For many families, a home invasion is a person’s worst nightmare. That’s especially true if you have a one-month-old daughter, like couple Emily and Jack Jokinen. But when a stranger entered their home, it wasn’t what they had expected.
When a stray dog entered a family’s home at 4:00 a.m., the family didn’t know what to do. How did the dog get in? Who did she belong to? What were they going to do? Read the story that has banded the internet together to protect this dog.
At around 4:00 a.m., Emily Jokinen walked downstairs to fetch a pacifier for her one-month-old daughter. Immediately, she realized that she was not alone. An intruder had walked into her Philadelphia home sometime during the night, and she had no idea how they got in.
She immediately woke up her husband, Jack. Expecting the worse, Jack asked her what was wrong. “The baby is fine,” Emily explained, “but there is a puppy in our house.”
Understandably, Jack had no idea what to do. “I wasn’t sure — honestly, I was just like, ‘What does that mean?'” he later told TODAY. “You said words that I know, but they don’t go in that order.”
Jack’s parents were also visiting that weekend, and he wondered if it was their doing. “I did wonder, like, ‘Is this a messed-up Christmas gift?'” he said. But it wasn’t a gift–just a stray dog who wandered into the family’s home.
The Lost Puppy
“I went downstairs,” Jack recalled, “and on the first floor, in the middle of our house, there was sitting what looked to be like a cold, wet puppy.” She was hobbling one three legs and seemed visibly malnourished.
Because she was underweight, Jack initially thought that she was a puppy. He tweeted, “I just woke up to this puppy in my house, and we have no idea how it got here.” But that didn’t give him any answers.
How Did She Get In?
Jack and Emily had no idea how the dog got in. “The front door was locked, the back door was locked, windows closed, everything,” Jack said. “There was kind of this mystery puppy in our house, and we had no idea how it got here.”
After the family confirmed that no person had entered, they investigated what had happened. Fortunately, the couple had installed security footage in their home. The video contained all the answers.
On The Security Footage
According to the video, the dog hobbled up to the home around 3:15 a.m., looking to escape the rain. After hesitating, she walked through the door–which was wide open. For some reason, their dog Jorge Pawsada (called George) didn’t react to the stray.
“We don’t know if it was the light, the warmth, smelling George,” Jack said. “She came into the house, and then she went out of it, and kind of on our porch, and then she was in the house.”
Why Was The Door Open?
But why was the door wide open in the first place? The video explains that as well. That night, Jack had walked his other dog, and he shut the door upon returning. Since the front door has an electric lock, it usually shuts entirely, but it didn’t that night.
The strong winds of that cold December night eventually blew the door open. While sleeping upstairs, Jack, Emily, and the baby didn’t notice anything. Fortunately, their dog George didn’t run out.
Then How Did The Door Lock?
Later, the video explained how the door was locked when the family woke up. Around 3:45 a.m., an unknown neighbor saw the door open. The stranger yelled into the house, asking if everything was okay, which may have woken the baby up.
When he didn’t receive a response, the neighbor shut the door for them. The electric lock activated, and the Jokinens were left with a fully-secured house and an unknown dog in their living room.
Now, the family had to handle the dog. She didn’t act violently toward the humans or George, so the Jokinens didn’t kick her out. Instead, Jack googled, “What do you do when you find a dog?”
“There’s really no playbook for this,” Jack later said. “And surprisingly, we’ve never found a dog in our house before.” The family landed on two options: call Animal Control or take the dog to the vet. They tried the former first.
Taking Her In
First, the Jokinens called Animal Control. The employee said that they could come over, check for a chip, and take the dog out of the Jokinen’s hands. “We didn’t like the way that sounded,” Jack admitted.
The family understood two things: that this dog was likely a puppy, and that she was injured. They thought that she would end up alone if they had called Animal Control. “We said, at a minimum, let’s call a vet,” Jack said.
Emily and Jack took the dog to an emergency vet for a $72 appointment. The vet revealed several things–first, that the dog wasn’t a puppy, but nine years old. Her malnourishment made her critically underweight, only 19 pounds when she should have been between 35 and 40.
To dog also had teeth infections, and injured paw, and several fleas and ticks. She was also not chipped, the veterans said. The Jokinens were left wondering what to do next.
Life Or Death Situation
After the vets gave a diagnosis, Jack and Emily realized how dangerous the situation was. Jack described that they “just kind of woke up.” When the couple handled this stray dog, they could only feel ribs.
“This dog can’t go back wherever she was, even if there was a chip,” Jack said. He said that when looking at the dog, he saw the winter that ravaged Philadelphia. If she hadn’t walked through that door, she might not have survived until New Year’s.
“It’s Your Dog”
Throughout the journey, Jack revealed the story on his Twitter. Since he runs a New York Yankees podcast called George’s Box, he had over 35,000 followers. Former Indianapolis Colts player Pat MacAfee retweeted Jack and said that it was “your dog now.”
“There was a lot of ‘That’s your dog,'” Jack recalled. “It really started to feel like she was our dog. Some people said, ‘If you can’t take this dog, I’ll take the dog. She looks scared.'”
