Alumni Stories - Dogs

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Miss Mary/Sasha
Miss Mary was a shy, stray dog whose life definitely took 3 very good turns in 2008. First, a kind samaritan spent months luring her into a trap and transported her to an animal shelter. Once there, the shelter determined she was unadoptable and this is where Miss Mary's second lucky break came .. the original good samaritan started negotiations so that the SPCA was able to step in and work with Miss Mary to make her adoptable. This was accomplished by our dog trainer, Tony Orange (known as the Miracle Worker). The third change in Miss Mary's life came in April 2008 when she was adopted by a lady, who lives alone and was looking for a companion. It was love at first sight on both sides! She is now named Sasha.

Here's the story as reported in one of the local papers. Photo (c) Christopher Heidel.


Sid/El Cid
Sid was adopted by Naomi & Al Tapper in February 2008. This is what they wrote to us:
Here are some pictures of El Cid in his Forever Home. He marched in our St Patrick's Day Parade (below) with his cousin Shayna (in green shirt) and holding his leash is our grandaughter, Zoe. The photo to the right shows Sid with his brother, Herschel.
We adore him, and we know he loves us and his new home. He tears out the back door, runs over to our neighbor's dog, steals her rawhide and races back in the house with it! A toothless dog chewing a rawhide!
He's terrified of running water, so he lays down in our room, well out of our reach until we finish showering. I think he waits until the bathroom is dry before he goes in.
Thank you for such a wonderful and loving dog.

UPDATE Oct 2010

We got this email from Sid's Dad:
About three years ago my wife and I adopted little Sid (a Blue Chihuahua that you nicknamed Sid Vicious). For almost two years, he lived up to his name. But in our house, he was guarding my wife who, at the time, we did not know had cancer. When she passed away a year ago Sept., Sid almost instantly became a friendly dog. His personality changed over night. Last Sunday I noticed that Sid was having digestive problems, so I took him the the ER. He had stomach cancer. Sid passed away Tuesday knowing that because of you all, he had found his forever home.


One of our wonderful volunteers, Jill Gorski, adopted Chyna in March 2008. This is what she wrote about her new best friend:
Its been a year and a half since I lost Bandit to cancer. I started looking seriously since the beginning of the year for a good natured, young lab or shepherd mix. Chyna looks like a little of both, thats probably what attracted her to me. I met her when the previous owner dropped her off to the SPCA and I thought about her for a month before deciding to try her out with my 14 yr old cat and me. Except for the fact she wants to play with us ALL of the time, she is doing well. She has lots of energy and I am going to look into daycare so she can get to play hard with other dogs. So far in the neighborhood, she has one new buddy we made last week. A young, large male shepherd who loves to play also. Hopefully we can set up some play dates.
UPDATE Sept 2008 - Chyna loves playing with other dogs! The photo on the right shows her playing with another SPCA dog when Jill took her to a get-together at the home of a friend - with about 10 dogs being there. It was craziness!


Alicia & Terry Moore adopted Dolly in February 2008. Alicia sent us this email soon after: Hello everyone. I thought the SPCA would like to know how loved Dolly is in our new home and how happy she is. She has made herself at home very quickly here and gets along great with Lucas. I thought you might like some pictures of her and Lucas in our home. Thank you for letting us adopt Dolly!

Update Sept 2014 - Alicia wrote: Dolly is my constant companion. Never leaves my side. She has brought a lot of joy into our household and is so happy to be with us! We love her dearly.


