Emerson the black Labrador puppy has only known a “ruff” life since he was born. Abandoned on the side of the road with the rest of his litter, things didn’t get much better after he was taken to a shelter. A myriad of fatal health problems nearly got in the way of Emerson’s adoption, not to mention his chance at a happy life. Even after this puppy started recovering, many potential forever homes were deterred by his “special needs” – that is, until fate brought along the one person that could understand him…
Abandoned On The Roadside
This sweet boy’s name is Emerson. He and his siblings were less than six weeks old when they were abandoned on the side of the road in northwestern Florida. Thankfully, a good Samaritan found them and brought them to the North Florida Rescue.
NFR saves many animals from high kill shelters. Their dedicated team of volunteers fosters and cares for the animals until they can find forever homes. But for Emerson, finding a forever home wasn’t easy.
A “Special Needs” Puppy
Shortly after being taken in, Emerson and his siblings were transferred to NFR in Maine. At eight weeks old, there was hope that the black Labrador puppies would fare well at NFR Maine but that simply wasn’t the case – at least when it came to Emerson.
Emerson turned out to be the runt in comparison to his siblings. He also had a deformity in his leg that labeled him a “special needs” dog.
Emerson Began Having Seizures
Emerson’s front left leg turned out to be the least of his problems. It wasn’t long before the young puppy began experiencing regular seizures. “We have him at the emergency vet and are doing whatever we can to help him. He is currently receiving fluids and we will be having a series of [tests] run on him,” NFR Maine shared on Facebook.
Emerson’s emergency vet bills at that point were as much as $850 and counting.
Emerson Was Left Behind
The cause of Emerson’s seizures remained a mystery and to make matters worse, the pup wasn’t eating or drinking. Despite the fact that the seizures began subsiding the next day, Emerson had to stay in the hospital to remain on fluids.
Meanwhile, his siblings generated interest among potential forever homes. Emerson saw himself get left behind as a result of his health problems, which only continued to get worse for him.
He Contracted A Fatal Virus
Seizures weren’t the only issue Emerson encountered in his short life. Not long after they started going away, the puppy developed a case of Parvo.
Otherwise known as Canine Parvovirus, the highly contagious disease is spread by contact with infected dogs and contaminated surfaces. It affects a dog’s gastrointestinal tracts and can cause death within three days. Unvaccinated dogs and those under four months old are particularly at risk. Emerson was less than ten weeks old at this point.
The Rescue Didn’t Think He’d Survive
While all of Emerson’s siblings were adopted right after arriving at NFR Maine, he was “struggling to survive.” In fact, the volunteers at NFR Maine were already preparing for the worst possible scenario.
“With all that this poor boy has been [through] already in his short life, his body is already weak and we have to brace ourselves that he may not make it. That is a cold reality of rescue, we lose some,” they wrote.
He Recovered, But There Was Still Something Wrong
The volunteers at NFR Maine did everything they could to give Emerson a fair, fighting chance at a good life. Soon, by some miracle, Emerson began healing from his seizures and his Parvo diagnosis.
But despite the fact that Emerson was healing, he wasn’t completely out of the woods. Perhaps it wasn’t his myriad of health problems that held Emerson back from getting adopted. There was something else that made him a “special needs” puppy.
He Appeared On TV So Someone Would Want Him
As he was healing, NFR Maine made a strong effort to find Emerson his new forever home. The volunteers even appeared on local television to state his case and what they said pulled at many viewers’ heartstrings.
“Emerson had a pretty rough start to life… [He] was having seizures, we weren’t sure why. He was hospitalized and developed Parvo. And they do believe he is deaf and maybe visually impaired,” volunteers shared on the TV 5 Morning Show in Maine.
Emerson Had No Hearing, But A Lot Of Heart
So not only did this little guy suffer from a leg deformity, seizures, and Parvo within ten weeks of his life, he was also deaf (and possibly blind) for a majority of that time. That didn’t keep Emerson from being a happy dog though.
“Once we got him from the vet’s office from Florida, we realized he had hearing difficulties. He doesn’t let it bother him at all though, he’s a typical puppy,” volunteer Lindsay Powers told Good Morning America.
