HELENA â€“ Each year, hundreds of animals are adopted at the Lewis and Clark County Humane Society.
Most of the animals are only with the shelter for a few weeks or months before they find their forever homes, but for some it may take years.
Tony is a 5 year-old mixed-breed that first came to the humane society almost 4 years ago.
Tony suffers from separation anxiety and becomes very stressed out when left alone for any amount of time.
Dog program coordinator Rebecca Howard says that the first time Tony came in to the shelter he was so thin they had to make turkey popsicles so that he was able to eat.
During his time at the shelter Tony has had three unsuccessful adoption attempts and after each time he was brought back to at the shelter his anxiety got worse.
â€śHe was very stressed out,â€ť said Howard, â€śHeâ€™s a good dog and he didnâ€™t understand being left behind again.â€ť
According to Humane Society staff some dogs donâ€™t do well in a kennel situation.
â€śSome dogs do great here,â€ť said Howard, â€śThey come in and theyâ€™re like hey friends and they have the best time in play groups. We have a lot of support from our community and from our volunteers and we all just try and do our best but for some dogs itâ€™s just really hard on them.â€ť
When Tony was brought into the shelter most recently he had an injured leg that required surgery.
Shelter staff desperately tried to find a home for Tony and launched a Facebook campaign to get him adopted.
For a time only a few people showing interest in adopting Tony and the staff began to worry about his future.
Then they got a phone call from Cassidy Cook who was not only interested but said she would do whatever it takes to do what was best for Tony which included moving homes.
â€śWe couldnâ€™t believe someone was so seriously interested because she was living in a place where she couldnâ€™t have dogs and said so what Iâ€™m just going to move,â€ť said Howard.
Cook says a coworker shared Tonyâ€™s story on Facebook in April and she fell in love with him.
Initially Cook tried to find a home for Tony with her family and friends before deciding to adopt him herself.
â€śFinally I just had a moment and said You know what, I know that I can take care of this dog,â€ť said Cook, â€śIâ€™ve raised dogs before and had a dog with separation anxiety, but not this severe. I know that if I adopt this dog I will not leave himâ€ť
Cook spent months working with Tony to slowly build trust with him and help ease him into his new home.
At night Tony would come home with Cook and during the day heâ€™d stay with the staff at the humane society.
One evening Cook wasnâ€™t able to bring Tony home with her due to travel and she says thatâ€™s when she knew without a doubt they were meant to be together.
â€śI was sitting alone and thought I really miss Tony,â€ť said Cook, â€śThatâ€™s when I knew I belonged to him.â€ť
On Tuesday July 31 Cook officially signed the adoption paperwork and took Tony home full-time.
Tony still needs a lot of work with his separation anxiety but according to Cook he is a completely different dog not that heâ€™s found his home.
â€śHeâ€™s kind of lazy and loves to lay in the sunlight,â€ť said Cook, â€śThere are all these things that were happening in a shelter environment that he doesnâ€™t exhibit at home.â€ť
Cook added that adopting Tony was just the right thing to do and now she couldnâ€™t imagine her life without him.
â€śIt was just my way of trying my best to put some good out into the world,â€ť said Cook.
Howard says Cook is by far the most committed adoption candidate sheâ€™s ever seen but Tonyâ€™s story of improvement outside the shelter isnâ€™t uncommon.
â€śReally when you come in and get a dog from us, putting in the work is whatâ€™s going to turn this dog into the best dog youâ€™ve ever had,â€ť said Howard, â€śThere are so many stories of people coming in, getting a dog that had a couple problems, they put the work in and then 2 months down the road theyâ€™re calling us to say this is the best dog theyâ€™re ever had.â€ť
As of August 3 the Humane Society has over 20 dogs at their facility that are in need of a forever home.
For more information about the animals available for adoption or to make a donation visit here.