Even before Robert began volunteering with Mighty Mutts, he never thought about getting a pet from a store. First of all, he feels strongly that pet store puppies come from puppy mills and he doesn’t want to support that. Second, he always wanted to get his “forever buddies” from a rescue. He loves the idea of opening his home to animals that have been abandoned and/or abused. In his mind, those are the ones that need his help the most.
March 11, 1995: Robert has a vivid memory of the events that occurred this day. Back then, he never really ventured to Union Square, but on that Saturday he went to purchase a DVD player at The Wiz (the electronics store that once occupied the space where American Eagle is now). As he was walking toward the store, he noticed a crowd of people and a bunch of dogs on the corner of 14th Street. Never one to give up an opportunity to play with dogs, he walked over. As he was looking around, he saw a New York Times article from the previous Sunday taped to the table. The article was about John and Mighty Mutts. Robert remembers the article having a profound impact on him and after reading it he noticed that the gentleman sitting with the dogs in Union Square was the man from the article. While his original plan was to go to Union Square for a DVD player, Robert said that, instead, he walked over to John and asked “do you need any volunteers?” That moment began what has now been a 19-year commitment to helping dogs by volunteering with Mighty Mutts. To this day, Robert still has the New York Times article at home which serves as a constant reminder of the day that changed the course of his life.
Robert always liked having two dogs at the same time. When he first met Shelly, he only had one dog, a pit mix named Mikey, as his eldest dog had passed away. He always intended to get a brother or sister for Mikey, but he was waiting to meet the right one to add to the family. One Saturday, as he headed over to Union Square for his weekly Mighty Mutts volunteer shift, he spotted an “absolutely adorable” beagle. He learned that Shelly was just rescued from a terrible life with a breeder of hunting dogs and it was her first day at the corner. Robert recalls, “the moment I saw her I said, ‘I want her. Do we have any applications in for her yet? No? Good, she’s coming home with me!”
Even while Robert had Shelly and Mikey, he would take in foster dogs from Mighty Mutts. Robert met Bugsy when he was part of his “walking crew”. Bugsy was staying at Ollie’s for about three months because there was no foster home for him at the time. Robert knew that when his current foster was adopted, Bugsy would be his next. Before taking Bugsy home as a foster, Robert needed to make sure that he would get along with Shelly and Mikey, who was now older and starting to get sick. While waiting for Michelle to meet him over at PetCo with Bugsy, Robert struck up a conversation with a woman named Danielle. Little did he know at the time, but Bugsy ended up being quite the match maker! Robert and Danielle have now been together for almost a year.
Bugsy was rescued from a crack house in the Bronx. Robert brought him in as a foster after he passed the test with Shelly and Mikey. After a few months, Mikey passed away. Trying to keep to his desire to always have two “permanent” dogs, Robert wanted to keep Bugsy, but he had to make sure that he would be a good foster buddy to other dogs he would undoubtedly bring in. Once he proved himself with Moe, Robert’s next foster, he decided to make Bugsy a permanent member of the family. He said, “how could I give him up? Especially after he fixed up me and Danielle!”
According to Robert, there haven’t been many challenges with Shelly and Bugsy. Robert provides a structured, loving home – which is critical when there are three dogs wandering around (two permanent and one foster). The biggest challenge was for Shelly when Bugsy became permanent. Bugs always wants to play and Shelly keeps trying to let him know that he’s too big for her. For now, Moe makes for a better play mate.
When asked how these dogs have changed his life, Robert didn’t even know where to begin. The love the dogs give to him always makes him feel better. His belief is that “canine therapy is the best.” Plus, he believes that the act of adopting has led to many friends and places he would have never met/experienced before. Being with animals that really needed a home has been a life altering experience. Plus, he says, “Bugsy helped me meet the love of my life!”
Robert will continue to foster and adopt dogs as long as he is able to care for them. He reiterates his position that there is no need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars when there are so many beautiful and loving ones in need of a home. He says that he will always get his dogs from Mighty Mutts. He says that Mighty Mutts has dogs that are “rescued from the worst circumstances and have the greatest hearts.” He continues to donate his time to these dogs and sees no end in sight.