Love (Literally) at First Sight: Alexandra, Danny, and Shelby

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For Alexandra she knew that adoption was the only way that she would get her cats. With millions of healthy, beautiful loving animals at rescue organizations, she would not dream of going anywhere else. Back in 2006, she made the decision not only to adopt two cats, but also give back part of her time by volunteering with a rescue group. Her thought process was that while she was volunteering, she would get to know the cats and it would help her choose the two that she would eventually take home. Her mother happened to live right across the street from Ollie’s Place, so she was familiar with the organization and it was an easy choice for her to want to volunteer there.

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It didn’t take long for Alexandra. On her first day as a volunteer, she walked upstairs into the cat room and she met Danny. As Alexandra put it, “it was love at first sight!” Danny was about a year old when she adopted him. She recalled how she saw this big, gorgeous, tabby cat was perched up in a cat tree and how he had this goofy, but sweet expression on his face. It turned out that his looks were not deceiving – he actually was as sweet and goofy as he looked. She said the decision was easy – “I bent down to say hello to the cats below him and he stuck out his paw and tapped me on the head.” That was all she needed to decide that Danny would be hers. Since bringing him home, Danny has been sweet, healthy, and as friendly as they come.

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The second cat that she fell in love with was Shelby. Shelby was a little older – she was somewhere between eight and ten. Alexandra said that Shelby used to lounge around all day on a huge leopard print cat bed right in the middle of the floor. One day, Alexandra went over and lay down next to the bed and gently called Shelby’s name. Her head popped up, she turned and looked at Alexandra, and without hesitation she walked over and crawled into her arms.

Alexandra was lucky that these two cats had no major medical or social issues. There were the typical annoyances that come with adopting a cat – scratched furniture, early morning feedings, and litter box duty – but it wasn’t anything that a good scratching post and rearranging of a schedule couldn’t fix. Besides, those things were outweighed by the joy her cats brought to her life.

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Sadly, Shelby passed away about two years ago. She became very ill and there was nothing that Alexandra could do. She told me that she wouldn’t have traded the six years she had with her for anything in the world. Her message to anyone who is nervous about adopting an older cat is: “Don’t base your decision on the age of the animal, but the personality.” With a personality that was cordial and slightly aloof with others, Shelby loved Alexandra unconditionally.

She feels that Mighty Mutts/Ollie’s Place has an incredible and dedicated staff of volunteers. Her advice when making a decision is to “talk to the volunteers who know the animals well – ask questions. Spend some time meeting the cats/dogs and get to know their personalities. Consider fostering an animal first if you are unsure about adopting. There may be an adjustment period – but nothing worth doing is without its challenges. The rewards are tenfold. And a rescue animal will never forget you gave it a second chance.” Alexandra told me that she would 100% adopt again.

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Chasing Shadows: Christine, Finn, and Lulu

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Christine and her family have a long history with Mighty Mutts/Ollie’s Place. Shortly before 9/11, one of their family cats passed away. In November 2001, they were walking through Union Square and they met the Mighty Mutts crew. They followed up with John afterwards and ended up adopting a 4-year old cat that they named Sophie. She was a cream and white striped, British Short-Hair. This past fall, she became sick. Christine said that she spent many nights just sitting with her, petting and rubbing her. Christine said “one morning she ran into the bedroom and jumped into my arms. I held her as the bells of St. Brigid’s pealed and she passed away.” When they made the decision to get another cat, there was no question as to where they would go: Mighty Mutts/Ollie’s Place. She said that she has “no interest in getting a pet through a breeder or a store.”

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Christine now has two cats from Mighty Mutts: Finn (originally named Goose) and Lulu (originally named Blue Girl). Finn lived out with John at the NJ barn for many years. He is now about nine years old. Blue Girl is about two, but her backstory is unknown. Christine said that since they adopted both of these cats, they have been fortunate that neither has had any seriously bad emotional issues or physical ailments.

These two cats have changed Christine’s life. “I cannot imagine living without them – they give me great comfort and completely nonjudgmental companionship. My home seems ghostly empty without Finn and Lulu in it.” They make her and her family happy. She said they also make them laugh, sometimes falling over in stitches because of some of their antics. One of the funniest things that Lulu likes to do is jump halfway up a wall to try and catch a shadow. Christine thinks that they would love to try and catch the pigeons on the windowsill, but instead they try for shadows. I suggested to Christine to try shining a light on the wall to see if Finn and Lulu would chase it. She tried it and said that they “LOVE” it!

