For a Misfit Dog, Beauty is in the Eye of the Adopter

Sheldon may not win a beauty contest, but he has a model heart.

Sharon + Sheldon

I met Sheldon when I was sent to transport a mama dog and her litter to the safety of an animal welfare organization. The Animal Control lady thrust Sheldon at me and said, “Here, take this one first. He’s the runt and he’s ugly.”

"Was it possible that I needed this grumpy little dog even more than he needed me?"

I kind of have to agree: Sheldon looks like he was created from spare parts. His legs are too tall and his head is too pointy and his face—even as a puppy—was as grey as a wizened old man’s. When people ask, “What breed is he?” my response is always, “Brown.”

Sheldon started out as just another foster dog. He was all of six pounds, shivering and scared. He looked older than Yoda and was hacking like a two-pack-a-day smoker. I hastily knitted him a tiny Sheldon-sized sweater to keep him warm. He hated it. But something about this guy touched my heart. Was it possible that I needed this grumpy little dog even more than he needed me?

You see, I had just lost my dad to a brain tumor. He had only 60 days from diagnosis to GONE. And the very next month I lost my beloved golden retriever to the exact same brain cancer. She had been an amazing therapy dog for eight years and that work had given me purpose as my kids grew up and needed me less. I watched her suffer from the very heartbreaking progression of symptoms that took my father.

Was it possible to fill two holes in my heart with one ugly, six-pound puppy? Sheldon’s answer was a resounding YES. Sheldon will never be a therapy dog. He is fearful of new people and new things. But he has given me not only his unconditional love, but also a new career. Nearly four years later, I now work for the organization that saved him.

Best of all, together we have fostered nearly 200 other puppies while they wait to find permanent homes. This is Sheldon’s special gift. He’s always willing to share his bed and allow itty-bitty pups to find comfort by snuggling up next to him for a nap. He gets down on their level to play and teaches them the proper way to use their mouth and to respect personal space. I have seen Sheldon use his big, bony head to hold a puppy still just long enough to make his point. And I’ve seen him bring a toy to a puppy and say, “Here, chew on this – not me!”

People often ask me how I taught Sheldon to do this. The answer is I didn’t. I truly believe he knows he came from a bad situation and now that he has it pretty good, his mission is to help other puppies learn and grow and live happily ever after. Just like he did.

Sheldon has changed a lot of lives, both four-legged and two-legged. I’m just lucky that one of them was mine.

Each year, Petco Love invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Sharon Gesser won Peak Lab Rescue in North Carolina a 2017 Holiday Wishes award.