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A Home for Paw-Paw, a.k.a. Stevie

Part Two
Read Part One, here.

Denise Ivanoff’s account of her Broadway Barks experience:

Move On – Ready to Adopt

After we lost our beloved cocker spaniel, Ginger, in the fall of 2010, my husband and I knew we wanted to have a dog in our lives again. We went to several events, including Broadway Barks 2013. It was our first time attending, and it was wonderful because we were able to see a variety of dogs from so many different shelters. We learned more about several different breeds from some of the breed rescues in attendance. We also had a chance to learn about the different shelters and rescue organizations.

We set criteria for our search. For example, we decided we were definitely going to get a female dog, because my husband felt that Ginger had been the perfect dog for us, and getting another female would increase our chances of repeating that great experience.  Also, because we own our condo and don’t have size restrictions, we decided we should definitely get a larger dog, to give a chance to a dog who might otherwise be banned in a lot of apartment buildings.

Our condo also happens to be on the top floor, and our building has no elevator. Personal preferences aside, we needed a dog who could walk up and down stairs, and although we wanted a larger dog, it had to be small enough that I could carry it downstairs to the vet in an emergency. We also have no yard, so we either needed a dog who did not need a ton of exercise, or one who got along well with other dogs and could go to the dog park.

Finally, we had decided on an adult dog. Puppies are cute but they are a lot of work. Adult dogs can bond and be trained just as puppies can, but with an adult dog you have a good chance of getting one who is already housebroken, crate-trained, socialized, and who has had some obedience training. People think that if an adult dog is in a shelter, there must be something wrong with it, but very often they’re in there for no reason other than unfortunate circumstances. Also, with an adult dog there are no surprises about final size and energy level, and they’re done teething!

Putting it Together – Broadway Barks 2013

I arrived early to meet up with some friends who are fellow Broadway enthusiasts and dog-lovers, and we had a great time getting autographs and photos, especially knowing that the proceeds go to help more animals get adopted. After lunch at Junior’s, we started looking at the dogs as the shelters began to arrive. I fell in love with all of them at first sight, as is typical of me, so I mainly tried to take note of dogs who were especially responsive to me. There were a few that stood out, including a little guy from Animal Haven who was a bit people-shy but let me pet him anyway. His name was Paw-Paw, and he was just such an obvious gentle cuddlebug. I love to really hug and cuddle my dogs, but he was so little, about 15 pounds, and we had already decided to find a larger female dog, so I kept looking.

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Eventually my husband joined me and we looked at every single dog. We found several female dogs who were really receptive to our cuddles, could navigate stairs, and whom the shelters said could get along with dogs and kids. (We don’t have kids but our block has a lot of kid and dog action, and it’s nice to have a dog we can bring along when we visit Long Island cousins who have a Westie and a young son.) We found several dogs that were large enough to be banned by some apartments, but if they ever got sick or hurt, they were still small enough that I would be able to carry them up and down the stairs.

We ultimately put in our applications or gave our email addresses for about five dogs, some Cocker Spaniels and some mixes.  Our last stop was the Animal Haven table, where I showed Paw-Paw to my husband. “I know he’s too little,” I said, “but see how sweet he is?” Paw-Paw was looking very sad, and one of the people working at the table said that he was nervous around new people and was slow to warm up, but would eventually. On cue, Paw-Paw came over to me, put his little paws on my chest (he was standing on a table), and began giving me doggie kisses, first tentatively, and then enthusiastically. Even though he was a male and smaller than we had planned on, they said he could go up stairs, and he wasn’t aggressive with kids, dogs, or cats. They also mentioned that he never barked, which is a great bonus if you live in an apartment or condo! We decided to fill out an application for him, too, and leave it up to fate. When the Broadway performers began bringing dogs up to the stage, I stood next to the Animal Haven table so I could pet Paw-Paw while I watched. I felt sad to say good-bye to him, and I privately hoped that Animal Haven would call me first.

It’s a Hit! – The Winner Is…

The next day, I got a call from Animal Haven about Paw-Paw. I was really surprised to get a call on a Sunday, and also overjoyed that they did call me first! I had already provided references and prior vet information, so I only needed to find and fax or email a copy of proof that we owned our condo. (You can also be in the process of paying it off or have a rental lease that indicates you can have pets.) My husband was away at a Yankees game, and I had no idea where we kept such documentation, nor did I know how our scanner/fax/printer worked. However, my motivation overcame my administrative incompetence, and I found what I needed and got it emailed to them.  By the end of that day, someone from Animal Haven called and said that they had several people apply to adopt Paw-Paw, but they thought we would be the best fit!

Although we were approved on Sunday, we decided that Wednesday would be the best day to pick him up because he is sensitive, and we were using our apartment as a rehearsal venue Tuesday evening. Animal Haven warned me that Paw-Paw could shut down for as long as a couple of weeks. It was great having a couple of days to prepare, because I was able to go get a bed and a couple of toys. We also set up a crate, and I asked Animal Haven what he had been eating so he would have his familiar food right away. I had a soft-sided cat carrier that I cleaned up, and I used that to bring him home on Wednesday.

