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!”
Whether you believe in luck or in fate, one thing is certain: Lucas the cat has both on his side. Rescued at the last minute from a perilous situation, he survived and went on to live a charmed life in the home of an ASPCA staffer. Here is this heroic cat’s very Happy Tail.
On a warm day last June, a New York City Transit (MTA) worker heard mewing on the subway train tracks. Just north of 155th Street on the D line, he found a cat, now named Lucas, huddled under the electrified third rail. Fresh burns and wounds covered the kitty’s 9-lb. body, so the MTA worker rushed him to the ASPCA Animal Hospital. One of his ears had been burned off almost completely; the other was in tattered pieces.
At the hospital, Lucas underwent multiple surgeries and was placed on an eight-week regimen of painkillers and antibiotics to help ease his suffering and heal his skin. It was during his recovery that he met Rena L., a manager at the ASPCA Adoption Center.
Rena, who has been with the ASPCA since 2012, is no stranger to unique animals. In 2013, she adopted another earless kitty named Kylie who was also a burn victim. Her dog Jin had been abandoned in the subway with his mother and littermate. When she heard about Lucas, she knew they had to meet.
“I went to see him and he was all bandaged up,” she recalls. “I decided to foster him because I knew he needed time to heal.” She took Lucas home to her family, which already included a Beagle (Maya), a Chihuahua (Jin), and three cats (Kylie, Gizmo and Cleo). Though Lucas was instantly drawn to Rena’s older cats, it was clear that home life was an unfamiliar experience for the three-year-old newcomer. “Lucas must have been on the streets for a while,” Rena speculates. “I don’t think he had ever known a hug or how it feels to be held.”
Despite the newness of the situation—including daily medication and wound cleaning—it didn’t take long before the former street-cat grew more comfortable in Rena’s home. But it was Rena’s husband, Fabien, who first fell in love. “Lucas is a ‘guy’s cat,’” Rena laughs. “He’s a rough player, but once you have him in your arms he’s like a little baby.” After a few weeks of fostering, they knew he was destined to become a permanent member of their family. In September, he was officially adopted.
After his adoption, Lucas seemed eager to leave his painful past behind. Rena says, “He is full of energy and very mischievous—he is the Alpha to our cats for sure.” When he’s not busy playing or indulging in hijinks, he’s off looking for ways to sneak a snack and satisfy his big appetite. But despite his big personality, she adds, “He’s become a very loving cat who will easily fall asleep in your arms.”
Though Rena is the first to admit that she is a “foster failure,” she wouldn’t change a thing about her animal-filled apartment. “Fostering these special needs animals makes me realize that everyone really deserves a second chance. They really turn around when they’re in a home environment.” As for Lucas, she adds, “We’re at a perfect balance with the number of pets we have. Our home just wouldn’t be the same without him.”
To keep up with Lucas and Kylie, be sure to follow them on Instagram!
There are many forms of animal cruelty, some more overt than others. But while every instance is shameful, one of the saddest forms cruelty can take is also one of the least visible: abandonment. For a pit bull puppy named Bluebell, life began with the loneliness of neglect, but fortunately, it led to a happy home bursting with love. Here is her Happy Tail.
In May 2014, Bluebell and four other dogs were found abandoned in a Brooklyn home after the home was burglarized. It’s hard to say how long the dogs had been alone in that house, but at just seven months old, Bluebell was clearly starved for love and attention. To help meet those needs, we decided to place the puppy in a temporary foster home until she was older and ready for permanent adoption. We contacted Keith F., a former vet tech at the ASPCA Animal Hospital, who agreed to foster Bluebell in June.
Keith already had a full house with the two cats he adopted from the ASPCA in 2007 and 2009, “Johnny 4 Fingers” and “The Dude.” Though he wasn’t planning on expanding his family in any permanent manner, it didn’t take long before Bluebell began to work her magic. “The day I brought her home, she curled up in my lap the whole drive home,” he recalls. By the time he arrived at his ocean-side apartment in Rockaway, Queens, he was in love. “When I saw her smiling on the beach, I knew she was home.”
After that, the next few months were a mere formality. “I pretty much made the decision to keep her the day I brought her home,” Keith laughs. “After that, it was just waiting to sign the papers.” And Blu—as she’s now called—really hit the jackpot. Keith says: “She is loving life out here. She gets to go to the beach and run as long as the weather permits. She loves the dog park. She has two best friends and neighbors that she gets to play with a few times a week, and she has two cats to play with (even if they don’t always want to play with her).”
The fact that Blu began life in a lonely, abandoned house makes it that much more satisfying to see her in a home so full of love. When we asked Keith how he knew Blu was the right dog for him, he said, “I didn’t—she knew she was right for me.” Congrats, Blu!
