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

Ostroffs-7

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.”

Ostroffs-9

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.”

 Ostroffs-5

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.”

Ostroffs-4

 

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.

Ostroffs-2

 

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.”

 Ostroffs-3

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!”

Sacrifice and Selflessness: The Story of How Samantha Saved Pedro’s Life

pedro-23

Samantha already had a cat that she rescued when she decided to get another pet. She knew that she wanted to rescue another animal, but I don’t think that she knew that in addition to rescuing a dog from a shelter, she would literally be saving his life. At the time, she lived in Chelsea and would often see Mighty Mutts set up in Union Square when she would walk through on Saturdays. Through Mighty Mutts, she met Pedro.

Pedro came to Mighty Mutts from a high-kill shelter in upstate New York. When Mighty Mutts found him, it was clear that he had not been provided with any sort of vet care. He was completely bald and covered in blood. He suffered from mange, hookworms, and giardia. When most would give up, Mighty Mutts took him and brought him to the vet for the care he so desperately needed. Pedro spent over a month in the vet’s office before being released back to Mighty Mutts. He was stabilized, but still had extensive medical needs and needed to find a place to live.

pedro-5

 

Unfortunately, in his earlier life, Pedro developed a fear aggression towards other dogs. They tried to put him in a foster home with other dogs, but it did not work out. Therefore, the only place they could keep him at the time was at Ollie’s Place. He became the resident dog there and he slowly began to trust other animals. He befriended a cat named Benito – the same one that was featured in one of the success stories posted last week! While he was at Ollie’s Place, Pedro started to get better. He had no shortage of love and care from the various volunteers.

 

However, it soon became clear that he needed to find a permanent home. His health started to deteriorate again. He stopped eating and because of his various skin ailments, his paws started bleeding and oozing on a daily basis. Finding a home for Pedro was becoming more and more difficult due to his various issues. In came Samantha. She fell in love with Pedro and felt that he “deserved a chance to know what life could be like outside of a shelter.” She remembers him having a shy sweetness about him and that he seemed sad being confined to Ollie’s Place. So many volunteers from Mighty Mutts had put so much time, love, and care into rehabilitating Pedro, that in April 2013, when the time came for Samantha to take him home, the excitement and joy was palpable.

 

pedro-7

Samantha said that when Pedro came home to her apartment, she lay down with him on his new bed and he just started to give her kisses. He knew that he found his forever home. Samantha was even able to get him to start eating again that very same day. Although, overall, he has continued to get better, there have still been many challenges since she brought him home. Pedro has had countless visits to the vet and several procedures. However, Samantha says that despite the ups and downs, his health seems to have stabilized and “we seem to be on a path toward good health!” Samantha also continues to work on Pedro’s fear aggression. She moved out of her building in Chelsea after her neighbors expressed concerns about Pedro’s interactions with other dogs. She now lives in a place where she is fortunate that the other dog owners in her building have been very accommodating and understanding. She said that Pedro loves being outside and she is working on reintegrating him into social settings with other dogs.

pedro-21

 

Samantha cannot even begin to describe how Pedro has changed her life. She said it has “made me into a mommy, a nurse, and a dog owner, which I wasn’t sure I’d ever be!” Having to deal with his health issues and being vigilant against his aggression, it has also made her into a more responsible and considerate person. Where most people would have given up, she gave up her apartment and moved to a new neighborhood in order to stay together. She embodies the true spirit of what it means to rescue a helpless animal. She says that through it all, their bond has just solidified. Pedro is her very own welcoming committee that she gets to come home to everyday. He may be a challenge at times, but he is also an amazing, lovable companion and she would not have it any other way.

 

She admits that being Pedro’s Mom is hard. With both medical and behavioral difficulties sometimes there is frustration. But, when she wake up in the morning and he crawls up and puts his face on hers and falls back asleep, it only serves to reinforce that she did the right thing for this dog. Pedro gives love to every single person that comes into the apartment. He has an incredible sweetness and goofiness that she is so glad exists in this world. “He makes me laugh every day, and steals my heart over and over again.”

pedro-11

 

Unfortunately, Pedro’s situation wasn’t rare. It happens way too often. These defenseless animals are put in situations where they are fighting for their lives. What we don’t see enough of is the selflessness in people to take in those dogs that many would simply ignore. Without Mighty Mutt’s intervention and continued support, Pedro would undoubtedly have died a painful death. Samantha said that “he is lucky to be alive and we are both thankful to Mighty Mutts for recognizing the value of saving even the sickest of animals. Throughout my year with Pedro, and due to the extremity of his case, I have received an incredible amount of support from Mighty Mutts. They are always willing to rise to the occasion when challenges arise and I am so thankful for that. I simply couldn’t do this without their help.”

pedro-9

*Please read the attached brochures on Pedro’s full backstory and the AMAZING work Mighty Mutts did to save this little boy’s life.  FUN FACT: PURCHASE A MIGHTY MUTTS T-SHIRT TO SUPPORT THIS WONDERFUL RESCUE AND PEDRO’S HANDSOME FACE IS ON IT TO MAKE YOU SMILE!

