Your dog has several very important jobs: living alarm clock, kitchen floor clean-up crew, tear soother, bed warmer (official or not). But some pups in San Diego take things a step further, committing to careers that help kids, fight fires, and bring smiles on social media. We rounded up a crew of working dogs worth knowing. Here are 10 local canines that prove man’s best friend is also man’s best coworker.
Influencer with 30.1K followers
Even if you aren’t one of Luna’s 30,000 Instagram fans, you may have spotted hanging out the window of her human companion Angel Gomez’s van, rocking a pink pedicure, a tricked-out timepiece, and a sleek pair of Blenders sunglasses.
While Luna’s hilariously human pose comes naturally, her ensemble is the result of a few chance meetings. “One day, a little old man was yelling at us to put a watch on her wrist, and I did,” Gomez recalls. “Then, a guy in Ocean Beach suggested putting sunglasses on her because his dog got cataracts from too much sun. I reached into the glove box and told her, ‘You need to wear sunglasses, mama, to protect your eyes.’ The rest is history.”
Gomez and Luna’s history stretches back to 2010, when a friend brought the pitbull, then a puppy, to Gomez’s house.
“She was hiding inside his jacket. He came [to my] yard with this weird look on his face, and I asked him ‘Why do you look like that?’ He smiled and opened up his jacket […] and pulled out little Luna,” Gomez remembers. “When I picked her up, I looked at her eyes and she looked at me. That’s when I said, ‘You’re the one.’”
Gomez and Luna, now 14-years-old, have their cruising routine down—they start off by ordering a hot dog at Barrio Dogg, then they drive through downtown and end up in Old Town to grab a hot flour tortilla with butter. They finish the route at Sunset Cliffs to watch the sun go down.
Now, Gomez is dealing with Luna’s health issues—she has an enlarged heart and takes medication. A GoFundMe supporting her care has raised more than $2,000.
First Dog to the Mayor
It’s no coincidence that Diego shares his name with America’s Finest City: As Mayor Todd Gloria’s canine companion, he’s San Diego’s “first dog.”
With his DNA test showing that he’s 34.6 percent Chihuahua and 14.5 percent poodle, plus some distant pekingese, miniature schnauzer, miniature pinscher, pomeranian, and cocker spaniel relatives, Diego has a bit of the best of almost any small breed imaginable. The rescue pup is likely about 5 or 6 years old, though his exact age is unknown.
Gloria never thought he had enough time for a dog until Covid hit, says Todd Gloria spokesperson Kinsee Morlan.
“With both him and his partner spending a lot more time at home, they finally decided to foster a dog,” she recalls. “They reached out to the nonprofit dog rescue organization The Barking Lot, and volunteers there chose Diego for the mayor. It didn’t take long for them to decide to adopt Diego and give him his forever home.”
Though Diego spends most of his day chilling and napping, he does have a very important role as Gloria’s wingman during morning and evening walks. He waits patiently when residents recognize the mayor and stop him for a chat about potholes, parks, homelessness, housing, and other issues they care about.
“He’s a calm and quiet dog who only ever really barks in his sleep,” she says.
Diego will chow down on almost anything, but his favorite treats are bacon-wrapped Oinkies and Starbucks “pup cups” filled with whipped cream. He has a fascination with astroturf and can pass several happy hours pawing at the fake grass.
Hondo is a 4.5-year-old Belgian malinois who works with the San Diego Police Department as an intervention and apprehension dog—he helps officers arrest people who are resisting.
“Hondo is also a special response canine, meaning he has received many hours of SWAT training to go out on those missions,” says Ashley Nicholes, a spokesperson for the police department. “He currently is training in firearms detection to assist in recovering firearms that a suspect discards when fleeing from police.”
If you’re lucky, you may spot Hondo hanging out at public events such as hiring expos or helping with K-9 demonstrations at local schools. But in his off time, he enjoys the simpler things in life: a good nap and tug-of-war with his handler, officer Mitchel Tani.
“Hondo showed a high drive for police work early on, coupled with a very social temperament,” Nicholes says. “He is able to ride in an armored vehicle sitting on the laps of SWAT officers, but then knows he needs to go do his job to apprehend the suspect.”
A survivor of two stabbing incidents at work, he has since recovered with lots of support from the San Diego community and has returned to work with his partner.
Influencer with 74.9K followers
Instagram celebrity Mochi is a 2-year-old Maltese. His human, Winnie, got him after moving to San Diego with her family during Covid.
Winnie started Mochi’s Instagram as a fun way to chronicle his days. “I still think it’s funny when people refer to him as famous, because to us he’s just our crazy puppy,” she says. “His fame is a product of hard work and having a little bit of luck on his side. Plus he’s adorable, but of course I’m biased.”
Mochi loves the outdoors, just like his family. He rides along in a backpack carrier on hikes and hops on cars and planes to travel. So far, he’s been to four states and several national and state parks. But he’s also content to simply sunbathe in the yard, right here at home.
“He’ll ask to go outside, and I know if it’s a sunny day, I’ll have a hard time getting him to come back inside,” Winnie says.
Kumeyaay Lake Campground Ambassador
Twelve-and-a-half-year-old Alaskan Malamute Numa is the constant companion to Iiro Yrjola, the campground host at Mission Trails’ Kumeyaay Campground. Numa accompanies Yrjola as he checks on campsites.
