By Kimberly Sherlaw
Huddled in wire crates, siblings Gus and Stella arrived at the Norfolk SPCA unable even to look in the direction of a human. Found wandering in rural North Carolina and eventually trapped by local animal welfare officers, these noticeably neglected retrievers received a second chance at life at the Norfolk SPCA’s Adoption Center. Gus and Stella’s journey to adoption, not unlike thousands of homeless pets cared for annually by the Norfolk SPCA, was grounded in hope for a brighter future and a loving home.
Though they were timid and afraid, Gus and Stella would not be at the shelter for long. There was a void in my heart and home following the recent passing of my 14-year-old retriever and Norfolk SPCA Alumni, Happy. Gus, even more than Stella, was painfully shy and would require a gentle, patient hand to help him come out of his shell. I couldn’t resist his soulful eyes and finally said, “We’ll bring you home, Gus, and I will foster you for a few weeks as your spirit and courage strengthen, and my heart heals from the loss of Happy.” Barely two weeks passed before Gus had taken up permanent residence in my heart, and the rest is history. Gus became an official family member on March 17, 2019.
Stella, meanwhile, was diagnosed with heartworm disease. She began her treatment under the watchful guidance of the Norfolk SPCA Veterinary team. Heartworm disease is curable in a majority of cases and is common in dogs from rural areas. The Norfolk SPCA covers the treatment cost through generous donations to our medical HOPE Fund, so dogs like Stella can be healthy and immediately available for adoption.
After visiting the shelter and meeting Stella, adopter Lauren Pearson knew right away that Stella would be her lifelong companion. She was committed to being by Stella’s side as she completed her treatment. “When I first visited Stella at the Norfolk SPCA,” Lauren said, “she was too afraid to take a treat from my hand. Now she is glued to my side and wants to greet every person she meets! Seeing her evolve into the happy, people-loving dog that she is today just shows how incredible adoption can be. I can’t imagine my life without her!”
Because of the Norfolk SPCA Adoption Center, Gus and Stella found their forever homes and were able to begin their happy, healthy, joyful futures. Established in 1892, the Norfolk SPCA is one of the most historic animal shelters in the United States, serving Norfolk and the Coastal Virginia region for over 128 years. Initially the organization focused on advocating for the welfare of working animals, specifically horses. As time has passed, our mission has evolved. Over the past four decades, the Norfolk SPCA has remained committed to reducing pet overpopulation through lifesaving adoption and affordable spay/neuter services.
It is estimated that more than one million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in the United States every year. Animal shelters and rescue groups are filled with purebred and mixed breed pets of every size, color, temperament and age, just waiting for a loving family to take them home. When you choose to adopt a pet, you give more animals a second chance. Your pet’s adoption fee provides vital funding that allows a shelter to care for more animals. Taking your new best friend home makes space for another animal who might desperately need it.
When you adopt a pet, you also gain a family member and friend to accompany you on life’s adventures and challenges. Pets give you unconditional love and have been shown to be psychologically, emotionally and physically beneficial to their companions. Caring for a pet can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. When you adopt, everyone reaps the rewards; Just ask Gus and Stella.
Kimberly Sherlaw is the Executive Director of the Norfolk SPCA. Learn more about adopting a pet from the Norfolk SPCA at NorfolkSPCA.com.