An unexpected adoption has given not one or two, but three dogs in Asheville, North Carolina, a forever home.
The adopter, a woman named Leslie, walked into the Asheville Humane Society Adoption Center on July 24 and asked, "Which two dogs have been here the longest, with the most special needs? I'm here to take them both home with me."
According to Meredith Pitcairn, the center's communications and digital fundraising manager, those two dogs were Brutus and Samantha.
Samantha — nicknamed Sam — was surrendered to the shelter in December 2018. She has a severe skin condition that leads to what Pictairn called "masses" on the skin, along with missing hair, and required medical care and a specialized diet. She was adopted in May 2019 — but her new family had another dog, and since the two didn't get along, Sam was returned to the Asheville Humane Society in June.
Brutus had been with the shelter since March, when he was surrendered by his family. His family asked that he be euthanized — a service that the shelter does provide to the animals that need it when families can't bear the cost — but doctors decided that such severe measures were unnecessary, according to Pitcairn.
Instead, the shelter took him in. Several foster families tried to care for him, but severe separation anxiety and other medical troubles made it hard for him to stay with them, and he finally came back to the shelter.
"One of our staff members let him have a little vacation in her office, so he would have someone to be around instead of being in his kennel," Pitcairn explained. "She had a hankering for something out of the vending machine, so she took him with her — and that's when Leslie walked in the door! She came in saying that she wanted to adopt the two longest-staying dogs that had special needs, and the staff member was like 'Here you go! Here's Brutus!'"
The sweet adoption was captured on video and shared on the society's Facebook page.
"Sometimes we'll have the occasional person who has a huge heart, and is like 'You know, I just want to take home whoever has been here the longest,'" Pitcairn explained. "But this is the first time I've ever heard of someone saying 'Give me your two dogs who have been here the longest with special needs.' We were all just in shock. It was incredible. It was probably one of the best days we've had in a long time."
While the request may have shocked the shelter, it was nothing new to Leslie. Pitcairn said that she had been adopting senior animals and letting them live out their final years with her for most of her life. While it was her first adoption from the Asheville Humane Society, Pitcairn said that Leslie had adopted between 40 and 50 senior dogs throughout the course of her life.
"She told us that several years ago, she went to another shelter and adopted their five hardest-to-adopt dogs, all at once," said Heather Hayes, the shelter's marketing manager. "So she kind of adopts them in groups and then recently she said she lost seven of her senior animals. They're not with her for very long, but they have a wonderful life while they are with her. She decided that she could open her home again to two animals that need a second chance."
On Aug. 2, Leslie returned to the shelter and took home another dog, a 13-year-old Schnauzer mix named Lily.
"We were all just so excited and so in awe of the compassion this woman has for animals in need," Pitcairn said.
"It's the most heartwarming adoption I've seen since I've been here," said Hayes, who has worked at the shelter for seven years. "The summer months are so stressful for our staff because we have so many animals coming in ... something like this happening, especially this time of year, really gave all of us a boost that there are good people out there. We saw two of our hardest-to-adopt animals go home and that was just a perfect time."
The three animals have all adapted well to their new home, which offers a two-acre fenced-in yard for them to run around in. Initially, there were concerns that Samantha wouldn't get along with Brutus, because she didn't get along with the other dog in her first home or the other shelter animals. Leslie assured the shelter staff that there would be room for both dogs to stay separate, if they wanted to be apart — but instead, the two dogs bonded.
"They have done so well," said Pitcairn. "She said that they're best friends and they hang out all the time. They snuggle, they eat together. It actually worked out perfectly that they have become the best of friends."