Barclay – Center of Attention

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

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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”

 

Three Tails, Six Sets of Whiskers, Twelve Pink Paws = Three Magical Friends David, Erin, and their cats Larry, Nora, and Nick

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David and Erin are two of the many people out there who realize how many cats there are living on the streets, in shelters, and in rescue organizations that are waiting to find their forever home. Ollie’s Place happens to be in their neighborhood, and they used to pass by all the time. Whenever they did, they saw the sweet little kitties staring out at them through the window. One day they decided to walk in. They didn’t expect that they would be walking out with melted hearts and adoption papers.

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In total, David and Erin now have three cats from Ollie’s Place – Larry, Nora, and Nick. According to Erin, Larry spent time living on the streets in Pine Barrens, NJ. Ollie’s Place worked for several months trying to capture him, and finally one day while he was running after a mouse, he ran right into the trap. He was taken to Ollie’s Place and as Erin put it, “he became a bouncer for Ollie’s – checking IDs at the door, keeping the peace, and distributing kisses to any and all.” I guess all of his time on the streets made him the tough guy! Nick and Nora came to Ollie’s place after they were born behind a Chinese restaurant. Erin says “they traded chicken lo mien and general tso’s for hearty meals of kibble and bits.”

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David and Erin took home Larry and Nora first as they decided that two cats would be the right number. Only a few months later, after Nora “put a guilt trip on her humans for having left her pale male brother behind”, they went back and got Nick. All three cats are doing great at home. Nick has a habit for jumping onto dressers and knocking into small items on the ground. Larry has a tendency to jump inside the refrigerator every time it opens. And Nora likes to wake David and Erin up by jumping on their heads in the morning. Besides these antics, David and Erin say that their manners are “perfectly delightful” and that you would never know they were living on the streets.

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David and Erin feel as if these three cats have had a major impact on their lives. They can point to five specific things that have changed since these three kitties came into their home: First, they said that there is less room in the bed. Second, it’s now a little harder to sleep in on the weekends. Third, they now keep small patches of grass in little pots here and there in the apartment. Fourth, hair clips can never be found when they need to be (more a problem for Erin than David!). Last, but most important, they now come home every day to “the happy pitter patter of little dancing cat feet.”

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Both David and Erin could not imagine not sharing their home with “three tails, six sets of whisker-beds, twelve pink paws, and three magical friends that go meow in the night…..and every other time of day!”

They both feel that Ollie’s is so loving and caring and friendly. What drew them most to Ollie’s Place is the fact that it is a no-kill rescue organization. “When a cat is in a dire situation, there is no better place for them to end up while waiting for their forever homes.” By taking in these three kitties, they feel that all they have done is free up space for more cats to come and wait for their families to take them home.


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Second Chances: Michael, Suzy, Cosmo, and Rupert

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To Michael and his wife Suzy, having pets was the only way to live. He grew up with all types of animals – dogs, cats, fish, and others. His philosophy is that dogs and cats bring love and joy and always makes life better. Back around 2004/2005 he was introduced to Ollie’s place and began volunteering for the organization.

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Currently, Michael and Suzy have two cats that they adopted from Ollie’s Place. The first, Cosmo, came from an abusive home. Through observing Cosmo’s behavior, Michael was able to deduce that he was likely hit with a belt at some point in his life – if not on a regular basis. He figured this out one day when Cosmo first came home. Michael was getting dressed and just before he went to put his belt on, he dangled it in front of Cosmo in an attempt to play. Cosmo took off and hid – a clear sign to Michael that he needed to work on rehabilitating his new cat to recognize that he was now in a safe place. Despite his early life, Michael and Suzy say that this cat is filled with nothing but love. Through training, they say that Cosmo no longer fears belts and he now loves to play with them.

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Their second cat, Rupert, was part of a litter that came to Ollie’s place via John. Out of all his siblings, he was the biggest. Michael and Suzy describe him as a “giant mushball.” Aside from an odd habit of eating cloth, Rupert is a sweet, playful, and affectionate cat and he loves to play with his brother, Cosmo.

They have plans to continue rescuing pets. Michael and Suzy know that they will love him forever, unconditionally. Providing them with that second chance makes it even better.

Having been on the inside of Ollie’s, Michael has seen first-hand how much love and care the cats get, especially since Kit took over. Michael and Suzy are proud to be part of Ollie’s Place and Mighty Mutts and truly believes they are amazing organization.

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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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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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Vanessa and Izzy

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As is the case with many of the owners that I interviewed for this project, Vanessa is a devoted Mighty Mutts volunteer. In 2007, she was enrolled in Animal Behavior College’s dog training program. Part of the requirement was to volunteer at a shelter/rescue organization. Her mentor and trainer, Kate Perry (www.kateperrydogtraining.com), introduced her to Mighty Mutts. She’s been helping out there ever since.