Over the years, we’ve united thousands of people with pets: couples with kittens, retirees with a dog, roommates with cats, you name it. But through all the various adoptions, one thing has always been clear: there is no one way to define a family. In today’s Happy Tail, we check in on two cats from very different backgrounds who ended up in one loving home. Here is the story of Chester and Elsa.
Chester and Elsa both came to the ASPCA in September, 2014, but that’s about as far as their similarities go. Elsa was transferred from the local city shelter (NYCACC) and at three years old, the little grey lady was confident, friendly and eager to find a home. Four-year-old Chester, on the other hand, had overcome a more difficult past. Abandoned in the Bronx, New York, Chester sustained physical trauma before being rescued by the ASPCA. He had to have his right eye removed, a laceration on his left hind leg repaired and a neuter surgery performed before he was ready to be adopted. Fortunately for both cats, Christina B. and her husband, Jim, came to the ASPCA Adoption Center at just the right moment.
“When our beloved rescue Persian passed away this summer, we were devastated,” Christina recalls. “We didn’t think we would adopt again so soon, but our home felt empty without a cat and we really wanted to rescue another animal.” She and Jim came to the ASPCA on October 1, about one month after both Chester and Elsa had arrived.
Thinking that it would be nice to adopt two pets for companionship, Christina and Jim met a few pairs of bonded cats at our Adoption Center, but none seemed the perfect fit. That’s when a volunteer introduced them to Elsa. “She was so striking, and she stepped out of her cage right onto Jim’s lap wanting love,” Christina says. Though Chester and Elsa weren’t bonded—in fact, it’s likely that they had not interacted much at all—Christina spotted the dark grey boy and was instantly intrigued.
“While Jim was rubbing Elsa, Chester, with his sweet one-eyed stare, was meowing to us across the room,” she recalls. “He stepped out, rubbed against our legs, allowed me to hold him, and they immediately felt like family!” The couple adopted both cats that day and headed home to begin a new life together in their Bronx apartment.
Though Chester and Elsa weren’t bonded or related, they soon became the best of friends. “We were pleasantly surprised by how quickly they acclimated,” says Christina. The two cats love snuggling together, playing (“they sound like wild horses running through our apartment!”) and sharing windowsills while they nap in the sun. Their favorite game is hide-and-seek, and Christina says they are a joy to watch.
“Elsa talks to all three of us constantly, and her favorite spot in the middle of the night is on our heads,” laughs Christina. “Chester is our quiet, gentle little boy who loves to have his head rubbed. We feel so blessed and we’re pretty sure they do, too!”
Congratulations to this fabulous foursome for proving that it only takes one thing to form a family: love!
When an animal survives a harrowing ordeal, it makes it that much more meaningful when they find a loving home. For a tiny Maltese/Yorkie named Chali, a freezing January morning set the stage for a warm, cozy future, and we can’t help but think that his “Happy Tail” was written in the cards. Here is his story.
On January 5, 2014, Chali was found wandering as a stray in Crotona Park in the Bronx, New York. It was the height of the “Polar Vortex,” and temperatures that day hovered in the low 20s. A Good Samaritan spotted Chali lost in the snow and brought him to the ASPCA. At only seven pounds, the four-year-old pup was shy, shivering, and in desperate need of a home.
At the ASPCA Animal Hospital, Chali received a medical exam and was deemed healthy. He was soon neutered and placed into our office foster program so he could recover from his surgery in the care of our staff until he was ready for adoption.
While all of this was happening, an ASPCA employee named Missy G. was working on plans for the ASPCA Bergh Ball, an annual fundraising event in New York City. A member of our Special Events Department, Missy was coordinating a photo shoot for a custom deck of playing cards featuring adoptable animals from the ASPCA. By chance, the day of the photo shoot was the same day Chali came to the Adoption Center.
“I picked him up and brought him to the shoot,” Missy recalls. “He was the first dog we shot and he ended up being the Ace of Clubs.” While Missy worked on the project over the next few weeks, she continued to visit Chali, and slowly but surely, he stole her heart. “On the last day of shooting, I decided I couldn’t just leave him behind and I brought him home with me,” she says.
Missy changed Chali’s name to Rocky, and in the year since his adoption, the pair has become inseparable. He still comes to the ASPCA office for regular visits. “From the moment he walked into our home, it was like he had always been there,” Missy beams. “He was the perfect addition to our family and I love him more than anything.”
It’s hard to believe that anyone could abandon a dog like Rocky, but it’s clear that he is finally where he was always meant to be. He may have been the “Ace of Clubs” in our deck of cards, but to Missy, he’s the King of Hearts.