Big hunk of love dog lands a home

CrossFit Tony in the passenger seat of a car with a hand on him
His nickname is “CrossFit Tony” because he’s super fit, but he’s also sweet, loving and finally in a home of his own after months of false starts.
By Nicole Hamilton

Ask anyone at Best Friends in Atlanta what they think of Tony, and they’ll probably tell you he’s total catch. The handsome brown-and-white dog is as comfortable hanging out on a brewery patio as he is hiking on a trail or cuddling on the couch, but he’s also handsome and fit, hence his nickname, CrossFit Tony.

Just take it from Best Friends specialist Hayley Lampela: “Tony is an absolute gem of a dog,” she says. “He’s just the sweetest hunk.”

You’d think that a dog with such a glowing endorsement wouldn’t stick around Best Friends for long. But Tony tended to get anxious when left alone, making it more difficult to find him a home. Then there’s his size. Simply put, it just takes longer for big dogs to get adopted.

Still, the team at Best Friends knew it was just a matter of time before they found a home for Tony. In the meantime, he attended Best Friends events and quickly became a fan favorite on social media and with volunteers, including Kara Zweizig, who fostered Tony for about four months.

“I know you aren’t supposed to pick favorites,” says Kara. “But Tony is my favorite dog that I’ve fostered.”

An unexpected obstacle and a second chance

Tony proved to be a great houseguest from day one when he went to stay with Kara. Outside, he was full of energy and loved his walks but as soon as he was back inside, he turned into a couch potato. He and Kara explored Atlanta together. Kara took him everywhere she could, including the local brewery and parks. At home, Tony kept Kara company while she worked.

“He frequently made appearances in my video calls, and everyone loved him,” says Kara. “He has a sweet, loving personality and is a bit of a goofball.”

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Then one day, Kara noticed that Tony was uncharacteristically lazy. When he sat down to rest during a short walk, she called the Best Friends team right away. They arranged for her to take Tony to an emergency vet who determined Tony’s spleen had somehow flipped.

There was no clear reason why it happened, but the vet was confident that removing Tony’s spleen would get him back to being an outdoorsman-cuddle bug in no time. “It was a roller coaster of emotions, but we were all just so happy that Tony was getting another chance,” says Kara.

Still, there was something Tony needed help with: separation anxiety. When left alone, he’d bark, whine and sometimes chew things.

After his surgery, it got worse. Eventually, Kara’s neighbors started to complain about the noise coming from her condo when she was gone. One night. she came home to discover that Tony had chewed the bottom of his crate.

“Even if I left for a short period of time and my boyfriend was at the condo, Tony would go lie by the door waiting for me to get back,” says Kara, who set up a camera and tried a few different methods to keep him calm while she wasn’t at home.

Unfortunately, after a couple of complaints from her neighbors to her condo’s homeowner association, Kara contacted Best Friends. Heartbroken, she had to tell them she could no longer foster Tony. But she needn’t have worried. Things were about to fall beautifully into place.

A third foster win

Tessa Carletta Belton is a longtime foster volunteer with Best Friends. She’s also been known to foster-fail (or foster-win as we prefer to say) a couple of times.

Tessa had been admiring Tony from afar, always noticing him at Best Friends adoption events. One of her resident pups had recently passed away, leaving them with just one dog. So, when she learned that Tony needed a new foster home, she offered up hers. The timing just seemed right.

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Tessa talked it over with her husband, Travis, who gave fostering Tony two thumbs up. But when it came to adopting Tony, it was two thumbs down.

Tony went home with them following a couple of successful meet-and-greets with Tony and their dog Lucinda. The plan was to foster him for three weeks. Any more time and Travis worried Tony would never leave.

“He fit in right away,” says Tessa. “It went really well.” It went so well, in fact, that two days after they started fostering Tony, Travis took the three-week rule off the table and was ready to talk adoption.

Tessa still wasn’t sure it was time yet for another foster win. But when a couple of scheduled meet-and-greets with potential adopters didn’t work out, she wondered it was a sign. Maybe Tony was already home.

Watching Tony play with Lucinda and seeing how happy both dogs were to be in each other’s company convinced Tessa that Tony was on his way to becoming a part of the family. “At first, Tony didn’t really know how to play with Lucinda,” says Tessa. “But she taught him her play style. Now they just go and go.”

As for the separation anxiety, Tessa manages it with medication, although it’s getting so much better that the vet is considering reducing the dosage. “He doesn’t have to be crated when we leave anymore and he doesn’t cry when he’s left alone anymore,” says Tessa, who thinks having Lucinda around helps keep him calm. 

Tessa and Travis recently made it official by adopting Tony. CrossFit Tony, the hunk with the legendary smile, has found a home. And although it was high time for him to be adopted, Tessa will tell you that he’s filled the emptiness left when their other dog passed away. “Tony bounced around through no fault of his own,” says Tessa. “But now, we feel so blessed and grateful that he’s a part of our family.”

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