Inspired by one dog to adopt another

Shauna Stewart loved Honeydew, the dog she adopted from the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Atlanta, and when Honeydew passed away from lymphoma, it left a hole in her heart. The only way she could fill it, Shauna decided, was to adopt a senior dog or another dog who may have been overlooked.

When she was ready, Shauna returned to the center, hoping to find an older dog who would get along well with her mastiff, Moose, who came with her that day. They met a few senior dogs, but none seemed to be the right fit. Shauna shifted her search by agreeing to meet to younger dogs who had been at the center longer than others, but still, no luck.

She was about to call it a day when a center volunteer suggested an introduction to a dog named Hazelnut. She might not have been what Shauna thought she was looking for, especially considering some of her struggles, but she ended up being just the right fit for the little family.

Woman in a purple jacket leaning in to kiss black and white dog

Peanut butter and patience

The key to a successful visit with Hazelnut was all about the location. While she was happy and friendly outside of her kennel, she had a hard time adjusting to a shelter setting. And who can blame her? She was frustrated in her kennel, and it was a struggle to leash her up to take her out because in her excitement she’d bite at the leash. The best way to safely get a leash on her was to distract her with a spoonful of peanut butter, so that’s what they did. They also made some other concessions to help Hazelnut during her stay at the center that would eventually help her into a new home.

Woman sitting on the couch with a black and white dog sleeping on her lap

Rope toys and relationship building

“To help her feel less stressed, the team moved Hazelnut to a quieter area of the building with limited foot traffic from animals or humans,” says Daniel Prendergast, adoptions and caregiving lead for Best Friends in Atlanta. “We also came up with a plan to help Hazelnut make positive associations with the leash, which she often tried to bite.”

Rope toys were especially beneficial for Hazelnut, who learned to carry one in her mouth during her walks. This stopped her from biting the leash, but what helped her the most, says Daniel, was building a one-on-one relationship with staff and volunteers.

Hazelnut made quite an entrance when she first met Shauna and Moose. “A little meatball-looking dog came bounding straight to my gut,” says Shauna. “She sat in my lap as I gave her pets and lovies. For Moose, even after the excitement with all the other dogs, this meet-and-greet went very well.”

Hazelnut’s hard work learning leash skills and manners paid off. Once again, Shauna decided to open her home to the dog who needed her the most, just like when she’d adopted Honeydew from the center. While Shauna could never replace her last senior pup, all the love she once gave to Honeydew, she could now give to Hazelnut.

Dog care and training resource

Two dogs sleeping and snuggling together on a couch

Look past a dog’s physical characteristics

Hazelnut acclimated quickly in her new home and became fast friends with Moose, who happily showed her the ropes.

Shauna takes Hazelnut for long walks to further develop her leash skills, and she’s also training her to ring a bell attached to the door when she needs to go outside to potty. Hazelnut also knows basic cues and will wait politely to eat until it’s her turn.

For her part, Hazelnut is teaching Shauna patience. “The laughs and cuddles make it all worthwhile. A little work, patience, and love really does go a long way,” says Shauna, who has some advice for fellow adopters. “Never pass up a dog based on looks or how they are in the shelter. You never know what kind of family member you could be missing out on."

Adopt a dog near you

Woman sitting on a couch with a black and white dog lying in her lap as she pets her

Best Friends in Atlanta works collaboratively with area shelters, animal welfare organizations and individuals to save the lives of pets in shelters in the region. The Best Friends Lifesaving Center is a hub for animals and a base for local programming and coalition-building to help the metro-Atlanta area in its final push to achieve no-kill, while strengthening the movement in the Southeast. Together, we will Save Them All. 

Photos courtesy of Shauna Stewart