After staying in a Delaware shelter for 1,007 days, a dog has now found a permanent home. The 5-year-old black Labrador Retriever mix — Tessy — was adopted by Jeanine Walker-Porter and Jeff Bush on Oct. 20.
Walker-Porter shared with Good Morning America that she and Bush had discussed adopting a dog. Upon discovering Tessy at a local fall festival in her neighborhood in late September, she was instantly attracted to her.
According to ABC News, the Millsboro, Delaware, resident said, “Her story broke my heart. The first day I saw her and her smile, her pictures, I was just like, ‘She’s the one for me.’”
Leigh McKinley’s dedication to rehabilitating Tessy
Certified dog trainer and director at Humane Animal Partners Leigh McKinley had been working with Tessy for more than two years before her adoption in October. The animal shelter, which operates in three different locations within Delaware, welcomed Tessy for the first time in January 2021. McKinley disclosed to GMA that Tessy had been adopted on two prior occasions; however, she was returned both times.
McKinley explained that Tessy was adopted and returned twice due to her severe fear and leash reactivity. This behavior made it difficult for many people to handle her — particularly in the first year.
However, McKinley, along with the staff at Humane Animal Partners, were committed to helping Tessy overcome her intense reactions. They used positive reinforcement, along with various other techniques and training, to aid her progress.
“Essentially, you’re turning [Tessy’s] negative feeling into a positive by pairing the trigger with treats, praise or distance,” McKinley stated. “Over time, her reaction to what previously scared her turned into a, ‘Oh, there’s a dog walking by. I know I’m safe. I’ll look at my handler and get a treat. I love when dogs walk by.’”
Tessy finds a ‘fur-ever’ home
In only a matter of weeks, Walker-Porter went from only having heard of Tessy to meeting her face-to-face, before eventually introducing the black Lab to her partner, Bush.
“When I saw Tessy, everything that I wanted and everything [Jeff] wanted went out the window,” Walker-Porter said. “We knew, ‘This is our girl.’ We knew that she was the one for us and we knew that she was completing our family.”
Despite the mix of emotions that came with parting ways, McKinley and the shelter’s team were overjoyed to witness Tessy’s adoption day. McKinley stated, “It’s such an emotional adoption because she was essentially our dog for [nearly] three years.” Continuing, she added, “And to see that transformation over the course of these years, and now to see her so happy in a loving home like every dog should be, it’s just wonderful.”
In the two weeks following her adoption, Tessy started to adapt comfortably to her new home, according to Walker-Porter. She affectionately refers to Tessy as a “love bug” who enjoys strolls, particularly along the beach and through the woods. Moreover, she mentioned that the canine loves relishing treats and playing with squeaky toys.
Walker-Porter also aspires to see Tessy’s story motivate others to take a leap and consider welcoming a dog or pet into their homes. She shared, “Every living creature deserves a chance in this world and there’s so many loving companions just waiting to have homes open up to them.” Continuing, Walker-Porter remarked, “Although they might be a little bit nervous in the beginning, give it a chance, because they’re loyal companions and they will fall in love with you, and they will be so important to you.”