It’s amazing what a difference the perfect home can make. Sometimes, animals who seem fearfulor reserved will blossom into social, friendly pets just by landing in the right environment. In the case of a five-year-old Dalmatian named Hazel, the perfect home was all it took to let her personality shine. Here’s her Happy Tail.
The ASPCA rescued Hazel from cruelty in 2010. She was just a puppy at the time and it didn’t take long for her to find a home. We celebrated Hazel’s adoption and then returned our focus to the hundreds of dogs still under our care. A year went by, then another and another, until all of a sudden we got a phone call from her adopter in May 2013. Hazel wasn’t doing well.
Although the spotted pup’s adopters loved Hazel, she just wasn’t thriving in their home. She had put on a lot of weight and was showing signs of aggression. In addition, she was suffering from a leg injury that left her limping and uncomfortable. With a heavy heart, the adopters acknowledged that they couldn’t care for a dog of her size and needs, so they made the decision to do what they thought was best for Hazel: they returned her to the ASPCA.
It had been three years since we had seen Hazel, and when she arrived, she wasn’t in great shape. Her leg injury had made exercise difficult, and as a result, she became morbidly obese at 86-lbs. She was also reactive to other dogs and fearful of strange objects. We knew that it would take some time to help Hazel get ready for adoption again.
Over the next year and a half, Hazel received surgery including the insertion of a metal plate and screws to repair a torn ligament in her knee, and was put on a strict weight-loss diet and socialization routine. When she was finally ready for adoption in February 2014, we hoped that the process would be as easy as it had been the first time around, but we weren’t quite so lucky. Nine months went by before Samantha F. and her boyfriend, Paul, stepped through our doors.
Samantha and Paul both had dogs growing up, so when they moved into a big apartment they decided it was finally time to adopt a pet of their own. They met Hazel on their first trip to the ASPCA Adoption Center, and they were instantly intrigued by the beautiful pooch. We filled them in on her history and had a frank conversation about her medical and emotional needs, but the couple was undeterred.
“I could immediately tell that she was the perfect dog for us,” Samantha recalls. “We fell in love with her story and couldn’t imagine leaving her in her kennel for another day.” With no hesitation, they adopted Hazel and brought her home to their Queens, New York, apartment. Samantha adds, “With everything she’s been through, she deserved a second chance at life.”
And what a difference that second chance has made. Within a few weeks, the Hazel we had known—fearful, wary, overweight—had all but disappeared under Samantha and Paul’s care. When we asked for an update, Samantha gushed, “Hazel transformed and exceeded our expectations! Through her time at home, she has been weaned off of all pain and anxiety medication. Her behavioral evaluation said she would never be a ‘dog-park dog,’ but now she loves going and is extremely social and friendly with the other dogs there. Even strangers fall in love with her, too.”
The ASPCA staff is overjoyed to hear of Hazel’s success. She is proof that there’s just no substitute for the perfect home—and that every animal deserves a chance to shine. Samantha says, “We feel extremely blessed to have Hazel,” but we know that for this Dalmatian, Samantha and Paul’s home was “just the spot.”
At the ASPCA, we’re equally fond of dogs and cats, but we recognize that not all everyone feels the same way—some adopters are firmly “dog people” while others can’t get enough of our purring feline friends. So when one lifelong member of “Team Dog” came to our Adoption Center and fell for a kitty named Gala, we knew that their bond was truly meant to be. Here is the story of how Gala the cat won over a dog-lover named Erin.
“I was born a proud ’dog person,’” Erin D. recalls. She adopted her rescue pooch, Feeny, from an Atlanta-area shelter eight years ago, and last spring, she decided to adopt another pet to keep him company. Her commitment to canines was steadfast. “A dog is man’s best friend, right? What could truly compare to a wagging tail, fierce, protective loyalty and the unwavering, unconditional, instantaneous love a dog provides every second you walk in the door?” she asked. As it turns out, the answer was surprising: A cat from the ASPCA.
Erin first came to our Adoption Center in March 2014, about a month after we had rescued a tiny four-pound kitten named Gala from a home with too many animals. Gala was shy and timid, but had an undeniably sweet disposition. Erin met with one of our adoption counselors (or, as she calls them, “Matchmakers”), who asked some questions about what she was looking for in a pet. That’s when she was taken to the kitten room where Gala was being housed.
“I met eight-month-old Gala and it was a purrrrfect match,” Erin says. “She was very affectionate and seemed to take a liking to us almost immediately.” After an adoption interview, she adopted Gala, purchased all the necessary kitten supplies from the ASPCA, took the kitty home and changed her name to Olive.
Olive took to Erin (and her new brother, Feeny) almost immediately. “She and my dog warmed to each other quickly,” Erin says. “She is not shy at all anymore and has become quite social and very entertaining.” Erin adds that Olive loves to cuddle and never ceases to make her laugh with her “aspiring-Olympian” antics. “She is a very well-adjusted, happy, healthy, sweet little cat who has proven to be extremely loving and social. The ASPCA truly helped me find my match in a cat, and I couldn’t recommend a place for animal adoption more highly.”
