A stray pit bull mix named Lola was just a year old when she and her six puppies landed in Arizona’s Humane Society of Wickenburg last September. Her puppies were adopted right away, but for some reason, Lola kept getting overlooked by potential adopters — for over a year.
The staff at the small-town shelter — the local population numbers around 8,000 people — couldn’t understand why the loving dog who adores snuggling and belly rubs couldn’t find a forever home. But they refused to give up on her.
After 400 days, they contacted the Arizona Humane Society in Phoenix, which offers the “Project Reachout” program to take in pets who need help.
Bretta Nelson, spokesperson for the Arizona Humane Society (which despite the similar name is independent from Humane Society of Wickenburg), said the program is usually intended for sick, injured and abused pets who could benefit from the shelter’s trauma hospital or Parvo Puppy Intensive Care Unit. Lola was an unusual case.
“Wickenburg being obviously much smaller than Phoenix, I believe they reached out and said, ‘Hey, we have this dog here and she’s a staff favorite,’” Nelson told TODAY. “'We absolutely love her but for some reason, she does keep getting overlooked. Would you guys be willing to take her in and have the Phoenix population get a chance to meet her as well?’ And that’s exactly what we did.”
When Lola arrived at the Arizona Humane Society — all smiles — the team started sharing her story online and with local media. Fortunately, the Perry family heard about Lola and scheduled a meet-and-greet for the very next day — which included a surprise for their daughter. The young girl thought they were just going to pet dogs during their outing, not adopt one.
“They really wanted Lola, and when they turned to their little girl and said, ‘We’re going to take her home with us,’ I guess she was just ecstatic,” Nelson said.
Naturally, so were the staff at both shelters — and Lola herself. She’s one of around 1,000 pets helped by the “Project Reachout” program in this year alone. Nelson said a change of venue can really help dogs and cats get adopted, so collaboration between shelters is key.
While Arizona Humane Society transfers homeless pets from other areas to its care, including regular transport of puppies from the Navajo Nation, other shelters reciprocate in turn.
“When our Bottle Baby Kitten Intensive Care Unit is at capacity, we have partners that will come and take some of those newborn kittens from us,” she said. “So it really is such a collaborative program and it’s truly lifesaving. We’re all working together.”
Nelson said there is always a need for volunteers to foster dogs, cats, kittens, puppies and bunny rabbits, and the shelter makes it as easy as possible by providing all pet supplies and medical care. Of course, donating money and adopting pets are important, too.
“I would just encourage people, especially if they continue to work from home, to really consider pet adoption,” she said. “The holidays are coming, so it might be a great time to add a new friend to your home.”