The Dog Owner Files: Shelter Dog Story

In honor of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, I asked you all to send me photos/stories of your shelter dog. Today I wanted to share with you one of the stories I received because I love the sentiment behind it. Sometimes the right dog just finds you. He may not be the “ideal” dog or what you thought you wanted, but he ends up being the perfect fit. I’ll be sharing other shelter dog photos and stories later this week.

Here’s Amanda Wolfe’s story of how she adopted her dog, Gatsby, from the Cleveland APL.



My boyfriend, Aaron, and I walked into the shelter’s dog room, and almost right away I spotted him in the third cage from the door­­­—a Lab face on a somewhat awkwardly shaped white hound body. But I was determined to look at every dog in the place before becoming attached to any, so we didn’t linger. We went from dog to dog, picked our top five, and then returned to that third cage. “What about this one?”

“Scrappy” was only partially interested in us. He spent most of his time turning around to bite himself on his rear end. I had never seen such an itchy dog, and he was painfully thin. His paperwork indicated that he’d been seized from a home where he had no access to food, water, or shelter. He should have been about sixty pounds, but he had weighed in at only forty-two when he’d been rescued just two months earlier. We asked to meet him.

The volunteer brought him to us in a large room. It seemed like there were two different dogs in that body with the perfectly round, sleek black spot on the left side—one goofy, playful, and friendly, and the other miserable and capable only of paying attention to his physical discomfort. He played with us for a minute or two, chasing a toy across the room, and then could not stop attacking the base of his tail. The dog turned his body crooked at nearly a right angle so as to better dig his teeth into his own flesh, and he raised his hind legs to scratch like a cat. It made us nervous; what was wrong with this dog? Would he bring his itchy illness into our home and infect our cats? We left him there.

But he didn’t leave us. He stayed in our minds for a week. We thought, Maybe someone else will adopt him. In my heart, though, I wondered, Who is going to adopt such an awkward, itchy dog? So we looked into his possible diagnosis that the shelter had given us, and a little research seemed to say that it was not contagious. We went back.

He came home with us, renamed Gatsby, on July 25 last year. He was nervous about getting into the car, so I sat in the back with him. That first night, I kept my distance. This was a trial, after all, and if he showed so much as any interest in chasing our beloved cats, he would not be welcome in our house. He spent the night in the kitchen behind a gate, and Aaron slept on the couch to keep watch. No incidents occurred; he seemed slightly afraid of the felines and perfectly content to stay away from them. We opened the gate.

Gatsby flopped down on the floor next to us as if he’d been part of our family all along. It didn’t take much time for him to jump comfortably onto the couch, and he basically never left that spot. And now that we’ve moved to a new house with carpeted stairs, he blissfully follows us to our bedroom every night and collapses in happy exhaustion on his bed, which is at the foot of ours.


He has brought nothing but joy into our lives in the fifteen months he’s been with us, and we cannot imagine our lives without this precious boy. He is our constant companion, our snuggle buddy, the voice of reason amidst all the cats. He has encouraged us to get out of the house, and he’s helped us meet new people. He still suffers from his itchy allergies—he takes special baths and sometimes needs medication—but it’s manageable and a small price to pay for our very best friend.

Thanks Amanda for your great story! You can follow Amanda on Twitter @awolfinthehouse