For 25 years, Stockton, Calif., resident Theresa Lagorio has wrestled with regret, unable to forget the little Pekingese she met at a local animal shelter more than two decades ago.
Lagorio was visiting the shelter, looking for a dog to adopt, when she came across the black-and-white female Peke. There was an instant connection between the two, Lagorio remembers.
But there was only one problem — at the time, Lagorio couldn’t commit to the idea of adopting an adult dog, so Lagorio walked away from the Pekingese, choosing to adopt a puppy instead. It’s a decision that has haunted Lagorio ever since.
“She looked into my eyes, and I looked into hers,” Lagorio remembers. “And I left her.”
Knowing what she knows now about the benefits of adopting an adult dog, Lagorio tells Recordnet.com if she could go back in time, she would not have left the sweet dog at the shelter that day. “Especially after getting Tallulah and seeing how wonderful she was,” Lagorio explains.
It turns out the right dog really does make all the difference.
Eight years ago, Lagorio decided to bring another dog into the family when she found Tallulah, a scruffy 2-year-old Terrier mix with legs that seem just a little small for her body. “She’s just funny looking,” Lagorio says affectionately of Tallulah, “and she makes me smile.”
When Lagorio brought her new dog home, there was an adjustment period of about a month. But with one sign, one small gesture from Tallulah, Lagorio knew her bond with Tallulah was sealed forever.
“One day she just put her muzzle on my neck, and that was it,” Lagorio remembers fondly.
Lagorio didn’t think twice about welcoming Tallulah into her family, and as the years have passed she realizes what a blessing it was to take a chance on an adult dog this time around. In fact, other than what Lagorio jokingly calls “a slight, little shedding problem,” Tallulah is just about the best dog anyone could ask for.
“She is perfect,” Lagorio says of her best friend.
Lagorio and Tallulah have become constant companions over the past eight years, and the once-hesitant Lagorio is now quick to encourage others to consider adopting an adult dog in need. Adopters are usually quick to bring a puppy home, but Lagorio hopes to do whatever she can to promote shelter adoptions and find some forever families for older dogs who might otherwise be euthanized at overcrowded facilities.
“They feel pain, they feel love, and they’re very innocent,” Lagorio says of shelter animals. “They’re defenseless. I know there are a lot of [other] problems, but the animal overpopulation [issue] is in my heart.”
With Tallulah by her side and the memory of that black-and-white Pekingese in the back of her mind, Lagorio, who is not affiliated with a particular advocacy group, has used her own money to post out an advertisement on a large billboard over El Dorado Street and Alpine Avenue in Stockton, promoting shelter adoptions. The touching ad reads “ADOPTION: An opportunity to choose your best friend,” and features a photograph of Lagorio and her best friend, Tallulah.
“I thought: What would influence me?” Lagorio says, explaining the process of designing the billboard ad. “Maybe a regular person with a big ol’ mutt might click with someone.”
“It’s just an ordinary person and an ordinary dog trying to do something,” Lagorio says of the ad she hopes will inspire others to visit their local shelter and give a good pet a happy home.