You’ve probably seen those cute pictures of pit bulls making goofy faces, or you’d come to love the pit bull dogs that have come into your life. You know they’ve got loads of personality, that they’re loyal and friendly dogs, and you probably also know that they get a bad reputation in the world of animal adoptions and with animal ownership in general. Of course, you’ve gotta ask why a breed would be demonized in such a way, but you’ll also want to learn first-hand how one dog, Sheldon, managed to set himself apart from the masses of pit bulls, to demonstrate his unique personality. It’s true… Nobody noticed the shelter dog, but he really was one-of-a-kind, and he was bound and determined to prove it!
What’s With Pit Bulls?
Before you glare over this way and say that’s a silly question, you’ve gotta realize that “pit bull” is actually an umbrella term for a whole bunch of different dogs, so you could be talking about American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or it could just be a stray mutt, who has any combination of “pit bull” breeds, along with a royal mix of any other kind of dog you could think of. Yep, it’s confusing, and it’s also sad because pit bulls are often considered undesirable or not “family friendly” which puts them in a really bad spot when they end up in animal shelters across the US and around the world. Here’s the story of one pit bull who ended up in a shelter, named Sheldon.
A Question of Sheldon
So, Sheldon is one of those dogs that have been described as a pit bull, and he arrived at an animal shelter. Even if pit bull dogs didn’t statistically make up a larger percentage of shelter dogs (32% in 2014), he also didn’t present himself as friendly. Staff described him as shy, even grumpy. Then again, wouldn’t you be? No matter how a dog got to the pound or how innocuous their abandonment might have been, it’s not easy for a dog to be stuck in a cage. And, it’s just not a happy situation, no matter how hard the staff tries to make it better, easier, or even enjoyable.
Maricopa County Animal Care and Control
Even in the best possible situation, a shelter is not where a dog or cat wants to be, particularly not when the animal has obviously been a part of a family in their past, pre-shelter experience. Because of the way he reacted to staff, it was clear that Sheldon had been a part of a family before.
Maricopa County Animal Care and Control is a shelter in Phoenix, Arizona, where Sheldon found himself in 2016. As with so many shelters across the country and around the world, they deal with a constant onslaught of new dogs and cats who need care and homes. They also look for volunteers who will work with the animals and help them to cope with the every day, unavoidable situation of being in a pound.
Sheldon’s Shelter Life
As is the situation with many abandoned and stray pets, Sheldon was sad when he first arrived at the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. It was obvious that he’d been in a family who cared about him. He knew how to sit upon command, and he even offered his paw. So, someone in his past must have taught him some tricks and behavioral directive.
Once he arrived at the shelter, though, nobody came to find him. He was left alone, unadopted, and he also didn’t appear to be social, with his sad and shy demeanor. He wasn’t a “bad” or “mean” dog. He just didn’t stand out with all the masses of 600-800 other animals, and he’d soon been at the shelter for a month, without adoption or owner retrieval.
Unclaimed Sheldon Is Noticed
Sheldon may have been unwanted and unclaimed by almost everyone, but there was one person who noticed him. Volunteer Heather Haltmeyer was keeping tabs on Sheldon, and it upset her that he was going so long unnoticed. Another 30 days had passed, so he’d been there for 90 days, without anyone showing the slightest interest in adopting or giving him attention.
There are just some animals that stand out. They seem to just need a little bit of help, and perhaps a little bit more attention than the rest. She was willing to help in any way that she could, and that’s why she stepped in to make sure that Sheldon stood out.
A Picture Says It All
One of Heather Haltmeyer’s duties as a volunteer at the animal shelter was to take photos of the animals. And she took those duties just a little further. Although he wasn’t one of the dogs she regularly took out, he was next to one of them. And, so she noticed him. She said, “I kept seeing him and he kept jumping up and down and wagging his tail in his kennel, like, ‘Look at me, look at me.’ He had the most adorable pink little lips.” Who could possibly tell a dog like that no? She certainly couldn’t and didn’t. So, you could say it was Sheldon’s willingness to finally break out of his tough shell-exterior and show he could be friendly that really brought him the attention he so desperately needed.
Sheldon’s Personality Comes Out
Of course, Heather Haltmeyer added a bow-tie and immediately saw a different Sheldon shine through. He suddenly appeared to be more mellow, and somehow he even became a kind of “muse.” He loved the attention, but more than that, his whole demeanor changed when he was in front of the camera. In some sense, he really came alive! So, she took a lot of photos of him, and she found that even though he often seemed sad or shy, he really wasn’t. In fact, he had a personality all his own, which you can clearly see by just looking at the photos.