Emerson Had Fun Despite His Health
Veterinarians and volunteers weren’t sure how Emerson came to be deaf either. “It is unknown if I was born deaf or if it was from the seizures,” Powers shared on Facebook on behalf of Emerson.
“What IS known is that a lack of being able to hear doesn’t keep me down!” Emerson likely wasn’t blind and despite being unable to hear, he enjoyed going on shopping trips, car rides, and playing with the kids in his foster family.
They Thought People Didn’t Want Him
Despite Emerson’s “happy-go-lucky” nature, NFR Maine couldn’t find any takers when it came to his adoption. With all of his siblings gone, they believed it was Emerson’s disclaimers that were holding him back.
Emerson was 12 weeks old and still looking for his forever home. “My Foster mom thinks that’s because people see that I’m deaf, and that makes people nervous but she wants everyone to know that being deaf is the LEAST of my worries!” Powers wrote on Facebook.
His Foster Mom Posted A Public Plea
While fostering Emerson, NFR volunteer Lindsay Powers simply couldn’t understand why this little guy had a hard time finding someone to adopt him. She even shared his story and some adorable photos of him on Facebook.
“‘My foster mom says she pictures me with someone that loves to be outside doing things like camping and going on adventures! I do really well on a leash and respond to vibrations if you need to get my attention,” she wrote.
He Was Becoming A Local Celebrity
Soon, many of the locals in Maine gained wind of Emerson’s story. “We had so many people ask about him! (He was getting to be a one name celebrity around these parts!),” NFR Maine shared on their Facebook page.
But despite the fact that many people knew Emerson was still looking for someone to adopt him, NFR Maine still had trouble finding his perfect forever home. After all, Emerson was unlike most dogs.
Someone With A Special Connection
Finally, Emerson’s saving grace came in the form of Nick Abbott. Some might say it was destiny that Abbott expressed interest in Emerson. He contacted NFR Maine about Emerson, telling them that he might understand Emerson better than other potential new owners.
“Right off the bat, he said, ‘I’m deaf also and I feel like we’d have a good connection,'” Powers told Good Morning America. Thinking that she found the one, Powers processed Abbott’s adoption application within a day.
Could It Be A Perfect Match?
Nick Abbott heard about Emerson after seeing a post on his Facebook feed. “I was born deaf. I said- Oh, he’s deaf too… Maybe I can go check him out to see what he’s all about,” Abbott told CBS-affiliate WABI-TV.
There couldn’t have been a more perfect match for Emerson. Not only was someone willing and ready to take care of the puppy, but they would also share a special bond between the two of them.
Emerson ‘Picked’ His New Owner
A couple of days later, Abbott was on his way to meet Emerson for the first time. When Abbott first arrived at Emerson’s foster home, it was as if the stars had aligned right then and there.
“He came straight to me at the door and sat right away at my feet and stayed there. So you can tell he kind of picked me,” Abbott said with a smile. Emerson had finally found the perfect new owner.
Emerson Still Had A Lot To Learn
The fact that Emerson walked right up to Abbott the moment he saw him was a sure sign that the two of them were meant to be in each other’s lives. “I knew right then and there that we would get along and understand each other pretty good,” Abbott told WABI-TV.
Now that Emerson had found the perfect forever home with Abbott, he lives as one of the happiest puppies in Maine. But there was still a learning curve for this pup.
Learning His Tricks With Sign Language
Since the two have found each other, Abbott has begun teaching Emerson sign language. Just because he has a disability, doesn’t mean that his life would be different than other puppies. After all, he was at the prime age to learn some basic commands and neat tricks.
Though Abbott says that Emerson can respond to certain tones and pitches, sign language allows him to better communicate with his new dog.
So Far He Can Sit And Lie Down
So far, Emerson can sit and lie down on command. Of course, he does this using the visual cues of sign language. To tell Emerson to sit, Abbott signs the letter ‘s’ in sign language. It was one trick that Emerson had down to a tee.
