Nearly five years ago, Patrick Regan had no job and no home. But when he was approached about finding a home for a pit bull named Clove, something told him to say yes.
Now, thanks to a viral Facebook video, Regan and Clove are known on the internet for their hiking adventures around the country.
This fall, their story got the attention of the Petco Foundation, which is awarding a grant to the Long Island rescue that brought the two together as part of the company’s Holiday Wishes campaign.
“I’m really excited about it for Ruff House Rescue,” Regan, 35, of Lindenhurst, said. “I really wanted to give them something back for all they did for me.”
Petco is awarding $765,000 to 45 animal welfare organizations across the country, chosen based on submitted adopters’ stories. The amount given to Ruff House Rescue, of Freeport, will be revealed at a ceremony Monday in Manhattan.
Regan said he was recovering from opioid addiction and struggling to get back on his feet in July 2013 when he first met Clove through Ruff House. The pit bull had survived suspected dog fighting and was marked for euthanasia in Georgia. Regan said he was so motivated to help Clove that he found an apartment and job so he could care for her.
“He had an instant connection with the dog,” said Ruff House Rescue founder and director Diane Indelicato.
Clove was initially very timid, refusing to even look at Regan until he brought her to Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown for some time at the dog park and a nature walk.
“She all of the sudden came to life there — it was the weirdest thing,” he said. “She was rolling around in the grass like she was meant to be there.”
Though he had never been much of a hiker, Regan said he saw how much the outdoors helped Clove open up and found he enjoyed pushing himself to hike, too. He started looking for new trails to climb and parks to visit with Clove, who is now almost 7, on the weekends, working his way up to harder hikes. Clove has especially come to love snowy trails, such as in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, where they’ve already hiked five times this year.
“Getting out in nature, we found a shared thing to motivate both of us,” he said. “Pretty much every weekend, it’s now go time for us.”
He officially got sober on April 10, 2011, around the same time they believe Clove was born. Each year, he celebrates his sobriety and Clove’s birthday that day, usually with some time outside.
Regan started an Instagram account to share their adventures together that has grown to 28,000 followers. He regularly hears from other people struggling with addiction who are inspired by his relationship with Clove and his passion for hiking. Their photos went viral in April when the Facebook page The Dodo shared them in a video that received more than 22 million views.
The exposure helped spur Regan, who now works at a manufacturing company in Farmingdale, to apply to the Petco campaign for Ruff House.
“I had never really looked at our story together as that much of a big deal. It really pushed me to thinking that yeah, we have a shot at this,” he said.
Petco Foundation Executive Director Susanne Kogut said out of thousands of applicants, Regan and Clove were obvious winners. They join nine other winning stories for seven organizations in the metropolitan area.
“To me, Patrick’s is such an obvious one that stands out,” she said. “It’s about them building a life together and it’s a really great life.”