It’s never easy to say goodbye

Saying “goodbye” is never easy. Most of the time, it’s really just a “see you soon.” However, saying “goodbye,” when you truly know it is the last time, is one of the hardest things in the world to do.

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Like many dog owners, I consider my dogs to be members of my immediate family. In addition to my little girl, Ziggy, who I have with me in New York, my parents have my other two toy poodles with them in Florida – Rocky (a handsome, black and grey boy) and Cody (a shy, apricot colored little boy). These two have both been a part of my life for a very long time, but Rocky has always held a special place in my heart. He was given to me as a Bat Mitzvah gift by my uncle (yes, I know, coolest uncle ever!). While he wasn’t the first dog my family ever had (we had a yellow lab, Hammer, at the time), he was MY first dog. When I first brought Rocky home, he made it clear that he hated me. He loved my mom. He loved my sister. But he wanted nothing to do with me! It was clear that we didn’t have that special connection.

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All of that changed when I went off to college. I guess when I left, Rocky realized that he really did love me and that he missed me, because on my first trip home he became my best friend. He followed me around the house wherever I went and he finally curled up and slept with me at night. When I left to go back to school, I was told he was actually sad. After that, whenever my parents came to visit me in Colorado they brought him. He may not have showed it from the start, but it was clear that he always loved me and he was always there for me.

When I moved back home, I moved into my own place with my dogs. Rocky was too comfortable living at my parents’ house for me to take him. Besides, Cody would never allow it! Even though he didn’t live with me for all those years, I never, ever, stopped loving Rocky.

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This past weekend, I went home to visit my family. What I didn’t know going into it was that it was to be a trip to say that final “goodbye” to one of my oldest friends and to family. Rocky was suffering from late stage liver failure. He was deaf, blind, and could barely walk due to the pain and constant struggle to properly breathe. Nobody wants to see anyone live this way, but the challenge is that nobody wants to say goodbye either. I knew that I had to stop being selfish. I had to stop saying that I wanted him to live no matter what. I had to realize that Rocky, in his own way, was telling us that it was OK, that he had a great life. I left on Sunday night and my family put Rocky to sleep on Monday October 6, 2014 – one day shy of his 15th birthday.

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I learned afterwards that Rocky’s Vet, a dear friend of mine (and the best Vet in the world), was controlling his pain and symptoms just so I could have this last weekend with him. For that, I cannot thank him enough.

I will miss him every day. I know it will be hard to go home next time and not see him waiting at the door for me. I will miss the way he used to purr like a cat when he was happy. He loved his humans and his poodle brother. He even managed to tolerate his French Bulldog sister. He was truly the greatest gift a girl could ever ask for. Now, my sweet baby boy is up there, reunited and playing with his other brother, Hammer.

I love you Rocky.

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From the junkyard to the big apple: The Story of how Fern became Jillian and Alex’s biggest treasure

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Jillian has had dogs her entire life. Early on, her family’s first two dachshunds were both purchased from breeders. However, after those, all of their dogs (and there have been a lot), have been rescues. Knowing what she knows now, Jillian’s family likely wouldn’t have waited until dog number three to start rescuing from adoption organizations, but she believes that back then there was not as much information and awareness available. In addition to rescuing dogs from shelters and adoption organizations, her family also came across stray dogs in and around their home town in Kansas. They would help reunite these dogs with their owners, and/or work to help find them a new home. Jillian champions adopting vs. buying and encourages anyone thinking of getting a dog to do the same. She feels that many people who purchase dogs from breeders are unaware of the fact that they may be supporting animal cruelty because of the high prevalence of puppy mills.

Jillian moved to New York City over three years ago. Shortly after, she was walking through Union Square and she caught sight of a scruffy looking shepherd mix named Riley. She walked over and started talking with one of the Mighty Mutts volunteers and learned about Riley’s sad backstory. That’s all Jillian needed to hear to know that she had to get involved and she signed up to volunteer. It didn’t take long after that for her to take in her first foster.