This article about Stryder appeared in our Winter 2007 Newsletter: Fate? Love At First Sight?
by Joan Hughes

Puppies arc cute. Almost everyone would agree with that. So when the SPCA has a litter of pups for adoption we expect that they will be adopted quickly, and they usually are. We also expect that the adoption will be for the life of the dog, which might he 15 or more years, depending on breed. Sadly, that's not always the case.
Stryder was one of those exceptions. He was one of a litter born in January, 2003 that came to us in March of that year. He was a furry black bundle best described as a border collie, shepherd,lab mix and was adopted two months after coming into our care. We have an excellent record of placing our dogs in "forever homes" and sometimes a family will adopt a second dog as a companion for the first. But even the SPCA is not infallible. In early 2007 Stryder was returned to us.
Call it fate, karma, destiny--whatever it was, it happened that Jenni Hopkins was at the SPCA adoption event for the first time the day that Stryder came back. Jenni is a friend of long-time volunteer Jill Gorski, and they shared the sad bond of each having lost a beloved dog. Jill's Bandit and Jenni and husband Gary's Sinbad had died within approximately a week of each other. When Jenni saw Stryder she was shocked. His coat was in terrible condition from skin problems that his owner had done little or nothing to resolve, and he was underweight. Jenni couldn't get him out of her mind.
Stryder went to Lisa Reid's kennel and Lisa described him as smart and good with other dogs. A vet diagnosed his condition as a skin allergy. He was treated successfully and came to subsequent adoption events. So did Jenni. She wanted to adopt Stnyder but Gary was cool to the idea and somewhat of a hard sell. He was still mourning the loss of Sinbad, his pal for more than I6 years, and that was a void that not even Sophie, their rescued, 10-year-old lab mix, could fill. He just wasn't ready for Stryder. But never under estimate woman power. Jill suggested that Jenni and Gary go with her to Lisa's so that they could observe Stryder just being himself without the human and canine distractions of an adoption day. Gary played ball with Stryder and they all enjoyed the big dog's antics in the wading pool. At home Jenni exercised her wifely wiles and reminded Gary that Sinbad would live in their hearts forever while Stryder was in the here and now.
So that did it. Of course Stryder could never replace Sinbad, nor should he. But he was another dog who deserved a good home and Jenni and Gary could provide it.
They adopted Stryder in September, 2007. He and Sophie have bonded and both dogs enjoy long walks with their humans. Stryder still loves chasing balls that Gary throws, but he likes being a lap dog, too-­all 80 pounds of him. He's intelligent, affectionate and playful, according to Jenni. His coat is the glossy one he was meant to have, and his life is good. Now isn't that the happy ending all our dogs deserve?


Nellie is a sweet Chihuahua/Dachshund that we had in our care along with her friend Sid (adopted too!!) in Summer 2007. Nellie was found to have problems with her hind legs that required surgery. Thanks to our wonderful sopporters, we were able to pay for the surgery she needed. Her story has a wonderful ending ... one of the vets that did her surgery fell in love with her and now she has a happy home with the vet and his family in the country.


Fred's new mommy sent us this update from him:
I'm sorry I haven't written before now, but I've been soooo busy for the past two years, busy just love'n the good life. Plus, the hound in me says, "why do something today, when you can do it tomorrow"?
My name is Fred, brother of former SPCA puppies Winnie, Leroy, and Cooper. I live with my adopted brother Chief and our two Mommies. I was adopted June of 2005. Our Mommies tell us we're the best boys in the world, but we already knew that. However, we are very spoiled.
Let me tell you a little about a day in the life of Fred and Chief. The very first thing we do when we get up, even before we go outside, we both run to our breakfast bowls and sit until Mommy serves our breakfast. After breakfast, Chief and I go outside (to do some things that are private), then we play, chase squirrels and chase each other.
Then we come back inside, take a little nap, watch a little TV, then after a good rest we go outside and do it all again, maybe a walk around the neighborhood or down by the river, then we rest some more. When Mommy gets home from work at night , she plays with us for a while, then after that we have DINNER (our favorite time of day). After dinner we let our food settle. THEN we get to go to the swimming pool yard to play. We have lots of fun in that yard. In the summer we can get in the water if we want, and in the winter we can use the cover as a moon bounce, don't worry, its very strong and we are never in that area by ourselves.
Well, its time for my nap. I'm a good and happy boy (Chief wants me to say he's a good and happy boy too).The only thing I hate is when Mommy cleans my ears...but I love my tennis balls and squirrel toy ... oh, Chief and I love our whole family with all our heart....including each other..Im so happy the wonderful people at SPCA found my Mommies and Brother for me. Life is good.
Thank you, SPCA, for loving us when no one else would


Ripley was adopted by Denise in July 2005 and she brought him back to visit us at the 2007 Dog Wash. It was very nice to see Ripley again!