For “lie down,” Abbott sweeps his hand across in a straight line. Emerson performed the command effortlessly for the first time when WABI-TV came to interview Abbott.
It Was Meant To Be
After all that he had gone through in the first three months of his life, Emerson finally got the fairy-tale ending he deserved. His disability may have held him back before but it brought him closer to just the right person. Emerson now embarks on his happy new life with his best friend Nick Abbott.
“The bond that we have is awesome. We understand each other very well. I’d like to think it was meant to be. He’s special,” Abbott said.
Nobody Noticed This Shelter Dog, But Then Everyone Loved Him
Each year, there are millions of dogs like Emerson who end up in animal shelters in the US. The ASPCA reports that approximately 3.3 dogs enter US animals shelters nationwide every year. Many have trouble finding homes. That was also the case with one shelter dog named Sheldon.
Pit bulls get a bad reputation in the world of animal adoptions and with animal ownership in general. Of course, you’ve gotta ask why a breed would be demonized in such a way, but you’ll also want to learn first-hand how one dog, Sheldon, managed to set himself apart from the masses of pit bulls, to demonstrate his unique personality. It’s true… Nobody noticed the shelter dog, but he really was one-of-a-kind, and he was bound and determined to prove it!
What’s With Pit Bulls?
Before you glare over this way and say that’s a silly question, you’ve gotta realize that “pit bull” is actually an umbrella term for a whole bunch of different dogs, so you could be talking about American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or it could just be a stray mutt, who has any combination of “pit bull” breeds, along with a royal mix of any other kind of dog you could think of.
Yep, it’s confusing, and it’s also sad because pit bulls are often considered undesirable or not “family friendly” which puts them in a really bad spot when they end up in animal shelters across the US and around the world. Here’s the story of one pit bull who ended up in a shelter, named Sheldon.
A Question of Sheldon
So, Sheldon is one of those dogs that have been described as a pit bull, and he arrived at an animal shelter. Even if pit bull dogs didn’t statistically make up a larger percentage of shelter dogs (32% in 2014), he also didn’t present himself as friendly. Staff described him as shy, even grumpy. Then again, wouldn’t you be?
No matter how a dog got to the pound or how innocuous their abandonment might have been, it’s not easy for a dog to be stuck in a cage. And, it’s just not a happy situation, no matter how hard the staff tries to make it better, easier, or even enjoyable.
Maricopa County Animal Care and Control
Even in the best possible situation, a shelter is not where a dog or cat wants to be, particularly not when the animal has obviously been a part of a family in their past, pre-shelter experience. Because of the way he reacted to staff, it was clear that Sheldon had been a part of a family before.
Maricopa County Animal Care and Control is a shelter in Phoenix, Arizona, where Sheldon found himself in 2016. As with so many shelters across the country and around the world, they deal with a constant onslaught of new dogs and cats who need care and homes. They also look for volunteers who will work with the animals and help them to cope with the every day, unavoidable situation of being in a pound.
Sheldon’s Shelter Life
As is the situation with many abandoned and stray pets, Sheldon was sad when he first arrived at the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. It was obvious that he’d been in a family who cared about him. He knew how to sit upon command, and he even offered his paw. So, someone in his past must have taught him some tricks and behavioral directive.
Once he arrived at the shelter, though, nobody came to find him. He was left alone, unadopted, and he also didn’t appear to be social, with his sad and shy demeanor. He wasn’t a “bad” or “mean” dog. He just didn’t stand out with all the masses of 600-800 other animals, and he’d soon been at the shelter for a month, without adoption or owner retrieval.
Unclaimed Sheldon Is Noticed
Sheldon may have been unwanted and unclaimed by almost everyone, but there was one person who noticed him. Volunteer Heather Haltmeyer was keeping tabs on Sheldon, and it upset her that he was going so long unnoticed. Another 30 days had passed, so he’d been there for 90 days, without anyone showing the slightest interest in adopting or giving him attention.
There are just some animals that stand out. They seem to just need a little bit of help, and perhaps a little bit more attention than the rest. She was willing to help in any way that she could, and that’s why she stepped in to make sure that Sheldon stood out.
