Rye Rescues: Theo Leo

Thanks so much to local comedienne Kim Berns for sharing her humorous and heartwarming rescue story.

Published November 21, 2015 10:10 PM
4 min read


ryerescues-thThanks so much to local comedienne Kim Berns for sharing her humorous and heartwarming rescue story.


ryerescuesThanks so much to local comedienne Kim Berns for sharing her humorous and heartwarming rescue story.

Like many married-with-kids types, online dating is not an option.

Yet, when we went searching sites for a rescue puppy, that’s what it felt like, both nerve-wracking and thrilling. Is he as good-looking in person? Will he be anxious, playful, a shoe-eater, a yapper?

We wasted no time in trying to find a new dog when Augie departed after 15 years of love and loyalty. Our rug cleaning guy would tell you Augie had overstayed his welcome, but anyone who has loved a family dog knows that is never true.

The boys and I thought about finding a mutt clone: part-Wheaton, maybe with a touch of Briard. But duplicating a love interest is always a dicey proposition.

Max, my 15-year-old son, and I looked on the SPCA of Westchester in Briarcliff Manor site, where there was a puppy with Augie’s look. This rescue shelter has dogs on-site but also gets in periodic shipments, usually from the South, and there is a designated day to visit. (Word of warning, try not to do this in the cold and rain because if you’re lucky, and you get a number you may still wait outside, in our case, hours, before you are let into the small facility to see if ‘your dog’ from the website is still available.)

As it turned out, Wiry, the guy Max wanted was scooped up by the family in front of us. The kind folks there had Max meet with a white Lab mix, but he had made up his mind and we left, empty-handed, freezing, and cognizant of a dog being a long-term thing, or so you hope.

We filled out more applications on another site, Tales of Courage up in Danbury, Conn., and would anxiously cruise the site, but each time our pup was gone before we could get there. Like so many companions, the good ones go fast. The trick is not being locked in as we were to a specific type, age, and sex.

In fact we did not end up going to any local shelters only because we didn’t see a pup online that fit the bill.

The good news is, once you submit an application to these agencies, along with references, you get to know the contact people and they will contact you — this is a helpful response when the kids are relentlessly begging you for the new puppy. Not that I wasn’t on board, but considering my kids are professional slackers, clinging to the romantic notion of a puppy, I had more patience.

Eventually I discovered Unleashed NY, which rescues puppies from kill shelters in the South where neutering is not common, and places the dogs in foster homes.

Unleashed NY is also a mentoring program to empower middle school girls: ‘saving lives’ by nurturing animals.  I learned about this power of empathy when my naturally self-centered kids would assist Augie down the stairs, help him when he fell and talk to him knowing he felt bad.

After extensive paperwork and interviews, we had an appointment to meet a couple of dogs in the city.

Everyone was in! Max and our 7-year-old twins, Blake and Henry, met Vanilla, a Lab mix who was being fostered in a high rise on the Upper West Side. Vanilla, with a little assistance, could have spun plates while doing the Can-Can. She was cute and very energetic, but the boys didn’t connect with her.
We drove across town and over to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where we were met by a totally hip couple, of whom at leas

t one was wearing a beret.

They had fostered another dog that they couldn’t give up — occupational hazard — and they had our Theo who went by a forgettable name. We had been warned that he was too shy for a family and that he might need years of therapy. But maybe that’s the beauty of love; you throw caution to the wind when you meet the right guy.

He looked like a movie star with his stuffed Steiff toy looks and bandit eyes. They say Theo is a mix of Shepard, Golden, and Chow, maybe.

We had to wait a week and go back to Greenpoint with crate in hand and drive him back with the boys staring at him as though he weren’t real.

That was in the spring and now, at approximately 10 months, — you never really know how old they are, so you pick a birthday — it is as though Theo has always been here, jumping in the pond and burying bones. That alone could put him in the movies, which is where I have seen funny dogs like that and didn’t buy it for minute. He is mid-sized and so far, not the giant ‘paw’ experts predicted.

When Unleashed had a reunion in the city for dogs adopted over the last six months or so, we went down to Third Avenue, and at the party ended up meeting Theo’s brother Barry, who lives in Brooklyn. Barry looked like a big Chow, no family resemblance, but Theo and Barry’s quiet attraction was undeniable.

So we don’t know where Theo really came from but we do know we have had to install an invisible  — not electric — fence around the property because he has proven to be a stealth escape artist, like El Chapo.

Having had a dying dog for years, Theo’s enthusiasm is a relief and now the warm, hardly shy escape artist seems the perfect complement to the not purely refined family we are.  
If you have a rescue story to share, email ryerescues@ gmail.com.

— Photo by Geoffrey Tischman

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