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Adoption spotlight: Cleveland

Posted on Friday, January 17, 2020
After 368 days in our care, Cleveland found a loving, lasting home. Manager of Adoptions Tommy DeSanto shared his office with shy Cleveland for several months and was one of his closest friends. In this heartwarming blog, Tommy shares Cleveland's transformation from a neglected hunting dog seized from a hoarding situation to a faithful companion.

Cleveland was transferred into our care on January 8, 2019 from Caroline County Animal Shelter with three other dogs as part of a hoarding case. We named the four dogs after presidents, but that didn’t keep us from making all the Cleveland, Ohio jokes. His cage card said he liked the Browns, The Drew Carey Show and trips to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. An adoption counselor made him a sign that said, “You don’t have to go to Ohio to visit Cleveland!”

Finally seeing Cleveland’s happy-hound smile was an indicator of progress as the nervous dog gained confidence.

When he came in, he was very thin and very nervous. Our veterinarians diagnosed him with heartworms, multiple parasites, lyme disease, ehrlichia and early kidney failure due to lyme nephritis. It was obvious he had spent most of his life outdoors as a hunting dog, which made it pretty challenging for us to find the right placement for him.

The longer he stayed here, the more unsure he felt about things. He would hide under the bench in his living room. He wasn’t very interested in meeting new people. He became very stubborn about going outside on walks because he was nervous of the sound of cars passing or construction in the distance.

A few months ago I made Cleveland my office dog, and he would spend all day with me while I was working. He liked spending his time hiding under my desk with his head resting on my legs or feet, and I liked doing my work with him like that. When I first started bringing him into the office, I was met with an indifferent look and hesitation when I leashed him up. A few weeks in, he was bouncing up and down at the kennel door. It soon became routine and my favorite part of the day: first thing when I got to work in the morning, I’d leash him up from his kennel and we’d sprint down the hallway to my office, a big smile on his face.

A wonderful family walked into our adoption center on December 28. They met with a few hound mixes because they were familiar with their goofy dispositions. They met Cleveland and weren’t scared of his special medical needs, including frequent bloodwork and prescription food, and they found his sweet shyness endearing. They came in the next day and took him into foster care with intention of adopting, just a few days short of him being here for a year.

Adoption Counselor Lizzy made Clevelandcakes in celebration of his adoption.

On January 11, the Cotter family returned to finalize Cleveland’s adoption. It was a pretty big deal: I had it marked on my calendar and his big group of friends was all here to officially send him into his forever home. Lizzy, the adoption counselor working with the family, even stayed up late the night before making Cleveland cupcakes to give his adopters.

All this to say, I can’t help but feel so lucky to have such a beautiful, ever-changing job that is full of such highs and lows. I’m so lucky to have such tough, intelligent coworkers who share the same vision and energy to save animals’ lives. I’m so grateful that families like the Cotters come in to adopt pets with special needs. And most of all, I am lucky to meet pets like Cleveland that teach me patience, softness and love. He made me a better person.


Tommy DeSanto with Sprout (dog)
Tommy with his dog Sprout.

Tommy DeSanto is the manager of adoptions at the Richmond SPCA.

He is the proud guardian of three special needs pets, all adopted from the Richmond SPCA. Because of his own pets’ medical conditions, he has always been drawn to the special needs pets in our care. He also occasionally opens his home to foster pets in need of a break from our shelter.

In his free time, Tommy enjoys collecting hot sauces, thrift store shopping, and hiking the trail and river systems around Virginia with his two dogs, Beet and Sprout.

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