Sheldon Was a Natural
Yep, it’s true. Heather Haltmeyer found that Sheldon was a photogenic animal and that he absolutely loved being the central focal point of the camera lens. Yes, his quirky character really started shining through more-and-more, even without the bow-tie addition, and she discovered more about who Sheldon really was. She appears to have been in a bit of awe as she explains, “He seemed to eat it all up.” To be clear, as I’m sure you know, not all animals work well in front of the camera. So, Sheldon was something of an anomaly, unique and amazing. Haltmeyer tried to capture that personality, from frowns to goody poses.
Facebook Debuts Sheldon’s Goofy Personality
Sheldon’s photos were posted to Facebook in January 2017, with the caption: “We may be biased, but we think Sheldon should be a doggy celebrity with all those expressions.” It didn’t stop there, though. It went on: “Think of all the fun you could have taking pictures of him if you adopt!”
That was the whole point, right? The photos offered just a few reasons why you might want to adopt him. After all, with a quirky and lovable face like that, who could help but fall in love with him, and want to bring him home? That was the hope, anyway.
A Bit More About His Personality And Training
As you can see, though, there’s also a shot of Sheldon in a car. And, you can see from the series of shots that he plays nicely with others. But, the Facebook post didn’t end there. It said: “Sheldon is a great dog with a great energy level. He’s not crazy hyper, but he’s no slow-poke either. Sheldon is equally happy to sniff around on his own or come over for some pets and attention.”
Since some pit bulls have bad reputations as dogs that have too-high energy levels and who are crazy, the post gives you an idea that Sheldon is a companion dog, who will be there for you when you need him.
What About The ‘Grumpy Old Man’?
Heather Haltmeyer’s photos of Sheldon were immediately popular, with well-wishers and fans saying: “He looks a bit like a grumpy old man. Oh, somebody please help him to turn his frown upside down.” It appears that a lot of people were listening (and reading) up about Sheldon. The images and description offered a good sense of who he was and what kind of a companion dog he would be, but the photos also caused at least one person to really fall in love with Sheldon. Who can help but absolutely love that grumpy face and quirky expression? It’s unavoidable, right?!
Emily Finds Sheldon
So after all those months of no interest, Sheldon finally was the center of attention, with well-wishers, fans, and friends. For her part, Emily Chmiel admitted: “I fell in love with his serious expressions in his pictures and knew he belonged in my house.”
You’ve gotta know, with the photos you’ve seen so far, that Sheldon was going to continue to be a big ham in front of the camera. That didn’t seem to bother Emily at all. She embraced his personality, and he appears to have made himself right at home. It seems to be the best kind of relationship.
The Controversy Of It All
Every day Sheldon remained at the animal shelter was a threat to his life. Maricopa County Animal Care and Control found itself the center point of a horrendous controversy a few months ago, when it was reported that they’d euthanized 25 full-term pups, as part of their overcrowding policy. The report sparked viral social-media outrage, particularly since the policy of euthanizing pregnant dogs has already been discontinued at most shelters.
Animal-rights activist Christine Monroe said: “My understanding is (the shelter) has not communicated this message to their rescue partners and aren’t even sending pleas to the rescue groups who may be able to save these mama dogs and puppies.” There were also reports that the shelter staff was hiding and misreporting the conditions of the animals prior to euthanizing them. Find out what happened to Sheldon next.
Emily Took Sheldon Home
So, her skills and photographer’s eye were successful. Emily Chmiel looked at Sheldon’s mug and fell in love, and then she took him home. Fortunately, though, the story didn’t end there. She gives us a continued sneak-peak into his life and adventures.
Volunteer and Photographer Heather Haltmeyer couldn’t have been more thrilled with the outcome of Sheldon’s case. She says, “I do think the photos are what attracted them, and it feels great.” She further explains, “The whole point of it is to get people’s attention and to help dogs stand out that would otherwise kind of get lost in the crowd.”
Yes, you’ll be happy to hear that he settled right in, and he even got a new name: “Castiel.” In case you didn’t know, that’s the name of an angel in the CW show, Supernatural. One of his most memorable traits is the way he’s able to fix his “puppy-dog” eye-gaze on you rendering you helpless.
