By D. Michael Taylor
In our NY world filled with fabulous pets, it’s reassuring to know that a pampered pooch doesn’t necessarily need designer genes to become a delightful addition to your family. Mixed breed dogs are often claimed to be sturdier physically; less erratic in temperament, and like the proverbial snowflake each one is unique. Our own adoption adventure started a little over two years ago when Rocco came into our lives. Irrepressibly happy and lovable, this medium-sized Lab/Shepherd/Chow mix wouldn’t even have been born if it weren’t for the amazing team at Stray From The Heart animal shelter. (http://www.strayfromtheheart.org)
After some long discussions about bringing a dog into our lives, my boyfriend Jeff and I considered all of our options. Our local dog run is filled with different breeds and personalities. Pits and Puggles seemed particularly trendy at the moment, but we wanted to see if we could find a great rescue. We discovered Stray From The Heart’s (SFTH) website http://www.strayfromtheheart.org and perused the warm and witty descriptions of the pups they save from the New York area, as well as from Ecuador and Puerto Rico, where they work with local rescue organizations.
We met Beth, one of the founders of SFTH, at her dog-filled apartment on the Upper West Side. We had come to see a delightful puppy named Bernadette Peters, named after one of their favorite celebrity donors. Bernadette (the dog not the Broadway star!) was adorable, but we couldn’t help but notice a shy little lump of puppy perfection cowering meekly behind her. It was Bernadette’s younger brother. We helped Beth take both of them for a quick checkup at the vet, and when Rocco (then named Prosciutto, because he was a “little ham”!) threw his paws around Jeff’s neck … we had been chosen. Beth came for a home visit to see where he would be living, and helped us with information, tips and little bottles of shampoo. Rocco quickly became an indispensable part of our family.
Beth Silberg and Toni Bodon at Stray From The Heart have saved thousands of dogs from being euthanized in the New York region, working with an all-volunteer staff of rescue enthusiasts. With no centralized shelter to house all of their adoptees, they rely on a uniquely urban network of foster homes that help out until they can find each dog a “forever home.” After meeting in a vet’s office in 2000 with rescues of their own, Beth and Toni teamed up to see if they could help more families find that missing key ingredient.
Ten years later, their passion for pups remains. They personally spend many hours training and socializing their eclectic crew of rescued dogs. Their goal is not just to find them a place to live, but to integrate them into a new family, where they can grow to live happy, fulfilling lives. Completely donation-driven, this organization relies on the kindness of friends like the real Bernadette Peters and the small donation they ask for when you adopt. It feels great to know that we saved Rocco from a less savory fate, and he continues to charm us every day.