Scan_20140810 (2)Scan_20140810

A Howler in a Happy Home: Rob, Carlos, and Pinto

fred-30

Rob and Carlos decided to rescue a dog because they were aware of the large number of dogs in need of a home. They went online to find their perfect pet and came across Mighty Mutts.

When they found Mighty Mutts online, they came across a picture of an adorable beagle named Fred (who they have now renamed Pinto). They knew that they had to meet the little guy, so they went down to PetCo in Union Square one Saturday and instantly fell in love.

fred-14

They learned that Pinto was surrendered to Animal Control after his previous owners didn’t have enough time to take care of him. He made his way to Mighty Mutts, and then into the arms of Rob and Carlos. When they got Pinto home, he was not housebroken. For them, this was a challenge – but one they were ready to handle. In addition, they had to work on training Pinto to listen. He would often get into everything, but through positive reinforcement and patience, he now knows how to be a good boy.

Rob and Carlos recently got married (Congratulations from Dogs of Manhattan!). Rob told me that with Pinto, they now feel “more of a family.” He is a source of love and joy for them. They love taking Pinto to the dog run in their neighborhood, where they have met many other dog lovers and neighbors…Including Ziggy, me and my fiancé! Pinto has also made a lot of doggie friends in the neighborhood too, something that has helped him acclimate to his surroundings.

fred-23

Rob and Carlos told me that they would definitely adopt again. Having Pinto has been an incredible experience so far and it is one that they would love to replicate in the future.

They give a lot of credit to Mighty Mutts. They said that it was a great place for them to adopt from since the organization provided a lot of support. Before sending Pinto home, Mighty Mutts did their due diligence and gave Rob and Carlos everything they needed to give Pinto a happy home.

fred-7

 

Spicing Up Her Life: Alexis and Pepper

6_28_Pepper-16Alexis, one of Mighty Mutt’s incredible volunteers, along with her family decided that they were going to rescue a dog from the organization. They had no interest in buying from a pet store or a breeder since they are aware of how many displaced animals there are in need of a home. It also helps that Alexis sees it firsthand when she volunteers in Union Square each weekend.

Alexis’s affiliation with Mighty Mutts began after her family dog, Nikkie, passed way. She wanted to find a way to give back to dogs the way that Nikkie did for her. She did some research online and found Mighty Mutts. After volunteering for a while, she met Pepper.

6_28_Pepper-1

Pepper was found locked inside of a carrying case after being abandoned outside of a fire department on a hot summer day. Attached to the case was a note from Pepper’s previous owners. They said that the reason they abandoned Pepper was to teach their children a lesson (what kind of lesson, I cannot begin to imagine). After being abandoned, Mighty Mutts rescued her and Pepper went to live with a foster. Shortly after, Pepper’s foster had to study for the bar exam and had some travel coming up, so Alexis’s family decided to help out by temporarily dog-sitting for Pepper. It didn’t take long. According to Alexis, “we fell in love with Pepper and her personality. We started the adoption process.”

Alexis says that Pepper is a “loveable, happy, princess” and that she has brought so much happiness and love to her family. Alexis calls Pepper a “faithful friend and a loyal dog” and says that her personality brings joy each and every day. She cannot imagine her life without Pepper in it – nor any dog for that matter. Alexis says that after this experience, she would absolutely adopt again in a heartbeat.

6_28_Pepper-13 As a volunteer for Mighty Mutts, Alexis is fortunate to be part of an organization that really cares. She encourages everyone she meets to adopt a rescue dog by telling them that “adoption saves a life!” She said that the team at Mighty Mutts really cares for the animals and takes the time to make sure they have the best home possible. Until that time, the organization gives these dogs the best care. She’s proud to be a volunteer for Mighty Mutts.

6_28_Pepper-10

Matchmaker Matchmaker Make Me a Match: Robert +Danielle, Shelly, Bugsy (Moe the foster!) and 19 Years of Dedicated Volunteer Service

IMG_7877

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.

 IMG_7760

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!”

 IMG_7822

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.

 IMG_7888

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!”

 IMG_7851

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.

 IMG_7856

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.

IMG_7928

Providing a Court for the Jester: Julie, Rosa, and Pixie

Julie has always had rescued pets. She knows that there are so many wonderful animals in shelters and on the streets that need to find their forever home. While animals that are in pet stores and at breeders need their homes too, she sees no reason to have to resort to going to one. Her senior pit-bull, Pixie, is one that she found on the streets. She rescued Pixie after finding her wandering around in Crown Heights. Lucky for Julie, Pixie came to her well behaved and incredibly smart. She had no intention of finding Pixie a sister, but sometimes things happen for a reason.

