Sherry Lankston was doing her usual social media scroll in her Seattle-area home before bed one evening when she spotted him: a young-looking husky named Harvey with a lopsided smile that melted her heart.
Even though she wasn't really looking to add a second dog to their household — they already have one dog and two human children — Lankston turned to her husband to tell him she'd found them a dog. The only catch? The dog was more than 1,250 miles away in San Diego.
"So we kind of had to pause and I was like, 'OK, well, that's probably not going to happen.' I even looked at flights," Lankston tells TODAY.com. "I was like, 'Why not look? Let's see if I (can) find a flight to San Diego.' And things were just outrageous — just to even consider that was silly."
But she couldn't stop thinking about the sweet dog. The San Diego Department of Animal Services kept posting about him and Lankston eventually messaged a woman, Joy Ollinger, who had shared his photos and gotten to know the pup.
Ollinger, who is a lieutenant with the San Diego Department of Animal Services, says she just wanted to get the word out about Harvey after seeing him stuck in the shelter for so long.
"He was there for months and nobody was interested in him," Ollinger also tells TODAY.com. "I was hearing people say that he was ugly or 'Ew, look at him!'"
Ollinger bonded with Harvey, bringing him into her office to give him a break from being in the kennel and buying him different puzzle toys once she noticed how smart he was.
"He was a shelter favorite. I mean, the volunteers loved him. All of us that work there loved him," she says.
So when Lankston reached out with the crazy idea to make the trip down to meet Harvey and potentially adopt him, Ollinger was thrilled.
"I was looking into different options on how we could get Harvey up to Seattle, and then Sherry told me, 'You know what, I'm just gonna make the drive down.'"
The next day, Lankston packed her car with her two young boys — who were on break from school — and their first dog, River.
"He's just so goofy. I mean, how could you see that face and just be like, 'No?'" Lankston laughs. "He is so cute!"
They drove almost the entire length of the West Coast, stopping at dog-friendly camps along the way. It took three days before they made it to San Diego.
"It was love at first sight!" Ollinger says. "It was really cute."
Lankston says the first time she and her boys met him, she "just knew" Harvey was their dog.
"It's a big undertaking to take on another dog, especially a rescue because you never know what you're gonna get. But we knew," she says. "First meeting I was like, 'OK, he's our dog.'"
After making sure River and Harvey got along — they were fast friends — she convinced her husband (who had to stay home to work) to get a flight down to San Diego to meet Harvey.
Then, the family made the three-day trek back to Seattle. Lankston says Harvey is already adjusting well to the cooler, rainy weather.
"He loves the rain," she says. "He loves splashing in puddles and being silly. I think he really likes it here."
Ollinger says the shelter's veterinarian believes Harvey was bitten as a young pup, which caused his facial deformity. She says that Harvey was rescued by a group of people who found him and two other huskies abandoned in the desert while they were riding ATVs.
Lankston says she heard from the woman who found the three dogs after their story was in the news. She told Lankston that Harvey had helped save the other two pups by getting them to follow their group for "miles" back to camp.
Lankston reached out to local TV stations and outlets to try to share her family's adoption story because she hopes it inspires others to adopt a rescue animal — even if they don't drive three days, like she did.
"Honest to God, this is just nuts. I get that," she says.
"I just saw that happy face with his tongue rolling out the side and I told my husband, 'That little wonky face speaks my little wonky heart and I think that's my dog,'" she says.
"He's just a great dog and I wish other people would hear the story and just say, 'You know what, let's go check out the shelter and maybe not pass up that wonky dog in a corner because that wonky dog in the corner could be their best friend."