Gremlin’s Rescue Story


When my husband and I first moved in together we were crazy about each other and we knew that we wanted to start a family, but being the patient people that we can sometimes be, we decided to get a dog.

Matthew was still looking for his first job out of school and I was still finishing up my final year, so we barely had two nickels to rub together between us. Matthew was hesitant to make such a big financial move, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be too bad for very long, so I scoured PetFinder for the perfect pooch.

After a couple weeks of deliberating over tiny thumbnails and scant amounts of information, we picked a dog called Handsome who had such a deep expression of worry that there was no way we could let him stay like that.

Gremlin's PetFinder Picture

Gremlin’s PetFinder Picture

We called the shelter, Burke County Friends for Animals, to see if he was available on a Tuesday and made plans to go get him that Saturday. For the rest of the week I pictured him sitting next to me on the couch and taking him for walks in the neighborhood all the while worried sick that someone else would get to him first.

When Saturday finally rolled around we jumped in the car around 7 AM to make the two-hour drive to Morganton, NC. I was so anxious to meet him and to take him home that Matthew had to constantly remind me that we were only there to meet him, that there was a good chance we don’t come home with anyone. I responded the way he wanted me to knowing full well that I would have little Winston (Winston didn’t stick, obviously) on my lap on the way home.

The weekend after we adopted him hanging out at a patio bar

The weekend after we adopted him hanging out at a patio bar

When we got to the shelter we walked into a room with a desk with an older woman behind it who was surprisingly friendly for her demeanor. Laying beside her was a very, VERY old cocker spaniel with only one working eye who didn’t notice us, either for being deaf or because she was too old to care. We told her that we called earlier that week about Handsome. She told us that we were lucky no one adopted him in all that time and sent us back to the small dog kennels.

The kennels were loud with the yapping of little dogs begging for attention and for the first time I didn’t care to meet any of them. All I wanted was my little, worried nugget. We came to a kennel that, at first glance housed three very loud Pomeranians, but with further inspection, we saw him. He was cowering in the back corner looking just as worried as ever.

Gremlin is a silly (looking) guy

Gremlin is a silly (looking) guy

His bite history made it so the young volunteer was too nervous to get him out himself. Without a second thought Matthew scooped him up like there was nothing that could make him leave this animal behind and for reasons that seem like fate, Handsome let him.

We took him to a small room where we could get to know each other. We tried to get him to play with some of the toys, but he was too nervous to show any interest. We decided to see if they would let us take him on a walk. An older gentleman got us a leash and escorted us to a fenced in wooded area where he was allowed to run. He raced around the woods while we got more information about him from the man who took care of him. He said that he was his favorite of the small dogs and told us about how Handsome bit him the first day he was brought in. It was a rough couple of weeks for him as it turned out.

Gremlin always makes himself comfortable on road trips.

Gremlin always makes himself comfortable on road trips.

Animal Control had been after him for a while, but his cynicism and agility helped him avoid capture for weeks. After a week at the pound, he was brought to the shelter. The control officer who transported him was pretty rough and did a number to scare him. As a result, the terrified dog got loose while they were processing him.

When the old man cornered him and tried to grab him he bit him. Instead of writing up a bite history and labeling him a bitter, he saw the bite for what it was. A terrified dog was cornered and in a last attempt to get away he bit. After telling us the story he seemed worried that we’d lose interest in Handsome, but instead, we accepted his special needs and took him inside to sign the papers.

Gremlin was an important part of our wedding, he even held the rings!

Gremlin was an important part of our wedding, he even held the rings!

My favorite part of this story was when we sat in that front office signing the adoption paperwork many of the shelter volunteers came to sit with him and tell him goodbye. They clearly loved him and were very clearly happy for him to go home. As we were finishing up the animal control officer who brought him in walked in. Gremlin’s eyes lit up and before anyone could grab his leash he took off and bit the officer, tearing his pants.

After getting Gremlin under control the very angry control officer reared back like he was going to kick him. The two men that had helped us with Gremlin stood up to the officer with folded arms. The control officer mumbled angrily under his breath as he left. When we turned back to the woman behind the desk she sheepishly asked if we still wanted him. HELL YES, we told her.

Gremlin has always been a proud papa bear

Gremlin has always been a proud papa bear

We knew about how the officer had treated Gremlin and we knew and accepted that he was going to be a special needs dog. Honestly, I was ready to bite the guy myself! She smiled and told us that he was going to make a great guard dog, to which we laughed. Today we laugh at ourselves for laughing at that because if nothing else, Gremlin is an amazing guard dog.  

I love looking at all the pictures we’ve taken of him over the years. He’s transformed from a terrified emaciated stray to a warm and loving guardian. Gremlin has been our partner in crime every step of the way. He was there to help me get dressed for our wedding, he was Matthew’s ring bearer, he’s been there for every one of our many moves, he’s raised our cats, and welcomed home our baby girl.

A girl's best friend is her dog

A girl’s best friend is her dog

Today is his sixth adoption anniversary (adoptiversary) and we are so happy to have him in our lives. Here’s to another great year together!

I would LOVE to hear your adoption stories! Was yours as rough as ours or was it love all around?


  1. John Ketchum

    Wonderful, heart-warming story. He has been blessed by your adoption and your love and care for him. Tell the little devil that I’ll see him Thursday. JK

  2. OMG, I am Crying at his beautiful story! You are the best adoptive parents, truly the kind of people shelter volunteers and staff hope will walk through the door- People who understand what these dogs and cats have been through and are willing to work through any imperfections and look past them. I love all your photos of Gremlin and how he’s become such an important part of your family, which probably just what he longed for. Thanks so much for sharing your amazing adoption story!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    • Amber

      Thank you so much for reading, Cathy! He is such an important part of our lives and I want people to know that the perfect dog doesn’t always do well in shelters. No matter how much we try, shelters are scary places for animals! Thanks again for reading 🙂

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