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To Christine and her family, rescuing again is not open for debate. She has done it several times before and she will continue to do so until she is no longer able to provide adequate care. She hopes that if and when that time comes, whoever is taking care of her takes equally good care of her cats.

Christine wishes, as so many of us do, that there was no need for any rescue organizations. However, she knows that there are literally millions of homeless dogs and cats in America and that places like Mighty Mutts/Ollie’s Place are crucial. She truly believes that John and his crew have done a great job and will definitely be returning to Ollie’s Place the next time she is ready to adopt a cat.

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Jersey Boy: Howling his way into Janet’s heart and home

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Janet and her family already had three beagles before adopting Scottie. Their first beagle, Max, passed away in the fall when he was about 16.5 years old. When they adopted Monty, their second beagle about 12 years ago, they were told that he was about two years old. It turned out that he was actually five. As a result, he was roughly the same age as Max and sadly he passed away a few weeks after Max did. This left Janet and her family devastated and little Tommy, their four year old beagle, without any brothers or sisters to play with. The sadness was evident in him too. That’s when they found Scottie.

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Having rescued two of their previous beagles, and seeing the joy that it brought to their lives and to their dogs’ lives, they were not going to be making a trip to a pet store. Instead, they wanted to give a home to a dog that really needed one. They went to Mighty Mutts and found Scottie. According to Janet, “adopting Scottie brought new joy and love into the home. We can never replace Max and Monte, but adopting him made it feel as though we were honoring the lives of Max and Monty.” She also told me how it changed the focus in the apartment from sadness to “happy craziness.”

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When they first got Scottie, he had a tag on his collar from the Humane Society somewhere in New Jersey. Janet called the number and they were able to pull up some information on Scottie’s background. Apparently, Scottie was found by the side of the road in Newark and was almost put down at 9 months old. Someone working at the Humane Society knew about Mighty Mutts and saved him by bringing him there.

Scottie was not socialized when they first took him home. He wasn’t afraid of people, but he was not particularly interested in them either. He is also pure beagle and, therefore, chewed everything – clothing, furniture, and the occasional hand. He has since settled in and has really bonded well with the family.

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Janet and her family would absolutely adopt again. They recognize the joy and happiness it has brought to their lives. And as for dealing with the behavior sometimes associated with rescue dogs, Janet told me: “we can always replace the shoes, socks, stuffed animals and other things he’s eaten”.

It was Mighty Mutt’s reputation that brought Scottie into Janet’s life. The Humane Society worker knew how wonderful the organization was and it possessed them to save Scottie’s life. Janet and her family feel that Mighty Mutts really cares about where the rescued animas are placed. They feel that John, the founder or Mighty Mutts, truly cares about animals. It makes them feel good that they can do a small part in helping unwanted dogs find a loving home.

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Double Trouble – Two Special Posts Today

As we worked on this project we got such an influx of people wanting to participate that some days will be two happy tails in one day.

First up we have Kristen and her dog Conqy:

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Throughout her lifetime, Kristen had a number of dogs and cats and when she moved from Europe to New York, she missed having that companionship. She came to realize that in New York alone, there were so many homeless cats and dogs that needed to find their forever home. Kristen knew that she did not want to buy a dog from a pet store when so many of them needed help. However, before taking in a rescue animal, she wanted to make sure she could adjust her life to taking care of a dog. Therefore, she started out, like many others, fostering dogs.

Walking through Union Square, she came across Mighty Mutts and afterward did some research on the website. “I sent in an application on their website to be a foster home, and soon ended up with my first foster dog.” Her first dog through Mighty Mutts was Hula. After a few months, Hula went off to live in her forever home. When that happened, Kristen decided she couldn’t be without a dog again and took in Bailey. A few months went by and Bailey was adopted by a nice family.

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One day, Mighty Mutts called Kristen and told her that they had a “special case” that they were hoping she could care for. They had a dog named Conqy who had been rescued off the streets. He was in rough shape. He was “skeleton thin” and had open wounds all over his body. The vet that he was taken to did an excellent job and stitched him back together, but mentally he still needed some work. He was very fearful and not entirely comfortable with all of the new surroundings. Kristen agreed to take him in.

The first few months were a bit wild. Conqy found his inner puppy and would chew up furniture and shoes, barked a lot at statues, people with hats and other dogs, and had a case of separation anxiety. All things that were totally understandable. But, Kristen held on and the persevered. Gradually Conqy settled in and began to relax. He started to like other people and other dogs and soon became the hero of the neighborhood. According to Kristen, “everyone knows Conqy. He gets cuddles and treats from everyone – young and old!”

