Grieving man adopts dog who was in shelter for 200 days, changing both their lives

It’s an understatement to say that the past few months have been hard for everyone. We’ve all been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — and many have even lost loved ones to the coronavirus.

But as one man grieved, he found a kindred spirit in a dog who needed him — and now they’ll have each other for the holidays and beyond.

Tonka is a 7-year-old pit bull mix who came to Orange County Animal Services shelter on April 15. Despite being described as “affenctionate, loving and energetic,” the shelter had a hard time finding him a home.

Thanksgiving is coming up quickly and Tonka (A450668) is pleading for a home for the holidays! This sweet 7-year-old boy…

Posted by Orange County Animal Services on Tuesday, November 17, 2020

For months, Tonka came and went from the shelter, never quite being able to find a permanent home.

He ended up spending over 200 days in the shelter, longer than any of their other residents.

“He’s eager to score some freedom from the shelter and hopefully land a forever home before the holidays,” Orange County Animal Services wrote.

“Tonka is affectionate and enjoys neck scratches. He was initially fearful in the shelter environment, but has acclimated well. He would do best as the only dog in the home.”

For months, Tonka’s bad luck continued. As recently as this month, Tonka was adopted only to be returned shortly after, through no fault of his own, the shelter wrote.

It seemed like nothing would ever go Tonka’s way. But meanwhile, a kindred spirit was dealing with his own crisis.

Wilfredo Vega, a 46-year-old father of four from South Daytona, lost his mother to COVID-19 in May. She was 81.

He’s spent the last few months grieving in heartbreak. “I didn’t even want to celebrate the holidays, because everything reminds me of her,” Wilfredo told My News 13.

But then, Wilfredo saw something that drew his attention away from his sorrows: a news report about Tonka’s search for a home.

Wilfredo was moved to help this poor dog out, and drove 90 minutes to Orlando to meet with Tonka in person.

According to My News 13, their meeting got off to a rough start. Tonka was in a bad mood—understandable after the rough seven months he’s had—and nipped at Wilfredo’ shirt.

He nearly decided to adopt another pit bull instead, with whom he got along better. But in the end, he decided to commit to Tonka like he intended, even if it meant taking some time to earn his trust.

Finally, Tonka was adopted — for good this time.

Today is National Adoption Day and we can't think of a better way to celebrate than with the announcement that longtime…

Posted by Orange County Animal Services on Saturday, November 21, 2020

In total, Tonka was at Orange County Animal Services for 216 days, just a few days shy of the all-time record for most time in the shelter.

Everyone was thrilled to see him finally go to a good home.

“Thank you to the Vega family for giving this handsome boy a chance!” the shelter wrote on Facebook.

And despite a testy first meeting, it sounds like everything is going great between Wilfredo and Tonka.

“He’s been phenomenal,” Wilfredo told My News 13. “I think everything’s going to work out great.”

And best of all, they have each other for the holidays. For Wilfredo, his new rescue dog was just the thing to help him move on from his mother’s passing and enjoy life again.

“Having him, it seems like I’m a little more energized,” he said. “I’m definitely going to be putting up my Christmas tree. I’m definitely going to spend time with the family for the holidays.”

“So, he’s helping me just as much as I’m helping him.”

Sometimes pets come into your life at just the right time. It’s clear these two were meant to find one another. We know they’ll be very happy for now on!

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