Four dogs — orphaned after COVID-19 claimed the lives of their Plainview owners early this year — are settling into a new Pennsylvania home with barely a ripple of discord, a testament to how exceptionally well they had been loved and cared for, their adopter says.
"It was very clear that their original owner, the young woman, she was obviously a very loving dog mom, because they are very loving; they're becoming very close to me," said Lisa Heath, 57, a real estate appraiser who stepped forward after reading about their plight.
The two black Labs, Oliver, 5, and Isabelle, 4; a possible Chihuahua mix named Izzy, 6; and a brown and white boxer, Winston, 5, previously all lived with Jennifer Stein and her father, Barry Stein, according to the SPCA.
The SPCA took the dogs in temporarily, thinking the family would recover; when they did not, Maria Mora, the nonprofit's executive director, was determined to place them together though few people can adopt one bonded pair, let alone a four-dog family.
"In the beginning, we were like, 'Oh my God, this is going to be like impossible,'" she said by phone. "Then the media picked up the story, and we got so many people interested." About a dozen were willing to take the pack but for various reasons could not — and then Heath applied, who was "perfect," Mora said.
Heath had the right experience, having owned six dogs at one time and a home with a large, fenced backyard. Her two remaining dogs, though senior, were used to their former Labrador retriever playmates.
Trainer Derrick Nash, 36, of Moriches, whom the SPCA sent to help Heath for two days, said she has the calm animals trust — and can be firm if necessary. That made him confident the transition would succeed.
"It was like her energy, her manners, the way she was nonchalant, 'Let dogs be dogs, do what they do, they know what to do.'"
Labs Oliver and Isabelle — now called Bella, to avoid confusing her with Izzy, the Chihuahua mix — and Winston, the boxer, now live with Jane, a 9-year-old beagle mix, and Kiwi, a 13-year-old Shih Tzu. "There are some friendships growing there," said Heath. Jane and Bella romp together in the backyard "just like brother and sister."
Nash introduced them all in the yard; its ample size means it's a neutral area. Next they interacted in the garage, another site unlikely to spur territorial fights, before entering the house.
Initially, both Kiwi and Jane told the newcomers to back off — which they did, as well-socialized dogs will, explained Nash. Bella likes her alone time, said Heath, but is happy to join in when called.
Said Nash, "They all had pretty much the same type of energy; they wanted to interact, they also wanted to be able to do their own thing, which is a good thing."
Working with them, added Nash, who can be found on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/dnash_dogtrainer/ "was actually a great joy."