A dog in Delaware now has a fur-ever home after spending 1,007 days at a shelter.
Tessy, a 5-year-old black Labrador retriever mix, was adopted Oct. 20 by Jeanine Walker-Porter and Jeff Bush.
Walker-Porter told "Good Morning America" she and Bush had talked about adopting a dog, and when she learned of Tessy at a local fall festival in her neighborhood at the end of September, she was immediately drawn to her.
"Her story broke my heart. The first day I saw her and her smile, her pictures, I was just like, 'She's the one for me,'" the Millsboro, Delaware, resident said.
Leigh McKinley, a certified dog trainer and a director at Humane Animal Partners, a shelter with three locations in Delaware, had worked with Tessy for over two years before her October adoption. McKinley told "GMA" Tessy first arrived at Humane Animal Partners in January 2021 and had been adopted out twice before, but returned both times.
"Being adopted out twice and returned, and then showing these pretty severe fear-reactive, leash-reactive behaviors [made it] where very few people were able to handle her, especially in the first year," McKinley said.
But McKinley said she and the staff at Humane Animal Partners committed to helping Tessy work through her strong reactions through positive reinforcement and various techniques and training.
"Essentially, you're turning [Tessy's] negative feeling into a positive by pairing the trigger with treats, praise or distance," McKinley explained. "Over time, her reaction to what previously scared her turned into a, 'Oh, there's a dog walking by. I know I'm safe. I'll look at my handler and get a treat. I love when dogs walk by.'"
"We don't know why Tessy had those triggers, how they started, but in order to change it from a negative to a positive, [we] needed consistency and time and so that's what we gave her," McKinley added.
In just a few weeks, Walker-Porter went from just hearing about Tessy to meeting her in person, and then introducing the black Lab to her partner, Bush.
"When I saw Tessy, everything that I wanted everything and everything [Jeff] wanted went out the window. We knew, 'This is our girl.' We knew that she was the one for us and we knew that she was completing our family," Walker-Porter said.
McKinley said she and the staff at the shelter couldn't have been happier to see Tessy off on her adoption day, even though it was also a bittersweet parting.
"It's such an emotional adoption because she was essentially our dog for [nearly] three years," McKinley said. "And to see that transformation over the course of these years, and now to see her so happy in a loving home like every dog should be, it's just wonderful."
Walker-Porter said Tessy has begun to settle in to her new home in the two weeks since she was adopted. She calls Tessy "a love bug" who loves to go on walks, especially on the beach and along the woods, and indulge in her treats and squeaky toys.
"Tessy brings a lot of love and joy to our life," Walker-Porter said. "She means the world to me. I could not imagine my life without her."
Walker-Porter said she hopes Tessy's story will inspire others to "take a chance" and think about adopting a dog or pet into their home.
"Every living creature deserves a chance in this world and there's so many loving companions just waiting to have homes open up to them," Walker-Porter said. "Although they might be a little bit nervous in the beginning, give it a chance, because they're loyal companions and they will fall in love with you, and they will be so important to you."