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November 18, 2015 06:54 PM

Turns out, not all pranks are cruel. 

Sherri Stankewitz, founder of West Coast Animal Rescue, a non-profit shelter she operates, has devoted her life to helping abandoned animals, often senior or abused dogs, find happy homes. 

“Whether they’re four months old or 12 years old, I love them all the same. They’re like my family — and same with the volunteers,” Stankewitz said to cameras, which she thought were filming her for a fundraising video. In reality, friends and family had teamed up months ago to plan making her upcoming adoption event a huge success — and one of the biggest surprises of her life. 

“Sherri is amazing — she puts her entire life into this rescue. She hasn’t had a vacation in years,” said Susan Hemmerich-Wetmore, a close friend and former West Coast volunteer, who flew from San Diego to Texas just for the surprise. “I would just love to see her get the help and recognition she deserves.”

Because the shelter doesn’t euthanize any of the dogs, West Coast Animal Rescue experiences overcrowding, and resources are spread thin — which is why adoption events are essential. 

“On a great day, five to ten adoptions would be amazing,” Stankewitz says.

After Stankewitz and her group of volunteers bring all the dogs to the event, a phony “Pet Investigator” pulls up and claims she has over the legal limit of dogs, and that they’ll have to get rid of them in an hour. 

Stankewitz, the only one not in on the surprise, is distraught. (This is still a prank, guys. Stressing out is part of the process.)

Then comes the reveal: The “Pet Investigator” tells Stankewitz that they had found pre-approved families to adopt every single one of her dogs. Cue the tears. 

“It’s been a long journey for some of the dogs that have been with us for such a long time. They’re like my kids. I hope they have a happy, healthy life, and we continue to rescue more,” she says. 

The surprise doesn’t stop there. Stankewitz is told that West Coast’s utilities bills will be payed for a year — and that she’ll be receiving an all-expenses-paid vacation to Aruba. Cue more tears. 

“I don’t even know where that is!”

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