Pets Alive Westchester started when Pets Alive took over the Elmsford Animal Shelter in 2010. At the time the shelter was stuffed to the gills with animals far beyond capacity; there were approximately 600 dogs in residence in a facility designed for 200. Over time we’ve labored mightily to get as many of those dogs into homes as possible, but about 30 dogs remain from those days.
Bandit first entered the shelter in early 2008 at the age of approximately six months. He’s a very handsome boy, a large, solidly-built Rottweiler. Bandit is incredibly smart and affectionate but also fearful – he can be sensitive to touch and is sometimes afraid of new things and new experiences, as well as new people. He grows to trust the people he knows very slowly, letting them in bit by bit over time.
Bandit was adopted and returned more than almost any animal in the shelter. His spectacular good looks would get him out, but he would eventually end up scaring someone in the family and he’d be returned. He never bit in these homes, but Bandit can communicate quite clearly when he’s uncomfortable, and many people find that pretty intimidating for very good reason. We loved him, and he had volunteers who he loved and was dedicated to, but we were afraid that he might never go home.
Sometimes you have an animal who needs a special person or people, people with special skills or understanding. Sometimes it feels like you’re looking for the impossible – a unicorn. And then one day, two unicorns appeared.
Jessica and Charlie were interested in Bandit, like so many before them. But they were different. They have a Rottweiler who came from an abusive background and had serious behavior problems when they adopted her – and they never gave up on her. They brought their dog to meet Bandit, and it was a spectacular day. Their dog was lovely and well socialized to people and dogs. The dogs got along very well, and Bandit obviously took a quick liking to them. Most importantly, they knew and understood what they were getting into.
Because they had a small car, they returned the next day for Bandit. He was on his absolute worst behavior. He knew something was up – all this activity for him! – and he was a bundle of nerves. He guarded his favorite volunteer who had come to see him off. He refused to wear a collar, lifting his lip and growling when it was presented. And there was no way, no how he was getting into a strange car.
Even I started to question if this was a good idea. But Charlie took me aside, and showed me where his own dog had bit him on the first day they met. He said he wasn’t worried. They understood about the stress. They never wavered. They were committing to Bandit.
When their car pulled out I thought to myself that I’d either be going to pick up Bandit the next day or he’d be with them forever.
Bandit is still there. They love him. He’s had his first trip to the dog park, where he played with dogs and interacted with people. His confidence grows day by day in the presence of people who love, understand and are not afraid of him. I cannot thank Charlie and Jessica enough for the life they are giving him.
Sometimes it takes a while to find a home simply because nothing less than perfection will do. He waited a long time… but the Rottweiler found his unicorns.
There are others at the shelter who have been waiting so long for homes, homes that they so deserve. Tomorrow I’ll be telling you about a dog named Jason who has been at Westchester since 2007 – 3073 days, as of today. Maybe you’ll be Jason’s unicorn.