CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — When an extremely pregnant, sick and scarred dog arrived at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter in 2017, she sadly resembled many other dogs that have come through the doors.
But the dog, now named Yuri, struck a deep chord with one of the shelter’s deputy dog wardens.
“Something about her squishy face stuck in my mind,” said Deputy Warden Amanda Kopec. “We gave her the treatments she needed, but she still failed to thrive. She was so sad. I spent many meals sitting with her, trying to encourage her to eat. She was taking shelter life hard and I knew it, so I took her home as a foster.”
Fast forward about two years, and Yuri hasn’t only been adopted, but she is thriving and helping other dogs like her socialize and learn so they can find their furevers, too. The story of Yuri and her now-mom, Kopec, is part of a national contest that could win the shelter $25,000 to help other dogs with medical issues just like it did with Yuri.
As of Thursday morning, Yuri and Kopec were in fourth place among dozens across the country in the PetCo Foundation’s Holiday Wishes Grant Campaign. The campaign aims to share ways rescue pets brighten the lives of their owners and to award money to the shelters that helped find them their perfect homes.
According to their contest submission, when Yuri arrived at the shelter, she had pneumonia, a high fever, heartworm and scars along her back and legs. She was also pregnant. She started to recover and eventually had her babies. Unfortunately, they all died due to canine herpes.
“I tried to focus my grief into helping her become the healthiest and most adoptable dog I could, but she still had several tendencies that did not seem normal,” Kopec said in her story. “I was unable to call her over when she wasn’t looking at me. If she didn’t see me coming and I reached out to pet her, she would startle and spin.”
After veterinary testing, it was determined she had many neurological tendencies that caused her to wobble and pace. She was also deaf.
But Kopec and Yuri pushed on.
Several months later, Kopec started to take Yuri to the shelter for day trips and to take part in the playgroup program, which aims to get all shelter dogs playing and socializing with each other every day. When many dogs come to the shelter, they may not be socialized, they might be afraid of other dogs or they might have other issues due to neglect and abuse.
“She became a helper dog and full on playgroup rock star, and she helped dog after dog learn to be social and compatible with other canines,” Kopec said.
After a year of being Kopec’s foster, Yuri became her furever.
“Not only is she the perfect dog, but she has ignited my passion to give every dog a chance, every day,” Kopec said in her story. “Yuri gave me the confidence to learn the tools I needed to be able to teach dogs with severe medical and behavioral issues. She and I work as a team to rehabilitate dogs and give them the social skills they need to be adopted. She has shown me that differences don’t equal disabilities, and dogs only need a little time and patience to thrive. To this day she is not only a playgroup rock star, but also a rock star in my heart.”
And if her story wins, the $25,000 will go to the shelter’s medical fund, which pays for lifesaving treatment for incoming dogs like Yuri.
“I don’t say I rescued Yuri,” said Kopec. “I think Yuri was the one that found me when I needed her the most. She gave me a purpose: to do what I love and to help those dogs who cannot help themselves.”
For Yuri’s story and to vote, click here.