Special-needs animals can make wonderful pets, but they’re not right for every adopter. For proof, look no further than Gia—a sweet, overweight, asthmatic kitty who was adopted and returned multiple times over the course of three years. Though it is hard to see an animal stay at our Adoption Center for so long, it makes it that much more rewarding when they finally find the forever home they deserve. Here is Gia’s Happy Tail.
Gia came to the ASPCA in March 2012 as a transfer from Animal Care & Control of NYC (AC&C). She was just eight months old at the time, but she had already been diagnosed with severe asthma. Because of her condition, Gia needed an adopter who would administer her inhaler two times every day and to keep her on a low-dose steroid prescription for the rest of her life. On top of that, Gia also needed a strict diet, since her extra weight made her already-labored breathing that much more difficult. It was a tall order, but we knew that this pretty kitty was worth the work.
A few weeks after her arrival, Gia was adopted. It was an exciting moment, and we were thrilled to see her find a home. But, sadly, our joy was short-lived: Gia was retuned six months later. Though the adopter had tried her best, she just couldn’t keep up with Gia’s health and felt she would fare better in another home. We brought her back to the Adoption Center and hoped that the perfect person would come along soon.
In November, Gia was adopted again. We waited eagerly for news of a successful transition, but unfortunately, she was returned again—this time, less than two weeks later. Gia had suffered five asthma attacks in the first ten days in her new home, and the adopter was overwhelmed by her needs. Once again, Gia was back at the ASPCA.
A year went by, and then another. We tried everything we could to find sweet Gia a home, but we just couldn’t get the right fit. Finally, in September 2014—nearly three years after Gia’s arrival at the ASPCA—Lorna H. walked through our door.
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“We recently moved to New York from overseas and were excited to be in a city that is pet-friendly for renters,” Lorna recalls. Having lived with pets most of her life, she was eager to adopt a feline friend of her own. After arriving, she headed to the ASPCA Adoption Center.
At the Adoption Center, Lorna met Gia and something miraculous happened: After all those years waiting, it was love at first sight! Lorna knew right away that Gia was the one. “When we heard a little of Gia’s story and how long she had been at the shelter, there was no question of adopting her,” she says. “We were not intimidated by her medical concerns, especially after one of the veterinary assistants demonstrated how to administer her inhaler.” She adopted Gia that day and never looked back.
In yet another first for Gia, Lorna’s apartment was a perfect fit, too. “She made herself well and truly at home. In fact, it only took her about five minutes to do so!” Lorna laughs. She renamed her Francesca—Fatty for short—although she is slowly losing some of her excess weight. Francesca now spends her days in one of her many favorite sleeping spots in the house, and Lorna says she is great about letting everyone know when it’s time for her inhaler (and her treats).
Though it took nearly three years to get there, Francesca could not have arrived at a better destination. Lorna says, “She is an absolute angel to have around and we are so pleased she is now a member of our family.” For the first time, we are confident that this kitty’s new home will be the one that lasts forever.
It’s no coincidence that many of our Happy Tails begin with a magical moment. Adopters often describe the first encounter with their pet as, “meant to be” or, “love at first sight.” But not everyone believes in kismet and fairy dust, and Stephen L. was one such person. Assuming that dog adoption would be as simple as “picking a pet,” he never expected to have his heart stolen by a pit bull named Clipper. Here is their Happy Tail.
The first thing people notice about Clipper is his smile. It’s famous at the ASPCA, and it’s one of the sweetest things about him. The second thing people notice, however, is his scars. Clipper was rescued from an abusive situation in April 2014, and when he arrived at the ASPCA Animal Hospital he was covered in multiple bite wounds on his front legs and face. The wounds—both new and old—would leave him with permanent marks.
In June, Clipper was adopted for two weeks before being returned for being “too noisy” and “frightened of loud noises.” We knew he would need someone special, and, fortunately, Stephen showed up a few weeks later.
"I grew up with dogs and remember them being some of the best parts of my childhood,” Stephen says. “I decided to adopt because I knew that there are so many good dogs that need a home. This applies especially to pit bulls.” At the ASPCA Adoption Center, Stephen set out to find a pit mix between 30 – 40 lbs., or as he calls it, “the perfect apartment-size dog.” He thought having a sense of weight and breed would be enough to guide the process, stating, “People told me, ‘Don’t worry about finding a dog, the dog will find you.’ I was just going to pick something cute and call it a day.”
