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An Adoption Dog’s Unconditional Love

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]larissa Merrifield recently adopted a dog named Bailey from the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, “I saw Bailey on the refuge league site….On February 3rd I walked in and said, ‘Hi I’m here to bring Bailey home today!’” This wasn’t just an everyday dog adoption for Merrifield, she was looking for a sweet pit bull to become her emotional support therapy dog.

Bailey in his new emotional support dog vest. Photo provided by Clarissa Merrifield.

“My boyfriend and I had met on July 28th, 2015. From the beginning we talked about getting a pit bull for a dog ​eventually. I suffer from severe PTSD & mental health issues. My boyfriend and I were so very much in love. Extremely happy. On January 11th of this year (2017) only a year and a half into our relationship. He had a massive heart attack and died in my arms….I debated about getting a dog. Then my psychiatrist​ insisted. I looked for a pit bull right away.”

Merrifield represents just one of the powerful adoption stories our local shelters make possible. At the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, in Westbrook, they have made more room for all the animals that come through their doors. Just this past December they picked up and moved all their animals to a new and larger facility not too far from their old one. This new building has so much more room to show off all the wonderful animals they have in their facility. Thousands of different pets circulate through their doors and now these animals can be a bit more comfy while they wait for their forever homes.

“Dogs are cheaper than therapy,” says Suzanne M., a volunteer at ARLGP for a year and a half now. “I just, I love coming in, cause I’m a big dog person and I know can’t have more than a couple at home, and I was looking for something to do that could be sort of like more satisfying than the day job…I need something else to put my energy into that felt important.”

She is enthusiastic about her volunteer work at ARLGP, “I started doing the R&R, so basically like two hours on Saturdays I come and I snuggle with dogs, which is really terrible and difficult,” she said laughing, “It’s pretty awesome.”

Pepe Ali, a sweet dog, giving the saddest little puppy dog eyes to the camera. He is still waiting to be adopted at ARLGP as of 03/29/17. (He has now been adopted as of 03/31/17)

“Everybody always kinda comes in to meet the dogs at the same time, so [I] just try to sort of figure out where I can help.  And so I’ve definitely learned a lot.” She loves being able to see a dog be really sad and having the chance to hopefully be a little twinkle in their day.

According to’s page on animal welfare, approximately 3,000 dogs were brought into shelters as strays in 2015. In that same year over 2,000 dogs were surrendered to shelters and some were even born at the shelters. That’s thousands of dogs that need homes, not counting the over 4,000 dogs that get transferred in from other states. Luckily over 2,000 of those dogs are reclaimed, but there are thousands still needing homes. Over 200 dogs were euthanized at shelters across Maine in 2015.

To address this problem, our school’s animal rights club created an awareness campaign to encourage adoption around the holidays. Jackson Pierce, junior and animal rights club member, believes adopting rescue dogs is a unique responsibility and gift. “I adopted two dogs from the Kennebunk animal shelter.  They came from Georgia since in that state they have kill shelters.  When we first got them, they were pretty timid.  We aren’t entirely sure what happened to them in the past, but in some ways, they are still affected.  Whenever we leave them by themselves at our house, they are very nervous, which I assume comes from past experiences.  Soon after we got the, they became very attached, and we’re really happy we got them!”

Eliza, with such unique coloring around the eyes, she is still searching for a forever home. (Click photo for more info)

Jess Townsend, has been working as Director of Operations at ARLGP for two years, appreciates community efforts to raise awareness about the shelter dogs. “I love that no day is ever the same. I have a hard time with like the standard office job, nine to five routine. The animal shelter is different everyday.  I meet amazing people, every single day. I swear half of Maine comes through here in a week. So that kind of unpredictability of things that are still fun to do, is really fun.”

“We had a dog named Bailey,” Townsend said, as she reflected back on Merrifield’s touching adoption story. “He was a lovely, kind of tan and white  pit bull mix, who came in as a stray. Nobody came for him. Which is really unusual, most of the dogs that come in here as strays get reclaimed by their owners, and he didn’t for some reason. We couldn’t figure out why. Awesome dog, walked wonderfully on a leash, really snuggly, pretty low energy. All he wanted to do was snuggle with you. He was every volunteer’s favorite dog to walk, like the volunteers would argue over who got to walk him. So he would end up getting multiple walks during the walking shift, because every volunteer wanted to walk Bailey. But he just didn’t go home.”

“He was here for over two months and just kept not going home. And we’re like, I don’t get it, I don’t understand. And finally this lady [Clarissa Merrifield] came in one day, and said ‘I’ve been watching Bailey on your website. I’ve come in to see him, but I haven’t taken him out.’ We’re like, okay well we can make that happen for you.”

Merrifield had been looking for a dog to put all her love into after her boyfriend’s death. “She adopted Bailey that day, fell completely in love with him, he fell completely in love with her. She sends us pictures [now], constantly…Bailey lounging on his back chillin’, snuggling his mom. He’s got his therapy dog vest and he goes out to work.”

So many unique and amazing dogs go through not just ARLGP, but all the shelters here in Maine and all over the US. According to statistics between 2012-2015 stray rates have gone down and adoption rates have gone up. Due to Maine doing a good job in managing these dogs, the amount of dogs transferred in from other states have gone up in those years. There are still so many dogs who need adoption. If you have ever thought of adopting or even fostering a dog, please do not hesitate. There are so many loving dogs waiting for a loving home like yours.

Merrifield and Bailey, outside ARLGP, the day he found his forever home. Photo provided by Clarissa Merrifield.

Merrifield has had Bailey a month now, and he has certainly had a wonderful effect on her life. She was more than happy to share a picture of Bailey snuggled on her lap, “This is where you will find him next to me or on me always! He licks my tears as I cry daily wishing my love would come back to me. He gives me purpose & makes me feel safe because now I’m alone. Without Bailey my children, stepchildren and grandchildren may have had to say goodbye to me. Bailey gives me happiness even though I’m sad.”

There are many dogs out there waiting for a loving home to change their lives, and to be able to change their owner’s life forever.

That person could be you.

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  1. Clarissa Clarissa April 17, 2017

    Bailey’s happy for sunshine & long walks!

  2. Louisa Colucci Louisa Colucci May 2, 2017

    This article is very well written. I’m happy to see that it raises awareness about the importance of adopting dogs.

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