Zoey, the most challenging adoption of all time

I can’t believe it has been 7 years now, since Zoey busted into our lives. It was this time of year too, so it feels like a good time to tell her story. Zoey was and still is, so beautiful. We ended up with her through a twist of fate. One of our volunteers at the time also volunteered with a bulldog rescue, and that rescue had been asked to help a scared but sweet American bulldog puppy who was surrendered to a shelter down in Maryland. They unfortunately didn’t have any open fosters, so she asked me about her and as soon as I saw her cute face, I knew I wanted to help her. She was about 4 months old at the time she arrived, in October of 2014. I immediately knew she was going to be challenging. She was already pretty fearful of new people at such a young age, which to this day makes me sad for her. We won her over right away, and so did everyone at PRAH, since she came to work with me every day. But even from way back then, Zoey had a circle. She is the type of dog that if she knows you and she’s comfortable with you – you are good. You can play with her, rough house with her, clean her ears, pick her up – do anything. But if you are NOT in her circle? Out comes the growling, the teeth, and the reactivity. And she MEANS it. She will bite you, and have zero regrets.

It’s not that Zoey is a mean dog – she is a wiggly ball of love. It’s just that she has trust issues, and has from a very young age. She has the same trust issues with other dogs, and having her grow up in a house with a certain extremely reactive and dominant female dalmatian, was….challenging. When Zoey was little it was no big deal that Fiona was a jerk to her, but once Zoey grew to the same size as Fiona, and then got even larger, it became a much larger problem. Zoey and Fiona were what I would refer to as ‘frenemies’. They got along wonderfully about 95% of the time. Maybe even 98% of the time! But that other 2% of the time? They were having a growling match over a toy, or a treat, or a bone, or a spilled piece of food, which would very quickly escalate to a violent battle of wills. To this day, I can remember the fear and anxiety I had every time those two idiots got into a fight – thankfully it only happened a handful of times, but every time it was like watching two Titans clashing in the most epic and horrible way. There would be lots of yelling and lots of tears (which were all mine), as we got them apart and then assessed the damage. Every time – Fiona started the fight, and every time – Fiona was the one who was injured.

Whenever clients are having dogs struggles between dogs in their home, I totally get it. You feel so lost and frustrated by their behavior. It’s so challenging to know what to do when they are ok so much of the time, but have these tiny triggers that lead to big fights. It is a very difficult way to live with rotating and feeding separately, and avoiding triggers. Talk about STRESSFUL. As time slowly marched on, Zoey kept getting bigger, and more fearful of strangers and new dogs, and I grew more worried that there was not a home out there for her. How the heck was I supposed to get this 80lb bulldog puppy who wanted to bite new friends, other dogs, and cats, adopted?? After 9 months of this, and shortly after the fight that left Fiona down part of one of her ears, Tom and I had a serious conversation about it – what are we going to do if she doesn’t get adopted? How long are we going to keep working with these two dominant females that cannot coexist well together before enough is enough?

Now let me just interject something here for those who do not know me that well. I am extremely stubborn and at times bull headed. I flat out refused to even consider euthanizing her. Everyone around us started saying things like, “It wouldn’t be wrong to consider putting her to sleep.” “She’s not very adoptable guys, you have really given it your all.” “What fight is it going to take for you to let her go?” I got it, I really did. But I am just not one to give up…I just kept stubbornly posting her and sharing her, and knowing in my heart that this big doofy difficult dog deserved a family of her very own.


Enter Kelly. Kelly’s brother Cameron was a big part of Harley’s Haven at the time, and she had been following her story since we brought her into the rescue. She reached out to me about her and I laid it all out there…she’s difficult, she’s huge, she’s going to be a challenge. And Kelly’s response was, “I would like to meet her.” The very first meeting they tossed her treats from afar. The second meeting - they got in a few pets…the third meeting? She was jumping all over them and giving out lots of kisses and love, and that was it. We all knew she had found her family. We did 2 more meetings at their house before the day I left her. That day was SO stressful…I just wanted her to succeed, and I really hoped that we had put everything into place that would allow her to succeed in her new home. Thankfully, she settled in well and they all fell in love, and she has never looked back!

It hasn’t been easy with Zoey – she has bitten a few people over the years, and most recently had to have her second ACL repair surgery. But her family is SO dedicated to her, and has embraced her quirks, and has done extensive training and work with her to make her a happy, well-adjusted girl..who just happens to still have a VERY small inner circle. Thankfully, I am still solidly in that circle, and every time she comes in to see me she makes my heart smile as she jumps all over the place, acting a fool, because she is so excited to see her first mom. Zoey got adopted after she fostered with me for 11 months, 3 weeks, and 1 day. Very nearly one full year was spent looking for a home for her, and though it was not always easy, seeing her in the loving home she is now in makes it all worth it in the end.



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