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

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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).

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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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Ten Years and a Houseful of Pets: Ed, Fred, Daisy, Sebastian, and Terin

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For Ed, the decision to go to a pet store or a rescue shelter was never a question in his mind. He believes that you do not go to a pet store or a breeder knowing that there are so many loving animals waiting for homes in shelters all over the world. He adopted his first cats from the SPCA, before he knew about Mighty Mutts & Ollie’s Place. Back in early 2004, Ed came across an article in the NY Daily News that talked about a new cat adoption center called Ollie’s Place. He read the article but didn’t really give it any further thought. Later that year, Ed found himself out of a job so he decided that he wanted to give back and volunteer his time. He was talking to a friend of his who brought up the idea of volunteering at Ollie’s Place. This past July, Ed marked his ten year anniversary being a volunteer for Ollie’s Place.

Throughout these past ten years, Ed has adopted numerous pets from Mighty Mutts/Ollie’s Place. Below are the stories of the dog and three cats he currently has:

Fred – Ed adopted Fred in November 2004, shortly after he started volunteering at Ollie’s Place. Fred was a “good sized”, orange and white tabby. At the time, he was somewhere around 3 or 4 years old. Ed remembers that Fred was in one of the crates lower to the floor. He told me that when he went down on his hands and knees to say hello, Fred came running from the back of the crate, head-butted him, and then started to rub his face against Ed’s cheeks. The behavior was somewhat strange since Fred seemed to be disengaged from other cats and people and would spend a lot of time in his crate. That interaction was enough for Ed, and Fred became his first adoption from Ollie’s Place. Now, Fred is a senior cat. Ed says “he follows me around, sits on my lap at night, and talks to me in his high-pitched, squeaky voice. He even begrudgingly shares the pillow with me at night!”

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Daisy – Ed took Daisy home in October 2010. To Ed, this was the most unexpected addition to the family. It had nothing to do with him not necessarily looking for another pet. It is because Daisy was a dog – Ed’s first ever. A month before, Ed was volunteering at Ollie’s Place when Mighty Mutts volunteer, Irene, came in with her foster dog, Daisy. She needed to take care of something for only a few minutes so she asked Ed to keep an eye on Daisy. He fell in love. Not just with Daisy, but with Beagles in general. Before coming to Mighty Mutts, Daisy was taken from a home where people were being abused. Ed attributes Daisy’s fear of loud noises to being in that environment. After giving it some thought, and considering how having a dog would play out in the home, he decided to take a chance and adopted Daisy. He was lucky – he believes that his cats think of Daisy as a larger version of them and therefore they all seem to get along well. While he never planned to have a dog, Ed can honestly say that his life would not be as rich without Daisy. He says that she is the “sweetest and most loving creature he’s ever met.”

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Sebastian – Sebastian and his sister Viola came to Ollie’s Place after their previous owner passed away and there was nobody that could care for them anymore. Since they had spent their entire lives together, the hope was that they would be adopted as a pair. This proved to be difficult as they were roughly 11 years old and it is hard enough as it is to get older cats new homes – let alone two together. Unfortunately, over time, Viola became ill and rather than let her suffer, the difficult decision to put her down had to be made. Sebastian’s loneliness was obvious to Ed. Having lost two of his cats at home, Ed decided that he wanted to give Sebastian a new home and new siblings to cheer him up. So in March 2012, Ed brought Sebastian into the family. He was immediately accepted by Fred and Daisy. In fact, as soon as Sebastian came into the apartment, Daisy went over and licked the side of his face – they have become good friends ever since. Ed says that Sebastian is a good cat, but is also the bossiest and has to be watched a little more than the others.

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Terin – Terin is Ed’s newest cat. Back in February 2011, Terin was adopted by another family. While Ed was happy he was going home with someone, he always loved playing with him when he would volunteer. Last summer, Ollie’s Place received notice from the owners that they were going to return Terin (per the written agreement built into every adoption contract). Ed did not have the heart to let Terin go back into a cage so he talked with John and made the decision to adopt. Ed’s luck continued and the rest of his pets had no problem letting Terin into the family. Ed describes Terin as “very intelligent” and that he shows “just the right amount of defiance to Sebastian.”

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Throughout his time at Ollie’s Place, Ed also adopted two other cats that are no longer with him. Both cats were older and had their health challenges. But, that did not stop Ed from providing them the love and support they needed – including the financial burden that came along with each. Jake passed away in 2008 after a battle with cancer. The other one was Sascha, a Russian Blue that was about 12 years old when he got her. She was found dumped by the side of the road. Ed knew that she had health issues, one that even led to her losing a leg. But, Ed continued to make sure that Sascha had the best life. She was about 17 when she died.

With all of the animals that Ed has brought into his home, other than the occasional accident in the apartment, there have not been too many challenges. He said one of the things about having both cats and dogs is that “when you have a dog, it’s like a game to keep the dog out of the cat food, but it becomes good exercise chasing them around.”

Ed’s passion, loyalty, and commitment to giving these animals the best life possible is clear. He is also deeply committed to the principles of Mighty Mutts and Ollie’s Place. He has always adopted older cats, which sometimes means more medical issues than a kitten, but he feels he is equipped to deal with those issues. He also believes “there is something special about growing older with an older cat or dog – they love you in a special way.”

Ed believes that having a dog or cat helps him stay grounded and focused on what is important- sharing love. He says that “even when you are tired, or beat down a cat or dog loving you just makes the whole world seem better.” In addition, another benefit for him is that having a dog means getting out of the house and meeting other people and their dogs. He has also learned to be more patient as a result of both the volume of animals he has and the various challenges he faces with the pets he brings in.

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He knows that he will adopt again when the timing is right. Despite the rare frustrations with the various behaviors, the love and joy he has experienced with his pets are an important part of his history. They have left him to be more concerned about the well fare of others – cats, dogs, and humans.

He also feels that it’s important to adopt from an organization like Mighty Mutts/Ollie’s Place because these groups are the ones who give these animals a second chance and loving home. So many of them come in abused or neglected and they don’t trust people. Mighty Mutts helps these animals overcome that fear and they take the time to find them the perfect home to call their own. In his time volunteering for Ollie’s Place, he has seen so many timid cats that are emotionally scarred blossom into sweet loving animals that bring joy to their humans each and every day.

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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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