Found tethered in a locked car on a scorching 96-degree day in New York City, Shiva and three other puppies were discovered without food or water.
Shiva arrived at the ASPCA underweight and in need of medical care.
These innocent animal victims were rushed to the ASPCA Animal Hospital for immediate medical attention. Shiva was underweight. Our staff treated her for a wound on her face and abrasions on her neck from her collar.
Shiva needed continued care to overcome her fears at the ASPCA’s Behavioral Rehabilitation Center.
Despite her initial extreme fear, our staff quickly learned that other dogs made Shiva feel at ease. In the presence of a “helper dog,” a confident canine who is comfortable around other dogs and people, Shiva made phenomenal progress. She wagged excitedly as a dog friend approached her kennel, and zipped around the play yard, bounding after her new friends.
Shiva soared through the program until finally she was just a few weeks away from graduation. At a routine vet visit, Shiva’s life would change forever.
Shiva is all smiles when she’s with her dog friends.
As Fate Would Have It
In the waiting room of the vet’s office, a woman named Emili sat tearfully reflecting on the news that her beloved cat, Rorschach, had a cancerous tumor.
Shiva walked right up to her, sat at her feet, and looked up—a behavior very uncharacteristic of the Shiva we met just a few months earlier.
Emili was moved. She started chatting with our BRC staff and sent a picture of Shiva to her husband, Zacary, a pittie-lover who was used to Emili sending him photos of dogs she knew he’d love.
Zac always followed the photo with a question, “So, you bringing her home?” to which Emili would normally respond, “no.”
But when Emili replied with, “she is almost ready to be adopted,” Zac was shocked, and jumped at the opportunity.
A few days later, Zac and Emili’s family, including their kids—Sawyer and Etta, pit bull terrier Buddha and cat Rorschach, were all meeting Shiva in person.
She was very timid around Zac, but with Buddha it was an entirely different story. The two played nonstop. However, Shiva was still very shy and had her tail tucked between her legs for most of the visit.
Darren Young, ASPCA Behavioral Specialist, explained that the family’s bustling home could prove to be too much for Shiva, who had come so far but was still experiencing new things for the first time. But after observing the family interact patiently with sweet Shiva, Darren had a lot of hope that this just may be the right fit for this special dog.
“Zac is very dog savvy and was extremely sensitive to Shiva’s needs and Shiva was quickly making connections. As we observed in treatment, having another dog in the home would likely be key to Shiva’s success, and Buddha was the right guy for the job,” Darren explains. “Rorschach and Shiva were great with each other as well and the meeting eased any concerns around the two being a match.”
Shiva smiles next to Rorschach, the cat who brought him and Emili together.
Moving in With the Fosters
So that Christmas holiday, Zac and Emili brought Shiva home as their foster dog.
Shiva in her foster home.
In her new surroundings, and during the often-chaotic holiday times, Shiva showed signs of stress and started having stomach issues.
Despite his worry, Zac found the BRC staff was with him every step of the way.
“Darren was always at the other end of the phone. I would text with questions or concerns, and he would respond quickly with answers or suggestions,” Zac says. “He was extremely helpful in making the situation work. And slowly, it did.”
Shiva started showing her personality and with progress underway, the family knew they couldn’t let this sweet girl go.
Rorschack gives her new friend, Shiva, a playful love tap.
Officially Home Sweet Home
It took time, but Zac was determined to help Shiva feel as comfortable and calm as can be while helping her come out of her shell.
Initially withdrawn, Shiva found solace in the quiet basement where she could retreat to be alone. Darren had explained that Shiva might demonstrate this behavior.
Zac was patient with Shiva and began to block off the basement, hoping Shiva would settle for a quiet spot upstairs where she was in sight and could become acclimated to her new family.
And brother Buddha wanted nothing more than to make his new sister feel right at home. The big, bubbly, fearless pup set to work.
Zac tells us, “There was absolutely no way that Buddha was going to let her sit there and not play. His relentless nature got her playing with him and it was no time that they were best buddies. He seemed to make her forget that she was afraid for short amounts of time.”
Whether cuddling on the couch or taking a swim outdoors, Shiva and Buddha can always be found together.
Buddha’s energy was contagious. He showed Shiva that she had no reason to fear his beloved family and that their days together would be filled with fun.
One morning, Zac got up for work and when he turned around, Shiva was standing there staring back at him and wagging her tail. It had taken months to get to this moment—months of Shiva’s tail hidden between her legs. Although it seems like a small accomplishment, it was truly monumental for Shiva and Zac, a thrilling confirmation that seemed to say, “I feel safe here, you make me happy!”
Shiva loves to cuddle with her human brother, Sawyer.
Finding Her Stride
Today, Shiva is a different dog than the profoundly nervous one who wanted to curl up in the basement—alone and out of sight.
Instead, she’d rather curl up on someone’s lap! Her transformation is evident each day. She went from sleeping with her feet directly under her—ready to take off at any moment—to laying on her back with all four paws sprawled in the air—completely carefree.
She hangs out in the kids’ rooms, joins family hikes and even tolerates car rides.
Shiva fits right in with her new pack—cuddling with Etta and all her furry family members.
“Her improvement is remarkable,” Zac shares. “She has started hopping around when I get home like she is excited to see me. It is a tremendous feeling to see her become more and more happy.”
Extremely fearful dogs who rarely, if at all, know what it’s like to eat from a bowl, play with a toy, walk on a leash or enjoy a hug from a human, are learning and experiencing these seemingly simple things through our life-changing rehabilitation program.
With our skilled team guiding them every step of the way, dogs like Shiva are no longer defined by their tragic pasts. They get a chance to feel what it’s like to be a beloved pet—often for the first time in their lives.
Zac sums it up, “I don’t want a normal dog. I’m not a normal human, nor is anyone in my family. I want a happy dog and I think I’ve got one.”
Shiva and Buddha proudly represent the unconditional love, compassion and resilience of the pit bull terrier breed.
In honor of National Pit Bull Awareness Day on October 24, we celebrate pit bull mixes like Shiva and Buddha—loyal and affectionate dogs whose breed sadly gets a bad reputation.
We encourage you to share Shiva’s story and stories of pit bulls who are incredible ambassadors for their often-misunderstood breed—dogs who are resilient, compassionate and have no less love to give than any other dog.
Behind every animal rescued and every happy ending at the ASPCA is a generous friend like you. Please help us find loving homes for animals—and make more second chances possible—with your special gift today.
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