After spending four years in Toronto-area animal shelters and foster homes, being adopted twice (and returned shortly later both times), Odie — an adorable Akita-Boxer mix dog — has finally found his “forever” home in British Columbia.
The Toronto Humane Society (THS) posted a video on its Twitter account on Thursday in dedication of Odie and to thank his new family for “giving him a loving, welcoming home.” The organization said Odie stayed the longest at the shelter out of any adoptable dog in recent THS history.
THS spokesperson Makyla Deleo told Global News Odie first came to the shelter in 2015 when he was just a year old.
“He was really friendly. He was social. He was quite food-motivated. We loved him around the shelter,” she said.
In fact, she said Odie was adopted shortly after arriving. However, the adopter returned Odie “almost immediately” and said they made a mistake, realizing they didn’t have time to take care of a dog. Odie was adopted not long after, but he was returned three weeks later. The adopter told THS staff Odie had separation anxiety-related issues, a behaviour Deleo said was not seen in other living situations.
“Odie did have some issues that had to be taken into account. He’s a wonderful dog once you get to know him,” Deleo said.
“He does take a moment to get to know people. So for some people, if you have a really full home, you have guests coming in and out all of the time, or perhaps you live in an apartment building where you’re constantly close to new people, that wouldn’t been the greatest home for Odie.
“For two years after that second return, there was basically very little interest in Odie at the Toronto Humane Society. We used the power of social media. We shared his story. We shared pictures. He was in print media … No one was coming to to find him.”
As time passed, Deleo said Odie’s attitude started to change.
“He started getting a little bit frustrated being in the shelter. He was seeing a lot of animals leave and he was there. People kept walking by his cage. It was a little hard to deal with.”
In an effort to protect Odie’s psychological well-being, she said, they moved him to two different shelters with the hope “fresh eyes” might result in Odie finding home. Both attempts proved unsuccessful.
“Still, for some reason Odie was overlooked at those places as well. So he was returned into our care and he went into foster care several times during his stay with us,” Deleo said.
“That’s another thing that we do if an animal is in our care for a little bit longer than average. We want to make sure that they do get time out of the shelter and in a home, so Odie had those opportunities as well.”
When asked why THS kept him for so long, Deleo noted the facility is a no-kill shelter and will work to find an appropriate setting for adoptable animals.
“In some cases that appropriate home may mean going out to a rescue rather than a rehabilitation place for some dogs. But for Odie we didn’t feel that was right for him. He needed a family,” she said.
“So we were prepared to keep him in our care until that family came along.”
Desperate to find Odie a home, staff planned to do a large media campaign. They took the dog to a farm to do a film shoot and created posters to tell Odie’s story. In the middle of planning to roll out the campaign, Deleo said something “magical” happened. A former employee who moved out to British Columbia called THS.
WATCH: Toronto Human Society’s longest resident dog finds home. Mark Carcasole reports.
Odie left THS on May 3 and his journey to British Columbia was documented on a dedicated Instagram account, aptly named Odie_Is_Adopted.
Antonia, who asked that her last name not be shared publicly, is the former trainer who helped arrange for Odie to come to her and her husband’s home. She said the bond between Odie and herself began in 2015.
“We kind of started at THS at around the same time. I watched him and I got to know him… I can’t really put my finger on it. It clicks, we click, and he’s a smart guy,” she told Global News from her house in Parksville, B.C.
When the couple moved to B.C., Antonia said they looked for a community that would allow them to have more than three dogs. They currently have four dogs — all adopted from THS. All throughout their search and up until they settled into their home, she said they kept thinking of Odie.
“We knew he was there and we just worked hard, and fought really hard to make it happen for him — always in the back of our minds (was), “This is for Odie,'” Antonia said.
“My husband Daniel deserves so much credit. He actually flew back to Toronto and he went and picked Odie up and drove Odie out. It was a guys’ trip out west. It went wonderfully. They had some really great bonding time.”
Meanwhile, Deleo has a message for those who might be looking for a pet — especially ones that aren’t young.
“Not every animal in the shelter is going to be able to show you how sweet and how kind they are,” Deleo said. “The number of stories that we have of people who took home an animal who was shy or scared or slow to come around and just by being patient with them… to see that animal blossom and bloom in their home and in their care is an incredible experience.
“Senior animals need love, too, and they do sometimes take a little bit longer to find a home than a younger animal does. And when you take a senior animal home, another thing that adopters tend to tell us after they take the senior animal home is that they can they can almost feel the gratitude from that animal. That animal almost seems like they under they understand that you could have chosen someone else.”