When it comes to singing the praises of his adopted dog Lily, a one-year-old black Labrador-mix, Marco B. can’t stop talking.
“She’s so lovely–adopting her is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” says the Manhattan-based dentist who moved to the New York from Milan, Italy, three years ago. “Maybe it’s my Italian passion. But I literally fell in love.”
Marco and his girlfriend, Elizabeth, a professional violinist, had visited several animal shelters and had met roughly 50 dogs before spotting Lily at the ASPCA Adoption Center on March 18, 2019. Lily and her three siblings had just been transported from the Oktibbeha Humane Society in Starkville, Mississippi, and were clustered together in a kennel.
ASPCA Behavior Specialist Felicia Belle introduced the couple to Lily and her littermates.
“They were all very, very shy,” recalls Marco. “Lily was hiding behind her littermates, crouched on the floor.”
Michele Anderson, a board member at Oktibbeha Humane Society, says Lily and her three siblings were originally found as strays in rural Monroe County, Mississippi, 30 miles north of Starkville.
“Lily and her littermates didn’t have a lot of contact with people before they were sent to us,” explains ASPCA Behavior Specialist Corinne Fritzell.
“To help promote positive associations with humans, we limited their interactions to members of the Behavior Team and specially trained daily care staff. This ensured the pups had enough space to feel comfortable and that their progress wasn’t rushed by unsolicited contact, which can be very scary for fearful puppies. All of the pups’ social behaviors were also rewarded with yummy food.”
Corinne explains that Lily made significant progress, and the Behavior Team consulted with Marco and Elizabeth to go over ways to help her adjust to her new home and set her up for success.
“Shy dogs can become overwhelmed very easily, and fearful puppies often make more progress outside the shelter with dedicated adopters who work with them frequently,” Corinne says.
“Marco and Elizabeth were very gentle and calm and allowed Lily to come to them without putting too much pressure on her to interact,” Felicia adds. “In the end, Lily made the choice to come to them and say hi for treats.”
From Homeless to Homebound
Lily came to the Adoption Center through the ASPCA’s six-year-old animal relocation program, which has moved more than 130,000 homeless animals from 16 states to shelters across 30 states, including Mississippi, Lily’s former home.
Since January, 7843 dogs, including Lily, and 456 cats have been relocated from Mississippi by the ASPCA, according to Laura Nelson, the ASPCA’s Director of Animal Relocation.
Living Her Best Life
Once home in her new Manhattan apartment, Lily remained shy, but after a few weeks began to come out of her shell and gain confidence.
“When I come home, she comes to the door, then runs and jumps on the bed and asks for belly rubs,” Marco explains. “We call her ‘the shadow.’ Everywhere we go, she follows.”
Elizabeth practices her violin in Lily’s presence, often lulling the pooch to sleep.
“She loves classical music, especially the violin,” Marco says. “She’s our little audience.”
Last August, Elizabeth, who teaches private music lessons, began commuting to Ft. Worth, Texas, where she took a job a music professor.
Lily goes with her sometimes, enjoying the best of both worlds and recently went hiking and wading for the first time. She is content in airplanes and cars alike.
When Marco’s parents visited from Italy, they too, fell in love with Lily.
“Lily is part of our family,” Marco says, beaming. “She’s just so happy. She changed our life.”