There’s probably some similarity between the angel-character and Emily’s new adopted pet. Those photos certainly appeared to capture the imaginations, care, and concern of countless fans and friends, and the unique personality that shined through also gained him a forever home and family. It sounds like there’s a great reason for calling him Castiel!
Castiel Has The Life
In case you were wondering how Castiel is taking to his new life with Emily Chmiel, you’ve only got to see the way he lounges on the couch, completely at ease and content. Emily further reports that he also enjoys exploring her courtyard and that he’s made friends with her many cats (always a positive sign). She does periodically have to remind him who’s boss, but he hasn’t been part of the family for long, so he’s probably still learning the ropes, and acceptable behavior in the house. It’s all a learning process, after all, and they’re obviously together for the long-haul.
Follow The ‘Official Grump Dog’
If you were looking for a way to follow the life and adventures of Castiel, you’ve also got a quick-and-easy way to plug-in. With such an outpouring of social-media love around her dog, Emily Chmiel has created the “Official Grump Dog” Instagram account for “Cass dog.” The account describes him as: “Judging you always… Professional Grump, Destroyer of Socks.” She also says: “Will Grip You Tight and Raise You From Pupperdition.” And, yes, she also posts a side-by-side photo with the TV Castiel, in case it wasn’t perfectly obvious, it’s a great way to see why he’s got that name now!
The Rest Of The Story
It’s clear that Castiel found a great home with Emily Chmiel, who seems to dote on him. She says: “I adore his personality and his spunk.” But, it may also be that his time at the shelter left him a bit needy, even clingy. Emily says, “He already follows me around everywhere.” He doesn’t seem to want to chance letting her out of her sight.
So, yes, it’s a heart-warming story of salvation for a shelter dog, and the way a crazy-unique dog makes himself at home. He’s happy and healthy, and he’s found his forever family, but there are lots of dogs and cats out there who are still waiting and hoping.
The Director Quit After Controversy
Given the recent controversies surrounding the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, it’s probably not surprising that Rodrigo Silva, assistant county manager who oversees the shelter, recently resigned. He admitted there had been a failure to care for some animals, but really didn’t elaborate. He said that he’d been able to lower the rates of euthanasia, and he also said he’d created a nationally recognized spay-neuter assistance program.
Long-time volunteer Claudia Bloom claimed she’d seen many “horrible things” because of his policies. There’s widespread hope that the next director will bring much-needed change and improvement to the shelter operations. What the volunteers did next is amazing.
Volunteers Take A Stand
The wide-spread controversies have inspired the creation of a citizens task force, which has already made recommendations that aim to improve shelter intake and day-to-day operations. This will help more animals who enter the shelter get healthy, socialized, and placed in a loving home more quickly.
Volunteer Beth Lockhart says, “The main goals from here forward are increased transparency and accountability at county and (to get) everyone focusing on working together to save more lives and increase adoptions.”
Meet Russ The Pit Bull
There are far too many other dogs out there with stories that are similar to Castiel’s. ACCT Philly is the Philadelphia regions largest animal care and control provider. Its animal shelter facility in Northern Philadephia is home to almost 28,000 animals of all types, but of course, there are thousands of dogs there waiting to be adopted. But like Castiel, unfortunately, a lot of these poor animals go unnoticed and end up staying in the shelter for longer than they’d like without being adopted.
Four-year-old Russ was once a resident at ACCT Philly and this is his story.
Russ Was A Stray In Bad Condition
Twenty-year-old Kayla Filoon, a student at Temple University, frequently volunteered as a dog walker at ACCT Philly, so dealing with stray dogs was no issue to her. One day, she met Russ and it was like love at first sight. However, Russ wasn’t in the best condition. “He came in as a stray, and he was really beat up. He was missing fur on his tail and ears. He was also terribly skinny. They told me he was about 40 pounds when he came into the shelter,” Filoon told The Dodo. In addition to his rough exterior, Russ was suffering from an unfortunate ailment.
Russ Had Come Down With Kennel Cough
It turned out that Russ was suffering from kennel cough. Scientifically known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease that affects places where large amounts of dogs congregate. Although it is called “kennel” cough, a canine can contract it at dog parks, training groups, and dog shows. It is spread via direct contact, contaminated surfaces, and also through airborne droplets. Although it is a treatable disease, it can be extremely dangerous depending on how young a dog is. Depending on the severity of the disease in the dog, it can be treated with a couple weeks of rest or it may require medication.
