I Adopted a Shelter Dog and Now We’re Both Living Our Best Life - Firefly Books Blog

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I Adopted a Shelter Dog and Now We’re Both Living Our Best Life

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I Adopted a Shelter Dog and Now We’re Both Living Our Best Life


A Guest Blog by Valerie Howes

The first time I saw my dog Piña, it was in a photo, sent by the high-kill shelter where she was residing in Texas. She looked filthy, as did her cement-floored enclosure (there are more than a million stray dogs in Houston, Texas, alone, and the shelters are overwhelmed). Her eyes were covered in a blue-white film, as if she were a senior dog with cataracts, only this muppet-haired little terrier mix was estimated to be just one year old. 



At the shelter

“Are you willing to foster a dog that’s partially sighted?,” the volunteer coordinator of the Toronto-based rescue we were fostering with asked. We went back and forth about logisticsthings like keeping the home environment the same, so this dog could find her way around. It all seemed straightforward. I said yes.


The evening we went to pick up Piña at a parking lot, after her long truck ride from the U.S., her fur was stuck to her legs and she smelled of urine. We weren’t allowed to bathe her, as she’d just had stitches, so we just tried not to breathe in too deeply around her. She didn’t care much about her own stinkiness, and trotted happily alongside us on leash, swishing her tail like a happy little fox. We didn’t actually get to bring her home that night, as she had to stay at the veterinary clinic: her eyes were red, weepy, and bulging from edema and uveitis, and she needed emergency treatment and pain relief. 



Valerie and Piña


When Piña moved into our home the next day, the first thing she did was create safe zones for herself under our sofa, coffee table, and beds, to slither into like a furry commando when she wanted peace. But as the days passed, she came out to be with us more and revealed herself to be affectionate, easy-going, and eager to cuddle up with our two big dogs (she quickly assumed the role of tiny boss). We hadn’t been looking for a third dog, but within a week we were smitten, and Piña just fit right in, so we applied to adopt her.



Piña cuddling up to her new sibling Teddy Lennox


Not long after, our vet ran blood tests that revealed the cause of Piña’s blindness. She had a tick-borne infection that was attacking her eyes. We began treating her with medicine and eyedrops, and to everyone’s surprise she fully regained her sight. Soon we had a new concern: Piña’s passion for barking at squirrels, cats, birds, raccoons and other dogs, now she could actually see them.



A year after adoption


We moved to Fogo Island, Newfoundland, during the pandemic, a wild and remote rural community. Piña is in her element here. She picks wild berries from the bushes with her mouth; jumps from rock to rock and plays tug-o-war with tasty seaweed. Since there are no raccoons and not many squirrels on the island, she has switched to barking at foxes, otters and caribou.   


I’ve been documenting Piña’s adventures, with her canine friends on the island, in an Instagram account @valhowesdogphotos. Photographing dogs in nature is for me one of the most joyful and relaxing ways to spend an hour. Sometimes, when I watch Piña hurtling down a trail lined with wild flowers or relaxing in the warm saltwater of a rock pool, I feel so grateful she got out of the shelter, and we found each other. 




Thriving on Fogo Island 


Since people started returning to the office after lockdown, animal shelters have been filling up with last year’s “pandemic puppies” globally. This breaks my heart. The release of Andrew Grant’s book, Take Me Home: Rescue Dogs, could not be more timely. Grant’s studio photographs capture the personalities and sweetness of every breed (and mash-up of breeds) of dog imaginablesome of the images are of dogs that were once in a shelter, just like Piña. 


I hope when people read this coffee table book and take in the gorgeous images, they feel moved to adopt their next dog–and to think carefully about the commitment they’re making. It’s so important to be realistic about the energy level, age, breed, and temperament of a dog that works for your family, so that moving into your home is the last move your rescue dog ever has to make.


Get the book: 

b2ap3_thumbnail_9780228103042-1.jpgTake Me Home: Portraits of Homeless and Rescued Dogs



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