A man had come in search of a dog to adopt at the San Francisco’s Rocket Dog Rescue, and he had fallen in love with Merrill, a three-year-old pit bull. When the time for him to pick her up had arrived, the shelter had run into an unexpected obstacle: Merrill had refused to leave her best friend’s side.
Volunteer-based organization Rocket Dog Rescue regularly took in dogs that had a hard time getting adopted. They are dedicated to saving unwanted and abused dogs and their main goal is to prevent dogs from being euthanized in overcrowded shelters. In 2014, this was the case when they received a senior Chihuahua and sick Pit Bull who were absolutely adamant about staying together.
Little was known about Merrill and eight-year-old Taco’s previous owners when they were surrendered together to Rocket Dog Rescue. One thing remained clear though, these dogs were the best of friends. They would spend all of their time together and would cry every time they were separated. That’s when the shelter staff got a glimpse of just how strong their bond was.
Taco was restless and distraught. Merrill was undergoing surgery to save her life. She was suffering from a severe uterine tract infection that had been present when the pair was surrendered. Taco remained restless for the entire time she was in the operating room. Then, the staff attempted to isolate her to help her heal faster when she was finally released, but it proved to be difficult.
The staff was amazed by the commitment these two dogs had to each other. Both Merrill and Taco had cried until they finally brought Taco into the recovery area to be with Merrill. The little Chihuahua didn’t leave his best friend’s side after that, and was attentive and dedicated to Merrill for the whole time she spent in recovery. The staff was worried that this might be detrimental.
Senior dogs are hard to find homes for, so there was little interest in Taco, and the staff at the shelter knew from experience that bonded pairs of dogs are more difficult to adopt out. Many people aren’t willing to adopt two dogs at the same time. So they had decided to list Merrill and Taco on their website separately in hopes of finding loving homes for each of them. Merrill was a different story.
As soon as a man had come into the shelter looking for a dog to adopt, he had seen Merrill and decided that she was the one. He had gone through all Rocket Dog Rescue’s paperwork with them, and then finally, the day had come for him to pick her up. Leaving Taco inside, Merrill was led out of her cage. Then she began to howl, and wouldn’t stop. The man had no idea what had been going on.
The man realized that it was best for Taco and Merrill to stay together after the staff had told him their story, and he knew that they were best friends and did not want to be separated. He then opted for a different dog, as unfortunately, he could not adopt both. That’s when the shelter decided to change their strategy.
Rocket Dog Rescue staff had decided to change the listing on their website after having concluded that it was best for Merrill and Taco if they were kept together. Jodi, a wonderful volunteer, had been asked to foster the pair while they searched for a forever home. Then, soon after, the perfect opportunity presented itself.
A family from San Jose visited Jodi to meet Taco and Merrill after they had fallen in love with their story after reading the listing on the shelter’s website. They then decided that they wanted to make the pair a part of their family. Taco and Merrill couldn’t have been more thrilled when it was time for them to go to their new home, and they were going together. But that wasn’t to be their happy ending, just yet.
Taco, Being a senior dog, had some seemingly minor health issues. He was suffering from asthma and dental disease, and he only had four teeth. These had seemed to be only minor problems thus far. That was until the pair was taken to the vet by their new family a month after being adopted. the vet’s prognosis was not good.
Taco was immediately put on medications and a specialist visit had been scheduled. The vet’s medical evaluation had found that fluid surrounded his lungs, and Taco’s heart was also enlarged. He would certainly suffer impending heart failure unless something was done soon. The family had hoped for the best, but they had braced themselves for the worst.
Taco’s advanced age meant he might not recover, and Taco’s owners knew it. Despite being on various medications, they decided to give him a fighting chance as well as a lot of attention and love. Merrill then seemed to repay the favor, and would not leave her best friend Taco’s side. Then, Incredibly, Taco’s condition seemed to begin improving.
Although Taco was on medications such as steroids for his lungs and anti-seizure drugs, his condition soon started to stabilize until his heart was no longer at risk. He still has to take several medications for life for his respiratory issues, but that never seems to stop the little Chihuahua. He has fun with his best friend Merrill, as well as his human siblings.
Though he can’t quite keep up with Merrill, Taco finds other ways to join in on the fun. Merrill, as a young adult, is extremely energetic and active. She loves to run and roll on the grass in the family’s yard, and Taco loves to be carried by the family’s children who take him to wherever Merrill is playing. Taco and Merrill love spending each and every day together, but they love knowing that they will always be together most of all. Adopting a dog from a shelter can be an extremely rewarding experience, but one woman found out that there can be many challenges along the way. Taco and Merrill were well-adjusted to people, but a dog named Benji wasn’t so lucky…
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.