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As told by Willow’s Mom: Cecelia Mayes

Intro and Conclusion by: Julia Nadovich

Each year, 6 to 8 million dogs and cats are entered into U.S. shelters. Out of this total, 2.7 million of them are “put down” each year because shelters are over capacity with a lack of adoptive homes. I want you to meet Willow: one of our current Monday-Friday walks and a pup who made it to her loving furever home. Despite these odds and coming from a rough home life, Willow was adopted by one of our long-term clients and never looked back. Today is “Change a Pet’s Life Day” and this is the story of how her mom, Cecilia, gave her a new world filled of love:

“Back in April, I was sitting at home recuperating from foot surgery along with the pandemic shelter in place. My previous dog, Casey, passed away back in November 2019 and I was missing the company.  I didn’t know if I was ready to adopt another fur-baby but got online and started searching.  I was looking at all the animal shelters and rescue groups, but there were not many dogs available.  I applied to several places but heard very little.”


Then, I started looking at the Fairfax County Human Society site.  This was where I adopted Casey from 11 years before, so the first thing I did was submit an application.  I heard back the next day and started a dialog with the adoption coordinator: I was approved for adoption!

There were a few dogs I was interested in meeting but one got adopted before I could set up a meeting and another had certain needs I was not equipped to handle. I was really looking for a “small” dog that wouldn’t be too strong so I could walk them with my long road of recovery ahead.  After going back and forth, I finally told the coordinator that I would watch the site and let her know if I saw a dog I was interested in. 

One day I noticed they had a few new rescues listed, including 2 Great Pyrenees named Bonnie and Clyde.  I was a talking to a friend because I was concerned about their size, but she said, “It doesn’t hurt to go and meet them!”.  Famous last words! 

I called the coordinator, told her I couldn’t believe I was saying it but I wanted to set up a meet and greet to see Bonnie.  Now this is not a small dog (85 pounds) but something just drew me to her. The next day my friend and I drove out to the Humane Society’s farm in Centerville.

Michael (who runs the farm) told  us that she was 5 years old.  The couple who surrendered them were divorcing, so they decided to, “…get rid of the dogs”.  The pair were apparently used for breeding and it was thought that Bonnie had about 4 or 5 litters in total.  The poor pups were both full of ticks and fleas with matted hair. They were filthy and stunk.  And when the shelter had Bonnie spayed they discovered that she had Lyme disease.

When I met her she was very scared, so my friend and Michael let me alone with her with some treats.  She eventually came up to me, ate the treats and just leaned against my legs to be scratched. We then took her out for a walk and she was so easy to walk! THAT DID IT! She was so sweet; I needed her and she needed me. 

As we were leaving, she was standing there looking out the door at us. It broke my heart. But, I got a call from Michael the next day and he said she was mine! I made arrangements to go out the next day to get her. I had already decided to name her Willow. 

My friend sat in the back with her for the trip home.  It turns out Willow loves car rides and loves having the windows down.  She kept going back and forth to each side to look to stick her head out the window; the hair and slobber was flying. I was laughing so hard! I took back roads the whole way home.

When we got home, Willow jumped out of the car excited to see her new world. She started to come in the door and looked up,  saw the ceiling fan, and started backing out the door.  This was her immediate nemesis. After a short introduction, she explored the house and outdoors. She came back in the house and plopped down as if to say, “I’m home.”

Due to her complicated past, there were a few more hurdles to overcome.  The first time she walked into the TV room, she took one look at the screen and ran out of the room.  She was also afraid the first time she walked into the bedroom and saw the mirror.  She did a quick about face and left the room.  Any reflective surface or fancy technology would trigger her.

After a few days she seemed more comfortable and wouldn’t run away.

When she first moved home, Willow was on 9 pills a day. She also had an infection from the spay – more antibiotics (2 more pills twice a day) – totaling 13 pills a day.

When I decided it was time to try and walk her she wouldn’t go off the front porch. After several tries, I was able to take her out the back yard gate and down the driveway.  It took 4 or 5 days for her to be comfortable enough to start walking on the sidewalk. Progression was VERY slow.  I decided it was time to reach out to Passionately Pets to start her on walks. Things started out fine and then all of a sudden, Willow started balking when going for a walk.  She kept trying to turn around and come back.  It was time to get a professional involved.  I found a great trainer and he started coming to the house to work with Willow and I.  He even did a few sessions with Macy, our Passionately Pets walker! Willow now loves her walks. Macy and her go out and really explore the neighborhood.  She still has some insecurities at times but Macy knows how to calm her down and keep her walking.

Willow is still shy and is fearful of some things.  When it started to turn cold and the heat came on, the clicking sound it makes really freaked her out.  The trainer worked with her and taught me a lot on how to deal with it.  She still doesn’t like the sound but no longer freaks out when it clicks on.  Oh, she still pays attention to it but then calms down. 

Willow has settled in to her new home wonderfully.   She is definitely a cold weather dog.  As soon as we get up she wants out in the yard.  She is outside every day from around 7am until 4 or 5pm.  After she eats she goes back out until 8 or so and then she just comes in and wants lots of butt scratches and loving until she’s ready to settle down for the night.  Willow is slow to make up with people (especially men) but once she does, you’re a friend for life.”

Willow’s origin story is one too common in our line of work. It’s people like Cecelia and YOU who bring smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts for giving these animals a second chance. Adopting and rescuing animals can change their life, as well as yours!

Unable to adopt but still want to give back? Fostering is a great way to get your furry-friend fix. Rescues always welcome donations, whether monetary, time or supplies. Go forth and help our four-legged friends!

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