook page, found under Girl With A Black Dog or its website,