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The plan was to foster Conqy and rehabilitate him. But, after a while, Kristen realized that she did not have the heart to give him up – nor did she want to be without him! Conqy became Kristen’s forever-dog.

Although he still can be a troublemaker at times, Kristen says that they have so much fun together and if she had the choice, she would do it all over again in a heartbeat. She is so thankful to Mighty Mutts for bringing her and Conqy together.

Kristen asked me to share a message that she has to anyone thinking of getting a pet: “Please choose to adopt one [a dog] that needs a home rather than supporting the puppy industry. There are so, so many wonderful creatures with such sad fates out there just waiting to be saved.”

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The second post is Beach and Lidia:

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Beach is a volunteer for Mighty Mutts. As a volunteer, Beach was aware of the vast number of unwanted pets in the NYC area and when the time came to get a second dog, she planned on adopting. She said that “it seemed cruel and irresponsible to buy one when there were so many great animals available for adoption.”

When Lidia (formerly Themla) came to Mighty Mutts, she came from a breeder in Pennsylvania with her mom, Louise. According to Beach, “she was very young, maybe a year or a year and a half, and had already been bred for puppies.” Being a volunteer for Mighty Mutts, and already a proud owner of a Boston Terrier, Beach “jumped at the chance” to foster one of these dogs.

When they first got Lidia, she struggled with a fear of loud noises. “She would cower under our dining table when we listened to the stereo or if the TV was on.” Beach said that Lidia was also quite confused (and terrified) of stairs. The other thing that was heartbreaking is that when they first got Lidia, she would only go to the bathroom if she was on top of a metal grate on the sidewalk in Manhattan. Beach can only assume that this was how she felt comfortable because she likely lived much of her early life in a crate. But, as time went on, Lidia started to get past her issues. After only a few weeks of having Lidia, they knew that they couldn’t live without her and they went on to adopt Lidia for themselves. Beach told me that this is what she calls a “foster failure!” I would argue that it is quite the opposite for little Lidia!

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Having a dog already, Beach and her family were aware of the benefits and challenges presented by pet ownership. But,” having two,” she said “is so much fun”. Beach told me that she is “endlessly entertained” by their constant antics. She said that adopting Lidia was a great decision and that she would have done it all over again if she had the choice.

Beach believes in Mighty Mutts. She said that it is great because the animals are individually fostered so that every dog is getting the socialization and training they need while they wait for his or her forever home. She wishes she had more time (and likely more room) to be able to foster more.

In my mind, Beach perfectly summed up what it means to be a dog owner: “Dog ownership is like a constant infusion of anti-depressants. How can anyone be sad, angry, lonely, etc. when your pup comes bounding to the front door to greet you, full of enthusiasm and unconditional love?”

I’m still searching for the answer…but I doubt it will ever come to me.

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Eileen (and family) and Sadie

According to Eileen, “mutts make the best dogs.” At least, that’s how she was raised to think. She told me that her family has always adopted or rescued animals. So, when she was ready to get her first dog on her own, going to a pet store never crossed her mind. Eleven years ago, she went on the NYCACC website and came across Buddy – it was love at first sight. She recalls standing in front of his cage so nobody else would take him.

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Fast forward to one Saturday when she and her daughter were going to lunch in Union Square. At the time, she was not actively looking to get a second dog and was unaware of Mighty Mutts and the work that they do every Saturday in Union Square. As they passed by the adoption drive, they stopped to meet and see the dogs. Her daughter, who Eileen says is very similar to herself, tried to pet every dog and throughout lunch kept asking if they could go back. They did, and that’s where Eileen met and fell in love with Sadie. “I like to tell people that I have a type – big brown dogs with floppy ears,” she said. Sadie fit this profile and they knew that Sadie needed them. The only thing standing in their way was the fact that they were unsure how Buddy would react. After some back and forth, John, from Mighty Mutts, brought Sadie over for a meet and greet. Buddy took to her well – despite the few little scuffles that any siblings have! In the end, however, Sadie and Buddy really enjoyed each other.

