Hello, I’m Ali — a member of Team MUTTS and a new fur mom to this little bundle of joy! Ziggy was born on June 18, 2021 and adopted on October 8 from the Humane Society of Highlands County in Sebring, Florida (about a two-hour drive south of Orlando, where I live). He's part pittie, part husky, part who-knows-what-else, and 100% adorable.
My husband Zach and I decided to get a puppy after the passing of my dog Jager, who I’d known and cared for all 14 years of his life, since he was two months old and I was just 18. Losing him was devastating, but I'd sensed for some time that we were reaching the end of our journey together, and I knew that I wanted another set of paws in our house after his were gone.
We were also hoping to find a compatible friend for our younger dog Holly, a shy but playful girl who had always looked to Jager for guidance and companionship. It was evident after he passed that she was grieving, too.
Our old friend left us in early August, and I started tentatively browsing Petfinder in September, knowing we would be ready to welcome a new pup into our home sometime later in the fall. (I planned to travel to New England for a family vacation — arranged long before any of this — in October, and I wanted to be back and settled in before making the leap.)
The first time I saw Ziggy, I was in an Airbnb near Newport, Rhode Island, enjoying my morning coffee while scrolling through adoptable animals on my phone. I paused when I came across a photo of a brown and white puppy with two different-colored eyes. I scanned the description and learned that he would be available for adoption on October 7, the day after I returned to Florida. “Hmm,” I thought. “Maybe.”
I tossed my phone onto the bed and went to get ready for the day. I walked a few steps to the bathroom, picked up my toothbrush, stared in the mirror, and turned right back around. Within minutes, I’d contacted the number listed on Ziggy's profile and had a blank adoption application sitting in my email inbox.
I filled out most of the form while on a guided tour around Newport. With the salty ocean breeze blowing in from the open trolley windows, I typed out answers on my phone:
What other pets do you have? "One 10-year-old kitty named Ava, and one five-year-old Blue Heeler named Holly." Do you have a dedicated veterinarian? "Yes." May we contact them? "Yes." Have you ever had a pet euthanized? "Yes …" Where will your pet spend the day? "I work from home and am available all day for puppy training, potty breaks, treats, and hugs and kisses."
I sent the application that evening, and the next day I received a call from a shelter worker named Alex, who told me the application was approved and that the only thing left to do was send a deposit to "claim" Ziggy as our own.
I texted Zach, who was back at home, and let him know. I asked, "Did you tell Holly?" He responded, "Yes, of course. We're both excited."
I flew home on a Wednesday and on Friday, October 8, Zach loaded up the car with a puppy-sized dog carrier, blankets, and a travel bag for Holly. (We'd asked the folks at the shelter if it was okay to bring her along to the adoption, and they said yes.) The plan was for Zach and Holly to make the trip together; in the meantime, I'd get the house ready between work meetings. As they headed out the door I shouted, "Send lots of pictures!"
At the shelter, Zach learned about Ziggy's story: His mother was a pittie whose "guardian" had attempted to breed a litter of pitskies (a mixture of pit bull and husky), but was not remotely equipped to care for the mother dog or her puppies. Sadly, Ziggy was one of the only pups from the litter who survived, and the person ultimately brought him and his siblings to the shelter after realizing they needed professional care.
Zach also discovered that Ziggy was adored at the shelter. Being sick in the early weeks of his life meant he received lots of close attention and TLC, and his caretakers had grown attached. After Zach signed the adoption papers, they sent Ziggy off to his forever home with a loving, tearful goodbye.
Ziggy acclimated to our family, and revealed his intelligence and gentleness, right away. After a tour and sniff-test of our house, he chose his favorite spots to play and nap: under the dining room table, on a rug next to the record player, and curled up with Holly in her bed.
Although Holly welcomed him politely, it seemed to take her a couple of days to understand that he was here to stay. In less than a week, though, they were romping through the house and wrestling in the backyard like longtime friends.
Ziggy is an observant and fast learner. He enjoys watching TV, and when we go on evening walks, he pauses in front of houses that have decorative lights, tilts his head to the side, and stares until we remind him that there are more sights and smells to explore. He learned how to sit on his first day with us, and since then he has figured out how to shake paws, sit up, and lie down, and he knows how to "boop" a training bell on the door to let us know when he needs to go outside.
I believe he enjoys being a member of our pack. His tail stops wagging only when he's asleep, and it is clear that he looks up to Holly in nearly every way, just as she once did with her first brother.
As anyone who's lost an animal likely understands, it is hard to untangle my “new” feelings for Ziggy with my continued love (is there a word for something deeper than love?) for Jager. My old pal is so much more than a prequel to this new adventure, and Ziggy — who has filled our home with renewed joy — is not defined by his predecessor. Still, their stories are intertwined, and I know it will take more time to ease that tangly feeling in my heart. But if anything can straighten things out, it’s surely more love.
Ali Datko is the Director of Digital Marketing at MUTTS. You can follow her adventures with Ziggy on Instagram at @zigthepitsky.