Taking In Suzy
Although the internet voted for them keeping the dog, Jack and Emily discussed the matter for a while. Adopting a stray senior dog with several vet bills would be a lot, but they still felt bonded to their little intruder.
Eventually, they decided to keep their unexpected dog. Around that time, New York Yankees sportscaster Suzyn Waldman emailed the Jokinens expressing how kind they were to the dog. They named the dog Suzy Pupman after her.
A Long Road To Recovery
Although Suzy had a new home, he had a long road to recovery. She had to be spayed, re-nourished, vaccinated, groomed, and treated. Her paw infection, teeth damage, heart murmur, and pads missing on her feet would cost a lot more than the $72 vet bill.
Jack told Action News that she needed treatment for a paw infection, hookworm, and dental care. Jack’s followers, who were already invested, immediately jumped in to help. Word of the abandoned, malnourished dog spread like wildfire.
Although Jack and Emily didn’t expect money, several Twitter users were offering to help with Suzy’s medical expenses. Eventually, Jack posted his Paypal and Venmo, and the donations began to pour in.
Jack also uploaded a public spreadsheet detailing how much money he received. Within the week, the couple raised over $25,000. The Jokinens hoped that Suzy’s bills wouldn’t be that high, and they planned to donate the rest of the funds to charity. They have not decided on an organization yet.
Recovering While Updating Twitter
The Jokinens updated Twitter on Suzy’s state. “This dog was in such bad shape. Whoever would’ve had it is a terrible person,” Jack said in an update video. “So, we’ve decided to keep the dog.”
As the Jokinens gave Suzy a flea bath and grooming, they reported her progress on Twitter. By this time, Jack’s followers were fully invested in this dog. Emily and Jack worked to give Suzy “a dignified end of her life.”
To bring Suzy’s health back, the Jokinens had to tread carefully. They put her on a low-fat diet via the vet’s orders. Slowly, her weight climbed from 19 pounds to the high 30s. She also got much better sleep on a bed than on the street.
With the help of the donations, Suzy received treatment for paw and dental injuries. Jack and Emily still don’t know what kind of dog she is; she’s likely a terrier and lab mix.
“The Internet’s Dog”
Since the internet had an emotional and (sometimes) financial investment in Suzy, the Jokinens updated their followers every step of the way. “Suzy is not really our dog,” Jack said during an interview. “She’s kind of the Internet’s dog at this point.”
Since adopting Suzy, Emily and Jack have made an Instagram account for their dog, which has over 43,000 followers. Jack also created follow-up videos on his Twitter to let everyone know that Suzy was doing better.
But Suzy Had Hard Times, Too
Although Suzy reaped many benefits during her new life, she also struggled with the change. She quickly developed separation anxiety and became destructive. One day, Jack came home to Suzy covered in blood because she busted a nail in her frustration.
Fortunately, Suzy’s fellow canine George has eased some of her anxiety. Jack and Emily assert that adopting a new dog–especially a senior dog–is a struggle. But to them, “it’s a challenge that’s worth it.”
The Identity Of The Helpful Stranger
To make this story more heartwarming, Jack and Emily eventually found the stranger who closed their door on that fateful night. A neighborhood Facebook group helped bring the neighbors together. He was 35-year-old Steven Griendling.
“My family could have been murdered if it wasn’t for this guy,” Jack later said. To give thanks, the Jokinens took Steven out to a steak dinner. Although Steven could have stolen from the home, he went out of his way to help the family.
From Stray To Famous
Suzy’s spotlight didn’t die down after she was adopted. Her story was featured in the Washington Post, TODAY, ABC, FOX, and CBS Philly. Her photo even made the front page of the Philadelphia News.
Strangers from around the world donated money to support Suzy’s recovery, and they all wanted to know how she was doing. Jack posted several update videos to Twitter, thanking his followers for helping and telling everyone how Suzy was adjusting to her new home.
Adjusting To Her New Home
Meanwhile, Suzy had to adjust to her new home. Within two days, she warmed up to the family. Even the Jokinens’ current dog, George, gave up his bed for her. The family revealed that she got along great with their one-month-old daughter.
“She’s been through a lot,” Jack said in an update video on Twitter. “She’s not where she should be, health-wise, but she’s not where she was, and we’re going in the right direction.”
A Christmas Miracle
As the story played out, Jack and Emily viewed the situation as a Christmas miracle. “It’s the holiday season, and it’s not about us,” Jack later said. “It’s about this dog that people have found faith in.”
“We’re simply the vessel of this story, and anything we do to keep it going and spread the awareness that there are good people out there,” Jack continued. He believes that the fight for Suzy’s life brought people together.
Suzy now lives like she was never a stray in the first place. She enjoys car rides, walking with George, and protecting the baby. She’s happy, healthy, and a beloved member of the Jokinen family.
“I hate people say ‘Everything happens for a reason,'” Emily wrote in an Instagram post. “But I really do feel like this happened for a reason.” Instead of a burglar, Jack and Emily gained a new pet and companion for their daughter.
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.”