Two Adoption Stories Personify the Bond Between Pets and People
Dove, a three-year-old pit bull-mix, and Zeisel, a three-month-old kitten, received much-needed second chances at life thanks to the ASPCA and Catherine’s Butterfly Party in Newtown, Connecticut on June 11.
The annual event honors the memory of six-year-old Catherine Violet Hubbard, a young animal lover whose life was tragically cut short during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012. Catherine’s party commemorates her birthday by inviting animal welfare organizations and rescues—including the ASCPA—to bring their adoptable pets to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, established in 2013.
“Our team was excited to participate in this event again after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19,” says Cecilia Ochoa, ASPCA Manager of Mobile Adoptions. “ASPCA staff and volunteers always look forward to Catherine’s Butterfly Party. The venue is an excellent opportunity to find homes for pets who may do best outside the busy city environment."
The ASPCA, which honored Catherine posthumously with an ASPCA Humane Award in 2013, was one of 30 animal welfare organizations on-site on June 11 with pets including Dove and Zeisel.
“It was a remarkable day, one that could not have marked more sweetly what would have been Catherine’s 16th birthday,” says Jenny Hubbard, Catherine’s mother. “Seeing all the adoption units filled with pets would have stopped Catherine in her tracks.”
Jenny says that 39 pets went home that day. An additional 121 applications were made for the 158 animals on site and those represented through images shared by their rescuers.
“I am pretty confident Catherine was pleased,” Jenny says.
Dove at First Sight
When Rob and Natalie K.’s family lost their 17-year-old beagle, Ruby, last October, it was difficult to say goodbye.
“Animals are a big part of our life,” says Natalie. “And our kids—Izzy, 21; Julia, 18; and Jonah, 13—grew up with Ruby.”
As they began their quest for a new dog, they thought of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary.
“We go walking on the property, and we know friends who have adopted from their events in the past,” Natalie says.
Dove was the first dog the family noticed when they arrived at the event.
“She stood out to us,” says Natalie. “I thought we’d come home with another beagle, so we looked at all the other dogs. But none had quite the same charm as Dove.”
A Painful Past
The NYPD and ASPCA rescued Dove from a home in Brooklyn on February 1 during the execution of an unrelated search warrant. Locked in a crate and living in deplorable conditions—covered in urine and feces—Dove was transferred to the ASPCA Animal Recovery Center (ARC).
“Dove was incredibly underweight and had one of the worst smelling coats I’ve encountered in a long time,” says Dr. Aubrey Crowley, Medical Supervisor at the ARC. “Unsurprisingly, she had a skin infection with painful ulcerated sores where the feces and urine had been in contact with her paws and chest.”
Dove also had roundworms—a gastrointestinal parasite—and conjunctivitis in both eyes.
Dr. Laura Niestat, Forensic Veterinarian, says Dove’s multiple medical issues were associated with living in poor and unsanitary conditions. She was also very underweight.
“We fed Dove according to a specific feeding protocol to prevent ‘refeeding syndrome,’ a serious medical condition that can occur when a malnourished animal is fed too much too quickly,” says Dr. Niestat. “The slow reintroduction of food allowed her body to recover and adjust to digesting and metabolizing food.”
“Since Dove was found locked in a filthy crate with no access to food or water, we were unsure how long she may have gone without eating,” adds Dr. Crowley.
Dove’s skin disease, conjunctivitis and roundworm infection resolved with treatment, and after about eight weeks, she gained 11.5 pounds—36% of her intake weight of 31.6 lbs.
Behaviorally, however, Dove was fearful of new situations.
“She was very stressed, growling and barking at unfamiliar people from inside her kennel and while on a leash,” says Brittani Rae Hrehorovich, Behavior Specialist at ARC and CARE (Canine Annex for Recovery and Enrichment). “She would greet other dogs with a tense body and her hackles raised.”
The behavior team worked extensively with Dove to help her learn to trust people and other dogs.
“Through lots of patience, positive experiences and food, Dove became a regular in doggie playgroups and was able to make many human friends,” Brittani says.
Today, Dove is a ball of energy and love, according to Natalie.
“She fits right into our busy, nature-loving home,” Natalie says. “She greets me every morning with kisses and tail wags. She loves long walks, playing fetch, fishing with my son or chasing our chickens, who she thinks are her personal friends.”
“The Last One Left”
Cat lovers Scott W. and his wife, Aissa, of Redding, Connecticut had heard about Catherine’s Butterfly Party and were looking for something to do on June 11.
At the event, they chose a kitten, but the feline was already spoken for.
“That kitten was adopted before we got a chance to meet him,” Scott says. “Aissa said, ‘maybe it wasn’t meant to be, considering we have three other cats at home.’”
The couple explored the rest of the event and returned to look at more kittens—that’s when they met Zeisel.
“Zeisel was kind of shy, but we were enamored by his cute face and—well—it was just one of those things,” Scott says. “By then, he was the last one left. He needed a home, and we knew we could give him a great one.”
Zeisel was just three weeks old when a Good Samaritan found him on the streets of Broad Channel, an island in Jamaica Bay, Queens, on April 25. He was admitted to the ASPCA Kitten Nursery in Manhattan, suffering from an eye infection and diarrhea. From May 1 to June 9, Zeisel was cared for in a foster home.
At home, Zeisel—now Toby—gets along well with two bonded ginger tabbies, Tigger and Roo, aged two, and Bonnie, a 12-year-old cat.
“Toby is such a wonderful addition to our family,” says Scott. “He has such a loving personality and licks us awake in the morning. We couldn’t be happier.”
A Poignant Connection
For Natalie, who has lived in Newtown since 1995, and Scott, a Connecticut native, adopting a pet from Catherine’s Butterfly Party was bittersweet.
“We were grateful to find Dove,” says Natalie, an occupational therapist who knew two of the Sandy Hook shooting victims personally. “We live half a mile from Sandy Hook; our kids all attended Newtown schools. We were all impacted by that horrific event, and not a day goes by that we don’t think about it.”
Scott has long been aware of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation and supports its mission to promote compassion and healing through the human-animal connection.
“We’ve always acquired animals through shelters and rescues,” says Scott. “They’re the ones who need us. Finding Zeisel here was right up our alley.”