Overcoming Challenges: The Story of Anna, Alan, and Gia

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As long as Anna could remember, she has loved animals – specifically dogs – and has had all types of pets. She and her husband, Alan, would talk about getting a dog from time to time and they knew that eventually they would try and adopt a dog from a rescue organization. About three years ago, Anna and her husband decided to foster a dog named Seymour from a rescue organization in the city. Although he was not a “city” dog, according to Anna, they still loved having him around. She told me that when they first got Seymour, he was not in great shape. “What was once a very sick 40lb. puppy, over the course of seven months, became a very healthy and energetic 90lb. dog.” The change in him was remarkable. However, she told me that once he was healthy, he was “greatly in need of training and really needed a home outside of the city.” To help prepare him for adoption, Anna and her husband worked hard with a trainer and finally found him an amazing home in North Carolina. “He got a big yard, a wonderful mom, and two doggie siblings.” They still keep in touch with Seymour’s owner and they know that what they did in just seven months made a difference.

It was also a good experience for Anna and her husband as it was what they need to begin the road to getting Gia. “Fostering Seymour was one of our biggest challenges,” she said. “But, it was also a huge learning experience about the rescue world, the challenges these dogs [rescues] face, and the importance of rescue organizations, fosters, volunteers, and adopting.”

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Even before they fostered Seymour, Anna sort of knew about Mighty Mutts. “So often we would pass a group at Union Square. At the time we had no idea it was Might Mutts. We would always just say hi to the dogs and drop in a donation.” When she would pass by, she often said to herself that she would love to volunteer, but she was always too busy to do so. However, after Seymour found his forever home in North Carolina, the next time she passed by Mighty Mutts something was different. This time she said “I want to volunteer for them…and it does not matter how busy I am…I am doing it!” She’s been volunteering with Mighty Mutts for just over two years now and it has been a big part of her life ever since.

Shortly after starting with Mighty Mutts, Anna and her husband did a temporary foster with a sweet beagle whose foster mom was out of town for about a month. After that, Mighty Mutts asked if Anna could foster one of their senior girls who needed a foster home – nine and a half year old Gia. That was it for Anna. She said that “after fostering her for a year, we realized she had found her home – with us! Of course she wasn’t going anywhere, and we adopted her.”

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As is generally the case with rescues – especially those that come to the organization later in their life – it is hard to know the full backstory. The basic story that they were given is that the owners were moving and decided that they did not want to pay the insurance to have a dog at their new house. One thing was clear to Anna, “Gia was nine and a half when we got her, and clearly had a challenging life before she came to us.” When they got her, there was evidence that she had a number of puppies in her lifetime. In addition, she had a number of broken teeth that her vet feels was either from trying to eat rocks due to a poor diet or chewing at the bars of a cage. She also is fearful of new people, including Anna and Alan when they first took her in. “While she warmed up to us quickly, she used to cower if we would reach too quickly to pet her.” She was definitely not treated the way that this sweet and loving dog should have been. Regarding Gia’s previous life, Anna said: “I really don’t like to think about her history too much – we will never know all of the facts and can only speculate so much. I am just glad she is with us now and knows how much we love her.”

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Anna and Alan continue to have challenges they have to work through with Gia. She has a number of medical conditions. Anna attributes it partly because she is eleven, but partly because many of her health issues likely went untreated. “She has had a chronic ear infection since the day we got her. She has hypothyroidism which is now being treated with medication. And she was diagnosed with a number of mammary masses which were removed.” They have also needed to accommodate her varying levels of energy. “While she often has her ‘puppy’ spurts of energy at night,” Anna said, “there are days that are more challenging for her when her limp is worse or it is too hot out.” From a behavioral perspective, she still continues to have a fear of new people. “We have to be very patient with her when introducing her to new people as she is very shy.” To help Gia feel comfortable, Anna and Alan have developed a routine whenever people come to visit. “We usually go on a walk outside with friends before coming up to the apartment so that she can get to know them and learn that they are safe.” While it may take a little extra time, Anna said that Gia’s love and loyalty to those she trusts is unparalleled.

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Even though it can be challenging at times, Anna knows it has all been worth it. She told me that “the biggest way she [Gia] has impacted our life is the joy she brings.” Anna is a big believer that your pet is part of your family. “Gia is always on our mind and her care is #1 to us. Sometimes we have to say no to a social event because we have had a long day at work, and need to spend time with our dog. We often have to adjust our schedules around Gia’s schedule. There have been days we have to miss something at work because of an important vet appointment.” In addition, there are only a few friends they trust to stay with Gia when they are away because they know Gia will completely safe. But, according to Anna, “that big smile and wagging tail when we walk in the door, whether we have been gone for a week ro an hour, the rolling around the carpet and asking for belly rubs, and staring at us until we help her up on the couch (because with age, sometimes she has trouble jumping now), all reminds us of why it is all worth it!”

For now, because Gia is not a huge fan of other dogs, Anna and Alan are not looking to give her a brother or sister. However, it will not stop Anna from volunteering as much as she can with Mighty Mutts. Down the road, however, they would likely adopt again. She said that “any challenges are outweighed by the happiness a dog brings, and that happiness is doubled when you know you are their second chance – because you can see it in their eyes that they know it too.”

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Anna feels strongly that adopting is the only way to go. “There are so many wonderful animals that need homes, and rescue groups like Mighty Mutts are amazing in giving these animals a second chance at life.” She told me that what specifically stands out to her about Mighty Mutts & Ollie’s Place is that for these organizations it is truly about finding the perfect match for these animals. They will hold on to an animal for as long as it takes to make sure the right match comes along. Anna feels that the volunteers that work for Mighty Mutts are incredible. It is a tight community of individuals that support one another. “Once a Mighty Mutt, always a Mighty Mutt!”

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