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!”
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!