FREE to a Good Home begins by introducing the protagonist, Tala
Loreto, a compassionate and headstrong young woman, living in Wyoming.
Armed with a big heart and even bigger ideas, she embarks upon both
a literal and metaphoric journey to prove that one person really
can make a difference.
Tala heads west, along the way she finds a stray dog abandoned at
a gas station. Determined to live up to the last words she yelled
at her mother before storming out. Tala begins changing the world
one stray at a time. She and her new traveling companion trek all
the way to Los Angeles, where she discovers how hard adulthood can
be. With no money, no job, and no place to call home, Tala stumbles
across a small trailer park where she meets some very odd but well-meaning
characters who help her settle in. Tala finds a job in fast food,
while she does chores around the trailer park to work off her rent.
Tala’s landlords only make life harder on Tala. They begrudge
her pets, and even go as far as to lie to her about the legal pet
limit in Los Angeles.
Tala finds comfort in Nadie, her most eccentric neighbor, who offers
warmth and support throughout the tough times and companionship
throughout the good.
When Tala goes to the animal shelter to get licenses for her dogs,
she learns of a lucrative job opening that would provide escape
from both the indentured servitude to her landlords and the burger
business. She meets Joey, the pulls-no-punches shelter manager,
who offers her a quick interview; however, when Joey sees that Tala’s
only experience is as a volunteer at her shelter in Wyoming, she
refuses to pay Tala for her work. Instead, she offers her a volunteer
position. Tala is forced to tough it out in her current predicament,
until she can no longer pay for her vet bills. Broke, haggard, and
desperate, Tala finds Joey at the shelter and pleads for any kind
of work. Joey gives in.
During her first days Tala rejoices in her success. Things briefly
look up for Tala, but by the end of the week she learns the hard
truth of working in the shelter system. A co-worker, Trixie, introduces
Tala to the plight of unwanted animals. Tala learns of the shelter’s
execution policy. Unlike Wyoming, which has an 80% adoption rate,
Los Angeles has an 80% kill rate. Frantic to save as many lives
as possible, Tala convinces Joey to give the animals currently scheduled
for euthanasia more time to find homes. Tala goes into action, searching
out rescue groups and pleading with anyone to adopt an animal. She
offers to foster the animals until she can find homes for them.
Only able to save a few animals, she redoubles her efforts determined
not to let anymore die while under her care. Despite her efforts,
as the next scheduled execution day approaches, there are still
several homeless animals on death row. Tala pleads with Joey to
give her and the dogs, another 24 hours. In that time she promises
to find homes for them all. After Tala spends hours on the telephone
with numerous local rescuers and waiting for them to show up to
take the dogs, Joey halts the project. Joey has to make room for
the nearly one hundred new strays brought in daily. Desperate to
save them, Tala attempts to steal several dogs, only to be caught
in the act by Joey.
Overwhelmed by her failure to save the dogs, Tala falls into a deep
depression. She quits her job and spends her days in bed, unable
to even take care of the dogs she has saved and leaving the responsibility
to Nadie. Nadie takes Tala under her wing and helps her get back
on her feet and Tala is able to return to her job at the fast food
But wherever Tala goes, she is still unable to pass up a stray.
She becomes a collector and tries to stay one step ahead of the
dogcatcher. When her landlords turn her in for exceeding the number
of pets allowed by the city, Tala's rescued animals are taken from
her home and placed into the shelter system.
Tala fights the clock, to find homes for the dogs. And again, she
loses, as there are simply more animals than there are adoptive
homes. Tala is only allowed to take back the legal limit of four,
leaving eleven without homes. Tala is faced with a heartwrenching
- a decision that rescuers face everyday - which animals to save.
becomes even more determined to rescue every animal she comes across.
Again this gets her into trouble as the insurmountable odds are
stacked against her. Tala must learn the lessons of animal rescue
and conquer the ever thinning line between obcession and passion.