Tessy the dog spent over 1,000 days at a Humane Animal Partners shelter before meeting her ideal adopters
Tessy has plenty to wag her tail about these days.
The black canine, with some gray around her muzzle, arrived at Humane Animal Partners (formerly Delaware Humane Association and Delaware SPCA) on January 17, 2021, hoping to find a home shortly.
Unfortunately, Tessy's perfect match did not come easy. Weeks, months, and years went by, and the dog still couldn't find a forever home that fit her.
"Tessy is loyal, goofy, snuggly, and remarkably smart," Leigh McKinley, a director at Humane Animal Partners, tells PEOPLE, adding the pooch "has unwavering love to give" to those she trusts.
Sadly, Tessy had some trouble trusting new people and experiences, and these behaviors were part of what led to her longer stay at Humane Animal Partners.
"Tessy exhibited fear-reactive behaviors in the form of lunging, barking, and growling towards unfamiliar stimuli. Our goal was to help her overcome those fears and learn to trust humans and her surrounding environment, essentially changing her emotional response from a negative to a positive," McKinley says.
The shelter helped Tessy conquer her fears with a behavior modification plan that consisted of "positive reinforcement training techniques," patience, and time.
"Changing an involuntary physiological behavior takes dedication and consistency to be successful, and while we were determined to see this through, the nature of being in a shelter, with different staff members working with her on any given day, and for varying amounts of time, means the change would take time," McKinley explains.
"We also needed to make sure her adopters were the right fit for her. We took a very thoughtful and careful approach to introducing her to people, and it took time for the right family to find her," the director adds.
While Tessy went through training and worked to find the ideal forever home, she also enjoyed regular walks, playtime, belly rubs, and toys at the shelter.
Then, after months of dedicated work from Tessy and Humane Animal Partners — and after 1,007 days of waiting — the dog found her forever family.
The pair who adopted the pup in October, met Tessy several times to build trust with the dog and fell in love with the pet over those visits. Tessy became smitten with her new owners quickly, too.
"When her adopters Jeanine and Jeff first met her, we all tried to keep a level head about it, not getting our hopes up too high. After their third meeting, though, we could tell that Tessy had already established a level of trust with them that we had never seen so quickly before," McKinley says.
Tessy's pet parents adopted her shortly after the third meeting, and the shelter gave the dog an emotional send-off.
"It was a rollercoaster of emotions leading up to the adoption day, everything from celebration to disbelief to sadness, excitement, a bit of anxiety, and everything in between. Mostly, though, we felt proud. Proud of her, proud of everyone who helped get her to this point, and proud of the results," McKinely says of Tessy's adoption.
Since moving into her new home, Tessy has started adjusting to life outside the shelter, an acclimation process everyone is taking gradually.
"While we knew she'd do okay, we are also quite aware that going from three years in a shelter into a loving home is a big adjustment, and it will take her a while to fully acclimate. We tried to instill in her adopters to be confident and patient but never to be complacent," McKinely says.
The director hopes that those who learn about Tessy's adoption story — and the over 1,000 days in the shelter that led her there — are inspired to help rescue pets and give them the benefit of the doubt.
"It's important to remember that not every visit to an animal shelter begins with 'love at first sight.' Many of the most deserving adoptable animals have experienced trauma and neglect and are anxious in the shelter environment. These animals require extra patience, understanding, and love in order to find the right match. Keep an open mind (and an open heart!) when meeting with adoptable animals," McKinley shares.
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For animal lovers who can't adopt at the moment, McKinely suggests volunteering at or donating to a local animal shelter.
"Many shelters rely heavily on the community to help support their lifesaving efforts and require monetary donations to fund essential operational needs, in addition to daily animal care donations such as dog food, cat food, enrichment supplies, soft blankets, toys, etc. Many shelters need volunteers and fosters, who play a key role in daily shelter operations," the director says.
To learn more about Humane Animal Partners and support the rescue's works, visit humaneanimalpartners.org.
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