Proven Strategies

Black and white cat and brown and white dog lying on laps

10 tales from 2022

Network partners spread some early holiday cheer with stories about their favorite adoptions  

We all know that there are a lot of tough days working in animal welfare – maybe it even feels like they’ve outstripped the good ones this year – but reading a few feel-good stories can help remind us of the big picture. Believe it or not, there’s an immense amount of joyful progress happening: long-lost pet reunions, challenging animal adoptions, displays of public goodwill and support.  

We know there’s no end to the heartwarming tales because we hear them from you, our partners.  

We’ve already shared a few highlights from shelters and rescue groups this year and wanted to take another opportunity before year’s end to share even more (plus, we have some awesome photos to show you!). So, we’re reprising last year’s Program Spotlight concept in the spirit of Thanksgiving. With no further ado, here are 10 tales we hope will warm your heart, buoy your spirit and remind you just why we all do this hard work to begin with:   

Puppies graduate to support animal status 

Man with beard wearing sunglasses holding puppyEverybody knows that puppies, although adorable, can be rather loud and obnoxious (no offense to the puppy lovers out there). But as the Rhea County Animal Shelter/Animal Shelter Alliance in Tennessee found, they can also be amazing emotional support dogs. Milo and Baby were your typical boisterous four-month-old puppies until they received ear scritches, which transformed them into quiet kiddos who were perfectly content to sit calmly and quietly in someone’s lap!  

That was a perfect fit for two elderly men who came to the shelter separately looking for dogs who could help them heal. One of the men had a stroke while the other was grieving the loss of his 14-year-old dog. Milo and Baby turned out to be the perfect match for the men’s needs and are happily enjoying endless ear scritches to this day.  

 

Abner: Charming champion 

While everyone at Lawrence Humane Society (LHS) in Kansas was excited to have 14 dogs adopted during the May National Adoption Weekend (particularly at a time when they were running low on dog kennel space), it was the adoption of a cat named Abner that really sent the staff into a flurry of excitement. 

After 10 years in his home, Abner began to urinate outside of the litter box – a habit that led his family to relinquish him to LHS. Abner was also overweight at 23 pounds and had been declawed on all four feet, though he was otherwise healthy. Other than that, he was an all-around gentleman who was friendly with kids and dogs and playful with other cats. And of course, he loved adults, too. 

“All the staff and volunteers fell head over heels for Abner,” says Elina Alterman, LHS’s director of development and communications. “He was such a charmer and even tolerated being dressed in a Kansas basketball jersey and having his picture taken right before the Kansas University men's basketball team won the NCAA National Championship!” 

Cat wearing jersey lying in gray bed


As for his bathroom indiscretions, Abner just needed to go on a diet and have access to a larger, open litterbox. That didn’t matter to Abner’s new mama anyway. She was smitten with him once she saw him at the shelter, “litterbox challenges be damned,” Elina says. And staff and volunteers were over the moon. 

“Every evening, we take a picture of the board that lists every animal adopted that day and post the picture to the internal staff/fosters/volunteer Facebook group,” Elina says. “That night after the picture was posted, there were 13 comments (much more than usual), all excited about Abner's adoption! Abner was the only cat adopted that day, but his adoption made everyone's day.”  

Good luck at last for Gromit 

It may have taken 22 months for Gromit to find his person, but good things are worth the wait, right?  

Woman with big dog resting its head on her shoulderThe chocolate lab mix showed up at the Center for Animal Rescue and Enrichment (CARE) in St. Louis afraid to even eat in front of people and with a case of stranger danger, but staff and volunteers were determined to help him overcome his issues. First things first, Gromit was enrolled in the shelter’s Care, Holistic Enrichment, and Wellness Program (CHEW), which allows volunteers to take the dogs off-site for extra enrichment. Participants are required to commit to at least three days a week with sessions that last at least 30 minutes. 

“Volunteer Andrea became his CHEW buddy, and she took her commitment even further than the minimum,” says CARE’s Dana Widmer. “After many months she won Gromit’s trust enough to take him home for regular ‘straycations’ to get him used to a loving home environment.” 

Those visits did the trick. 

"When Gromit came into the shelter, over a year and a half ago, he wasn’t the same dog I know and love now,” Andrea says. “He was defeated, emaciated, scared of everyone and everything, and he didn’t know what it meant to be loved. In my house he learned how to be a beloved part of a family instead of fighting to survive every day.” 