Stephen met two pit mixes before being introduced to Clipper. “Since he fit my size requirements, I decided to meet him,” he recalls. “Before Clipper arrived, I was told that he was kind and sweet but very shy from being abused in his past, so not to worry if he didn’t approach me.” Not expecting anything miraculous, Stephen was taken aback by what happened next. “The elevator opened and out came Clipper. As soon as they brought him into the meeting area, my heart broke when I noticed his scarred face. Then he walked right up to me and gave me a big sloppy kiss on the cheek.”
Stephen finished his scheduled meetings with other dogs, but from that moment on, he couldn’t stop thinking about Clipper. “His big smile and his playful spirit, despite his rocky past—I knew then and there I had to make him my family.” He came back the next day for a “second date,” took Clipper for a walk, and then promptly took him home—after changing his name to Mr. Bingley, of course.
In the weeks that followed, Stephen and Mr. Bingley became inseparable friends. “It must be really difficult to uproot your life and, on top of that, to trust a complete stranger,” Stephen says of Mr. Bingley’s adjustment. “But he does not carry any of his past life in his personality.” The sweet dog now spends his days rolling in the grass, playing with his toys, and starring in his own Instagram account, @TheAdventuresOfMrBingley. Stephen says, “I know our relationship is still new, but I can’t imagine my life without him. He is the perfect thing to come home to, a bundle of sweet energy and puppy kisses!”
And though he had been skeptical of “love at first sight,” Stephen admits that he has learned so much from Mr. Bingley. “To say he had me at hello is a bit of an understatement.”
One of the realities of animal adoption is that not every animal fits in to every family. Every now and then, despite our best efforts, an animal will be returned after adoption. Such was the case with Leroy, a sweet gray kitty who spent nine months with a family before being brought back to our Adoption Center. But we never give up on an animal, and luckily for Leroy, the perfect couple came along and proved that sometimes, it takes two chances to find your one forever home. Here is Leroy’s Happy Tail.
Leroy first came to the ASPCA in October 2013. He was brought in from our city shelter—Animal Care & Control of NYC—with a stubby tail of unknown origins. He was adopted quickly, and we were thrilled to see him find a family. Knowing that he was taken care of, we returned our focus to the many animals still waiting for homes of their own.
Nine months later, however, Leroy was back at our door. The family could no longer care for him, stating that he had behavioral issues like crying and overeating. We took him back and recommitted ourselves to finding Leroy the forever family he deserved. Fortunately, Kristen and James arrived just in time.
Kristen and James moved to New York in August 2013—around the same time Leroy headed to his first home. The couple had both grown up with cats, and their move marked the first time either one had lived without one. But when dealing with a new city, new jobs, and new routines, cat adoption isn’t always in the immediate cards. “We wanted a cat from the get-go, but it didn’t really seem feasible with our schedules,” Kristen recalls. “But our apartment felt so empty.”
As the months went on, the couple found themselves missing feline companionship more and more. Kristen says, “About two weeks before we adopted, a friend visited with her cat and he was with us all weekend. It was fantastic, but after he left it just felt so lonely. We decided it was time.” They headed to the ASPCA Adoption Center, where Leroy, having just been returned, was waiting patiently for a new family.
Kristen and James met many kitties at the Adoption Center, but none seemed the right fit. Not ready to give up, they decided to visit one last group of cats. That’s when they saw Leroy. “He was laying down on an elevated platform, and when I walked over he looked up and snuggled my face,” says Kristen. “James came over and he did the same. We immediately fell in love” They adopted Leroy that same day, stating, “We couldn’t leave without him.”
Back at home, Leroy settled into his new life with ease. The couple renamed him Apollo, and he couldn’t be happier. “He loves to explore and watch pigeons out the window,” says Kristen. “He’s incredibly affectionate and playful—and his favorite toy is the Millennium Falcon!” In fact, Apollo is so content in his new home, he can’t help but brag about it! He keeps his own Facebook page that he updates himself, just to make sure everyone can see how much fun he is having.
While it’s always regretful to see an animal returned, we believe this is one instance where everything happened as it should. It may have taken two tries, but Apollo ended up in the best possible home—and in that end, that’s all that really matters.
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For a first-time pet owner, animal adoption can be a daunting experience. New routines, new supplies, and a whole new lifestyle often come with a pet, and for someone like Aidan B., it can be a big adjustment. Fortunately, this first-time dog-dad had two things going for him: a girlfriend who grew up with dogs, and a new three-legged companion to show him just how fantastic pets can be. Here is the Happy Tail of Aidan, Julie, and a beagle named Finch.
Julie S. grew up with dogs and couldn’t wait to adopt one of her own. Her boyfriend, Aidan, wasn’t so sure. Many of Aidan’s relatives have pet allergies, so he hadn’t spent much time around dogs as a kid. Because he was hesitant to jump into adoption, the couple came up with a perfect solution: dog fostering. In August, they signed up for the ASPCA Foster Care Program, and Julie began looking for the perfect first dog to ease Aidan in to the pet-parenting lifestyle. That’s when she found Finch.