UPDATE August 2009 . Denise brought him to our 2009 dog wash too! Ripley was a total sweetheart for his nail trim. Here they are:

In August 2009, this is what Denise has to say about him:
I adopted Ripley when he was about a year old. He has to be the happiest dog on the planet...his tail is always wagging. The funny thing I found out is that the Northern VA SPCA got Ripley from the Page County, Virginia animal shelter. I do some consulting work for Page County and I used to walk past their old animal shelter and think "I want to bring one of you home with me." Well, I unknowingly did!
He was so easy to train because he'll do just about anything for food, even get a bath and let the vet poke and prod him. He gets along great with children and well, just about anything and anybody. He's a lady's man and likes a "big girl". The picture I sent is him with his "girlfriend" Tasha (Ripley's the little black and white dog). Ripley is only about 40 pounds but in his mind he is a much, much bigger dog. Even though he's about five years old now, he still gets the "zooms" a couple of times a week. When he lays down his hind legs are sprayed out and then he drags himself across the floor to scratch his belly...I can't decide if he's doing it for his benefit or my amusement.
He loves playing with furry squeaky toys and getting his daily chew bone. He gets very excited when he sees our neighbors, both human and 4-legged. He'll start whining and wants to go say hi as fast as he can...then immediately moves on. My neighbor calls him a "hit-n-run".
Ripley seems to have a mild case of epilepsy. He has a couple of seizures a year but so far the vet says they are not severe enough to need to medicate him, which I am thankful for. Otherwise, he is one happy and healthy boy and I can't imagine life without my shadow.

UPDATE January 2015 I still have Ripley. I adopted him in 2005. He will be 11 this year and still very spry. We moved to a house about a year and a half ago and he has a fenced yard to run in for the first time which he loves. I attached a photo of him with his "little sister."


Charlie was adopted by his new family in September 2007. His family picked him up at our 2007 Dog Wash at Weber's; got his nails trimmed and his ears cleaned and brought him his own new toys. Here he is with his two new "brothers" ready for his new life!


Ben/Jack & PollyAnna/Sophie
Ben was adopted into his forever home in February 2007. His mom brought him to our 2007 dog wash in August 2007. Here he is having his ears cleaned. He tolerated it just fine and of course the volunteers loved seeing him again!

Update Jan 2009 - Jack's mum (Susan Gilbranson) had been thinking about getting another dog for some time and finally decided on PollyAnna. Jack has a "BIG" appetite due to the meds he will be on for the rest of his life (low dose prednisone), but PollyAnna helps to keep him active. Jack goes everywhere that Susan does and rides like a king in the car. The two dogs get on with each other just fine!


Rosie/Timbre and Rosa/Tara - Mom and Daughter
In February 2007, we adopted out a beautiful Husky mix named Rosie. Her new family decided to rename her Timbre because of her very distinctive voice which she doesn't hesitate to use. She'd come into our care when we'd found her at a rural shelter waiting for someone to adopt her and had been told that she'd recently had a litter of puppies that had all been placed. One of her puppies got returned to the shelter because the placement didn't work and since we already knew what a wonderful dog her mom was, the SPCA came to the rescue once more and took Rosa into our care. It didn't take long for a couple to find Rosa. They decided that she should be renamed to something that began with the letter "T" (like her mom) so she became Tara and is very happy in her new home!
Update Aug 2007 - Tara's new family brought her to our 2007 dog wash and she was happy and wiggly as ever!


