Rehab Center Graduates Celebrated Now and Year-Round

June 3, 2020

BRC grads

During this unprecedented time, graduations around the world are taking on a whole new look and feel. Instead of stadiums packed with family and friends, commencement speeches are broadcast virtually, and cap and gown photos are taken at home.

At the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center (BRC), we celebrate our outstanding canine graduates year-round. Accomplishments throughout their 10-12 week journeys (on average) are consistently rewarded with positive reinforcement and beaming smiles from our proud staff. When a once fearful dog wags his tail for the first time as a familiar face approaches, sidles up to a friend to be petted or leans in for a scratch behind the ears—these moments that may seem normal to most, are a culmination of weeks of hard work, perseverance and courage.

two samoyeds being walked by BRC staff

These dogs come from all over the country for a second chance at life as a beloved pet. Many arrive emotionally shut down; their fear is so severe that it compromises their quality of life and makes adoption challenging or impossible. We do everything we can to help them overcome their fears and prepare for new lives. 

Beyond the BRC facility in North Carolina, our work continues virtually through collaboration with animal welfare groups nationwide. Through our Learning Lab program, we invite shelters and rescue groups to team up to learn, share, and advance behavioral healthcare together to improve the lives of fearful dogs throughout the entire United States. 

Roux and Sissy

Roux and Sissy, two BRC alumnus, receive their dogplomas and pose for graduation pictures in May 2019. 

So while we may not be able to come together in person at this celebratory time of year, there is always reason to honor the resilience, dedication and feats of those beings, both animal and human, who have completed a remarkable journey. We’re taking a moment to reflect on a few of our incredible dogs who recently graduated from our BRC.

“The team at the BRC creates the opportunity for these dogs to find the joy in their life,” explains Kate Pullen, Vice President of the BRC. “Watching the transformations unfold for the dogs in treatment is truly amazing and then after graduation and placement, we get these wonderful pictures from the adopters of our dogs on a boat, lounging on the sofa, playing in the yard, completely relaxed and comfortable with their world!”

Homeward Bo-ound 


Left: Bo at intake. Right: Bo after making significant progress at the BRC.

Bo was one of several puppies who arrived at a local animal welfare group undersocialized. The litter was extremely fearful—they would run at the sight of humans, scream if touched and urinate or defecate in fear. Bo and his siblings were transferred to our BRC to learn how to overcome their severe anxieties.

Today, Bo is unrecognizable from the scared puppy he once was—he chases down toys at full speed, sprawls out comfortably in the company of human friends, and overall, always tends to stay smiling. 

A Safe Haven for Hattie

Hattie adopted

Hattie is all smiles enjoying some sunshine outside of the BRC. 

Hattie was one of nearly 30 dogs rescued by the ASPCA from an overwhelmed owner in Arkansas. Some of the animals had medical issues, and almost all were housed in a small, unkempt, fenced-in area. There was no adequate shelter to keep all the dogs safe and warm at night. Hattie and many of these dogs were found to be emotionally scarred and fearful. Many received critical rehabilitation from our skilled team to help them recover and become acclimated to life outside of their previous home. Hattie is now ready to find a loving family, and we continue to cheer on other dogs from this case as they make progress in our program. 

Onward for Ona


Ona demonstrated extreme fear when approached by unfamiliar people. The partner shelter who rescued her told us: “She is so timid and fearful that the families that have come to meet her want a dog that is more ‘friendly.’” Although we don’t know what caused Ona’s severe fear, we hoped we could help her overcome her anxiety. With her huge smile and constant tail wags, you wouldn’t know this pup was once anything but happy-go-lucky. She’s made incredible progress in our care. Today, she loves treats and toys, making new dog friends and exploring the outdoors with her people. Ona has graduated and is eager to find a loving home to call her own. 

A Word from the Wise

More than 500 abused and neglected dogs have entered our rehabilitation program since it began in 2013. Some of our alumni are even paying it forward, returning to the BRC as helper dogs to show new dogs undergoing treatment that the real world isn’t so scary after all. 

BRC grads zoom

2019 BRC Alumnus Lily Jane, Maybel, Casper, Roux and Sissy offer some words of wisdom to new 2020 BRC graduates about to embark on the next leg of their journey. 

This May and all throughout the year, we celebrate the victories, both small and large, of this vulnerable population of canines. Rescued from cruelty and neglect, these dogs undergo weeks and sometimes months of critical care and rehabilitation, and their lives post-graduation are only the beginning. We help open their eyes and emotions to many new things like playing with a squeaky toy, receiving a much-needed belly rub, going for walks on a leash and so much more. And in a warm, safe home, they experience unconditional love from humans like never before. 

Dogs at our BRC still need time, patience and support as they transition to their new homes. If you live in the Western North Carolina area and are interested in learning more about adopting a BRC dog, please email [email protected].

Create Second Chances.

Behind every animal rescued and every happy ending at the ASPCA is a generous friend like you. Please help us find loving homes for animals—and make more second chances possible—with your special gift today.