A seven-year-old beagle mix, Finch first came to the ASPCA in June. He was rescued from an abusive situation by the NYPD, and he arrived at the ASPCA Animal Hospital with an injured leg that needed to be amputated. Doctors at the hospital performed the surgery and Finch spent the next couple of months recovering in our care. In August—around the same time Julie and Aidan joined our foster program—Finch was ready to move in to a new home.
“I was browsing the ASPCA website and saw Finch’s face,” Julie recalls. “It was love at first sight, and can you blame me?” She sent Aidan a picture of Finch, but admits that it never even crossed her mind that they would be adopting a dog that day. “To my surprise, we both found ourselves leaving work early to go meet Finch,” she says. “Though we weren’t planning on adopting right then, we had prepared to foster.”
At the ASPCA Adoption Center, Julie and Aidan learned more about sweet Finch. Despite his injuries and difficult past, Finch was loving, playful, and curious—and perfect for the couple. “Finch is pretty adorable and I think anyone who saw his picture would want to adopt him,” says Julie. “But on a more practical note, it was really important to us that he could socialize with people and children. Also, we wanted an older dog.” Finch fit the bill, and—contrary to all plans—Julie and Aidan skipped the foster phase and adopted him that very same day. “It was just a feeling I got when I saw a picture of him, and then a feeling we both got when we met him,” she says.
In his new home, Finch seemed to forget all about his painful past. He now spends his days going for walks around his neighborhood and meeting neighbor dogs and dog owners. “I don’t think Finch has ever met a person he didn’t like!” laughs Julie. He is also learning commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “go to your bed.” Julie adds, “Finch just really fit with our personality and lifestyle.”
And for those wondering how the hesitant adopter, Aidan, is handling all of this, Julie says, “Finch has turned him into a dog person.” In fact, on their fourth night with Finch, Aidan looked at Julie and said, “I can’t even imagine our life without him.”
At the ASPCA, we believe that fostering a bond between children and animals is of the utmost importance (in fact, we have a whole website about it!). After all, in a few short years those kids will be the strongest voice for animals that we have. That’s why we were so excited to hear from ASPCA adopter Barbara H. and her nine-year-old son, Tobias, about their new feline family member. Here is the Happy Tail of a cat named Devito.
When two-year-old Devito arrived at the ASPCA in June, his back and belly were covered in burns. We didn’t know where the wounds had come from, but we were certain that the sweet cat would fare better in a foster home. So, after receiving medical treatment for his sores and scars, Devito moved into Barbara’s home to begin his healing process.
“We brought Devito home as a foster cat without any idea that we’d end up adopting him,” says Barbara. Barbara grew up with cats, but she developed a terrible feline allergy later in life. Not wanting to deprive her son of the joys of pet-parenting, she thought fostering would be a perfect solution. “I figured I could handle taking a lot of antihistamines for two weeks at a time,” says Barbara. “It was the perfect way to do some good and give Tobias at least a part-time pet.”
Though they had fostered many kitties before, nine-year-old Tobias wasn’t quite as sold on the concept: “Saying goodbye to cats at the end of the foster was good and it was bad,” he says. “It was kind of a relief because I didn’t get woken up at night anymore, but sad because I missed the way kittens would chase my toes under the covers and chew my hair while I was sleeping.”
Tobias knew from the start that there was something special about Devito. “He licked us and always wanted to cuddle up next to us and rest at least one paw on our arms and knees,” he says. “Devito followed us everywhere, including lying on the rim of the tub while I took a bath!”
There was something else special about Devito, too: Because of his skin condition, he didn’t trigger Barbara’s allergies the way other cats had. She laughs, “I knew it was serious when we started talking about naming him and inviting friends over to meet him as though he was already a member of the family. It just felt like he was our cat.” So on August 14, one week after taking Devito in as a foster, Barbara and Tobias made him an official member of the family.
Once his foster home became his forever home, Devito’s life got even better. Barbara and Tobias renamed him “Zenith,” because, as she says, “he’s black and white like an old TV.” After his wounds healed, they bought a leash and harness so they could walk him through the community garden near their house. “Zenith loves to slink through the grass stalking butterflies and birds,” says Barbara. “Walking that cat at the end of the day in the tranquil garden is a nice way for Tobias and me to spend time together, too,” she adds.
Though the adoption was unplanned, Zenith, Barbara and Tobias turned out to be a perfect match. When asked why they made the decision to adopt, Tobias put it best: “Because we wanted an extra friend.”