Angie Bryner has adopted two dogs from us and she loves to write about them. Here is a piece on Rebel followed by Carrie who is now called Gypsy:
Rebel came to the SPCA from an animal sanctuary in the fall of 2001, having been identified as adoptable. Little was known about his life prior to his arrival at the sanctuary, but one look at his handsome, intelligent face and muscular body told you that this was a dog searching for a very special person.
That search lasted 2 1/2 years. In February of 2004, Vince and Angie Bryner came to an adoption day, looking for a hard-to-place dog with an interesting background. Angie writes:
 At the time I was working with Karen Helm, a long time SPCA volunteer, and she kept inviting me to visit adoptions. I kept making excuses because I hadn’t entirely convinced my husband we needed a dog yet—we had 3 rescued cats, and he was concerned about how a dog would get along with them.
One Saturday I went into work for a few hours and was right around the corner from Weber’s, where the adoption was going to take place, and thought, “Well, Karen keeps inviting me. I’ll just go to say hi to her. I will NOT fall in love with a dog. I can be strong. I’ll only stay 5 minutes.”
It also happened to be Valentine’s Day, and boy, was Cupid waiting for me at the adoption. I hadn’t been there 10 minutes when I was introduced to Rebel. He was sitting with his handler, off to the side, staring at the ground. He looked so sad that I just had to go say hi. He wouldn’t give me the time of day. He’d been up for adoption for a long, long time, and looked like he was giving up hope that he’d ever have a family. I felt so bad for him. He was so unusual looking and had the sweetest, saddest face. If I didn’t give him a chance to have a home I’d never forgive myself. Karen sealed the deal by walking up behind me while I was petting him and saying, “He’s such a good dog. He just has never had a family of his own.” That did it. I went inside and started buying supplies to donate and a big bone for Rebel. Darn you, Karen!
I went home that day and said to my husband, “The people at the SPCA have our dog.” He said, “No, they don’t.” I said, “Yes, they do.” A full weekend of buttering him up and he agreed to go to the next adoption. I was keeping my fingers crossed big time.
Rebel had been with the SPCA so long that everyone knew him—and knew we were coming! Every volunteer there walked up to us at the adoption and said “Oh! The people here to see Rebel!” How could my husband say no to all that?
When we first brought Rebel for a visit, he was so terrified of the cats he ran right through the screen door. He didn’t know how to play with any of his toys and hid in his carrier for the first 3 days we had him. I slept downstairs on the sofa because I was so worried he’d never adjust and relax. But he did.
I can’t believe this is the same dog. He runs our house—when he thinks it’s time for me to go to bed, he follows me around grumbling until I do. He’s adopted one of the cats, Lou, as “his” pet-- Rebel sleeps curled up with her, and whenever he comes back from walks Lou licks all of his legs and talks to him. Both Rebs and Lou park it in front of the stove while I cook and steal each other’s toys. She waits in the front window for him whenever he leaves the house.
My husband and Rebel are like two little boys together. They wrestle on the floor together, run around in the yard, and my husband sleeps with his arm around the dog. Rebel tries to push me off the bed so he can keep the best spot! Whenever we go anywhere, my husband Vince is picking up stuffed animals—“”Do you think Rebel would like this?” Rebel has made friends at the Reston dog park and loves to go through the Taco Bell drive thru (he gets the chicken soft taco) and Vince’s mom quilts him flannel doggie beds. We got him a kiddie pool and he dives in after summer walks.
Rebel takes good care of us, too. He’s in charge of cleaning up left-overs (and once, an entire steak sub that was NOT a left-over yet—in fact, it was still in the wrapper) and defending the house from squirrels and food delivery people. Once he also felt the need to defend us against a roast chicken cooling on top of the stove. You have to watch those roast chickens, they can be very sneaky!
Rebel had been in a few shelters before he came to the SPCA—in one, they named him “Trouble”. But he’s no trouble at all. We can’t imagine our lives without him.

Update Sept 2013 - Karen Helm forwarded this photo of Rebel and wrote: Rebel is still alive and kicking after all of these years. He gets grouchy if his mommy does anything but lay in bed with him!

