Dogs are amongst the most loyal, steadfast, loving creatures in the world. When you bring a dog into your family, they should become part of it. New additions should not mean the dog needs to go, yet that is the terrible situation that a pit bull named Smiley was suddenly facing. His family was expecting a new baby, so Smiley's owner drove him to a nearby high-kill shelter and left him there.
Alone in a strange, frightening environment, Smiley became fearful and shut down. This meant that when the shelter tested Smiley on his temperament, he did not score well. “He has been noted to become uncomfortable with handling at times, especially when a person is reaching over him,” the shelter noted. For this reason alone, Smiley was listed for euthanasia. At no point was he aggressive and he had no health issues; he was just scared and overwhelmed and sad, and that fear was going to get him killed.
Smiley's fate caught the attention of Julie Carner, a pitbull owner, and advocate. Carner learned more about Smiley, then went to Facebook to try to save him by reaching out to other people for help: “I’M A GOOD BOY, I WOULD HAVE LOVED THAT NEW BABY! – PLEASE HELP ME, I DON'T WANT TO DIE … By all accounts he is a just about perfect – friendly and outgoing, loves to play with his ball toys along with squeaky toys, house-trained, he knows commands sit, stay and come in SPANISH, if he pulls on the leash he will slow down when told to, no guarding issues.”
Luckily, Olena Kagui saw the post while riding the subway with her husband. Kagui saw Smiley's sad eyes and fearful expression, and when she saw that no one could step in to save him, she knew she had to do something. “I started bawling when I saw that no one in the comments said they could take him,” Kagui said. “My husband noticed me crying, read the post and said, ‘We can’t get a dog right now.’”
But Kagui did some more digging and found out that Pound Hounds ResQ in Brooklyn was willing to save Smiley but needed a family to foster him. So Kagui convinced her husband to foster Smiley. Within hours, Smiley was removed from the shelter and on his way to being neutered. Then, he went to the Kagui home.
Smiley had been through a lot of change in a short amount of time, and it showed. Kagui remembers that “He drank some water and it was … clear that he was house-trained, [and] knew not to jump on the bed or to chew anything except for his toys. But he wouldn’t settle down or look at me all day."
It took time for Smiley to adjust to his new home and learn to trust his foster parents. After all, the last people he loved and trusted left him in a shelter. Kagui and her husband worked to show Smiley that he was loved and could trust again. Within a few weeks, Smiley had calmed down and was loving his new life.
Kagui and her husband fell in love with Smiley and formally adopted him. “Smiley already feels like part of our family,” Kagui said. “It doesn’t take long for a foster dog to make their way into your heart. Our home would already feel empty without him here.”
Smiley's story has a happy ending, but many other shelters dogs don't get the same second chance. Kagui asks people to look beyond the fear they might initially see in a shelter dog: “Smiley is proof that all shelter dogs deserve a second chance and even if they have issues at the shelter, they might be completely fine outside of a stressful environment!”
Do your part to help another Smiley out there by donating for a shelter dog's rescue, volunteering to foster or outright adopting a dog in need of a new home and lots of love.