by Mellie Test
The story actually begins on Friday, April 26, when a large group of Pet360 Team Members visited the PSPCA in downtown Philadelphia for a day of volunteering. We’ve posted a number of fun photos from that day on our Instagram feed. With a day full of cat-treat-making, dog-toy-assembling, and sweet-dog-cuddling, it was hard not to become attached to the animals at the shelter.
Sure, I’d love a cat. But my two dogs have strong prey drives, and any cat joining our home might have to tolerate some pretty excited dogs until the novelty wore off (if ever). Ferrets are adorable, but same issue. Dogs, on the other hand, are my weak spot, and the dogs at this shelter had so much love to offer.
Being a pet parent to two dogs already (while also parenting a toddler), I wasn’t able (it would be incredibly irresponsible of me) to make any snap decisions; however, our Saturday schedule was wide open. I went home after a day of fun surrounded by the animals at the shelter, with plans to return to the PSPCA the following morning with my son and dogs in tow.
Saturday morning arrived, and I loaded up the car, ready to arrive back at the shelter just as their doors opened at 10. My plans were soon to change.
My coworker and dog rescue advocate Rebecca Braglio texted me with amazingly perfect timing, as we were sitting in I-76 traffic on our way to the PSPCA. She told me that she knew I was planning on returning that day with hopes of adding a third dog, but would I mind stopping off at ACCT in downtown Philly, both because it’s very close to the PSPCA and because she hoped I’d be open-minded enough to meet a little girl named Effie, a dog on the ACCT urgent list, before I moved on to the PSPCA.
Effie was adorable. And Rebecca’s timing was impeccable. I had to meet this dog.
We pulled up to ACCT, parked, and left our two dogs in the (well-ventilated) car while we went inside to inquire about Effie. I filled out the application, gave the staff my proof of ID, and went through a thorough potential adopter interview.
Effie was a special case, they told me. Dogs at ACCT don’t always last, sometimes because the shelter environment is so stressful that they break down or snap. Effie was their longest resident dog, and they kept hoping to find her a “furever” home because she was sweet and smart. They said she’d been improving due to her involvement with the Pen Pals.
My son and I met Effie and could tell she had an enormous amount of energy. She was bouncing around the fenced pen and scrambling up our legs to give us kisses. My nearly four-year-old son, while a bit nervous about her energy level, was already asking to take her home.
I can’t thank the staff at ACCT enough for spending so much time with us. My son and I walked with one of my dogs (they told me to choose the most challenging of my two – Ronan, my one-year-old, strong-willed shepherd mix) while they walked with Effie to see how they’d interact. We then tried them in a dog run together to evaluate interaction. The staff was already amazed to see how well they seemed to get along.
I then brought out my second dog, three-year-old hound mix Stucky, and we repeated the process. A few slow laps around the parking lot and a few minutes watching the dogs meet in the run.
Finally, it was time for the third test: my two dogs walking near Effie, and then all three dogs together in a run. One of the staff was slightly nervous, as he’d had to break up a serious dog fight just a couple days earlier, so I really appreciated the extra caution they took for each step. I wouldn’t want to take a dog home that wasn’t a match for my existing pack and thereby traumatize her (or my own pets, or even my child) even further.
I felt extremely supported. Throughout the process, I texted Rebecca and she relayed messages from Abby, one of Effie’s two Pen Pals. The staff on the scene (including Effie’s second Pen Pal, Sara) were cautious and understanding and encouraging. There was no pressure to take Effie with me, although I could tell they were really hoping that I would. I can still hear the amazement in their hushed voices when they commented how well Effie and my boys got along.
Effie is a sweetheart, and I knew we had to bring her home.
I signed Effie’s papers knowing that this isn’t the end and it’s not going to be easy. I’m a single mother with my closest family hours away. I moved to Philadelphia a few short months ago from Colorado, so my support network mainly consists of the coworkers (thankfully passionate pet parents themselves!) I see at Pet360 on a daily basis. I already have two high-energy rescue dogs (Stucky was a flea-ridden, scrawny stray puppy in Kentucky, and Ronan was on his way to a shelter in Colorado when his loving family’s community demanded they give him up).
It’s going to take weeks (or even months) of careful integration so that none of the dogs feel threatened or protective or uncertain. Abby and Sara recommended following the Two Week Shutdown as much as I can to allow confidence to grow throughout the household. The article encourages (as do Abby and Sara) taking things much slower than I’d expect (or even prefer). Moving even a little too quickly in the process could result in instability or increased (and dangerous, with three strong dogs and a young child in the household) acting out.
I am up for the challenge and the reward: I love my little pack. Nothing compares to the feeling of waking up in a pile of snoring, blissful creatures who love unconditionally. There will always be naysayers – those who call me selfish or stupid or insane, but I’m strong in my conviction that this is right. For me. For my son, who gets to grow up learning about responsibility and awareness and animal behavior, about adaptability and working to peacefully integrate many living, moving pieces. For these rescue dogs, who have a safe and loving home, and who are my highest priority after my son.
Visit again soon for updates on Effie’s new journey!