But Olive did more than find the perfect home—she shook Erin’s “Team Dog” stance entirely. Erin says, “She defied all of my pre-conceived ‘dog person’ judgments. I truly love cats AND dogs now—in fact, I may actually take more shameless selfies with Olive than I do with Feeny! In 50 years, that may just be me living next door to you with a ton of adopted little kitties, so come on by.”
In closing, Erin says, “The animals up for adoption at the ASPCA are incredible.” Then she adds with a smile, “Thanks ASPCA, for giving me a full-blown identity crisis.”
They say timing is everything, and in the world of animal adoptions, nothing could be more true. For a tiny Shih Tzu named Maverick, a painful past paved the way for a bright, happy future—but none of it would have happened if he hadn’t been in the right place at the exact right time. Here is his Happy Tail.
In December 2012, Maverick was hit by a car. He was rescued by the local city shelter, but was transferred to the ASPCA once it became apparent that he couldn’t walk or use his legs. He had a fractured pelvis, a broken hip and a ruptured ligament in his knee. At the ASPCA Animal Hospital, Maverick trembled and cried while doctors assessed his situation. He was terrified of people and objects; he urinated and defecated from fear. It was clear that the poor dog was hurting in every possible way.
ASPCA veterinarians performed multiple surgeries on Maverick during his month-long stay at the hospital, and by January he was able to walk again. To ease his recovery, we sent him to live as a foster pet in the home of an ASPCA staffer, where he slowly learned to trust people. He became a regular at our facility, both as a patient and with his foster mom, and it was there that he first met Crissy.
Crissy M. had been working at the ASPCA as a customer service representative for just two weeks when she met Maverick in April 2013. “He was the $11,000 dog, that’s what we called him,” she says, referring to the costly surgeries the tiny pup had received. As a new employee, Crissy hadn’t planned on bringing home a new pet any time soon, but there was something special about Maverick, and she began visiting him on her lunch break. “He was always thrilled to see me. He was so friendly, so sweet,” she recalls fondly.
One day when Crissy went looking for Maverick, he was nowhere to be found. “I panicked,” she said, assuming that the dog had been adopted. She was waiting anxiously for the elevator when, all of a sudden, the doors opened and there he was. “He was going out for a walk with his foster mom. He had on a pink cast. I knew it was love.” Against all prior plans, Crissy knew that she and Maverick were meant to be. “I wanted to be the lucky human who gave him a loving home.”
Still in a cast, Maverick had one more hurdle to overcome: Crissy’s other dog, Rebecca. “I had Rebecca come in to meet him. She wasn’t thrilled at first, but they were cordial enough with each other that we were able to take Mav home and he finished his recovery with us,” she says. But it turns out that a little R&R—and a permanent home—were all that Maverick needed to come into his own. “Within a few days, Becky and Maverick were sharing toys and cuddles,” Crissy says with pride.
In the year since his adoption, Maverick’s life has done a complete 180, and he seems to have forgotten all about his painful past. “Maverick is definitely a mama’s boy,” Crissy says. “If I’m in the shower, he’s on the bath mat. If I’m in the kitchen, he’s at my feet. He grew very attached to us and he’s filled our home with so much happiness.”
We’ll never know who hit Maverick with that car, but we do know that in some way, it led to his meeting with Crissy at the ASPCA. If she had started working one week later, or if he hadn’t been on the elevator at that precise moment, they might never have ended up together. But as we said, timing is everything, and after all his pain, Maverick is finally having the time of his life.
In November, we shared the amazing story of a tiny kitten who survived a 30-mile journey under the hood of a car. We named her Miracle, and although her ordeal was harrowing, it was far from the end of her story. For today’s Happy Tail, we caught up with Miracle’s adopter to find out how this brave little kitten is doing in her new forever home.
When Megan Burak logged on to the ASPCA website one day last fall, she had no idea that her life was about to change forever. A self-described “animal person,” Megan works as an adoptions counselor and animal socializer at the ASPCA Adoption Center. She and her boyfriend had had many conversations about adopting a senior cat, but the couple planned to wait until after the holidays to begin their official search for a pet. However, as they soon learned, things don’t always go according to plan.
That November morning, Megan read Miracle’s story on the ASPCA blog. “Miracle was a beautiful cat from the pictures,” she recalls, “but I knew it was very likely that she would be undersocialized. Many stray kittens have not had enough human contact and can be very shy and fearful.” She didn’t think much more about the kitten until she headed to the Adoption Center for her volunteer shift, where she finally met Miracle in person.
Miracle after her harrowing rescue.
“The first thing she did when she saw me was hiss,” Megan laughs. As expected, the 30-mile journey and suspenseful rescue had left Miracle feeling timid and vulnerable. She had even been given a special “privacy box” to help her feel more secure. “The hissing might be the point where most people say, ‘no thanks,’” Megan says, but the cat-expert was intrigued. “I have a very quiet household and I knew that if she and I clicked, I’d be able to provide her with the support she needed.”