Rose & Me

Rosa came to Julie as a foster. She, and a male Chihuahua, were both abandoned at a vet’s office in Pennsylvania and while the male was quickly adopted, Rosa found her way into the foster system. She ended up with a Mighty Mutts affiliate group run by Shana. After going through a few foster homes, Rosa came to live with Julie and Pixie.

At first, Rosa was difficult to housebreak. She was also very timid when she first came to stay with Julie and Pixie and would recoil from anything that was unfamiliar. In addition, like many small dogs, she had a tendency to bark a lot – especially when it was a person or dog she wasn’t sure of. But, Rosa started to settle in and she began to feel comfortable with Julie and Pixie. That’s when Julie realized that Rosa was not going to just be a foster dog. She told me that “once she [Rosa] adjusted, she had no intention of leaving. After eight months, I gave up the pretense of fostering and adopted her.”

Now, Rosa is almost 100% housebroken, but according to Julie, “she’s close enough!” In addition, she has now formed a bond with both Julie and Pixie and is even sweet and sociable with other people. Besides Pixie, she seems to be indifferent to any other dog. The barking is still there, but Julie says that Rosa is doing much better than many other small dogs she’s seen.

Julie says that both of her dogs have had a huge impact on her life. Pixie has become her “consigliore” and her rock. In contrast to Pixie’s disposition, Rosa is the “court jester” of the family. Together, Julie says, “the house is full of love when they are home.”

jpg

Julie intends to have dogs as long as she is able to care for them. As far as other pets are concerned, Julie said that she would also like to have a pet pig. But, she adds that it is “still a way off!” Regardless, her pets will always be rescues. She says that “a rescue may have some challenges, but overcoming them together and giving a fellow creature back the ability to love and trust can be one of life’s richest experiences.”

Mighty Mutts brought Julie together with Rosa, and she “will always be grateful for that.” She praises the Mighty Mutts organization because they take in dogs that many other rescue groups won’t and the volunteers care for them regardless of their issues or infirmities for as long as they need it. Julie says that by rescuing, “you are doing a wonderful thing” and that anyone with a rescue will tell you that even though you may be rescuing the animal, for the human, “the rewards are even greater.”

*Please note: these photos were submitted by Julie, not taken by me*

Barclay – Center of Attention

Meet Andrew, and Barclay (and his brother Boomerang).

barclay_boomerang-7

After speaking with Andrew, the love and respect that he has for his dogs is obvious. Like everyone else involved in this project, Andrew is a firm in his belief that there is no other option than adopting or rescuing a pet. He says “there are so many shelter animals in need of a home and the majority of them never find one.” That’s why he made Barclay the second rescue dog to join his family. Five years ago, they rescued six month old Boomerang from the ACC. At five years old, they decided to get Boomerang a younger sibling. They saw Barclay in Union Square one Saturday and immediately fell in love with him.

 barclay_boomerang-21

Barlcay’s history is all too familiar. He was left tied up outside of a vet’s office in Brooklyn, somewhere near the Barclay center – hence his name. The vet took Barclay in, examined and treated him, and then contacted John of Mighty Mutts.

barclay_boomerang-12

Andrew knew that dogs have a tendency to act differently at adoption events as opposed to when they are brought home – especially in Union Square. When they brought Barclay home, he had non-stop energy, no matter how long the walk or how much playing was involved. Andrew said that he just wanted to play with everything and seemed to be on “overload” with the number of toys in his basket. Andrew said he was “the epitome of a happy-go-lucky puppy.” One positive was that Barclay came housebroken and never had an accident in the house. There was also an adjustment period between him and Boomerang. In the beginning, Boomerang was jealous and did not like having to share the love, attention, and his toys. After one squabble where Andrew had to step in, they seemed to take the hint. Now, they chase each other around all day and are great together. Barclay has since calmed down and adjusted well to his new environment. Andrew says “he listens very well, is extremely loyal, and is one of the best cuddles around. It’s his favorite thing to do!”

 barclay_boomerang-23

Since their family already had a dog, Andrew was aware of the responsibilities involved with being a parent to a four legged fur-baby. To them, the only difference is that now there are two. They feel that it is the best thing ever to come home to happy dogs that constantly make you feel good.

Andrew has said that he will always have a dog for as long as he lives and he plans to only rescue them. By doing this, he believes that he is giving them a second chance and they reward you back many times over.

barclay_boomerang-31

When asked how he feels about Mighty Mutts, Andrew said: “adopting from an organization such as Mighty Mutts was much different than going to the ACC, where they are simply trying to find ANY home for their animals. [With Mighty Mutts] There was an application process, including meetings and a home visit to ensure that the dog was going to a good, safe home. It shows how much the organization cares for their animals”