A man fell in love with a three-year-old pit bull named Merrill when he went into San Francisco’s Rocket Dog Rescue in search of a dog to adopt, but the shelter ran into an unexpected problem. When it was time for the man to come and pick her up, Merrill would not leave her best friend behind.
In 2014, Rocket Dog Rescue received a sick pit bull and a senior Chihuahua who were adamant about staying together. The volunteer-based shelter is dedicated to saving unwanted and abused dogs, and they regularly took in dogs that had a hard time getting adopted. Their ultimate goal is to prevent dogs from being euthanized.
Merrill and Taco, an eight-year-old Chihuahua, were surrendered and went to Rocket Dog Rescue together. Although little was known about their previous owners, one thing was clear: the pair of dogs were the best of friends. Every time they were separated, they would cry. All of their time was spent together. Then, one day, the shelter staff got an insight as to just how strong their bond was.
Merrill was suffering from a severe uterine tract infection when the pair was surrendered, and she had to undergo surgery to save her life. Taco was restless and distraught for the entire time she was in the operating room. When the surgery was over and Merrill was finally released, staff had an extremely hard time isolating her. But she needed to be isolated so that she could heal faster.
The staff was amazed by the commitment these two dogs had to each other. Both Merrill and Taco had cried until Taco was allowed to be brought into the recovery area with Merrill. Taco was attentive and dedicated to Merrill for the duration of her stay in recovery. After that, the little Chihuahua didn’t leave his best friend’s side. But the staff members at the shelter were concerned that this might be ultimately detrimental to the two dogs.
The shelter knew that bonded pairs of dogs are more difficult to adopt out from past experience. Many people aren’t ready to adopt two dogs at the same time. So they decided to list Merrill and Taco separately on their website and hoped to find separate homes for each of them. Senior dogs are also harder to find homes for, so there was little interest in Taco. Merrill, on the other hand, was a different story.
As soon as a man came into the shelter one day looking to adopt a dog, he saw Merrill and decided that she was the one. He completed all the Rocket Dog Rescue paperwork, and then the day finally came for him to pick her up. Merrill was led out of her cage, and Taco was left inside. She began howling and howling, and she would not stop. The man had no idea what was really going on.
The staff at the shelter then told the man the story of Taco and Merrill, and how they were best friends and could not be separated. The man then understood, and he realized that it was best for them to stay together. Unfortunately, he could not adopt both Merrill and Taco, so he decided to adopt a different dog instead. That was when the shelter knew they had to change their strategy.
Rocket Dog Rescue staff had come to the conclusion that it was best for Merrill and Taco to stay together. So they changed the listing on their website, and a wonderful volunteer named Jodi fostered them while the pair waited for a forever home. It wasn’t long before the perfect opportunity came along and knocked at the door.
A family from San Jose fell in love with Merrill and Taco’s story when they saw the listing on the shelter’s website. They arranged a visit with Jodi to meet the two dogs, and then decided that they wanted to make them a part of their family. When it came time for Taco and Merrill to go to their new home, they were thrilled to be going together. But it was not a happy ending… yet.
Taco suffered from asthma and dental disease, as most senior dogs do, and he had only 4 teeth. These health issues appeared at first to be minor problems until his new family took him to the vet a month after he and Merrill were adopted. Then the family got the news, and the outlook did not look good.
Unless something was done soon, Taco would suffer impending heart failure. The medical evaluation had found that Taco’s heart was enlarged and there was fluid surrounding his lungs. A specialist visit was scheduled, and he was immediately put on medication. The family braced for the worst, but tried to hope for the best.
Despite being on medication, Taco’s owners knew that his advanced age meant he might not recover. The family gave him a fighting chance anyway, and gave him lots of love and attention. Merrill also rallied to Taco’s side, and didn’t leave her best friend for a minute. Then, incredibly, Taco’s condition seemed to begin to improve.
Taco’s condition has since stabilized and his heart is no longer at risk. He has to take several medications for life, including anti-seizure drugs and steroids for his lungs. He still has respiratory issues, but that doesn’t seem to stop the little Chihuahua from having fun with his human siblings, and his best friend Merrill.
Merrill loves running and rolling on the grass in the family’s yard. Being a young adult means that she is extremely energetic and active. Taco finds other ways to join in on the fun, even though he can’t quite keep up with her. Taco carried to wherever Merrill is playing by the family’s children. Most of all, he and Merrill love spending every single day and night together and knowing that they will never be separated again.
Her mouth almost dropped to the floor. They were exhausted, having been on the road for a long time. All they wanted was to take the dog and go. But it appeared it wasn’t going to be that easy. She couldn’t fathom why a shelter would refuse to let a dog be adopted, and her temper started to rise. She was not going to take no for an answer. And when the shelter finally let her come in to see him, she understood everything.
