The scene was as grim as it gets: dozens of dogs confined to dilapidated hutches, leaking in the pouring rain, and dozens more—nearly 140 in all—crammed into filthy campers and a single mobile home. They cowered in groups, big dogs and small, some nearly hairless from skin conditions, others without obvious access to food or water.
The wagging tails and curious faces hinted at a new chapter in the dogs’ stories, so different from the one of neglect and abuse that had marked their lives so far: one of hope. As our Animal Rescue and Response team arrived at this five-acre Florida property in late February, they brought compassion, a gentle touch and the start of something new.
Thanks to a caring network of shelter and rescue partners throughout the state, the dogs found themselves in expert hands. Cleaned up, given medical attention and readied for adoption, all they needed was the right family to find them.
Here we’re catching up with three dogs from the rescue, all adopted from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. All three were heartworm positive, but that didn’t stop their loving adopters from welcoming these deserving dogs with cuddles, attention, and the time and space they needed to settle in to their new lives. Now, at last, these dogs can turn the page for good on their grim pasts.
NAME: Cash (Cashie to his friends)
AGE/BREED: 3-year-old beagle mix
NEW FAMILY: Adopters Melissa and Mark Millican and their kids, Matthew and Madeline; a feline sister, Winnie
BAD HABIT: Eating paper
FAVORITE TOYS AND ACTIVITIES: Tennis balls; Nylabones; walking and running at a nearby park
CASHIE’S STORY: When Cashie the beagle mix first joined the Millican family in March—sick with heartworm, his old life not so far behind him—Melissa Millican thought she could see pain in his eyes. And he never quite let his guard down. Millican noticed it especially at night: It was almost as if he slept with his eyes open, she says. “Not so much anymore, but he did for a long time.” She thinks he had nightmares, too, waking up the entire family with plaintive beagle howls. Those too have mostly stopped. After nearly six months in his new home, it seems as though Cashie’s finally settled in.
Sounder sleep isn’t the only sign of his contentment. Cashie startled easily, and he used to wolf down his food. As he’s grown used to life with his family, he seems calmer and he eats more slowly. “He still finishes it all in the one meal, but he’s not gobbling it down in like 30 seconds flat,” says Millican. She can’t blame him; Cashie probably didn’t get regular meals in his previous life. With the Millicans, he gets healthy food, a warm bed and lots of love.
Retired to the ‘burbs
AGE/BREED: 5-year-old hound mix
NEW FAMILY: Adopters Becca and Michael Parsons
PREFERRED TREAT: Ice chips
FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Going for car rides
DISLIKES: Swimming pools; exuberant young puppies (he’s an old soul); loud noises
BUDDY’S STORY: Newlyweds Becca and Michael Parsons were waiting for the perfect time to adopt a dog, but work and travel obligations kept getting in the way. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Confined to their home in March, the couple decided the time was right. Enter Buddy.
At first, his adopters weren’t a fan of Buddy’s name, which came with him from the shelter. They tried others: Teddy, Copper, Toby. But Michael Parsons says nothing seemed to fit the sweet and loving hound mix who hops rather than runs and lets out a loud, excited yawn rather than a bark. “We’re like, ‘Nope, nope, no.’ He’s just a genuine Buddy.”
The happiest hound
AGE/BREED: 4-year-old hound mix
NEW FAMILY: Adopters Emily Groves and Phillip Jorge; a canine sister, Sadie
BAD HABIT: Butting into other people’s personal space
FAVORITE TOYS AND ACTIVITIES: A (now quite battered) stuffed lamb; sniffing the same spot for minutes on end; running laps inside the house
DISLIKES: Getting in the car (he requires someone to carry him in)
BUSTER’S STORY: Emily Groves likes to say that Buster chose her. She and fiancé Phillip Jorge met Buster at the Tampa Bay Humane Society, and as their allotted meet-and-greet time ended, the otherwise-shy hound mix jumped right into Groves’ lap. “I was like, ‘That’s it! We have to take him home!’ ” says Groves.