Pet Tales: A tale of brotherly love

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Two spotted puppies huddled together on a dog bed in a Philadelphia shelter, front legs wrapped around each other in an almost-human embrace. Plucked from the streets as skinny and sickly strays, one pup is blind and the other seems to act as his guide dog. Operation Ava got 246 "likes" when volunteers posted their story and the picture on the no-kill shelter's Facebook page.

Television personality Ryan Seacrest shared the picture, and then it went viral with millions of views on social media. Operation Ava got calls from all over the world, and 10,000 people telephoned or emailed to say they wanted to adopt the puppies that volunteers named Jermaine and Jeffrey. They think the two are brothers, about 8 months old, and are pit bull-Labrador retriever mixes.

The brothers were rescued Oct. 5 and needed weeks of care to reach proper weight and good health. Veterinary bills were "several thousand dollars," said Claudia Gutierrez, CEO of Operation Ava. Veterinarians say Jeffrey was born blind, but think he might see some light and shadow with one of his eyes.

Jermaine and Jeffrey are so devoted to each other that no one would ever think of separating them, said Ms. Gutierrez, who founded Operation Ava in 2009 with her husband, Ira Goldfurb, and their daughters Ava and Lexie. They've found homes for 4,000 dogs and cats.

Operation Ava's first requirement was a family that would adopt both. Jeffrey gets along just fine with the help of Jermaine, and both are "happy little boys" with "playful, gentle natures," she said.

Just in time for Thanksgiving dinner, Jermaine and Jeffrey were adopted by a Philadelphia couple, Jonathan Hochman and Veronica McKee.

"We had been talking about adopting a pair of shelter dogs," Mr. Hochman said. "When we heard about Jermaine and Jeffrey, we just knew they'd be a perfect fit for our family. We're honored to have been chosen."

"Jermaine and Jeffrey are helping to raise awareness" that there are many homeless animals that would make loving and wonderful pets, Ms. Gutierrez said. "A lot of people interested in Jeffrey and Jermaine have signed up to adopt a special-needs pet."

Protect and serve in Newtown

Saint Michael is watching over Newtown, Conn., as residents today mark the one-year anniversary of the day that 20 students and six educators were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

This Saint Michael is a 2-year-old German shepherd -- a K-9 officer named for the patron saint of police officers and soldiers. He replaces Baro, 10, who served and protected Newtown residents for eight years, and was on duty on Dec. 14, 2012, at the scene of the tragedy. When Baro died last June of natural causes, there was no money in the town budget to replace him.

Saint Michael arrived on the scene thanks to $14,250 in donations and grants from Connecticut residents and dog lovers with direct links to the American Kennel Club. The biggest donation was $5,000 from AKC Reunite Canine Support and Relief Fund Search and Rescue.

A ceremony called Baro's Last Ride was held Sept. 19 to honor that dog's service. Officers Felicia Figol and Matt Hayes of Newtown's K-9 unit led a procession that included 30 K-9 dogs and handlers from around Connecticut. Saint Michael rode in a police car that drove slowly through town, ending at the Newtown Municipal Center, where the new dog was sworn in as an officer.

Pets and cars

In a one-stop-shopping event today, you can buy a car and adopt a pet thanks to a partnership between the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center and Kenny Ross Subaru in Irwin. At least eight cats and four dogs from the shelter will be at the dealership at 11331 U.S. 30 (15642) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The promotion is part of Subaru of America's "Share the Love." For every Subaru purchased or leased through Jan. 2, Subaru will donate $250 to the buyer's choice of charities, one of which is American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

You can bring your own pets to the dealership today to get a free microchip and free holiday pet photos. Bring cash donations for the Larimer shelter or an item from www.animalrescue.org/donation-wishlist and spin the prize wheel to win something.

"We have over 900 animals that desperately need homes," said ARL executive director Dan Rossi.

Dealership president Jimmy Ross said, "Rescuing animals has always been a priority" in his family. "We have shared our home with as many as six dogs at one time," all adopted from ARL.

Charity beard-growing

Financial advisers are growing beards to raise money for Animal Friends in Ohio Township, and more than $62,000 has been raised so far.

LPL Financial has raised half of the team's $50,000 goal. Go to www.crowdrise.com/lplfinancial to see the beards and make a donation.

Animal Friends board member Robert Fragasso and the guys at Fragasso Financial Advisors are also doing this. Go to the Fragasso Financial Advisors Facebook page to see the beards and donate.

Home for the holidays

You might be able to adopt a dog or cat and have it delivered to your home Christmas morning if you meet the adoption guidelines at Animal Rescue League in Larimer. Camp Bow Wow in Highland Park is sponsoring the deliveries. Call 412-345-7300, ext. 240.

Going to the dogs

Four people will be living with shelter dogs at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society from 10 a.m. today through 5 p.m. Sunday. And yes, they will be staying there all night tonight.

Volunteers Kim Lenz, Tammy Merjanian and Lisa Stefanowicz came up with the idea to hang out with four dogs that are "long-timers" at the North Side shelter. Its executive director, David Janusek, decided to join them. They hope to raise awareness about dogs that have been overlooked by adopters so far. And in the process they are collecting donations.

Here are the dogs they've singled out and when they came to the shelter: Tasha, 3, pit bull mix, July 5; Miss B., 4, Labrador retriever/pit bull mix, June; Ziggy, 3, pit bull mix, early August; and Kisser, 4, Labrador retriever mix, early September.

The dogs and the people will be meeting and greeting shelter visitors today and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to petpoints@post-gazette.com. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.

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