Gypsy Update (formerly named Carrie)

Every year on the adoption day closest to Valentine’s Day I bring our dog Rebel back to Weber’s to see his friends at SPCA and celebrate the anniversary of when girl first met dog. This year (2006), when we came back to visit there was a very tall and timid young lady named Carrie at the adoption, and I started thinking about getting a second dog. As Rebel gets older I was thinking it would be nice for him to have a playmate to help keep him active. But at the time there was a lot going on in our family, and the time wasn’t right to bring a second dog into our home.
I couldn’t stop thinking about Carrie, though. She was so sweet and she had gotten on well with Rebel, and not many dogs do! Before I knew it I had downloaded her picture from the SPCA website on to my desktop and was looking at her cute mug every day. March and April passed, and I inquired if she was still up for adoption. Around this time another family expressed interest in adopting her, and when I heard that she might be spoken for I was so sad. Well, the important thing is that she has a home, I thought. I guess another dog will come along when things settle down.
Finally, things were taking a turn for the better in our schedule and family’s health, and I was delighted to learn that she was still available for adoption! On Memorial Day weekend Rebel, my husband and I went to pick her up. We renamed her Gypsy and took her home. She was so timid around us she wouldn’t enter any room that my husband was in and tried to sleep sitting up. And she ate things! The arm off a sofa, a belt, two hats, a book, a pair of shoes, and…..a fire log. You know, one of the Duraflame ones? Ripped the paper off and took a big bite and it came back up all over the house. Four throw pillows. Her leash. A comforter. A rug. A remote control. The entire back off a recliner. A checkbook. Two gift cards. A DVD of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Season One. The cover for the thermostat. And any and every toy we bought was gone in under 30 seconds. But every day we would take a few steps forward. Soon she was taking treats from my hand and would walk in the room if my husband was lying down. Now she will play with us and climbs in bed with us at night, and is a happy, goofy, silly girl, although we have to keep everything about four feet off the floor to keep her from eating it (we claim she’s just illustrating for us the Buddhist principle of non-attachment.). She and Rebel play tug of war and wrestle ceaselessly, and Gypsy even has a boyfriend down the block (he’s a Jack Russell Terrier and is only as tall as her knee.)
Were we expecting a small, happy horse that requires her own steam cleaner when I fell in love with her? Not really. Do I love her now? Oh, you bet. If there was ever an optimist, it’s our Ms. Gypsy.


The lady that adopted Patsy (a very lovable lab/sharpei) sent us this Christmas greeting from her in December 2006:
Hi Everyone! It's me, Patsy, sending you best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy new year. I'm loving life and having a ball checking out all the other dogs I meet on our walks. I've been especially good so I know I'll have a Merry Christmas. I really love our Christmas tree and I just bet there will be something special in my stocking on Christmas morning. Pretty soon my Mom and I will be leaving for Florida for a few weeks and I can hardly wait. I get to spend the night in a motel since it's such a long drive. I've never done that before; I wonder what it will be like? I'm having so many new adventures that I get very worn out every day and then have to take long naps on Mom's bed. I made it very clear to her that when she's not using the bed it's mine. Before I go I just want to let you know I'll always remember all of you and how special you are.
Woof woof woof (I love you).


Tara Rainson of Alexandria adopted Polly in August 2006 and renamed her Molly. In her words:
She's doing very well. She's a happy, sweet, friendly, energetic, loving dog and I am delighted to have her.
Initially, Molly came from a rescue situation. The SPCA placed her with a family and she did well with them for a few years until they had a new baby to whom the dog objected. Sadly, they finally had to give her up, and I wondered whether she'd be able to relax and settle into a new home, but she seems very happy here. Her last family has kept in touch - they sent me her winter dog jacket and her Christmas stocking.
She loves long walks and playing outside and generally even does well with the cat. She also occasionally breaks into the kitchen cabinets while I'm at work, pulls out the dog food bag, carries it into the bedroom, and lies on the bed snacking. While this behavior is not ideal, I have to admire her ability to execute a plan.