Megan was patient, and over the course of the next hour, something amazing happened: Miracle warmed up. She slowly ventured from her hiding spot, and by the end of their session, she was asking Megan for food, petting, and handling. “Miracle went from hiding to a purring ball of fluff,” she says. “I saw the potential for her to learn to trust people and become a pet rather than a street cat. This little kitten was just asking for someone to give her the TLC she needed to come out of her shell.” Against all prior plans, Megan knew she had found her new pet. She officially adopted Miracle and changed her name to Luna.
Despite the kitten’s progress at the Adoption Center, Luna still had some work to do, and her adjustment from street-cat to pet-cat wasn’t always smooth sailing. “When I first took her home, she was very, very nervous,” Megan recalls. “She was scared every time my boyfriend or I entered the room.” The couple took turns spending twenty minutes each hour teaching the fearful kitten that they were there to give her food, love and attention. On the second day, she began playing, and by two weeks later, she had free roam of the apartment. Now she’s the queen of the castle.
“As Luna has gotten more bold, she has also gotten very talkative, Megan says. “My boyfriend and I crack up because she has a very raspy meow and sounds more like an old man than the tiny kitten she is!” Though she is still easily startled, Luna has adjusted wonderfully. “She is learning how to just relax and be taken care of, rather than fight to survive. It’s been very rewarding and extra sweet to see her be affectionate, and I know I made the right choice with my little Luna.”
Some dogs at the ASPCA get adopted before we can even say “woof,” but some take a little bit more time to find the perfect home. In the case of Rolo—a pit bull rescued from a hoarder—a difficult past meant he was repeatedly overlooked. But for one adopter willing to see beneath the surface, Rolo turned out to be the greatest pet imaginable. Here is his Happy Tail.
Rolo was rescued from a hoarder in Queens, New York, in February 2014. At 62-pounds, the one-year old pup was already a handful. He suffered from chronic skin issues that left him with bald patches, and he was diagnosed with a chronic heart defect called pulmonic stenosis. We knew he needed extra care, so we were thrilled to see him adopted four weeks after his arrival. But our joy was short-lived, as Rolo was soon returned because the adopter said he had behavioral issues, including fear of loud noises and a dislike of strangers.
Back at square one, Rolo continued to wait patiently for a new home. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months—until October rolled around and Rolo still hadn’t been adopted. His quiet, shy temperament made it hard to woo adopters, and he was repeatedly passed over for more outwardly affable dogs. We knew our sweet guy was something special; we just had to wait for an adopter with the patience to see past his medical issues and aloof exterior. Finally, we met Joe.
Joe, who lives in the West Village neighborhood of New York City, had been on a long search for the perfect pet. “Why would anyone NOT want to adopt a dog,” he laughs. “I can’t think of a better way to come home every day than to be greeted like a long-lost friend.” He visited several different shelters and rescues on the hunt for his future dog, stating, “I was confident that I would be able to find a companion who was unique and perfect for my life, with a one-of-a-kind personality and story.” An ASPCA donor, Joe had participated in our annual Young Friends event, so he realized he might have luck at the ASPCA Adoption Center uptown. That’s when he finally met Rolo.
“He was an absolutely magnificent-looking Staffie,” Joe says of his first impression of the pooch. “But he was more subdued than others and wasn’t immediately barking, jumping and licking all over his visitors.” We filled him in on Rolo’s history and medical issues, but those details weren’t what mattered to Joe. “Everyone who interacted with Rolo seemed to genuinely love him and that showed. Rolo had gotten my attention.”
After spending time with Rolo at the Adoption Center, Joe’s impression only strengthened. He says, “I realized that what others described as ‘subdued and unfriendly’ meant that he was patient and observant. I quickly understood that Rolo was the most intelligent, even-mannered, mature and well-behaved dog that I had seen over two months and dozens of individual visits. I knew that he had the potential to be an amazing dog and a perfect representative for a misunderstood breed.” On October 10, Rolo became an official member of Joe’s family.
Back at Joe’s apartment, sweet Rolo continued to shine. “He immediately proved himself,” says Joe. “Not one incident or accident as long as he’s been home!” Rolo now loves spending time at the dog park and at the pet hotel—where he plays wonderfully with other dogs and people. “He is the dog that most everyone dreams of,” Joe beams. “Playful, obedient, loving, intelligent, cute—you name the superlative and he’s been called it. I can no longer keep track of how many times we’ve heard, ‘I love your dog.’”
From life in a hoarder’s home to an unsuccessful adoption, Rolo has come so far. He is proof that there’s a perfect person for every animal—and that sometimes, it takes a few false starts to get to your happy ending. Joe says, “Rolo has beaten the odds and become the most admired and most loved dog by everyone we run into, everywhere we go. And most definitely by me!”