After a few years with the organization, and falling in love with countless dogs, she met Izzy.  Izzy came to Mighty Mutts after Kathy Galloti saw her wandering on the streets in Brooklyn and decided it was up to her to take action. “I remember that morning so clear,” Kathy said. “Everyone was saying she was loose, but no one was doing anything about it. I happened to have my dog’s leash in my bag because he was at the vet, so I got down in a squat and called to her.” Kathy was surprised that she came over since she thought that Izzy was an outdoor, stray based on her shaggy coat. “She didn’t have a collar, so I had to use the leash as a lasso. She was afraid to walk with me and she tried to slip out of the lasso several times.”

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Kathy walked Izzy over to the local vet, but there was no ER clinic. So, she called John over at Mighty Mutts and met him at a vet in Bensonhurst where she turned Izzy over to him and the organization. “I would have taken her in myself,” said Kathy, “but at the time I already had four dogs and many cats.” John understood, and took Izzy inside. “That was the last I saw of her.” After being cleared by the vet, John introduced Izzy to Mighty Mutts. But, according to Vanessa, there was something different about this dog. She had never known a dog to act so aloof and disengaged when it came to any type of human interaction. She decided that this was a dog she needed to foster and rehabilitate in order to prepare her for a forever home. Timing was everything according to Vanessa. “When the last recession hit, I was home a lot more and realized I could probably foster a dog.”

Once she got Izzy home, there were definitely some challenges. “She was a little skittish. She was scared of men, loud noises, balloons, skateboards, etc. She would bark at all of these even though they are very common in New York.” Within a few weeks, however, Vanessa began to notice a change in Izzy. She began to calm down and be more trusting of humans, especially Vanessa. Little did she know that the attraction would grow so strong that even the thought of giving her up to a new family would tug so hard at her heartstrings. Izzy soon became the first dog that Vanessa could call her own. So, how is Izzy doing now? “She is comfortable 99% of the time.” According to Vanessa. “She is the true definition of man’s best friend.” In fact, she has come to love men now, especially the doormen in Vanessa’s building who are always there to give Izzy love. “She has truly grown so much.”

Growing up, all of Vanessa’s pets were either rescued or adopted. But Izzy is the first dog that she has had on her own. Now, she says that she cannot remember her life before Izzy and doesn’t want to imagine it without her. “Izzy is my baby girl. There could not have been a better match for me. I feel like Izzy chose me and not the other way around.” When asked how adopting Izzy has impacted her life, Vanessa said that “on any given day, no matter what it brings, I know I will go home to a warm welcome from Izzy. She greets me the same way each and every day. She is waiting at the door with her tail wagging and beaming with excitement.

She runs around the apartment wiggling and we play. I am reminded each day that this beautiful, gentle, and soulful creature relies on me, and only me.” Vanessa says that this mutual dependency on one another is what keeps her going even when she is exhausted. “If she wants to play, or if it is the middle of the night and she wakes me up because she needs to go out, I remember most of all how much she gives me in return.” She would do anything for Izzy. In fact, she is about to sign Izzy up at Water 4 Dogs to get her swimming and exercising to hopefully help with a thyroid condition. “Izzy has made me laugh and has made me forget about the day’s worries the minute I walk in the door for the past five years.” She gives Vanessa so much joy and is a constant reminder of how rewarding this whole experience has been. I asked Vanessa if she would ever do this again: “1000%. I would adopt again and again.”

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I asked Vanessa about Mighty Mutts and how their process works. Since she has been a volunteer for a number of years, she knows firsthand that Mighty Mutts (and Ollie’s Place) have a rigorous process set in place to make sure that each and every animal finds their forever home. “Mighty Mutts does a thorough screening process to assess that each individual animal is the best fit for each home. Other rescues may give animals to people on the spot without asking them the right questions. We have a questionnaire, phone interview and home visit(s). If the home has children or other animals, it is specifically addressed during one or more home visits. We check balconies and windows and ask about lifestyle and work schedules.” She says that the questions are asked in a way that truly strives to assess if the animal will be cared for now and in the future. Unfortunately, the screening process cannot account for the unforeseen circumstances that sometimes happen.

During her time at Mighty Mutts, Vanessa has seen adoptions not work. The difference between Mighty Mutts and other organizations, according to Vanessa, is that “the Mighty Mutts adoption paperwork states that if the adopter, for any reason, has to give the animal up, he or she must return the animal back to Mighty Mutts.” Vanessa said thatshe has heard of many places that refuse to take animals back, even if it is just after a day. Vanessa could recall at least two occasions where she has seen dogs come back after being with families for years. “Mighty Mutts took them back with open arms and made sure to work tirelessly to rehome them.”

Vanessa had one more thing to add about John, the founder of Mighty Mutts: “John cares about these animals and their well- being like no one I have ever seen. This man has dedicated his life and heart to all the animals that need him. I feel blessed to know him. He is a true hero.”

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Vanessa…To Izzy, you’re a hero. And it seems as if in some way, she has saved you too.