2017-08-24 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“From Homeless to Home Goods” co“From Homeless to Home Goods” could be the title of the movie Hollywood makes about Harley the Basset mix. Not a happy camper at Last Hope in Wantagh three years ago, Harley was adopted by a Brooklyn man who saw his pup potential. Recently Harley was invited to his first Manhattan photo shoot, posing on rugs for an upcoming Home Goods store advertisement.

In May 2014 Harley was a last-minute passenger on a Southern rescue transport headed for Last Hope. Back then I tried to focus on how different he looked in his website adoption blurb which read:

“Harley” was a hitchhiker. He came from a neighboring Kentucky shelter but bummed a ride on a Bowling Green, Kentucky shelter transport to Last Hope on Long Island. He’s a comical-looking fellow with Basset legs and a Rhodesian Ridgeback head and chassis. He even has the faint outline of the ridge. This happy hound combo is about a year old and weighs 43 pounds. Our effervescent boy is looking for folks who will thoroughly appreciate his uniqueness as much as he appreciates them.”

Ego at his photo shoot for a Home Goods print ad. Ego at his photo shoot for a Home Goods print ad. Truth be told, hitching a ride probably saved Harley’s life, because shelters in the rural South are overflowing with dogs. Shelter euthanasia figures have decreased significantly since working with Northeast rescues. Most transports rely on volunteer drivers meeting the dogs at various spots along the route north, and driving two-to three-hour legs until the dogs are picked up by their receiving shelters. Our closest rendezvous points used to be in CT, NJ or Portchester, NY. Now certain transports meet Last Hope dog chauffeurs in Long Island City.

Bowling Green is the only Southern shelter Last Hope partners with to have a large transport van. Nearby Kentucky shelters try to squeeze a few of their dogs onto that van when there is a cancellation. Sometimes scheduled dogs get sick and are pulled from the run. County shelters in poor areas of Kentucky are overcrowded with discarded dogs that are highly adoptable on LI; but some of these shelters are not as fortunate to have rescue partners in the Northeast. Sending a few hound hitch hikers, like Harley, is the best they can do.

Harley had been at his Kentucky sending shelter over a month before coming to Last Hope around Memorial Day 2014. He stayed with us all summer because, despite his comical conformation, he didn’t kennel well. Such behavior becomes a deterrent to potential adopters. He’d try to get out of the run as soon as the chain came off, and was difficult to coax back in after walks. Still a pup, he’d nip at volunteers’ ankles when they walked him.

Harley (now Ego) at Last Hope in 2014 Harley (now Ego) at Last Hope in 2014 Two volunteers tried walking him with two leashes pulling in different directions but that tactic only doubled his ankle targets. Our behaviorist wouldn’t evaluate him until he had his back checked by a vet. If she touched him there, he’d whip his head around to bite her. Harley went to Buddy training classes at Last Hope but the longer he stayed, the more frustrated and rambunctious he became. He wasn’t a good choice for a family with young kids.

Harley’s life changed dramatically when Dan Melnick came to Last Hope and announced he wanted to adopt the “funniest-looking dog” we had. Harley and Dan clicked. On Aug. 25 Harley went home to Brooklyn with Dan. His fiancé suggested the new name “Ego” because his head was so big. Turns out the name is perfect because it describes Harley’s attitude as well as foreshadows his show biz side. The name “Ego” has an elitist edge similar to the name “Uno” belonging to the Westminster winning Beagle.

Dan sent Last Hope several photos with good progress reports for Ego. At first he worked from home as a music promoter so Ego and he were together most of the time. Now Dan works at an office for Sonic Bids an online platform that helps bands get gigs, and people book bands. Ego goes to work with him once a week, but Dan senses Ego is disappointed it can’t be more often.

Dan’s friend invited Ego to the Home Goods photo shoot. Two weeks ago car service picked up Ego and his Dad to whisk them to a Manhattan loft in Midtown. Several other dogs were there for the ad photos including a mini Doxie and a Miniature American Shepherd (aka mini Aussie) puppy. Ego was the only mixed breed. Before starting, the dogs spent time playing so they’d get to know each other and expend some excess energy. The Aussie puppy kept “beating up” Ego but that was fine because he loves being around puppies.

The shoot took about three hours. As you can see in one of the photos, Ego balanced his Basset body in a begging position atop Home Goods rugs. Ego had a ball hamming it up and came home exhausted from his first advertising session.

I’ve written about other rescue dogs doing commercial promos but Ego is different in a significant way. In 2015 my Charlotte an English Toy Spaniel mix and Ripley a Cockapoo, both Babylon Shelter alumni, were treated to a three course meal prepared by renowned Chef Jean-Georges for a Bon Appétit online video. Jasmine an Afghan Hound rescue appeared on the Today Show during an interview with Kevin Hart about the film “The Secret Life of Pets.” She was the only dog not to wander off the set.

And the name “Harley” must be charmed because back in 2005, Harley an American Bulldog adopted from Babylon Shelter began his career by modeling Waggin’ Wear. This led to Harley being chosen to star in a Burger King commercial advertising the kids’ meal tie-in to the “Cat in the Hat” movie. Harley followed up by doing an adoption promotion at Babylon Shelter with a volunteer dressed in a Cat in the Hat costume, and a visit with the third graders at my elementary school.

Charlotte, Ripley, Jasmine and Harley the American Bulldog are cooperative canines (even though I had to lie on the floor holding Charlotte’s leash while her gourmet meal was served so she wouldn’t bolt to look for me). In contrast, Harley now Ego was a difficult dog while in rescue. However, he was adopted by Dan, the right person, and transformed by love and consistency into the best dog he could be. Visit Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) or Last Hope (631- 671-2588) to find your own furry superstar and best friend.

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