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When Jillian’s first foster dog was adopted, she and her husband, Alex, were engaged and in the midst of wedding planning. They made the difficult decision that they would not take in any more fosters until after the wedding. However, not long after they made this promise to themselves, Fern came in to Mighty Mutts. It was clear that Fern had been subjected to deplorable, inhumane living conditions. She was a junkyard dog on a property just outside of Philadelphia. Her owners had cropped her ears incredibly short, she was permanently chained outside, and there was an unofficial history of abuse. Concerned citizens tried to remove Fern from this situation, but for legal reasons they were unable. It took a call to the Animal Care & Control department in Philadelphia reporting that she was running loose – their way of finding a legal solution to saving this poor dog. But, their plan had an unforeseen hole in it. Fern was taken to Animal Control and was scheduled to be euthanized.

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Mighty Mutts stepped in before this could happen. Fern was put into a foster home near Philadelphia with an amazing woman named Annette, who has helped many dogs have a second chance at life. At the time, Annette had several other dogs, and to get Fern up to New York City for the weekly adoption drives in Union Square proved to be difficult. Mighty Mutts knew that they needed to find someone local to foster Fern and help continue to rehabilitate her to fit back in with society. Although Jillian and Alex were not looking to take in another foster, one of the adoption coordinators for Mighty Mutts had a different plan in mind. Jillian said that during her next volunteer shift, she was “set up” by being asked to look after Fern for the day. (For the record, both she and Alex do not hold any grudges against said coordinator!) Jillian said that “after one volunteer shift, I was hooked. It took one or two weeks before I wore Alex down.” It wasn’t long after they started fostering Fern that they realized they would never be able to let her go, and they officially adopted her.

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In the short time Fern was living with Annette, she did a great job starting the rehabilitation process. When Jillian and Alex took Fern in, they recall that, “Fern was a dream. She never had an accident, was a quick learner, and was eager to please.” However, being that she was a junkyard dog with no formal training and being subjected to abuse for 2.5 years, it meant that there were still some personality and behavioral issues that needed to be addressed. They said that Fern started out overly skittish and sensitive and that “the first Fourth of July, which was only a couple of weeks after we adopted Fern, was very traumatizing. Something as little as a car door shutting would cause her to panic and run toward the apartment.” Fern was also leery of strangers, especially men. Working with trainers and with hard work, patience, and dedication, Jillian and Alex have helped Fern become more confident and trusting. In fact, last October, Fern became certified as a therapy dog and now they visit a local nursing home and provide happiness and comfort to the residents.

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Fern brings so much joy to Jillian and Alex every day. “She is incredibly goofy, sweet, and gentle. There’s something about waking up next to a tail wagging dog, oozing gratefulness that makes life so much happier.” Unfortunately, because she is a pit bull, not everyone can understand how Jillian and Alex can feel that way. They have been exposed to people’s prejudices against the breed and even on some therapy visits people assume that she is aggressive and therefore don’t want to go near her. Through their rehabilitation of Fern, they make the attempt to show people that pit bulls, like any other dog, should not be judged by what they see in the media. Based on her background, Fern would have every right to be untrusting of people and aggressive. But, despite everything she has been through, she is the sweetest and most loving dog Jillian has ever had. She said that Fern “passed her temperament test with the therapy organization with flying colors. She gives kisses to strangers, and wiggles with delight when she meets another dog.” Hopefully through the various organizations representing pit bulls and through success stories like Fern’s, public opinion will begin to shift and people will recognize how loving this breed actually is. Jillian says that even though they were not looking for another dog at the time, and with the occasional comment or reaction from others, she would absolutely have done this again if given a do-over. She says that Fern has enriched her life in ways that she could not even imagine.

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Jill has now been with Mighty Mutts for just over three years. She’s seen the passion and dedication that this organization has for the animals under its care. She especially likes the fact that Mighty Mutts is completely no-kill and has a policy to take back an animal at any time, for any reason, no questions asked. Jillian said that “these values are important to me in aligning myself with a rescue group. There are just so many animals that need homes, and she applauds the efforts of all animal rescue groups.” One thing is certain – Mighty Mutts has stolen her heart!

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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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*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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”