BODFISH, Calif. — Robbie Miller says about 20 years ago, his life was very different.
“I had a broken family. I went to the streets. I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I got involved in gangs and violence and drugs,” said Miller.
He says eventually wrong turns and bad decisions led to time behind bars.
“I got locked up for armed robbery where i did 12 years in prison," said Ridgecrest. “I was doing my time and the first 9 years I was caught up with all the prison politics.”
But towards the end of his sentence, he says he had a chance of heart.
“The last three years I just got sick and tired of living that lifestyle and started going to church and getting my heart right.”
Robbie says he wasn't sure exactly what life after prison would look like, but he knew he wanted a dog. After 12 years behind bars, Robbie was released in 2014 and went to live with family in Kern County. He says the transition was not easy.
“When you get out of the penitentiary, you are all tatted up and you feel people are judging you even though they might not be." said Robbie. "They see you and you think are going to get treated different.”
Robbie soon learned about Shadow, a dog rescued through Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue.
“Shadow was locked in a cage in Ridgecrest and they shot her when she was in a crate dumped in a desert. So when I read her story I related to her about being in a cage,” said Robbie.
Robbie said it was because of Shadow that emotions were resurfacing that he had not experienced since before he served time.
“Compassion, love, that was all out the window because if you show weakness in there, people thrive off of it,” said Robbie. “When you go to the penitentiary in your twenties and miss your whole twenties, there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t understand when I got out because those are some of the most important years turning into an adult.”
After he stood by Shadow's side as she underwent a life-saving surgery, Robbie says he was inspired by her strength.
“There was a 40 caliber bullet launched in her lungs about a centimeter from her heart. So they actually had to crack her open, remove part of her lung and she is still here today but she went through a lot to survive,” said Robbie.
It wasn't long before his love for Shadow grew into something more. After working with Marley's Mutts and a dog sanctuary in Oklahoma where he learned to treat dogs, Robbie founded a dog rescue of his own.
Strength of Shadow or SOS Dog Rescue is based out of Bodfish. In the last year and a half, they have worked with about 80 dogs.
“At SOS, what we do is we pull from high-kill shelters in Kern County only. We rescue them. We do their medical work and try to get them their basic training like crate training, and leash walking," said Robbie. “They all have their own issues and a lot of times it just takes a little patience, a little TLC and you can get them through."
Robbie says from SOS Rescue, dogs have gone on to find their 'furever' homes with loving families, veterans in need of companionship, and even to star in national commercials. He says Shadow changed his life and now he's been able to pay that forward to dozens of adoption families.
“To be a founder of a non-profit and giving back into the community and changing people’s lives on a daily basis and dogs, I never thought that it was possible to just give back," said Robbie. "Before I was just taking from the world. Every day I was giving people their first addiction, I was robbing people and now everyday I am making the world a better place with my team.”