It’s hard not to be amazed by the resilience of animals. Every day, we meet dogs and cats who have been rescued from terrible situations—abandonment, hoarding, cruelty and even fighting—but more often than not they welcome us with wagging tails and open hearts. When we met Seymour, a 70-lb. Catahoula Leopard mix, we knew he was one of those special animals. Rescued from the home of a hoarder, this gentle giant consistently amazed us with his kind and loving demeanor. Here is his Happy Tail.
Seymour arrived at the ASPCA in February after being rescued from the home of a hoarder. We could tell he had been through a lot—his face was covered in scars from dog bites—and he timidly kept his tail between his legs. In fact, he was so shy that he could only be coaxed into the assessment room with the aid of a stuffed dog. Once settled, though, we saw what a truly sweet and loving boy Seymour could be, and we hoped to find a perfect adopter who would appreciate his sensitive soul. Fortunately, that perfect adopter walked through our door four months later.
Susan S. had been to the ASPCA before. In 2006, she adopted a 6-year-old dog named Ben, who passed away last June at the age of 14. When the timing felt right, she returned to our Adoption Center to find a new companion. “I never dreamed that I would adopt a dog as big as Seymour,” recalls Susan. She was at the shelter to meet our more petite pups, but Seymour was the very first dog she saw upon entering the facility. “He is an unusual mix, so I noticed him right away—and his size, of course,” she says. “He was standing on his hind legs licking the glass and, well, he noticed me, too.” After taking the full tour and meeting all available small dogs, Susan had a revelation. “I said, ‘I need to go back and see that spotted dog.’ And that was it. Once I was in his enclosure with him and he rubbed me with his enormous head, I knew he was mine.”
Susan adopted Seymour and he moved into her apartment on the Upper West Side. She tells us, “He’s a celebrity in the neighborhood. People know his name better than mine. In fact, people I don’t even know, know Seymour!” He’s so popular that people often stop to take his photo, and despite his history of being bitten, he plays happily with all the dogs in Central Park in the morning and evening. Susan adds, “He is a perfect gentleman. He never, ever barks or acts aggressively. He has been wonderful from the start.”
When Susan tells us, “Seymour just drew me into his orbit with his soulful eyes,” we know exactly what she means. He is living proof that the past doesn’t define the dog, and we are so grateful that this 70-lb. teddy bear has found an adopter as sweet and as loving as he is.
Lisa Kisiel, a case worker for the ASPCA’s Cruelty Intervention Advocacy (CIA) program, first saw the two tiny kittens whose eyes were sealed shut. Just days old, they lay with their mother and three siblings atop a ragged cardboard box and empty bags of Meow Mix, confined to a filthy closet with another nursing feline and her brood of five.
Throughout the squalid apartment, 75 other cats, ranging in age from six months to 14 years, suffered from upper respiratory infections and intestinal parasites. They competed for kibble that was scattered on top of dirty linoleum flooring. They breathed in the stench of urine and feces 24/7.
“It was a very toxic environment,” says Lisa. Following up on a neighbor’s complaint, she assessed the situation and moved the case to the top of her priority list. She and the team removed the nursing mothers and kittens first, and the remaining cats on two other occasions.
“When they’re so little, the chances of them coming out of such compromised surroundings and recovering are slim,” Lisa says. “But I knew if we pulled them immediately, they would at least have a chance.”
For four months, Puccini and Pierre, as they became known, and 13 others from the case were cared for by the Anti-Cruelty staff at the ASPCA Animal Hospital. According to Dr. Bonnie Wong, medical supervisor of the Anti-Cruelty group, they were treated for upper respiratory infections, ear mites, exposure to parasites and anemia, and kitten diarrhea. Warm compresses were applied to their sealed, swollen eyes and heat to their tiny bodies. Then, during Valentine’s Day week, they were adopted by Suzanne G., a Manhattan attorney whose two senior cats passed away in 2013.
