Adopter Visits a Dog Every Day for 2 Months to Earn the Pet's Trust

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic
Bogdan Sonjachnyj

Alva, a fearful dog who spent over 500 days at Austin Pets Alive! shelter has found a loving home thanks to an adopter who believed in her. 

According to Dr. Ellen Jefferson, a veterinarian and the CEO and president of Austin Pets Alive! (APA!), Alva first arrived at the shelter in 2019, as a puppy. 

Alva was transferred to APA! from another shelter after it was discovered that she had cerebellar hypoplasia. This congenital neurological condition affects the part of the brain that controls movement, leading to mobility issues. 

We’re a shelter that generally takes animals from other shelters when they can’t afford long-term medical treatment,” said Jefferson, according to PEOPLE

The shelter quickly found a home for the young puppy, but problems emerged as Alva grew up.

A common issue for dogs with severe mobility problems is that they don’t get out as much as healthy dogs. They spend most of their time inside a loving home with people who take good care of them. Unfortunately, these dogs miss a vital part of socialization as they aren’t exposed to new people, animals, and situations during puppyhood. 

As the home Alva grew up in became busier, she attempted to bite the people who came over for a visit. This type of fear aggression is common for dogs with mobility issues because they can’t get away. 

Sadly, Alva ended up back in the shelter because she became territorial, defensive, and fearful. While the shelter looked for a perfect adopter for Alva, the behavioral support team and volunteers worked with the pooch daily. 

She got the best care she possibly could, with so many people taking her out every day,” Jefferson shared. “She had a wheelchair made for her.”

Although Alva made immense progress with her mobility and behavioral issues, no one showed interest in adopting her for more than 500 days. 

Luckily, Alva wasn’t destined to stay in the shelter forever! Alva’s future changed when Joe Rotunda saw her on Instagram in July. Although he wasn’t looking for a new pet at that time, he immediately knew that he wanted to give Alva a loving home. 

“She shined. She had this almost tangible will,” Rotunda said. “I saw all these videos of Alva running, playing, and falling down. And every time she fell, she pulled herself back up. Every time a challenge presented itself, she did not go around it; she went over it. And I was very inspired.”

It was love at first sight! Rotunda didn’t hesitate for a second, instead, he drove to APA! to schedule a meeting with Alva. 

She was very wary of me. She was very nervous, concerned, and anxious,” said Rotunda about Alva’s initial reaction to him. “But, you could tell she was so loving and affectionate around the people that she knew.”

To earn Alva’s trust, Rotunda kept coming back. That meant visiting the shelter every day for two months! 

She needed someone who would not give up on her. And I never questioned that decision,” he explained.

Over time, Alva who lounged and nipped at him at first, started to approach Rotunda and feel safe in his company. By October the APA! and Rotunda agreed it was time for Alva to spend the night outside the shelter.

Before Alva arrived, Rotunda transformed his home to make it inviting and as comfortable as possible. He blocked a large section of the living room to make a private play area and added several crates to give Alva room to decompress.

Alva arrived on Friday night, and when the APA! caretaker came to collect her the next day, it was obvious the dog wanted to stay. 

She did not want to leave the house. She did not want to go back to APA. And she’s been here ever since.”

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Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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