His Kennel Cough Made Him Unhealthy
The most obvious symptom of kennel cough is a strong cough with a “honking” sound, according to the American Kennel Club. Dogs affected with kennel cough may also display symptoms of runny nose, sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and low fever. In Russ’s case, he had itchy skin, an eye infection, a bleeding tail, and he was underweight. Despite being sick, Russ was apparently happy to be acquainted with Filoon when she took him out for a walk. Filoon, of course, wasn’t deterred in the slightest by Russ’s sickly demeanor. Filoon instantly knew that there was something special about Russ.
Russ Was Acting Strangely Stoic
Filoon told The Dodo that when she first laid eyes on Russ, “He was just sitting there calmly, staring at me and I thought, he is adorable! I need to take him now.” However, Filoon had other dogs to walk at that moment and decided to come back to him. When she came back, she found that Russ hadn’t moved an inch. “He was sitting in the same position that he was before, just being quiet while the other dogs were barking and causing commotion.” It was then that she decided it was Russ’s turn to take a walk.
Russ Was Obviously Someone Else’s Pet In The Past
Despite displaying a stoic demeanor at first, once Filoon took him on a 45-minute walk, Russ’s personality started to shine through. She discovered that Russ knew his basic commands such as sit, down, and stay, which indicated to her that he was once someone else’s pet, leading her to wonder why he was even at the shelter in the first place. “He was really cuddly with me, even when we went into the yard. He seemed like such a sweet dog, and he didn’t bark at any of the other dogs.” At that point, Russ had certainly struck a chord with Filoon.
“But There Was Something About Russ”
Filoon told The Dodo that at the time she had met Russ, ACCT Philly had recently euthanized 15 dogs due to overcrowding. “Any dog had a chance of being put down, especially the ones who were sicker, and Russ was definitely one of them,” since he had kennel cough. She put Russ back in his kennel that night, but did not feel right about it. She told her mom that she wanted to adopt a dog the next day, adding that “[She] didn’t really believe me, but there was something about Russ.” Filoon’s mother knew her daughter’s tendency to fall in love with all dogs that she met.
Kayla Filoon Adopted Russ The Next Day
Filoon returned the very next day to see Russ. That day, she took him on a joyride in the passenger seat of her car and he was the perfect driving partner. She said “He just sat in my passenger seat. I thought, ‘He’s the perfect dog.'” That was enough for Filoon to decide to jump the gun and go forth with Russ’s adoption. When they returned to the shelter after their car ride, Filoon worked with the shelter staff to settle his adoption papers. “I took him home that night,” she told The Dodo. However, it would come as a big surprise to Filoon’s house.
Would Filoon’s Housemates Be Accepting?
Filoon had six other housemates that lived with her, so it was going to be quite a surprise to them to see a sickly pit bull now living at their home. However, their reaction couldn’t have been more positive as Filoon reported to The Dodo that they instantly fell in love with Russ just like she did. Russ, although happy to finally be adopted, still had to take a little time to adjust to his new environment. Additionally, all he did for the first few days there was sleep since he was still sick with kennel cough.
Russ Always Has To Be Close To His New Mom
Russ quickly recovered and adjusted to life with his seven new roommates. He grew especially close to his new mother, who said, “He always has to be close to me… One night I’m sitting there on the chair, doing my homework, and he’s trying to find ways to cuddle with me. There was a whole other sofa open, and we had his bed on the floor, but he didn’t want to lie anywhere else. So he ends up positioning himself, and I look down, and I think, ‘Oh my gosh, look at him.” Russ had cuddled right next to Filoon as she worked on her laptop.
Russ’s Story Goes Viral
One of Filoon’s friends took a photo of the interaction and it quickly went viral. This prompted Russ’s new moms to create a Facebook page for him, where Filoon wrote, “The photo was heartwarming to say the least and captured just how much love my new little rescue boy had to give. I sent the photo to my Aunt and she was so amazed by it that she immediately posted it on Facebook and used it as a way to promote adoption. Well, the post went viral and in the days following, we were flooded with messages from all over the world!”