These days, Puccini and Pierre run on three speeds: “eating, sleeping or running,” according to Suzanne.
Since 2010, CIA has intervened in more than 150 hoarding cases in the five boroughs, helping more than 4,000 animals. The team also links hoarders to social service agencies and other resources that provide appropriate human services.
“Building strong personal relationships so that we can do these interventions is key,” says social worker Carrie Jedlicka, whose background, like that of her colleagues, is conducive to nurturing clients’ trust. In this case, the client also received medical attention.
“What keeps us going is seeing the animals we rescue go on to happy endings like this,” adds Lisa, who initially was not sure the fragile felines would survive. “We see them at their worst, and it’s rewarding to see them at their best.”
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At the ASPCA, it’s not uncommon for our staff members to make special connections with animals under our care. That’s exactly what happened when Cheryl Suydam, a Rehabilitation Counselor at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center, met Tallulah.
Tallulah, along with a dog named Sara, came to us from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society in New Mexico in September 2013. Both dogs had been victims of a hoarding situation and were extremely undersocialized and fearful. Tallulah and Sara were perfect candidates for our rehabilitation program.
“While Tallulah was at the Rehabilitation Center, we focused mainly on building relationships with familiar people, socialization with new people, learning to walk comfortably on leash and handling and petting,” Cheryl says.
In time, both dogs made tremendous steps forward.
“It was such a pleasure to witness the progress both Sara and Tallulah made over the course of the rehabilitation program,” says Kristen Collins, ASPCA Director of Anti-Cruelty Behavior Rehabilitation. “As their confidence grew, the two dogs learned to enjoy life—to actively engage with people and explore the world around them. The whole team is so proud of both of them.”
Cheryl reports that she fell in love with Tallulah the moment she saw her, and made plans to adopt her.
“Tallulah is beautiful and has the sweetest disposition,” Cheryl says. “Toward the end of her stay at the Center, I brought her home as a foster to gather more information about how she would do living in our home. She was a great match for my other dog Roscoe and was lovely with my children. She never went back!”
Meet Waffle. This charming Chihuahua spends her days playing with toys, snuggling into warm blankets, and running around with fellow dogs. But that wasn’t always the case. Waffle first came to the ASPCA as one of a hundred dogs rescued from an animal hoarder. Her life at that point had been defined by loneliness and neglect, and the traumatic experience left her with an extreme distrust of humans. When we met her, she was anxious, timid, and very, very afraid.
Waffle spent more than two months working closely with the staff at the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center. Through our comprehensive treatment plan, she was able to tackle her fears and transform into the sweet-as-syrup pup she is today. She is now an official “graduate” of the Center, and she’s ready to take on the next chapter of her life.
When you donate to the ASPCA, you are supporting projects like the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center. With its combined mission of welfare and research, the Center is at the forefront of progress in its field. But it can’t run on good intentions alone. With your support, we can continue to give dogs like Waffle a chance to heal, and, more importantly, a second chance at life.
If you live in or near New Jersey and are interested in adopting Waffle, please contact Second Chance Pet Adoption League at [email protected]. Waffle is looking for a home with another friendly dog!
By the time Mojave was 5 years old, he had seen more than most cats will in a lifetime. Born into the home of a cat hoarder, the tabby spent his early years competing for basic necessities like food, love and attention. To make matters worse, he was suffering from a rare birth defect called eyelid agenesis, in which the eyelids do not form properly. Because of this condition, Mojave’s eyes were in a constant state of irritation from dust, eyelashes and even hair. Two other conditions called entropion and distichiasis also contributed to the sweet cat’s ocular distress. His future looked grim, to say the least.
At the ASPCA Animal Hospital, Director of Surgery Dr. J’mai Gayle addressed all three of Mojave’s conditions in a series of carefully staged operations—one of which included the construction of completely new eyelids. It was a long road to recovery, but the extremely social and well-adjusted cat handled everything in stride. After healing, Mojave was quickly adopted into a loving home.