Andrea learned something, too: how hard it was to say goodbye to a dog she’d grown to love. In the end, though, she did send him to a new home where he continues acting like “the goofy doggo he always deserved to be. I feel truly blessed that I was part of his journey, and he was part of mine."   

Geodude checks all the boxes 

Woman sitting next to big dog with toysHow the heck can people overlook a handsome five-year-old dog with a mellow personality and a penchant for being a cuddle bug? Beats us, but that was the case for Geodude. The blue pit bull terrier type dog came to Pasadena Humane in California in April and spent his first month without any adoption interest.   

Enter Vanessa, who arrived at the shelter in May looking for a good family dog who could also be an emotional support animal. Though she was originally interested in a few other dogs, the shelter’s adoption counselor recommended she meet Geodude. Once he entered the play yard, Vanessa was hooked. 

It just so happened that Pasadena Humane was waiving adoption fees that day, and that suited Vanessa perfectly because she had been concerned about costs. Indeed, she said it was clearly meant to be as she walked out the door with Geodude. Before they got home, however, Geodude had a pit stop to make: a local park to surprise Vanessa’s daughter, who was unable to accompany her mom to the shelter that day due to a baseball game.   

“Model Pair” market themselves into a new home  

Two kittens in kennel one behind foster signFor most kittens, New York’s KittyKind adoption center is a stopover – they move from intake to adoption in quick succession. For DoDo and JJ, however, their stop was becoming a stay. First, they needed treatment for intestinal parasites. Then, although they were a charming duo on the adoption floor and the public “Oohed” and “Aahed” over them, people hesitated to adopt a bonded pair of kittens.  

So KittyKind turned DoDo and JJ into poster children – literally. They were featured on social media, in marketing materials for “June is Foster a Pet Month,” and for Amazon Prime Day and Amazon Smile. Slowly, their fanbase grew and by Saturday, July 22, a family of four hurried into KittyKind to finalize their adoption. JJ, the shyer of the pair, even allowed the family’s seven-year-old to hold him.  

“For DoDo and JJ, their stay turned out to be a beginning,” KittyKind says.  

Reunited and it feels so good 

Woman with puppy holding adoption signLife’s trials and tribulations can threaten the bond that exists between people and their animals, but shelters have the resources to step in and preserve those relationships by offering some temporary support. In March, a gentleman called BestPals Animal Rescue Center in Michigan, because his senior mom Gayle was getting evicted and needed to surrender her dog Baby. Shortly after the man brought Baby to BestPals, Gayle had a health crisis that sent her first to the hospital and then to a senior care facility. 

“Gayle began calling us to ask how her dog was doing,” says founder and director Michelle Kenat. “We kept her updated about Baby, who was in a foster home, but we knew she was pining for him. In fact, Gayle’s plan was to move out of the senior facility and find an apartment where she could bring him home.” 

Well, by the fall her plan came to fruition. After setting Baby up with a neuter, vaccines, and flea, tick and heartworm preventative, BestPals returned Gayle’s best pal to her waiting arms. 

“We reminded Gayle that BestPals’ policy is that we would always be there for her and Baby in the event of an emergency or crisis,” Michelle says. “We are so pleased that Baby is not just back home but has also become Gayle’s emotional support dog and never leaves her side.”  

Shut-down dog blossoms into social butterfly 

Two people squatting with dog in front of stairsManatee had a rough go of it before coming to Badass Animal Rescue (BAR) in New York, arriving covered in bite marks. Probably as a result of those injuries, she was also extremely fearful of and reactive towards other dogs.  

BAR first placed Manatee at a board and train facility for five months, then moved her into a loving, structured foster home. Her foster worked specifically on building up her confidence and teaching her to interact appropriately with their cat and Manatee’s improvement was astounding!  

Within a month, she started to relax and play with other dogs and even grew to love her cat sibling. She blossomed into a dog who is very eager to please and loves every human she meets. That includes the person who adopted her in May.  

“This amazing girl has overcome so many challenges and continues to thrive,” BAR says. “Dogs like her are the reason why Badass does not give up on any dog and why we never hesitate to invest in their care and training.”  

Shiloh offers much-needed unconditional love 

Companion Animal Alliance (CAA) in Baton Rouge shared a particularly heartwarming tale about a truly perfect match made during the spring National Adoption event:  

Man holding dog on couch in a shelter“When potential adopter John came into our shelter, our client care team took the time to talk to him and figure out what, specifically, he was looking for in a pet,” says CAA’s Emily Lemoine. “John explained that he suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, and that he had always valued the companionship of animals during his childhood because ‘dogs never judge you.’  

