My favorite four-legged running pal turned 4-years-old yesterday. Or at least, that’s what we think.
Cinderella was a stray living in the woods of Tennessee when a kind man spotted her and earned her trust over time by feeding her. Soon, she was living in his yard as a yard dog named Maggie. But after a few bad-weather nights, he decided his yard was no place for a dog and he couldn’t keep her, so he brought her to local rescue group Shelly’s Angels that works to save strays and find them homes.
Meanwhile in New York City, my husband and I were on the hunt for a dog. But after three weeks of searching shelters and rescue groups in the Northeast, we were still empty-handed.
The list of qualities we were looking for in a dog was rather specific, and, we soon discovered, the Northeast has a shortage of adoptable dogs. If you want to adopt a Pit Bull mix, you’ll find your pick of sweet ones here in NYC. But if you need a non-shedder or low-shedder like me (I’m allergic to dog dander), it becomes much harder to find that perfect fit.
On top of that we needed a dog that rarely barks (we live in a Manhattan apartment), a dog that gets along with other dogs (everyone in our families has a dog), and one that likes kids and will tolerate an endless amount of tail-pulling (we see my niece and nephew often). Phil wanted a dog large enough to take hiking and I wanted a dog small enough that I could lift it easily by myself for bath time, vet trips, or emergencies.
Every time we found a dog that fit our criteria, I’d call the shelter or rescue group only to discover it had already been adopted. I put my name on lists everywhere asking to be called when a non-shedder came in and I scoured PetFinder.com, NYC’s Animal Care & Control, local shelter and rescue websites, and organizations like the Humane Society of NY and ASPCA NY for hours a day.
So we cast a wider net and started looking at dogs in the South, a region that generally has a dog overpopulation problem due to lower spay and neuter rates. I took one look at Maggie’s adoption profile on PetFinder.com and it was love.
I called her foster mom, Shelly, to make sure we were a good fit. Turns out it was a match made in doggie heaven. She fit every single one of our criteria.
Before long, Maggie boarded the P.E.T.S. dog transport truck and made her way from Tennessee to an hour outside of New York City, where we picked her up.
Phil and I were in a commuter parking lot with a few other families awaiting the truck. Soon, a converted horse-trailer with pictures of dogs pulled into the parking lot. I still get excited thinking about it. A man opened the door of the trailer and we could hear all the dogs barking inside their crates.
The man walked into the trailer and emerged with the cutest dog I’ve ever seen.
“Maggie!” he shouted. “Who’s here for Maggie?”
Phil and I ran forward to greet her. She gave me a lick right on the nose. And just like that, we had our girl.
Since she was a stray and we don’t know her actual date of birth, we made that day her birthday. Since the vet guessed she was about 2-years-old when we got her, we say she’s now 4-years-old.
The only problem was she didn’t respond to her name at all.
“Maggie!” we’d call. “Maggie!” and she didn’t even turn her head. So we decided to rename her.
Cinderella just seemed like the perfect fit with her rags to riches story: a stray in the woods who found a home in the big city with the help of a fairy dogmother named Shelly. And it didn’t hurt that it was also the name of my favorite Disney princess.
Now, Cinderella is a great runner who goes on many of my easy runs with me. She’ll knock out 3 or 4 miles without a drop of her tail.
She also loves to cheer me on at races.
She’s a champion hiker.
And she’s great with my niece and nephew.
She’s the perfect dog for Phil and me in every way.
So Happy Birthday, Cinderella! Life—and running—is so much better with a dog.
If you’re thinking of getting a dog, please consider adopting from a shelter or rescue group. According to the ASPCA, 5 to 7 million dogs and cats enter the shelter system every year through no fault of their own. Approximately 3 to 4 million of them die there. The ASPCA says 60 percent of the dogs that enter shelters are euthanized.
In Tennessee, where Cinderella is from, the stats are slightly worse. According to a 2008 report from the Tennessee Offices of Research and Education Accountability, 65 percent of the animals that land in shelters there are killed.
In New York City where I live, the stats are only slightly better. In 2012, 8,000 dogs or 25 percent of the shelter population, were euthanized. My husband came home from work one day to find me crying while watching a video of animals on “doggie death row.” I desperately wanted to adopt one of NYC’s shelter dogs, but couldn’t find a match among them.
Groups like Shelly’s Angels take in dogs like Cinderella who would otherwise end up in a shelter or rescue dogs from kill shelters, and help them find homes.
One of the most common arguments I hear from people who don’t want to adopt is that they want a purebred. While Cinderella is a wire-haired one-of-a-kind, the ASPCA says that 25 percent of dogs who enter shelters are purebred, and most breeds have rescue groups who help re-home them. We were on the American Fox Terrier Rescue’s list to be matched with a dog that fit our criteria. Just one month after we adopted Cinderella, they contacted me about a dog that was a match, but we’d already found our girl. And one of my best friends who had her heart set on a French Bulldog got a Frenchie puppy through a rescue group.
So please, consider adoption. With a little patience, you just might find your Cinderella too!
If you’re not a dog-owner, but would still like to help, running for Team ASPCA is a great way to do it!