"Guardians of the Galaxy" actor and retired wrestler Dave Bautista is now a new type of guardian: He recently adopted a pair of bonded 6-year-old pit bulls, who had been surrendered and separated after their previous owner had a baby.
“I needed them, they needed me,” Bautista wrote in a Nov. 13 Instagram post about the dogs, named Ollie and Maggie. "These beautiful babies spent the first six years of their lives neglected and abused. And now they are going to spend the rest of their lives being spoiled and loved."
"They just won the #DogLottery," actor Justin Long wrote in a comment on the post.
It's a remarkable ending for Ollie and Maggie, but luck wasn't always on their side.
The four-legged besties were separated at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center in Tampa, Florida, when they arrived on Oct. 18. It is important to keep bonded dogs together, especially through any new process, as separation anxiety can occur, according to Scott Trebatoski, department director of the shelter. He believes the animals were separated because of kennel space constraints.
In a shelter, keeping bonded dogs together brings them comfort in a stressful situation, according to Jennifer Abrams, the senior manager of the behavior and volunteer programs at the Animal Care Center of NYC, who wasn’t involved with the care of Ollie and and Maggie.
“My opinion is that in the shelter is not the place to break up bonded pairs because the shelter is very stressful, and leaving them alone is one more thing to add stress and sometimes they find comfort in each other's presence," she told TODAY.
Word of the dogs' plight reached members of Rescue Me Tampa, an independent volunteer organization that aims to get shelter dogs adopted.
"Please consider these 2 together," the organization wrote in an Oct. 26 Facebook post. "They just lost everything they knew and loved. Although not kennelled together or listed as bonded they have lived together since they were pups so that in our opinion is BONDED!!"
A few days later, the Pitbull Mafia, a small group of dog-loving friends who rescue dogs at risk of euthanasia from local county shelters, stepped in.
Michelle Baker, a member who helped rescue Maggie and Ollie, says that upon releasing the dogs, they were immediately treated for a severe reaction to flea infestation, malnourishment and upper respiratory infections; she also said they were approximately 10 pounds underweight, according to the veterinarian the group took them to. Both dogs were treated with two antibiotics, flea and heartworm medication and high-protein dog food.
“The vet has reported that with a little TLC and time, they’ll be just fine,” Baker told TODAY.
Trebatoski, meanwhile, told TODAY that the dogs were in good physical condition and had an ideal body weight. According to their intake records, Ollie was 48.5 pounds and Maggie was 43.5 pounds.
After treatment, the dogs were fostered by Patrick and Kim Thorpe for about two weeks before Frankie’s Friends, a national organization based in Tampa, contacted Bautista. The actor, an ambassador for the nonprofit, has donated several times and even got Marvel Strike Force to donate up to $50,000 to the organization as well. They knew he would be the perfect fit for Maggie and Ollie.
Bautista responded in minutes. A few days later, on Nov. 12, he met the dogs for the first time. He fell in love and adopted them on the spot. The connection was mutual, according to Lisa Bricker, the director of development at Frankie’s Friends.
“He has an amazing heart for animals, but I think what is even more beautiful about how he connects with pit bulls is that it's just such a seamless, loving, humble way that he reaches out to dogs and he really connects,” Bricker told TODAY. “If you look at this Instagram, I'm not sure which one was already lying on his lap, but they hadn't even been there four hours.”
Maggie and Ollie Bautista, as they're now known, are happily living at their forever home with their famous dad.
“Their ending could have been so much different — like so many poor souls don't get that lucky," Jessica Yingst, one of the page administrators for Rescue Me Tampa, told TODAY. "And these two are just a fairy-tale ending for two perfect dogs."