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. See what happened with Sheldon’s shelter next.
The Director Quit
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 wide-spread hope that the next director will bring much-needed change and improvement to the shelter operations. But what the volunteers did is amazing.