There wasn’t a dry eye in the shelter. Tessy was finally going to her forever home.
The 5-year-old black lab mix spent a record 1,007 days living in a 4-foot-by-4-foot kennel in the back room of Humane Animal Partners’ Rehoboth Beach Adoption Center.
Jeanine Porter and Jeff Bush of Millsboro officially came to adopt Tessy Oct. 20.
The couple first saw her picture at HAP’s adoption event at the Conley United Methodist Church Fall Festival and were hooked.
“Her story. Her smile. I’m going to cry,” said Porter. “We’re going to call her ‘Tessy Boo Boo.’”
“[When we met her] she was an adorable, sweet dog,” Bush said.
Tessy’s story began when she arrived from Texas Jan. 17, 2021, part of the first group of dogs to come to HAP’s then newly renovated Rehoboth Beach location.
HAP’s Sussex County Director Leigh McKinley said Tessy had behavioral issues from the start. “She could have been somewhere where she never had positive exposure to strangers. So, she put up her defense mechanisms, which for a dog, is going to be lunging, barking and snarling. That’s their way of telling somebody not to come any closer,” McKinley said.
The fact that Tessy finally got adopted is a tribute to HAP’s staff and volunteers, but especially to McKinley, who is a certified professional dog trainer. She said she used basic obedience skills to help Tessy overcome a fear of people and other animals.
“Tessy is a much different dog than she was two years ago,” McKinley said. “We have done so much work with her. She’s following and learning cues. She was just starting the stages of counter conditioning and desensitization, two training techniques we applied to get her where she is today.”
When Porter and Bush came to pick up Tessy, it was clear they could not wait to get her home. “[We got her] lots of toys, lots of treats. She needs a new purple pig,” Porter said. A purple pig was Tessy’s favorite toy during her time at HAP.
The first step on adoption day was for Porter, Bush, McKinley and HAP Manager Trevor Force to take Tessy out for playtime and a walk around the nearby neighborhood. McKinley taught them the behavioral cues Tessy responds to and how to handle her if a stranger or another dog gets close.
McKinley and Force also briefed the couple on Tessy’s medical plan.
Next, HAP staff had a chance to say goodbye. They had spent the last nearly three years walking her, cleaning her kennel, feeding her, giving her belly rubs and getting her ready for this day.
Finally, it was time for Tessy to go home. She climbed into Porter’s Jeep, eager to leave her kennel behind and see her new bed and house full of toys.
“She’s going to be well loved. You don’t have to worry about her,” Porter said.
McKinley said Porter sent photos and videos of Tessy’s first few nights in her new home. She said it looks like it is great fit for everyone.