Russ Is Now A Mascot For Pet Adoption
On Facebook, Filoon continued, “The story of Russ literally circulated around the globe. As unexpected as this was, we thought it was pretty cool, to say the least! My little adoption story is certainly special to me and to Russ but it is not unique. Many adopters can say the same thing about the little lovable Pittie mix that they gave a much needed and much-deserved home to. These dogs are not broken. They are full of love to give and those of us who are lucky enough to be on the receiving end have little to compare the joy that it brings.”
There Were Things Filoon Worried About, Though
Filoon worried about Russ, who is a pit bull, would change when in a new home. However, she told The Dodo, “He’s such a love bug, honestly. I’ll be lying there, and he’ll put his head under my arm, or his paw over my chest. And he’ll even lay on my chest. I was worried that when I brought him home, his attitude might change. But he’s still the same relaxed, I’ll-lay-down-and-cuddle-with-you kind of dog. He’s probably one of the most grateful dogs I’ve ever seen.”
Russ and Castiel are two pit bulls who are flourishing in their new homes, but there are still many unfortunate dogs like them that are still out there.
This Is Reg From Australia
Reg used to be one of those dogs. The Staffordshire bull-terrier-whippet mix was separated from his family as a puppy and was left in the streets. Now a stray, Reg was eventually found and put into a shelter—but unfortunately, that shelter was indeed a kill shelter. Reg had only three days to live since he was on the schedule to be euthanized since there were more dogs that the shelter needed to make room for. But Reg’s luck would turn around when Australian couple Samantha Hill and Luke Pearce walked past him.
Reg Used To Be Quiet And Shy
Reg had a reputation as a shy and quiet dog at the shelter, which was probably why he wasn’t being adopted. But Hill told The Dodo, “We were walking around looking at all the dogs and he was sitting against the cage door quietly while all the other dogs were barking. He looked up at us with his sweet face and wagged his tail like crazy… When we got him out of the cage he was such a happy dog and gove us lots of kisses. Then we just knew we were going to be his forever home.”
They Were Amused By Reg’s Accidental Smile
When they took Reg home, Hill and Pearce realized that he had a couple of unique quirks. Not only was Reg untalented at catching balls, he had a particular way of smiling, much to his new owners’ amusement. The best part about it is that he isn’t even aware of it. Hill said, “He was very nervous from the pound but it didn’t take long for him to realize he was safe and loved and started to relax. So much so that he often gets in such a deep sleep that his lips fall back.”
“We Are So Glad We Saved Him”
The peculiarity in Reg’s expression happens when he is tired or relaxed, although it is not stated whether he has a condition that makes it this way. Hill went on to tell The Dodo, “The first time we noticed Reg’s loose lips was after a big long run at the park and he yawned and his lips got caught on his teeth. The funniest thing is that he has no idea when it happens so while we are cracking up, he just stares at us with a blank look on his face.” But still, Hill goes on to say, “We cannot imagine our lives without Reg. He brings so much love and happiness and we are so glad we saved him.”
Not All Dogs Are So Lucky
Castiel, Russ, and Reg were three lucky dogs to be saved from euthanization at an animal shelter. However, not all dogs are so lucky. But in the event that they are not immediately adopted or they are not going to be euthanized, sometimes these shelter dogs find companionship in each other.
Blinker and Chilli Pepper are two such pups. Chilli Pepper was picked up by animal control as a stray. Blinker was found illegal tied to a property with no shelter. Both dogs were brought to the DeKalb County Animal Services Shelter in Georgia.
Blinker And Chilli Pepper Are Inseparable
The staff at this shelter often try to pair dogs with a roommate so that these dogs—who’ve been through a lot—have some companionship. Once they were paired together, Blinker and Chilli Pepper became inseparable. Kaitlyn Garrett, who works at the shelter, told The Dodo, “They have been cuddling on their bed together ever since they were paired in the same kennel… They snuggle every day, all day. It is rare that you will walk by and not see them curled up together… It is definitely heartwarming to see two dogs from different backgrounds find comfort in each other. The shelter can be stressful for dogs; it is great to see them find a friend in each other during their stay.”
The Shelter Hopes They Will Not Be Separated
Garrett also told The Dodo, “It would be great if they could find a home together, but it is not an absolute must. They both do fine when separated and we wouldn’t want to hold one of them back from finding the perfect home just because the family isn’t in the position to take home two. We want them to find their perfect match, whether it be together or separate.” Despite being attached at the hip, both Blinker and Chilli Pepper very much have their own personalities. While Chilli Pepper is the more active one out of the two, Blinker is more of a cuddler.