A Picture Says It All
One of Heather Haltmeyer’s duties as a volunteer at the animal shelter was to take photos of the animals. And she took those duties just a little further. Although he wasn’t one of the dogs she regularly took out, he was next to one of them. And, so she noticed him. She said, “I kept seeing him and he kept jumping up and down and wagging his tail in his kennel, like, ‘Look at me, look at me.’ He had the most adorable pink little lips.”
Who could possibly tell a dog like that no? She certainly couldn’t and didn’t. So, you could say it was Sheldon’s willingness to finally break out of his tough shell-exterior and show he could be friendly that really brought him the attention he so desperately needed.
Sheldon’s Personality Comes Out
Of course, Heather Haltmeyer added a bow-tie and immediately saw a different Sheldon shine through. He suddenly appeared to be more mellow, and somehow he even became a kind of “muse.” He loved the attention, but more than that, his whole demeanor changed when he was in front of the camera.
In some sense, he really came alive! So, she took a lot of photos of him, and she found that even though he often seemed sad or shy, he really wasn’t. In fact, he had a personality all his own, which you can clearly see by just looking at the photos.
Sheldon Was a Natural
Yep, it’s true. Heather Haltmeyer found that Sheldon was a photogenic animal and that he absolutely loved being the central focal point of the camera lens. Yes, his quirky character really started shining through more-and-more, even without the bow-tie addition, and she discovered more about who Sheldon really was.
She appears to have been in a bit of awe as she explains, “He seemed to eat it all up.” To be clear, as I’m sure you know, not all animals work well in front of the camera. So, Sheldon was something of an anomaly, unique and amazing. Haltmeyer tried to capture that personality, from frowns to goody poses.
Facebook Debuts Sheldon’s Goofy Personality
Sheldon’s photos were posted to Facebook in January 2017, with the caption: “We may be biased, but we think Sheldon should be a doggy celebrity with all those expressions.” It didn’t stop there, though. It went on: “Think of all the fun you could have taking pictures of him if you adopt!”
That was the whole point, right? The photos offered just a few reasons why you might want to adopt him. After all, with a quirky and lovable face like that, who could help but fall in love with him, and want to bring him home? That was the hope, anyway.
A Bit More About His Personality And Training
As you can see, though, there’s also a shot of Sheldon in a car. And, you can see from the series of shots that he plays nicely with others. But, the Facebook post didn’t end there. It said: “Sheldon is a great dog with a great energy level. He’s not crazy hyper, but he’s no slow-poke either. Sheldon is equally happy to sniff around on his own or come over for some pets and attention.”
Since some pit bulls have bad reputations as dogs that have too-high energy levels and who are crazy, the post gives you an idea that Sheldon is a companion dog, who will be there for you when you need him.
What About The ‘Grumpy Old Man’?
Heather Haltmeyer’s photos of Sheldon were immediately popular, with well-wishers and fans saying: “He looks a bit like a grumpy old man. Oh, somebody please help him to turn his frown upside down.” It appears that a lot of people were listening (and reading) up about Sheldon.
The images and description offered a good sense of who he was and what kind of a companion dog he would be, but the photos also caused at least one person to really fall in love with Sheldon. Who can help but absolutely love that grumpy face and quirky expression? It’s unavoidable, right?!
Emily Finds Sheldon
So after all those months of no interest, Sheldon finally was the center of attention, with well-wishers, fans, and friends. For her part, Emily Chmiel admitted: “I fell in love with his serious expressions in his pictures and knew he belonged in my house.”
You’ve gotta know, with the photos you’ve seen so far, that Sheldon was going to continue to be a big ham in front of the camera. That didn’t seem to bother Emily at all. She embraced his personality, and he appears to have made himself right at home. It seems to be the best kind of relationship.
The Controversy Of It All
Every day Sheldon remained at the animal shelter was a threat to his life. Maricopa County Animal Care and Control found itself the center point of a horrendous controversy a few months ago, when it was reported that they’d euthanized 25 full-term pups, as part of their overcrowding policy. The report sparked viral social-media outrage, particularly since the policy of euthanizing pregnant dogs has already been discontinued at most shelters.