Update March 2012 - We received this sad news from Tara:
I lost my girl a week ago tomorrow, in the ICU of the Alexandria Veterinary Hospital, after hard efforts to save her. In the end, there was nothing kind to do except release her from her suffering. I miss her terribly, but she lived to be almost 14, and I had the time with her that I did because you matched us. Thank you for giving me the chance to give her a home.


The story of Sheba's rescue (along with these beautiful pictures) was featured in our Fall 2005 newsletter.
She was adopted soon after and was renamed Guinness by her new family. In September 2006, they brought her back to visit us at our Dog Wash.


Sue was adopted in September 2006 by Gene Weingarten and his wife. Gene writes for the Washington Post and wrote this column that appeared on Sunday, October 29, 2006 about Sue's adoption. To read it, click here.
Gene wrote another column about Murphy on Sunday, February 11, 2007. To read it, click here.

UPDATE 12/9/06 - Her sister, Bindi, has a home too!. Bindi was chosen to be one of the special dogs owned by Lisa Reid - the wonderful lady that takes care of our dogs before they are placed. She chose Bindi to be the one that she could train and take to 4H demos and the like. Bindi has lots of fun joining in with the Easter Egg hunt in 2008!

UPDATE 11/27/11 - Gene wrote another hilarious article about Murphy. Click here.

UPDATE 4/5/12 - During the run-up to the 2012 Presidental election Gene wrote Putting the G.O.P. in the D.O.G..


Madison & Gretal were adopted in June 2006 and renamed to Ruby and Liberty respectively. Their new family brought them back to visit us at our 2006 Dog Spa. Here they are being washed.


Dakota was adopted in October 2004 and his owner brought him back to visit us at the 2006 Dog Spa. He loved his bath and was very stoic when we trimmed his nails.

Update August 2007 - Dakota's owner brought him to the 2007 Dog Wash too and he loved it! We trimmed his nails, cleaned his ears, gave him a good brushing and finally a wash! He loved the attention and the treats!


Matthew was adopted by Shari Simmonds in June 2006. This is what she wrote to us about him:
Pomeroy, formerly Matthew, was rescued from a puppy mill and he was very nervous his first day, but within 24 hours he had bonded with me and had begun guarding "his" home, barking whenever some approached. He had no problem adapting to a leash and struts around the neighborhood with such panache, it's hard to tell who is showing off more - me showing off Pomeroy or Pommie showing his new mommy off. He does an "I love Mommy" dance whenever I get home that lasts for at least 10 minutes. He also performs this little dance whenever he gets home, regardless if he has been for a walk, picnic or doggie play date. Recently my office had bring your dog to work day. Pommie has been here before as I brought him several times to meet the staff. Because he was familiar with the office, he proceeded to march around like he owned the place and went to check on the other dogs. He was quite adept at riling them up and several times, we had a little party going on, everyone running around having fun. He was quite the little troublemaker. Now that he is comfortable and used to his life, a devilish personality is emerging. It is very funny to see him smile when he does something silly.
He is quite popular around town and is featured on a number of campaign websites, as he has accompanied some of our candidates on their canvasses of Alexandria. He's also been on Channel 4 (NBC) news. People are always coming up to the house asking to see the cute pomeranian they heard lives here.
The photo on the left shows Pomeroy on a recent weekend trip to Smith Mountain Lake. He also spends many weekends at a chalet on Blue Mountain in Linden, VA and is off to Duck, NC for a week long vacation.

Update March 2008 - Shari entered the photo above in a competition run by Hallmark to find the best caption for a card. Her entry was "Another year older? Just keep smiling! Happy Birthday ". The caption matches the photo perfectly!

Update November 2010 - found out that Pomeroy's new life is being blogged about at Virginia Wine Dogs Blog... The Virginia Wine Dogs Blog follows the adventures of wine-loving dogs Munchkin (a ravishing red Yorkshire Terrier) and Pomeroy (a sparkling white Pomeranian) as they explore Virginia wine country.


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