On a surprisingly sunny fall afternoon, I sit in unseasonably-comfortable weather, enjoying a crisp hard cider at Bend’s Midtown Yacht Club. I am there to meet with Stefanie Bolivar and her dog, Juniper, a Street Dog Hero rescue. It is a particularly special day for these two, as it is the eve of the first anniversary of Stefanie and the adoption of Juniper. We meet at this increasingly popular Bend taphouse not merely for the fine food and drink, but for the fond memories it brings for both Stephanie and Juniper. It was here, almost exactly one year ago, that these two first met.

Juniper arrives with Stephanie, in no hurry to get to their destination. She meanders happily back and forth between food carts, picnic tables, and smiling Bendites– now privy to her infectious demeanor. She and Stephanie join me at the picnic table, and Juniper immediately settles in with genuine excitement.

Juniper is a beautifully brindled orange and black boxer/pit mix and looks in perfect health. She was brought to Bend as a puppy alongside the “b litter”, a litter of her brothers and sisters, from the Cortez Rescue Group in los Barillas Mexico in 2021.

“She was about four months old when I took her home,” says Stefanie. “And I really lucked out with her. She is so easy and happy.” Juniper jumps at the opportunity to greet me. “Sorry, she just gets really excited,” adds Stefanie as she gently pulls Juniper’s paws from my legs.

As Stefanie fills a bowl of water for a grateful Juniper, she proceeds to tell me the story of exactly how they came to be in each other’s life.

“It was right here where we met, actually. I was kind of stalking her on Street Dog Hero’s Facebook page, and I knew she was going to be at Midtown for a Street Dog Hero bingo event. So I came down to make sure I could meet her.” She reaches down to rub Juniper’s head and continues. “Juniper was my first dog. Yeah I grew up with family dogs at home, but this was the first time I was getting a dog for ME. And for me, there was no other way! I had to adopt a Street Dog Hero dog.”

Juniper gets up to enthusiastically greet several other dogs curiously walking past our table. Stefanie watches her with admiration.

“The process was so seamless. Juniper literally had everything she already needed, as far as shots, etc. Street Dog Hero’s founder, Marianne, was there that night helping out with bingo. She introduced me to Juniper, and I immediately fell in love. I filled out the adoption application that night, and Marianne reviewed and approved it the next day. I walked away with Juniper in literally less than 24-hours.”

I proceed to ask her how it all went and whether the prospect of bringing home a puppy from the streets of Mexico was difficult.

“At first, she was nervous around men. But she quickly outgrew that and has had literally no other issues since.” Stefanie beams as she recounts their short history. “She’s so smart. She didn’t have any trouble acclimating to her new surroundings, even though she had only been in the U.S. for a few days. And she’s OBSESSED with other dogs. Even when they lunge at her, she tries so hard to make friends. She absolutely loves all creatures.” 

Stefanie pulls out a paper bag packed with delicious-looking dog treats and hands one to Juniper and the other dogs now joining us at our table. The treats are from Stefanie’s business, The Brindle Bakery. “She loves being a taste tester for my treats.”

Although Stefanie has a full-time job with St. Charles as a surgical technician, she finds time to follow her passion and love for animals with her new business of baking organic and gluten-free dog treats.

“I used to walk dogs professionally. It was hard work. And after I got Juniper, I wanted a job where I could stay home with her and still work with animals. So I created The Brindle Bakery. The name just kind of came to me!” she says, as she notices me admiring Juniper’s gorgeous, tiger-like brindle coloring.

“It’s all new to me,” Stefanie continues, “But I have always loved baking. My goal isn’t to grow the business into something massive. I want to keep it small and local. It’s all about organic, homemade dog treats. And I don’t want to get away from that.”

We are joined at our table by a couple who happen to be there for a foster-to-adopt meet up for a Street Dog Hero pup of their own. Juniper paws her way onto the lap of a new potential dog-parent who now shares the table with us. “She’s so pawsy and will actually hug you,” Stefanie says just as Juniper places her two front legs around the gentleman’s neck and lays her head on his shoulder.

“Right now, I only do the dog treats. But I’m considering adding cakes to my offerings. I’m making one tomorrow for Junie’s anniversary.” she says, with excitement in her eyes.

I sit quietly, listening to Stefanie tell her story. I can’t help but notice the pure love and admiration that graces her face when she talks about Juniper. It is plain to see that these two are truly happy to be in each other’s lives. As we close our afternoon together, I continue to reflect upon the happiness I see on both their faces. Being new to the Street Dog Hero team, I am still learning about what it is that we can achieve as a small, rag-tag nonprofit. In this instance, I realize this is what it is all for—bringing happiness to the lives of these animals and the people who seek their love.

You can find Stefanie (and maybe even Juniper!) at many of our events, offering samples of her doggo-goodies. Follow Stefanie’s journey as a small business owner on Instagram @thebrindlebakery.

Written by Kody Osborne