By Anne Neville, Buffalo News
This is a love story, but it's not between a person and a dog.
Picked up as a stray, Hope was near death and "skin and bones" when she came to the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, says volunteer Tanya Dyryanka of Buffalo, who fosters animals who need special care or just don't thrive in a shelter environment.
"Everybody said I was crazy when I took her to foster, because she had never even been in a home," says Dyryanka. "But she caught on so quickly." One of the important lessons Hope had to learn was how to interact with other dogs. "She loved them, but she would just run up to them and jump on them, which wasn't good," Dyryanka says. While Hope put on some weight and learned house manners, she also played with another young dog, another black pit bull named Esteban, who was being fostered by a friend of Dyryanka. The two loved to romp and wrestle together.
Dyryanka had had Hope for about three months when she got a text from Melody Halligan of Sloan, whose dog, Sam, had died at age 14.
After Sam's death, Halligan felt it was too soon to open her heart to another animal, but her daughter, Shannon Bailey, urged her to go to the SPCA Serving Erie County "just to look." They saw a dog they liked, but when they returned a few days later, that dog was being walked by a prospective adopter. Although they left without the dog, Halligan realized she was ready to adopt again. She went home and searched petfinder.com, where many rescue groups and shelters post photos of adoptable animals. There she saw Hope.
"I kept coming back to her face," says Halligan. "I'd look through all the animals, and I kept coming back to Hope."
Halligan was glad not to have to go through house-training and puppy problems with the 2-year-old dog. But there was something appealing in her face. She "just looked like she needed a family," Halligan says.
It was love at first sight when Halligan, her boyfriend Ron Swan and her son, Jordan, met Hope. "We fell in love instantly," says Halligan.
At home, Halligan found that Hope "was very needy. She glued herself to my side and always needed affection and attachment." Three weeks after adopting Hope, Halligan contacted Dyryanka again -- this time to ask about a second dog. "I asked if there was anybody there who would be a good match for her."
Little did Halligan know that there was a not only a good match, but a perfect match for Hope. "I was ecstatic, because Esteban was still looking for a home," says Dyryanka. "They always got along so well, they were just attached at the hip. Hope is a sweet girl, but she's high-energy, and Esteban is a really mellow boy, so I knew he'd fit right in with her. It was meant to be," says Dyryanka. She and Esteban's foster owner "had even joked about it for so long, saying, 'Wouldn't it be the perfect home to have Hope and Esteban go together?'"
The reunion of the two dogs was joyous. "They were very happy to see each other, running around and chasing each other," says Halligan. "It was like long-lost lovers when they got together, and I said, 'How can I separate them again now?' I said they're reunited now."
Esteban "looks like a little larger version of Hope," says Halligan. "I have pictures of them side by side, and it looks like Me and Mini-Me. I would say 95 percent of the time they get along wonderful, they sleep together, they lay together. At times, Hope gets on Esteban's nerves."
Has the addition of a second dog taken the canine focus off Halligan? "No," she says. "Now the two of them follow me around everywhere. I never had two dogs at one time before, and the whole family is really enjoying them."
In fact, sweet-natured and devoted Hope and Esteban have inspired others who meet them to adopt pit bulls. Halligan's daughter, Shannon Bailey, adopted Bella, a pit bull, and Bailey's boyfriend's father adopted one, too. "We're just a big pit bull family now. I am now absolutely in love with the breed," says Halligan. "I think they are just wonderful, very loving, very loyal dogs."
The amusing pair love to wear clothes, so Hope, who came so close to death months ago, dressed as a pig and her buddy Esteban was a cow for Halloween. "They like to dressed up and be under blankets and get all snuggly." And, she says, "Everywhere we take them, people say, 'Oh they are so cute!'"
The two dogs who met before they had a permanent home can now look forward to being together for the rest of their lives. "I always say this is their love story," says Halligan.
Adoptable animals from the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter can be seen on petfinder.com and from Monday through Saturday at the shelter, 380 N. Oak St. Volunteers also bring adoptable animals to PetSmart, 2101 Elmwood Ave., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Sunday of every month.