FAIR LAWN, N.J. – Christine Souza of Fair Lawn wasn't expecting to take home a 10-month-old rescue pup when she stopped by an adoption event at the local firehouse.
"We have an older dog and certainly weren't planning to get another," Souza said.
But boy is she glad she did. Souza and her family have welcomed Shelby into the family, and it seemed like fate brought them together.
Shelby was in her crate, and she saw us and was trying to get to us. She started kissing us, and the rest is history. It was like an instant match.
Souza's husband – not present for the doggie kisses – took a little more convincing.
He was concerned about a newcomer getting along with the Souzas' 7-year-old rescue, Zoe. The couple texted back and forth, and he ultimately went along with the unexpected plan.
"She chose us, and we just fell in love with her," said Souza, a Lyndhurst native. "It was like Shelby said, 'Hey people, I'm going home with you.'"
The family had adopted Zoe from START II when she was only three months old, at an adoption event at PetSmart.
The two dogs got along great when they were first introduced, Souza said – but then Zoe realized that Shelby wasn't just visiting. The pair vied for dominance for a bit and they're still working out a little food aggression, but they get along pretty well.
"We thought that she was fully grown," Souza said. But she's continued to grow, now that she's getting better nutrition. "She looks like a healthy girl."
Souza, a youth ministry leader at Grace United Methodist Church, thinks Shelby's some kind of southern hunting dog, perhaps a Carolina dog or a feist. She loves to meet visitors, and she also loves riding in the car, 11-year-old Brendan added.
Shelby came to New Jersey by way of Grateful Doggies, which travels to points south to pick up dogs from high-kill shelters and other bad situations and bring them back to animal rescues and foster families.
You can view videos of some of the travelers that Grateful Doggies has transported here. The Saddle Brook-based organization is also looking to establish an adoption center, and it has an ongoing GoFundMe page here.
This particular pup was taken in as a stray and may have been displaced by Hurricane Matthew. Souza thinks she'd been someone's pet, since she knows a few commands and is well-behaved. "She's just a great dog."
"I would highly recommend getting a rescue," Souza said. "You could just tell that she appreciates everything that we do for her."
The family also has a cat named Norma – short for Norma Jean, after Marilyn Monroe. "She's a street kitty that my daughter brought home when she was eight weeks old," Souza explained.
"I really encourage people to adopt and rescue dogs – and cats, bunnies or any other animal," Souza said. "These are great animals, and some are on death row.
"People worry that a dog might have a history, but as long as you have patience and love for them, everything will work out fine."