Jess Williams had been waiting for this moment for a really long time. She loved dogs, and she couldn’t wait to have one of her own. But, unfortunately, that dream had to be put on hold for a few years. Jess was completing her degree at Brown University and lived in a dorm that didn’t allow pets. Finally, graduation day came. And with it, a big change in her life. Luckily, she was not alone.
In August, Jess and her boyfriend, Jared Coutou, decided to pack up and move across the country to Sacramento, California. After living in the East Coast, they wanted a change of scenery and so settled on the sunny West Coast. Plus, they’d be able to be closer to Jess’ family, who lived in Los Angeles. Jess was ready for her new life. And that included a furry addition to the household. Although it wouldn’t come too easily.
Jess hadn’t given up on her dream of having a dog. So when she learned that their new apartment allowed pets, she was ecstatic. But Jared was a little less so. He also wanted a dog, but he wanted them to settle into their new place first. He suggested a compromise, asking Jess to wait until her birthday in November to adopt a dog. Jess agreed. But soon she found that the wait was harder than she had imagined.
All that Jess could think about was getting a dog. She woke up and went to bed with that single thought on her mind. It was driving her crazy. Finally, she couldn’t take it any longer. She went online and started looking at photos of shelter dogs. “I’ll just browse,” she said to herself. She thought this could help her get an idea of what kind of dog she wanted. But her casual browsing didn’t last long. One day, she came upon a picture that changed everything.
On a website she was browsing, Jess came upon a picture of a dog named Benji. He appeared to be a mixed breed, and the website said he was picked up as a stray and had been at the shelter for 10 days. He also had a bad flea allergy that made him lose most of his fur. But what caught Jess’ attention was the sorrowful look on Benji’s face. “I had never seen a sadder dog and knew we couldn’t leave him there,” she explains. She decided she wanted to adopt him. But what about her agreement with Jared?
Jess showed Jared the picture of Benji and told him they had to adopt him. She felt bad about breaking her promise, but it was clear to her that this dog needed to be taken out of the shelter. Jared hesitated, but he eventually agreed to adopt Benji. Looking at the picture, he knew he would have felt really guilty if he said no. So they started making preparations for the adoption. But there was one big problem.
The website listed the shelter’s location in Los Angeles, which is almost 400 miles away from Sacramento. It seriously complicated things. But Jess was undeterred. They were both avid travelers and had made long drives before. Seeing how determined she was, Jared relented. And so they set off on the 6-hour drive to meet Benji. But there were more obstacles waiting ahead.
The couple finally made it to Los Angeles and found the shelter. They walked in and told the attendant that they had seen Benji on a website and wanted to adopt him. The shelter staff stared at them awkwardly for a few seconds, hesitating to respond to their inquiry. Finally, the manager came up and asked them if they were sure they meant the right dog. Jess pulled up her phone and showed them Benji’s picture. Then the manager said something that took the couple by surprise.
The manager told them that it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to adopt Benji. He offered to show them other dogs that were also waiting to be adopted. Jess couldn’t believe what she was hearing, but she stood her ground. She asked for an explanation as to why they were refusing to let her adopt him. Their reply was something that broke her heart.
The shelter told Jess that Benji was too aggressive. “He would snarl and snap at people as they walked by,” she said they told her. “The shelter also told us he wasn’t friendly and refused to take us into a calm waiting area to get to know him because ‘he wouldn’t be a dog that would come over to us to be cuddly.’” But the shelter’s warnings backfired, as they only strengthened Jess’ resolve.
“We knew that he had a high possibility of being euthanized and didn’t want him to die,” explains Jess. There was no way that she and Jared were going to let that happen. So they made up their mind to adopt Benji. The shelter had no choice but to accept their request, so they filled out the paperwork and the couple signed. Benji was now officially part of their family. But the adventure was just starting.
It was a rough 6-hours back to Sacramento with Benji in the car. Understandably, he was wary of these two humans he’d never met before who had come and taken him from the shelter. He also seemed quite confused about what was happening, given that he probably wasn’t used to long car rides. And when they finally got home, things didn’t get any easier.
Benji kept his distance from Jess and Jared. It was clear that this poor little pooch had been hurt by humans before, and he didn’t trust them anymore. But the couple knew this and they were patient with him, giving him space and trying to show him that they loved him and weren’t going to hurt him. A few days passed, and he slowly started to realize he was safe. And then something incredible happened.
Three weeks after bringing him home, Benji was a completely different dog. “He loves to come up and lick our faces and play with his toys,” says Jess. “He is such a goofball now! He has crazy zoomies after he gets bathed. He will also start barking the second we get in the car as if to say, ‘We have to start moving! Let’s go!’” He loves tagging along wherever Jess and Jared go, but he’s also happy cuddling with them at home. They had faith in Benji from the moment they saw him, and it looks like he has proven them right.