But that’s not his only job. Numa has been trained to offer mobility, balance, and load assistance and provide medical alerts. A lifelong learner, he’s now practicing “nose work—tracking and finding things or people using his excellent ability to detect smells,” Yrjola says. “He loves … intellectual and mental challenges. Pretty much every day, [we play] hide-and-go seek either indoors or outdoors. He is a master of opening doors.”
When he’s clocked out, Numa enjoys meeting other dogs, hiking, and trotting next to bikes. Bred as a sled dog, he loves playing in snow and pulling Yrjola on an “urban mushing scooter.”
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department
English labrador Maddie Shadoan has been helping others all her life. The 3-year-old canine was raised in the Puppies Behind Bars program, which pairs dogs with incarcerated individuals who socialize, care for, and train the animals for around 24 months. Afterward, she attended the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives’ accelerant detection program, learning to sniff out ignitable liquids that may have been intentionally used at an arson fire scene.
She’s now employed by the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. “Maddie is a fantastic working dog,” says fire department spokesperson Monica Munoz. “She takes her work very seriously, but she also loves to play.”
Maddie will gladly chase and retrieve her ball for hours. Luckily, her colleagues dig the same game. “She absolutely adores going to the firehouse, where several firefighters are happy to play ball with her all day,” Munoz adds.
Ali the Rasta Pup
If you’ve spent any time on the Embarcadero, you’ve probably spotted Ali the Rasta Pup, strolling along with his human pal Donald. Ali’s hard to miss—parts of his curly white fur are always dyed in black, yellow, red, and green. Donald often wears a striped hat to match.
Donald is homeless, and he connected with a psychiatrist about six years ago through local nonprofit PATH (People Assisting The Homeless). This therapist encouraged him to get a therapy dog, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 2017.
The Maltese-poodle mix has been his constant companion ever since, drawing donations from passerby charmed by Ali’s paint job and bringing Donald comfort and joy.
Mr. Bo, Sadie, & Nash (@misterboandco)
Influencers with 25.7K followers
Mr. Bo and Co. are a triple threat: Three San Diego pups who share their daily adventures with nearly 26,000 followers.
Though he can still tromp the trails with the best of them, Bo does show his age sometimes. “He shoots a mean side-eye, grumbles and groans when he is bothered by something, and can fall asleep anywhere including standing up,” says his human companion Kaela.
He’s also a hunting dog—when it comes to lizards, anyway. “He will point at a spot he has seen a lizard before for hours, despite the lizard being long gone from that area,” Kaela adds.
His sister, Sadie, is the typical middle child. Aged seven, she has her fair share of sass. “While she isn’t the nicest to most other dogs, she can be the absolute sweetest to the humans. If she loves you, she will shower you with attention, greet you at the door with one of her favorite toys, and allow you to pet and snuggle her,” Kaela explains. “If she doesn’t like you, she will make sure you know it by barking at you no matter how many times you reintroduce yourself … and refusing to allow your peasant hand to touch her soft and fluffy coat.”
Her favorite activity is paddleboarding, but don’t expect her to lift a paw. She prefers relaxing up front in her hot-pink life jacket, hat, and sunnies.
Baby-of-the-family Nash arrived as a foster four years ago and weaseled her way into everyone’s hearts before staying for good. “Nash can be intimidating-looking, especially when she stares deep into your soul, but [she] is a people-pleaser and social butterfly,” Kaela says.
While Kaela launched the account to share funny photos of Bo snoozing standing up, it’s become a way to spread awareness about local rescue groups. “I’ve successfully placed 21 foster dogs into loving homes, many through my Instagram page,” she says.
Child Advocate Canine
Lyle is a 5-year-old yellow lab who serves on the San Diego Police Department’s Child Abuse Unit with his partner, detective Natalie Hone. He offers therapeutic services such as support and comfort to victims of child abuse while officers conduct investigations. Lyle sits with the children during interviews, medical exams, and their testimonies at court. He has already assisted on nine cases since he joined the department last April.
Lyle was chosen for the job because of his calm nature, maturity, and ability to think for himself, Nicholes says. The department needed a pup capable of settling in for long periods and being confident and calm in emotional situations.
When he’s not working, Lyle loves spending time with Hone and her family, playing fetch and tug-of-war.
Influencer with 18K followers
At just two years old, Sumo the Bernese Mountain Dog has already built up an Instagram following of almost 20,000. He’s the fourth Bernese Mountain Dog to join human companion Michelle Young’s family.
Young says she started Sumo’s account to share photos and videos of him with family and friends.
“I had no idea his account would become so popular,” she explains. “But it just goes to show how loveable the breed is. I’ve made great friends through his Instagram account, and many of us get together and have Berner meetups. There’s nothing quite like seeing 20-plus Berners together in Southern California.”
Sumo stands out on the ’gram for his swimming reels, because Bernese Mountain Dogs aren’t typically known to love the water. “But Sumo literally jumps right in, makes a huge splash, and has willingly and voluntarily gone down a waterslide,” Young says.
“I hope his Instagram account continues to bring smiles and giggles to those that follow him,” Young says. “If you see us around town in San Diego, please say hi.”