After sitting with John and talking for a while, CAA’s staff realized Shiloh would be the perfect dog for him. The two immediately connected, with Shiloh’s energetic nature calming significantly in John’s presence.  

“CAA was able to send John home with a new best friend, a new emotional support animal, and a new partner for whatever life throws at him,” Emily says. “Shiloh lives happily with John and encourages him to be his most confident self!” 

Indeed, after adopting Shiloh, John left such a heartwarming voicemail that some shelter staff members were in tears.  

“We are incredibly thankful that this adoption event gave both John and Shiloh happiness for a lifetime, free of charge,” Emily says.   

Kitten goes from victim to “The Big Cheese” 

Sometimes we see awful situations as part of our work. That was the case for Big Sky CARES in Louisiana when a Good Samaritan brought them a tiny kitten who had been attacked by a dog. The kitten was small, and the damage was so extensive that his back legs no longer functioned. 

Kitten in yellow cat tent“We named him after the famous orphan Oliver Twist and over the next several months in our care, Oliver bravely endured many treatments for his spinal injuries,” says marketing manager Mallory Moore.  

Despite the major trauma he endured as a tiny kitten, Mallory says “we watched him grow into a sweet, playful cat and he became a favorite among Big Sky's Facebook followers, who looked forward to a daily dose of Oliver. 

“His journey took him from the jaws of that dog and put him on a path to recovery and living a full life,” Mallory continues. “Our mission is, ‘Changing the ways we think and feel about living with and caring for animals.’ That's why Big Sky gives an unowned, badly injured kitten with no means to cover the cost of his treatment the very same chance at a full life as any long adored beloved family pet.” 

Speaking of being a beloved family pet . . . A long-time friend and previous Big Sky adopter visited during the September Best Friends adoption event, and you know the rest of this story. 

“We knew this compassionate adopter had the level of patience and dedication required to care for a special cat like our Oliver, who was around this place for much longer than most,” Mallory says. “His favorite hidey hole was shaped like a piece of cheese, which was completely appropriate since he was the ‘big cheese’ around here for so long. Ollie and his cheese are now living it up in the care of a special someone who was able to #BringHomeHappiness.”  

Lady/Bey overcomes all odds  

Fetchin' Retrievers Rescue (FRR) in Southern California shared a story whose origins stretch all the way back to December 2020, when Beyaz (“Bey”) was transferred into their care from a shelter. The retriever’s first fosters were Patti and Gary, who immediately noticed that Bey was subdued, uninterested in food, had difficulty even standing on her hind legs and preferred to be outside rather than inside the house.  

After X-rays determined that Bey was suffering from severe arthritis, she was started on anti-inflammatories, which ended up causing severe gastrointestinal upset. That led Patti and Gary down a long path of trying one remedy after another to settle poor Bey's stomach and help her put on some weight. Eventually, her tummy stabilized somewhat but she still resisted going for walks and spent most of her time lying down by herself.  

Next FRR decided to see if some physical and cold laser therapy might help her, but after a month there wasn't much change.  Worried that Bey was becoming more depressed, her fosters wondered if she might perk up around other dogs. So, they arranged a field trip to another foster home that FRR affectionately refers to as “Doggie Disneyland.” 

“Pat and Ed’s home is the place where all the neighborhood dogs are welcome to hang out,” FRR says. “There Bey met Cooper, a Golden Retriever, and it was a smash hit!” 

Two dogs sitting in back seat of car


The two were instant friends and wasted no time exploring the back yard together. It was clear that Bey needed the company of another four-legged friend in order to adjust to her new life, so Patti and Gary decided it was best for her to stay at Doggie Disneyland with Cooper.   

“It was the beginning of an emotional re-awakening for Bey, but not the end of her medical challenges,” FRR says. “Her gait was still abnormal, so starting in October 2021 she underwent two surgeries. Her recovery then stretched out into April of this year.” 

Through it all Bey was courageous, affectionate and incredibly resilient. She also won the hearts of Pat and Ed, who adopted her in May.  

“Bey may never have just one name because Pat has many sweet nicknames for her, but Lady may be the one that becomes official,” FRR says. “It's certainly official that Beyaz has found the home that will keep her safe, healthy, happy and loved for years to come.” 

Liz Finch - Best Friends Animal Society

Liz Finch
Senior Writer
Best Friends Network

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