From a Legacy of Survival to a Legacy of Love

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Each of the dogs that come through our doors has a story of their own to tell. Quite often we are sure their stories would make us very sad to hear. We don’t need to hear them though, we can see from their body language what some have been through. We can see it when they arrive underweight, with signs of neglect and with fear in their eyes. Once in our care, they learn that they are safe, loved and they are able to begin to heal.

As we help better the lives of the new dogs that come to stay with us, we also focus on a group of dogs we refer to as the Legacy Dogs at Pets Alive Westchester. These are the dogs who spent most, if not all of their lives at the shelter, many of whom are now senior dogs.

And you can help us help them by fostering a Legacy Dog and/or sponsoring one with a monthly donation. Read on to find out more about these dogs and how you can support them.

The Legacy Begins

Five years ago, Pets Alive Westchester took over the shelter that had been in existence for many years. The building was built at the current location in 1995 with the capacity to hold under 200 dogs. When we took over this shelter in 2010, there were 600 dogs living there.

vanillaThey were completely overrun with animals. The majority of these dogs at the time were deemed aggressive and had lived in the shelter almost their entire lives. Some were even born there. They were subjected to living a life that was devastating to their mental health and emotional well-being. Vanilla was one of those dogs. She arrived at the shelter completely emaciated at a year old when her owner was incarcerated and she spent the next 8 years of her life waiting for someone to bring her home.

Over time she had endured much and her trust in people was so damaged that she felt the need to be protective of the people she loved. The volunteers and staff were the only “family” she’d ever had. She has always loved certain people she trusted and those are the ones that helped to give her the best quality of life. The only way she could be adopted into a home was if her adopter fully understood how protective she could be. That person would need to get to know her first before bringing her home. Her chances of leaving the shelter were not looking good for her — but we never give up hope.

Like all of the Legacy Dogs, we have been Vanilla’s family. The staff and volunteers are the ones that spend time and give love to each of these dogs. Like Vanilla, some of the other Legacy Dogs have that protective spirit as well and will need time, dedication and love from a prospective adopter.

One thing we never lose at Pets Alive Westchester is HOPE. We have bared witness to some wonderful moments watching our pets find loving homes after waiting many years for that magical moment. We had one of those moments a few weeks ago when the stars aligned just right for Vanilla and she got a home!

vanilla2Joe, who is now her new dad, has been a volunteer at Pets Alive Westchester for the past couple of years. He immediately fell in love with Vanilla and the feeling was mutual. For 2 years, Joe would come just to see her, spend time with her and to give her as much love as he could. His heart ached each time he said good bye.

Eventually he brought her home on some overnights to see how it would go. After 2 years of loving this girl, Joe was able to give her the home she deserved! Vanilla had a pretty rough start but this is a new beginning to a new life for her. A dream came true for Vanilla, but it also came true for all of us at PAW on the day she went home – a day we had all hoped would happen for this wonderful girl.

There are still 35 Legacy Dogs remaining out of those original 600 that we started off with 5 years ago. For some of them we fear that we may be the only family they will ever know. We want them to have a real family in a real home.

You may be wondering how you can help them. Here’s how:

  • Share this story and others. The more you share the greater their chances are at finding a home.
  • Foster a Legacy Dog for a day, weekend, week, month or forever. Help them enjoy their senior years to the fullest.
  • Sponsor and give support for them to have all they need in their golden years. Your monthly sponsorship pays for food, veterinary care and medications.

Click the image below to check out some of our Legacy Dogs available for Foster!


 Sponsor the Legacy Dogs and Help Save More Lives


Although, part of their legacy speaks about how much they had lived through over the years and how they survived it all, we can also add to that legacy the love that they have in their lives. We provide this to each and every one of them, but we cannot do this without you. YOU are their voice. YOU are their support. YOU are making the legacy of love.


For more information on the Legacy Dogs and Pets Alive Westchester visit









Filed in Animal Rescue, No-kill by Erin Guilshan on Mar 15, 2015.  There are No Comments

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