HELENA – Each year hundreds of animals are adopted at the Lewis and Clark County Humane Society.
Most of the animals are only with the shelter for a few weeks or months before they find their forever homes, but for some it may take years.
Tony is a 5 year-old mixed-breed that first came to the humane society almost 4 years ago.
Tony suffers from separation anxiety, and becomes very stressed out when left alone for any amount of time.
Dog program Coordinator Rebecca Howard says that the first time Tony came in to the shelter he was so thin they had to make turkey popsicles, so that he was able to eat.
During his time at the shelter Tony has had three unsuccessful adoption attempts, and after each time he was brought back to at the shelter his anxiety got worse.
“He was very stressed out,” said Howard, “He’s a good dog, and he didn’t understand being left behind again.”
According to Humane Society staff some dogs don’t do well in a kennel situation.
“Some dogs do great here,” said Howard, “They come in and they’re like ‘hey friends’, and they have the best time in play groups. We have a lot of support from our community, and from our volunteers, and we all just try and do our best, but for some dogs it’s just really hard on them.”
When Tony was brought into the shelter most recently he had an injured leg that required surgery.
Shelter staff desperately tried to find a home for Tony, and launched a Facebook campaign to get him adopted.
For a time only a few people showing interest in adopting Tony and the staff began to worry about his future.
Then they got a phone call from Cassidy Cook, who was not only interested, but said she would do whatever it takes to do what was best for Tony, which included moving to homes.
“We couldn’t believe someone was so seriously interested, because she was living in a place where she couldn’t have dogs, and said so what I’m just going to move,” said Howard.
Cook says a coworker shared Tony’s story on Facebook in April and she fell in love with him.
Initially Cook tried to find a home for Tony with her family and friends before deciding to adopt him herself.
“Finally, I just had a moment, and said ‘You know what, I know that I can take care of this dog’,” said Cook, “I’ve raised dogs before and had a dog with separation anxiety, but not this severe. I know that if I adopt this dog I will not leave him.”
Cook spent months working with Tony to slowly build trust with him, and help ease him into his new home.
At night Tony would come home with Cook and during the day he’d stay with the staff at the humane society.
One evening Cook wasn’t able to bring Tony home with her due to travel, and she says that’s when she knew without a doubt they were meant to be together.
“I was sitting alone, and thought I really miss Tony,” said Cook, “That’s when I knew I belonged to him.”
On Tuesday July 31 Cook officially signed the adoption paperwork and took Tony home full-time.
Tony still needs a lot of work with his separation anxiety, but according to Cook he is a completely different dog not that he’s found his home.
“He’s kind of lazy and loves to lay in the sunlight,” said Cook, “There are all these things that were happening in a shelter environment that he doesn’t exhibit at home.”
Cook added that adopting Tony was just the right thing to do and now she couldn’t imagine her life without him.
“It was just my way of trying my best to put some good out into the world,” said Cook.
Howard says Cook is by far the most committed adoption candidate she’s ever seen, but Tony’s story of improvement outside the shelter isn’t uncommon.
“Really, when you come in and get a dog from us, putting in the work is what’s going to turn this dog into the best dog you’ve ever had,” said Howard, “There are so many stories of people coming in, getting a dog that had a couple problems, they put the work in and then 2 months down the road they’re calling us to say this is the best dog they’re ever had.”
As of August 3rd, the Humane Society has over 20 dogs at their facility that are in need of a forever home.
For more information about the animals available for adoption or to make a donation visit here.
Additional footage filmed by Andy Curtis