By Melany Ruiz
On a Sunday afternoon in May, Kandace Kuwahara found herself at a Torrance park, under a warm sunny sky and teaching a Pet Care and Dog Safety Class. Her student-audience was a group of kindergartners and first-graders.
For Kuwahara, founder of Infinite Love Animal Rescue in Gardena, this was her first instructional class since before the pandemic shutdown of 15 months ago.
What a difference a year makes.
The young students were members of the Torrance Girl Scout Troop 5365. They were in attendance to learn about animal care while earning one of three Scout awards for their adventure.
The 45-minutes class included visual aids to keep the youngsters engaged.
For the class, Kuwahara said she was working with a familiar dog, Penny Iwata — which was one of her rescue pets.
“Whenever I bring a dog to class, (students’) eyes light up,” Kuwhara said.
Kent Iwata, 62, brought Penny all the way from Santa Clarita for the class demonstration.
“It was my way to pay [the rescue] back, if it helped the kids, you know, go for it,” Iwata said.
He adopted Penny two months ago when he was looking for a companion.
“I knew that was the dog I wanted,” he said. “I loved her personality. She’s really a people dog.”
Iwata chose to adopt from Infinite Love, rather than an animal shelter in Santa Clarita because Kuwahara was more responsive and flexible with dogs.
Shelters in Iwata’s area are required to pick out a specific dog from their website and have a trial run with the pet for 10 days before adopting. Penny is an older miniature pinscher mix, and Iwata didn’t hesitate making the drive to adopt her.
“The neighborhood kids come by, and I can hear them go ‘Penny! Penny!’ We go everywhere together,” Iwata said.
Initially, Kuwahara was going to offer more classes in the South Bay. Some of the classes she wanted to provide were pet overpopulation, dog-bite Prevention for postal workers, and careers with animals.
She also scheduled an elder care facility for an animal therapy workshop before the pandemic.
“I just wanted to bring joy to the nursing homes,” Kuwahara said. “There are studies that show that animals increase happiness.”
Kuwahara gained teaching experience with the Humane Educator in the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (SPCA LA).
“I had so many goals for 2020, and none of them were fulfilled.”
The inspiration to create her Gardena-based rescue started with her pet dog Boo, who she called her “soulmate.” Boo died in 2015.
“I wanted to do something in his name,” Kuwahara says.
Infinite Love was built with Kuwhara’s own blood, sweat, and tears. She was not working when she started to develop her animal rescue from scratch.
“I wanted to fulfill my own entrepreneurial spirit,” she said. “At that time, I was fostering for other rescues; I wanted to incorporate that for my own rescue.”
Starting up a website from scratch and updating social media daily on her own, Kuwahara released Infinite Love in 2017.
She has always been connected with animals since her youth because they brought her comfort when she was bullied throughout middle school and high school,
“I think I resonated more with animals because they were kinder, more compassionate. I could unconditionally love them,” Kuwahara said.
Since then, she has fostered and volunteered in local animal rescues and shelters for the past 20 years. Throughout that time, Kuwahara has fostered more than 80 animals.
Initially, the rescue was solely for dogs, but Kuwahara expanded her rescue to include cats in January of this year. She recently fostered a pregnant cat.
“She had six kittens under my bed; that was beautiful,” she said. “I can’t even explain how much it opened my heart to see them open their eyes for the first time.”
After the state lifted various safety mandates on June 15, she has been slowly returning to her pre-pandemic routines.
Currently, Kuwahara can only take in small dogs under 25 pounds and cats and is looking for foster parents. She now has two fosters and wants to have at least five to seven to take in more pets as she receives more rescues.
“I’m the backup foster and I can’t take them all in,” Kuwahara said. “If I can’t take them in this house, then I don’t want to bring them to the rescue because it’s such a big responsibility.”
Her goal is to recruit about 20 volunteers, who would be responsible for picking up pets and transporting them to fosters, as well as helping out during fundraising events.
Infinite Love is looking to have the Fur Baby Love Fest Fundraising event in September, but needs volunteers to help her find a venue and plan an event.
“It’s kind of challenging because it’s everything,” Kuwahara said, “I have to pick the dogs, transport the dogs, [provide medical expenses for dogs], I do the social media, graphics and finances.”
Infinite Love is working on its 110th rescue and just had a kitten adopted by one of her high school friends. The rescue relies on donations from people, foster volunteers, and services led by Kuwahara.
Any donations, volunteers, and fosters for the rescue are greatly appreciated, Kuwahara said.
For more information, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow on Instagram: @InfiniteLoveRescue