Giving the dogs some of her sweet time

Courtesy Tasha Wells, Office of the President

A longtime dog lover, UM President Donna Shalala could not resist when she saw Sweetie’s heart-wrenching story on the internet.

“She had been beaten and abandoned,” Shalala said in a recent interview.

Sweetie, a 6-year-old collie-cocker spaniel-poodle mix, ended up in the dog pound in 2003, where the staff and volunteers quickly took a liking to her. They kept trying to find her a home.

Several months later, along came Shalala, who was looking for another pet after her 14-year-old Portuguese water dog, Cheka, had died.

She recalled the first time she saw Sweetie. When she and a friend went to visit the dog at Friends Forever Rescue, Sweetie jumped up into her friend’s lap. Shalala said at that moment she knew it was the dog for her.

“Sweetie is a street dog, a survivor, scrappy, tough and very smart,” she said. “My kind of dog.”

Now Sweetie often accompanies Shalala to work in the Ashe Building on Saturdays. During the week, the dog stays back at the president’s residence on Old Cutler Road and hangs out with the gardeners.

Shalala’s interest in canines has led her to volunteer with local rescue organizations such as Friends Forever and the Humane Society of Greater Miami, which is hosting the 2010 Purina Walk for the Animals on Saturday morning at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. The walk will benefit the society’s Adopt-A-Pet program.

As much as she loves dogs, Shalala said in the interview that she does not recommend that students take on the responsibility of having a pet while in college.

Rebecca Zimmer may be contacted at