Eileen came to find out that this was not Sadie’s first time being adopted from Mighty Mutts. Another family had Sadie for ten years. But, when their two year old child developed an allergy to Sadie, it was clear that they had to do something. Mighty Mutts has a policy that if you cannot keep your dog for any reason, no matter how long it has been, you must return the dog to them so they can find another home. After Eileen adopted Sadie, she spoke to the father of the family that had to give her up. She could tell that he was devastated to lose her. Eileen assured him that she would be fine with us and that we would take very good care of her. A promise that she has kept to this day.

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Buddy and Sadie are both older dogs. After they both pass on, Eileen doesn’t plan on getting any more pets right away. At the same time, she told me that she “can’t imagine being dog free for the rest of my life.” However, if (and when) she does decide to get another dog, she would definitely adopt again. She also thinks that the legacy will continue with her daughter. “She already talks about the pets she plans to have in the future.”

Eileen is a huge believer in adopting and she has immense respect for Mighty Mutts and Ollie’s place as she feels they are very thorough when placing an animal. She gives them a lot of credit for doing what they do. If it wasn’t for Might Mutts, and John taking the time to bring Sadie over to meet with Buddy, Sadie would never have found her true forever home!

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Stephanie and Nyssa

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Stephanie and her husband strongly believe in adoption. They have never purchased a pet from a breeder or a store. Instead, they have always adopted their pets from people who no longer want them.

Stephanie’s introduction to Mighty Mutts was online. She was looking through postings to find a dog to rescue and when she and her husband saw Nyssa’s picture, they knew they found their next dog. It linked them to Mighty Mutt’s website where she was able to set up a time to meet Nyssa in person – and meet the Mighty Mutt’s organization.

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Lucky for Stephanie and her husband, Nyssa is a very good girl. They haven’t experienced any major challenges or issues since they adopted her. In fact, it has been quite the opposite of many rescue animals that come through organizations like Mighty Mutts. According to Stephanie, “Nyssa has been a complete blessing and enriched our lives with love, fun and purpose.” Nyssa was just what this family needed.

Stephanie told me that she would adopt again in a second, and that their home is “always open to a dog in need.” She also said that Mighty Mutts is the only rescue they believe in because they are both great people, and they do great things for the animals in their care.

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Randi and her Beagles – Missy and Boomer

8For eight years now, Randi has been giving her time to volunteer for Mighty Mutts. One Saturday, she saw them set up on their usual corner in Union Square and knew she had to get involved.

At the time she began volunteering for Mighty Mutts, Randi did not have her own dog, but she knew that at some point she would end up with at least one. “I have wanted dogs all of my life, but wanted the time to be right.” When the timing was right, she knew that adopting a dog is what she wanted to do. In fact, she told me that buying a dog was never even an option in her mind. She said, “I know there are countless great dogs in need of adoption and I always wanted to open my home to one (or two) of them.”

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One day while she was volunteering, she met three new beagles that had come in to Mighty Mutts together – Missy, Boomer, and Daisy. She didn’t know much about their backstory (which happens to be a big reason why people are sometimes nervous to adopt) except that these dogs were abandoned after their owner passed away. Regardless, she fell in love with Missy and Boomer and Randi knew that these two beagles had to be hers.

After getting them home, Randi began to realize that these dogs had no training at all. They had to be housebroken (maybe for the first time), learn how to walk properly on a leash, and learn basic obedience commands. Even still, Missy is extremely fearful of strangers. Boomer does not get along with other dogs with the exception of Missy. While Randi does not believe they suffered any physical trauma before she adopted them, there were still major adjustments that had to be made getting them used to their new lives.6

Randi said, even with the struggles of having to train two dogs, she would 100% do it again.  Her dogs are part of her family, and they love them. “They have their issues, but all dogs do.”

Randi told me that these two beagles have changed her life in many positive ways. She said that “these two dogs keep their human parents on their toes, and do something every day to make people laugh. After a rough day, you cannot help but smile knowing that you have two happy, wagging tails waiting for you when you come home.”

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I also asked Randi to tell me how she feels about Mighty Mutts. She told me that “as a Mighty Mutts volunteer, I know how much the organization is there to help animals in need. I’m grateful for the work they do and can think of no better way to thank them than to have adopted my dogs there.” Randi says that the rescue dogs at Mighty Mutts, and at other organizations, are sweet, loving, adorable, and thankful for the new life you give them. She certainly sees that with Missy and Boomer.

Randi’s two beautiful beagles are purebred. In fact, purebreds are extremely easy to find in shelters and rescue organizations. So before you assume that all rescues are mutts, if you are looking for a specific breed please try searching through organizations like Mighty Mutts first.

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