Love at First Belly Rub: Escher’s Happy Tail

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 4:00pm
Love at First Belly Rub: Escher’s Happy Tail

Victims of animal cruelty are often the hardest animals to place into a home. Shyness, fear and anxiety regularly plague these pets—and not all adopters feel up to the task. But those who do often discover that underneath the pain, there’s an animal that is eager to love and be loved. Such was the case with Escher, a 55-lb. Shepherd/Collie mix with a mysterious past who proved that sometimes, the greatest hardship leads to the greatest reward. Here is his Happy Tail.

As a photographer for the ASPCA, Stacey Axelrod spends most days meeting with and photographing dogs and cats at the ASPCA Adoption Center. Though she has worked with hundreds of animals, she knew from her very first encounter with Escher that he was special. In February, Escher and five other dogs were rescued from an abandoned van in Brooklyn, New York. Hungry and freezing, all six dogs were suffering from some form of vision impairment, ranging from Entropion (an eyelid disease) to total blindness. They were all incredibly shy and fearful, and though we were unsure of how long they had been in the van, it was clear that it would take a lot of work to restore their faith in humans.

After meeting Escher, Stacey began visiting him at the Adoption Center every day. “I knew I wanted a dog who might have some trouble finding a home,” she says, so she invited her fiancé Jon to come meet him, too. “At first, Escher would shy away when we tried to pet him,” says Stacey. “He was scared of everything and I could tell he just needed someone to give him confidence.”  After spending some time with the timid pooch, she and Jon were sold. “I have no idea what he went through earlier in his life, but I just felt like he deserved the life I could give him.”

At home, Stacey and Jon discovered the full extent of Escher’s issues. “He was terrified of stairs and there are lots of stairs to get into my apartment building,” she says. “I spent hours with him just sitting there and trying to coax him one step further.” In addition to the stairs, Escher also exhibited an extreme fear of strangers, other dogs, and being left alone. Stacey did research on dog behavior and Positive Reinforcement Training, and slowly but surely, helped Escher become more comfortable.

Love at First Belly Rub: Escher’s Happy Tail

“I remember the first time he laid down and rolled over next to me,” Stacey recalls. “It was the first of many milestones and the first time I saw him truly relax. I never really wanted to nap on my kitchen floor, but I couldn’t resist it that day. He allowed me to snuggle up next to him and everything changed after that. It was love at first belly rub.”

As time went on, Escher continued to show signs of improvement. He tackled his fear of stairs, and he even mastered some tricks like sit, down, paw, and high five. “He’s still learning typical dog behaviors,” says Stacey, “but at some point, he realized that he could trust us and that he was here to stay. It was like something clicked. We celebrated the tiniest of changes, and now I can’t believe how far he has come.”

Though working with Escher has been a roller coaster of emotions, Stacey never once doubted her decision. “When I get discouraged, I just play some games with him and remember how amazing and goofy he is despite his fears,” she says. “He’s the perfect dog.” And though she has spent a lot of time working with Escher, he has given her so much in return. “He has taught me so much about commitment, living in the present, and celebrating the small things. I never knew I could have such a strong mutual relationship with a dog until I got Escher.”

Admittedly, the timid Escher is still gaining confidence, but his progress is undeniable.  And from the cold February morning in an abandoned van to the warmth and love of Stacey and Jon’s home, he has already come so far.

Three of the dogs rescued with Escher, Caitlyn, Dermott, and Brona, are still waiting for their forever homes. For more information about adopting these sweet dogs, please contact the ASPCA Adoption Center at (212) 876-7700 ext. 4120

Love at First Belly Rub: Escher’s Happy Tail

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She's not stereotyping. She's commenting that's he looks like a pit bull mix, which he does. So happy he ended up in a loving home!


Respectfully, the word "but" is what makes this a stereotype.

The first part of the statement is a positive one, but when you add on "but or "however" that is an indicator that what follows is a negative statement. She's not just describing the dog, she's saying that its apparent breed background is negative and negates the fact that the dog is beautiful.

If she meant to just describe the dog, the correct statement would be something like "He's beautiful. He looks like some kind of a pit-bull mix"

I'm also happy he's ended up in a good home


The word "but" means except and a perfectly good word to use to add a contrary opinion. Nothing wrong with being a pittie, but we don't have to be politically correct when using the word "but".


pitt bulls are the ultimate, don't comment until you have had one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Thank you Corrie! You took the words right out of my head! I wish that "All stereotyping" would vanish from our lives!
To Escher's new Parents, I say Thank You! May the three of you be blessed for the rest of your lives! God sent two of His Angels to earth just to care, love, teach Escher how to be a Loving "Child"! So once again I say Thank You!


I agree with Maya. Donna just means to point out that the description of the dog may be incorrect. Escher looks to be a pit mix and not a collie/shep mix. That's all she meant. She was not disparaging the dog's breed at all.


Yes, he is a pit-bull mix--SO WHAT? There are no bad dogs, only bad owners. Try to educate yourself.

Gary Moline

Perhaps Donna was commenting on the fact that the article refers to this beautiful dog as a "shepherd/Collie mix". He does look more like a Pit Bull mix than a shepherd/collie mix.


After that story thats all you had to say. You should know as a pet lover how some people are breed specific haters

Wendy Walbrecht

No hate here at all. Just a wish for a little more accuracy. Pit bull mixes are too often called something else. It can get a little silly. Collie or shepherd he's not. By calling a good dog a pit bull mix, you are actually helping the pit bull reputation. Be brave. Be accurate. On another note, this is going to be a super dog. I had a similar experience with a rescue. Nicest dog I ever had.