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Sponsor Dog Greets Her Hero

Xena Greets Her Hero

Young teen who donates her allowance to North Shore Animal League’s Sponsor Program meets the dog who stole her heart

All dogs, cats, puppies and kittens deserve a loving home—but sadly, an estimated 4 million are euthanized in municipal shelters each year. Their health and temperament play a large role in deciding which animals are destroyed first—which means that an animal who is suffering from an illness or disability is at extremely high risk of being killed.

North Shore Animal League America believes that every animal deserves the chance to live the best life possible. That’s why we created our Sponsor Program, in which generous animal lovers contribute monthly to help fund the care of animals whose illnesses require lifelong treatments.

These sponsors help give life to animals like Xena, a hound mix we rescued from a municipal shelter. Xena had a life-threatening congenital condition called portosystemic shunt (PSS), also known as liver shunt. Among many severe symptoms, PSS can also cause weight loss and seizures, both of which Xena was experiencing.

Our Sponsor Program participants made it possible for us to give Xena the two surgeries she needed to treat her PSS. But even though her condition was much improved, Xena still had (and continues to have) many health issues that require lifelong care. The regular contributions from our Sponsor Program donors enable us to provide her with the daily medication, special diet and other treatments she needs to stay happy and healthy.

Xena Finds a Home

Of course, no rescue is complete until we find an animal a loving home—and that’s just what we did for Xena.

In December 2011, animal lovers Theresa and Stephen visited Animal League America to look for a second dog to join their family, which includes daughter Courtney, son Ben and dog-in-chief, Max. When they saw Xena, “We could tell she had so much love to give,” says Theresa. Despite Xena’s special needs—or maybe because of them—they fell in love with the precious pooch and adopted her, devoting themselves to caring for her every need.

Theresa is thrilled to report that Xena has transformed from a frail, shy dog to a joyful and affectionate one in the year since the family adopted her. “Xena is awesome!” she says. “She has gone from not allowing you to cuddle her to snuggling perfectly into your legs for pets and scratches, and from rejecting treats from your hand to kissing your hand constantly. She is a very happy, spunky, verbal member of our family, and she brings us nothing but smiles!”

Xena and Emily at the Dog Park

Xena’s story stole the hearts of many animal lovers, including Emily, a Long Island teen who read about Xena on our website. “I feel so bad for animals who are sick or who don’t have someone to love them,” says Emily. “We have a dog, Skippy, and it breaks my heart to think that not every dog has a family.”

Emily, a passionate animal lover since she was a tiny girl, knew she had to turn her concern into action. “I wanted to help a dog with a life-threatening disease, and Xena’s story touched me so much. She was by far the cutest, too!”

The timing was perfect: Emily was in the process of planning her Bat Mitzvah project, and she decided that her act of kindness would be to contribute to Xena’s care through our Sponsor Program. “I do regular chores around the house, and I donate that money to help sponsor Xena,” explains Emily, now 13. “It makes me feel really good.”

Emily grew to care for Xena deeply, even though she’d only seen her photograph. But she wondered: Could she meet her sponsor dog in person?

When Steve, Emily’s Dad, learned of his daughter’s desire, he contacted Animal League America and was thrilled to find out that Xena lived on Long Island, close enough for a visit. Our Sponsor Program staff reached out to Theresa, who loved the idea of meeting one of Xena’s heroes.

In late October 2012, Emily and her parents Steve and Jackie joined Xena and her pack (Theresa, Stephen, Courtney and Max) at a local dog park for a playdate. “It was a great experience,” says Emily. “I was so happy to see that Xena looked so healthy and active. She’s very friendly, and the people who adopted her are so nice. I’m so glad she has a great family to take care of her.”

“We’re so grateful to everyone who gives toward Xena’s care through the Sponsor Program,” says Theresa. “We were so proud and excited to be part of watching a young girl whom we didn’t even know make a difference in Xena’s life, and Xena making a difference in Emily’s life. The experience we shared was very special to all of us.”

Theresa even allowed Emily to give Xena a dose of her medication—a responsibility that made Emily even more proud, and inspired her to keep up the good work. “When I’m old enough,” she says, “I’m going to volunteer at North Shore Animal League America!”

We will welcome Emily with open arms when that day comes. In the meantime, we want to thank her for caring so much for Xena, and for all animals in need!

To find out how you can sponsor an animal like Xena, please email, call 1-877-BE-MY-PAL, or click here for more information.