When I got Paw-Paw home and opened up the carrier in the living room, he wouldn’t come out. It was a strange place for him, and I think the sights and sounds in the subway had frightened him, too. I put some water and a little food just outside his carrier and went about my day, trying to move especially calmly and talking to Paw-Paw softly every now and then. After about an hour he ventured out a couple of steps for his water, and then before long he decided it was time to explore!

By that evening he was comfortable in his new home, and he was friendly and wanted to be close to me. He was nervous around my husband at first, but after a few days my husband was getting happy greetings when he came home from work.

Perfect Relationships – A New Start

We thought that Paw-Paw should get a new name along with his new start. My husband thought that Paw-Paw looked like Stephen Sondheim. I didn’t see the resemblance, but Mr. Sondheim is our favorite Broadway composer, and we did meet Paw-Paw at Broadway Barks. We decided that our new addition would now be Stephen Joshua Sondheim, Jr., a.k.a. Stevie.

paw_02We also learned that Stevie had been rescued from an animal hoarder. At first he had some idiosyncrasies that we couldn’t figure out. He would take one bite of food at a time from his bowl and carry it to the carpet (yuck!). He also peed on things like our dirty clothes (we learned not to leave them on the floor, duh) and our bed. But, eventually, he learned that it was safe to eat, and he began eating normally. Also, after about a month, we settled into a walk schedule that worked for us all, and the accidents stopped.

Although we didn’t experience a two-week shutdown, we did think that Stevie didn’t really know how to play. After a few weeks, though, he started to chase toys when we threw them, and he began picking up his toys and bringing them to us. Now he loves running around with us, and playing a couple of times a day.  He also now barks a bit, but just little “woof” sounds when he plays. He doesn’t bark loudly or yap, which is great!

That’s not to say that he isn’t on the alert, protecting us. When the first snow of the winter started to melt, our building was apparently overdue for a roof repair. At about 2:00 in the morning, Stevie started nuzzling my face. It was unusual behavior for him, as he normally just sleeps peacefully all night at our feet or sometimes between us, so I tried to ignore it. Then he started pawing at my chest and licking my face. I woke up enough to hear some sort of noise coming from the living room. I went to investigate, and saw that a leak had developed on the ceiling and was dripping onto some papers, making a repetitive “splat.” I woke my husband and we went around, getting buckets, checking for other leaks (we found a couple more), and we called the roofer the next morning. Our next-door neighbors were out of town, but since nobody detected their leak, it soaked through and destroyed the ceiling of the people beneath them. Stevie proved that his little size and quiet voice wouldn’t stop him from alerting us to danger!

Unlike some adult dogs, Stevie hadn’t had a great start with socialization because of his beginnings as a member of a big hoard. We’ve been working on that and have been persistent in getting Stevie accustomed to new dogs and people. All our on-street dog owners have noticed that he has made a lot of progress in the last seven months. He used to be scared of all the neighbor dogs, and now he has happy sniffing interactions with all but the most overbearing dogs.  He also used to shy away from strangers, but now he is sniffing hands. The snowy winter hasn’t helped our progress, since people are in a hurry and Stevie isn’t a fan of the snow, but in the spring we’ll go back to our program of longer walks and saying hi to people and a wider circle of dogs.  An adult dog can still be socialized; it just takes a little more time and work than if they grow up with it.

The Glamorous Life

Life with Stevie is wonderful! He waits politely for us to wake up and when we do, he greets us with a wagging tail and doggie kisses, and is rewarded with lots of belly rubbing. He’s really aware of us, and what we’re doing! For example, when I meditate, unlike other times when I sit down when he sometimes tries to get me to play, he comes and rests his head on my lap and stays perfectly still until I’m done, as if he is meditating with me! My schedule changes from day to day, and he is so laid-back about it. If he has to go in his crate for a few hours, he just sleeps on the bed I put in there, and saves his play for my return. I think it bothers me to be separated more than it bothers him! If I’m home all day, he lets me accomplish things but is always ready for some cuddling or play, too. Every night, he gets to go to sleep on a silk pillowcase right next to my head, and when he was showing some signs of food allergies, one of the things I tried was duck, from the butcher. I tell him he’s spoiled by luxury, but the truth is, he spoils us with companionship! We’re very lucky to have Stevie in our lives and we will be forever grateful to Broadway Barks for bringing us together and to Animal Haven for choosing us.

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By Denise Ivanoff

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Enjoy Broadway Barks every day of the year! Our Broadway Barks 2014 Calendar is available for purchase online!

Filled with photos of some of the celebrities who have participated in Broadway Barks (Michael CerverisPeter GallagherSean HayesAnjelica HustonJeremy JordanAngela LansburyNathan LaneLea MicheleMary Tyler MooreBebe NeuwirthBernadette PetersDavid Hyde PierceAndrew Rannells, and Jo Anne Worley), along with lucky dogs and cats who found new homes at Broadway Barks, this limited-edition calendar is a keepsake that will make you smile every time you look at it. It’s a great gift idea, too, so you’ll probably want to purchase additional copies for family members and friends.

All proceeds from calendar sales will be used by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals to help save the lives of NYC’s homeless pets.