If only Hallmark Christmas movies could be so good.
When Shelby Joyce opened her phone one morning last week to check on the news, she saw a Cowboy State Daily story about a dog with a lopsided head that no one wanted.
Martha, a 2-year-old shepherd/pit bull mix, was a stray that was brought in to an animal rescue facility in Cheyenne earlier this year and, despite graduating from an obedience program with flying colors, she was ignored by dozens of rescuers who opted for different dogs.
This led the staff at Black Dog Animal Rescue to issue a heart-tugging plea for help.
“Wyoming’s homeliest dog set to spend Christmas without a home. Still,” read the statement distributed by the rescue group.
“There is no dog that’s homely,” Shelby Joyce, a resident of Georgetown, Colorado, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “They’re all perfect.”
Perfect or not, the staff at Black Dog felt an imperfection that caused Martha’s face to be crooked was limiting her chances for adoption.
They weren’t sure if it was a birth defect or the result of trauma, but that was likely the reason she didn’t have a home yet.
'I Got Right Out Of Bed'
That spurred Joyce into action. Martha’s 214-day wait for a home was over if she had anything to do with it.
“I got right out of bed,” Joyce said. “It was like 5:30 in the morning and I went to my family room and put in the application for adoption. I didn’t even have my first cup of coffee yet.”
Joyce said there was something about the story that told her that she was predestined to be with Martha.
“I just had this huge feeling that we were supposed to be together,” she said.
Joyce admits it's not an unusual feeling. She wants to save every dog.
"I'm one of those that if I could win the lotto, I'd buy a bunch of land and get a bunch of dogs, save them all," she said.
While she can't do that, at least for now, she thought Martha was in reach.
Joyce said the application started an email conversation between her and Black Dog. Then the email chain led to a phone call.
Come Up For A Visit
She had just left her house and was driving to Denver to do errands when they called to see if she could come up for a visit.
“They asked me if I could make it up to Cheyenne that day and with my dogs,” Joyce said of her 8-year-old pit bull and her 6-year-old pug mix.
“I turned around immediately, picked up my dogs and we drove to Wyoming,” she said of the 2 1/2-hour drive to Cheyenne.
It was love at first sight, Joyce said. It was actually love before then, she clarified.
“It was just in my heart,” she said. “I loved her before I saw her.”
Joyce said she was told there were many applicants for Martha, but they were taking their time “especially in her case” to find the perfect home.
Paige Russell, Marketing and Development Manager for Black Dog, told Cowboy State Daily that Martha's foster caretaker screened the applicants because she had spent so much time with the dog.
"The foster shared that she chose Shelby, because she seems like the friendliest fit," Russell said. "She had everything we were looking for, dog friends, a place to play if Martha wanted, and references that talked about how good she was with her current animals."
Tears of happiness soon followed.
“I was crying when we walked in from the yard and they told me everything was a go,” she said. “They all cheered.”
A Perfect Home
Since that day, Martha has had a good home and, if her many photos are any indication, the future is bright.
Martha appears to be enjoying her new Christmas sweaters and her spot on a bean bag with her now-siblings. She received gobs of toys for Christmas and has an affinity for a stuffed unicorn.
She also gets to go on multiple walks every day with her dog pals, and she can accompany her mom for work occasionally too.
Joyce works in a dog-friendly restaurant in Idaho Springs and Martha, now named “Princess Martha,” will be able to visit.
"She is going to be very spoiled," Joyce said. "Well, actually, she already is."
More Adoptions Needed
Joyce said hopes the story about Princess Martha’s adoption will result in more deserving dogs finding homes.
“There’s all these people spending thousands of dollars for top breeds when you can get an amazing dog at a shelter and give it an incredible home,” she said.
Black Dog Animal Rescue is having an adoption drive at its facility for the rest of December. Adoption fees for adult dogs are reduced by 25%.
Jimmy Orr can be reached at email@example.com.