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Given up by his first family at 6 years old, Sky struggled in the shelter. Thankfully, a foster couple took him in and gave him the love he needed to relax.
It was so easy for Sky to get adopted the first time. He was 8 weeks old back then, a cute and cuddly German Shepherd–Labrador Retriever puppy who didn’t need to sell himself to potential adopters. Young, healthy, and adorable, he was exactly what most were looking for and quickly left the shelter in the arms of his new family. Six years later, though, Sky found himself back at the shelter after a new step-child in his household turned out to be highly allergic to him. Now 78 pounds with bad hips and some insecurity issues, Sky wouldn’t be leaving in the arms of an adopter this time.
“He was scheduled for a kill because he was already 6. That’s when The Rescued Dog came and got him,” explains Cosimo Giovine, who adopted Sky 326 days after he was saved from the shelter.
Cosimo and his wife, Carrie, had never had a dog before meeting Sky, and Cosimo says he can understand why it took so long for Sky to find a home the second time around.
“I would have say no. I wouldn’t have picked this dog,” he explains.
First-time dog guardians, Cosimo and Carrie weren’t exactly dreaming of a nearly 80-pound Shepherd with moderate hip dysplasia before meeting Sky. They’d actually been picturing a 40-pound Pit Bull mix after spending time with a friend’s dog who matched that description. The couple didn’t even really consider themselves dog people, but were thinking about adopting after many years of urging by a friend who owns a pet supply store.
“Finally we said, well, how about we foster?” Cosimo remembers.
He says he and Carrie spent a couple of months researching different rescues in San Diego before approaching The Rescued Dog, a non-profit group dedicated to save at-risk dogs from high-kill shelters, and offered their services as a short-term foster home.
Theirs would be the third foster home for Sky. According to Cosimo, the first foster home wasn’t a great fit due to Sky’s hip sensitivity (the family had a toddler and thought Sky would be more comfortable in a home with only older, gentler humans), and Sky didn’t get along with the other dogs in his second foster home.
What Cosimo and Carrie were offering — a calm house where Sky could be the solo pet — was ideal for the big dog who wasted no time teaching the couple about life with a canine companion.
“It’s almost like being a first-time parent in that everything is a disaster,” Cosimo says, recalling a moment of panic after witnessing Sky kill an unlucky squirrel.
“I’ve never seen an animal kill another animal right in front of my eyes,” he recalls. “We called around, and our friends who have dogs were like, ‘Yeah — that happens’.”
While the couple got used to Sky’s animal impulses, the folks at The Rescued Dog continued to try to find him a forever home. Sky starred in his own YouTube video, was featured on the local news twice, and attended 10 adoption events, but according to Cosimo, the dog never managed to show off his best self to potential adopters.
It wasn’t until Sky’s story was posted to Susie’s Senior Dogs (a popular Facebook page showcasing older adoptables) for the sixth time that Cosimo and Carrie decided they should extend Sky’s four-month stay into forever.
“We realized then that he had become so comfortable with us and we with him, that it just seemed like a moot point,” says Cosimo.
Happy in his forever home, Sky is working hard on his continued training and is enjoying low-impact exercise.
“We took him to Dog Beach, and after he got out in the water, he met a little friend, a little Corgi. She was really overweight and having a hard time swimming, and he came up behind her and nudged her back into the shallows,” Cosimo recalls.
Once overweight himself, Sky has lost 11 pounds since he was surrendered. Cosimo says he understands why Sky was overlooked for so long, but that rescue dogs who don’t make a good first impression can reach their potential if given time and a some human help.
“When I learned how to handle him, how to work with him, how to train him, he became a totally different dog than what we got four months ago.”
Top: Sky takes a rest after a busy day of being cute. (Photo by Kim Alfred, courtesy The Rescued Dog)
Heather is a wife, new mom, and former TV journalist in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. You can follow Heather on Twitter and Google+.
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