Animal-rights activist Christine Monroe said: “My understanding is (the shelter) has not communicated this message to their rescue partners and aren’t even sending pleas to the rescue groups who may be able to save these mama dogs and puppies.” There were also reports that the shelter staff was hiding and misreporting the conditions of the animals prior to euthanizing them. Find out what happened to Sheldon next.
Emily Took Sheldon Home
So, her skills and photographer’s eye were successful. Emily Chmiel looked at Sheldon’s mug and fell in love, and then she took him home. Fortunately, though, the story didn’t end there. She gives us a continued sneak-peak into his life and adventures.
Volunteer and Photographer Heather Haltmeyer couldn’t have been more thrilled with the outcome of Sheldon’s case. She says, “I do think the photos are what attracted them, and it feels great.” She further explains, “The whole point of it is to get people’s attention and to help dogs stand out that would otherwise kind of get lost in the crowd.”
Yes, you’ll be happy to hear that he settled right in, and he even got a new name: “Castiel.” In case you didn’t know, that’s the name of an angel in the CW show, Supernatural. One of his most memorable traits is the way he’s able to fix his “puppy-dog” eye-gaze on you rendering you helpless.
There’s probably some similarity between the angel-character and Emily’s new adopted pet. Those photos certainly appeared to capture the imaginations, care, and concern of countless fans and friends, and the unique personality that shined through also gained him a forever home and family. It sounds like there’s a great reason for calling him Castiel!
Castiel Has The Life
In case you were wondering how Castiel is taking to his new life with Emily Chmiel, you’ve only got to see the way he lounges on the couch, completely at ease and content. Emily further reports that he also enjoys exploring her courtyard and that he’s made friends with her many cats (always a positive sign).
She does periodically have to remind him who’s boss, but he hasn’t been part of the family for long, so he’s probably still learning the ropes, and acceptable behavior in the house. It’s all a learning process, after all, and they’re obviously together for the long-haul.
Follow The ‘Official Grump Dog’
If you were looking for a way to follow the life and adventures of Castiel, you’ve also got a quick-and-easy way to plug-in. With such an outpouring of social-media love around her dog, Emily Chmiel has created the “Official Grump Dog” Instagram account for “Cass dog.” The account describes him as: “Judging you always… Professional Grump, Destroyer of Socks.”
She also says: “Will Grip You Tight and Raise You From Pupperdition.” And, yes, she also posts a side-by-side photo with the TV Castiel, in case it wasn’t perfectly obvious, it’s a great way to see why he’s got that name now!
The Rest Of The Story
It’s clear that Castiel found a great home with Emily Chmiel, who seems to dote on him. She says: “I adore his personality and his spunk.” But, it may also be that his time at the shelter left him a bit needy, even clingy. Emily says, “He already follows me around everywhere.” He doesn’t seem to want to chance letting her out of her sight.
So, yes, it’s a heart-warming story of salvation for a shelter dog, and the way a crazy-unique dog makes himself at home. He’s happy and healthy, and he’s found his forever family, but there are lots of dogs and cats out there who are still waiting and hoping.
The Director Quit After Controversy
Given the recent controversies surrounding the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, it’s probably not surprising that Rodrigo Silva, assistant county manager who oversees the shelter, recently resigned. He admitted there had been a failure to care for some animals, but really didn’t elaborate. He said that he’d been able to lower the rates of euthanasia, and he also said he’d created a nationally recognized spay-neuter assistance program.
Long-time volunteer Claudia Bloom claimed she’d seen many “horrible things” because of his policies. There’s widespread hope that the next director will bring much-needed change and improvement to the shelter operations.
Volunteers Take A Stand
The wide-spread controversies have inspired the creation of a citizens task force, which has already made recommendations that aim to improve shelter intake and day-to-day operations. This will help more animals who enter the shelter get healthy, socialized, and placed in a loving home more quickly.
Volunteer Beth Lockhart says, “The main goals from here forward are increased transparency and accountability at county and (to get) everyone focusing on working together to save more lives and increase adoptions.”