Savvy the Senior Goes From Aloof to Loving

Savvy the Pit Bull mix just needed the right person to come through those shelter doors.

Aloof is the last word Sylvia Deranleau would use to describe her rescue dog, Savannah, but that’s one of the descriptors that shelter workers at the Middletown Humane Society in New York State put in her adoption bio two years ago. The senior Pit Bull mix wasn’t exactly dazzling potential adopters with affection, but no one could blame her after what she’d been through.

“She sat at the pound for just under three years,” says Sylvia, who first spotted Savannah — also known as Savvy — on a Facebook page for Susie’s Senior Dogs.

Sylvia wasn’t looking to adopt a dog when she clicked the page’s like button. She only came across the account because she followed Humans of New York and found herself intrigued when Susie’s Senior Dogs was cross-promoted; Brandon Stanton runs the Human website, while his girlfriend, Erin O’Sullivan, is at the helm of Susie’s. As images of greying canine faces filled her Facebook feed, she realized that maybe she did have room in her life for a pooch after all.

“That page came out, and I just thought, oh my God, yeah — a senior dog! That’s the perfect situation for somebody in my position,” she says, noting that she wasn’t always home at the same time every day and didn’t have the time to train a puppy.

Day after day,  Susie’s filled Sylvia’s newsfeed with profiles of adoptable seniors from all over the country, but none were nearby — until Savannah came along.

“I didn’t even read the blurb on Savannah. I saw her picture and said, ‘that’s my dog, right there,’” Sylvia remembers.

The picture that captured Sylvia's heart. (All photos courtesy Sylvia Deranleau)
The picture that captured Sylvia’s heart. (All photos courtesy Sylvia Deranleau)

She still had some reservations about adopting, so before Sylvia moved to take Savannah herself, she pushed the dog’s post through her own social media accounts and asked friends to do the same. It was the first time she’d ever felt compelled to try to get a dog adopted.

“I got a lot of encouragement from friends of mine to go out and meet her — and go get her, really.”

A few days after first seeing Savannah’s face peeking out among the status updates, Sylvia drove 40 minutes to the Middletown Humane Society to meet the dog.

“I walked in and said I was there to meet Savannah, and the woman at the desk said, ‘Who?’” says Sylvia, who repeated herself and asked if there was something wrong with the dog. “She said no, but nobody’s ever come in inquiring about Savannah.”

Sylvia explained how Savannah’s picture had ended up in her Facebook feed, and shelter staff brought Savannah out from the kennels. Perhaps Savannah sensed her time had come, because the aloof, distant dog shelter staff had come to know was suddenly making the kind of connection she never had in the kennels.

“From the second they brought her out, her tail never stopped wagging. She was as friendly as could be,” says Sylvia, who was surprised when a shelter staff member said she could take Savannah right then if she wanted too. Feeling unprepared, Sylvia left Savannah at the shelter and went back to work — but she couldn’t get Savvy out of her mind and returned three hours later to make things official.

“Her ears were perked, she had this big grin, she never cowered or shrank into herself,” Sylvia recalls. “There was no question, she was mine and I was hers.”

This photo of Savvy smiling ear to ear was taken the day Sylvia sprung her from the shelter (All photos courtesy Sylvia Deranleau)
This photo of Savvy smiling ear to ear was taken the day Sylvia sprung her from the shelter (All photos courtesy Sylvia Deranleau)

Before leaving the shelter, Sylvia learned Savannah had been someone’s dog for 10 years. She was surrendered — with a puppy — when her people were evicted from their home. Despite spending three years in the shelter, Savannah clearly remembered the comforts of home.

“When we were driving away from Middletown, I told her, ‘I’ve got two rules: you’re not allowed on the couch and you’re not sleeping in my bed,’ and both those were broken the first day.”

Sylvia just couldn't deny her old dog the big bed.
Sylvia just couldn’t deny her old dog the big bed. (All photos courtesy Sylvia Deranleau)

Happy to be spoiled, the dog who was so reserved and remote in the shelter’s kennels is a friendly Velcro dog at home. Sylvia says Savannah is always under either her feet or her boyfriend’s feet, and that the dog doesn’t quite know what to do if her two people end up in separate rooms. Although Savvy’s shelter profile suggested she wasn’t great with small kids, she instantly became best buds with Sylvia’s niece, who was 9 years old at the time of the adoption.

Today, Savvy is 15 1/2 years old, and Sylvia has still never seen a trace of the aloof attitude Savvy projected during her time at the shelter. She believes Savvy left that part of her personality in the back of the building.

“I got really, really lucky as a first-time dog owner. She’s kind of the queen of this place for the rest of her life, really.”

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Heather Marcoux

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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