A new chapter has opened at the Niagara County SPCA as Hooch, a 5-year-old mastiff who was featured nationally as the dog on the Just Pizza boxes asking food-lovers to adopt animals, has found a new home.
It wasn't easy.
Hooch had to find an adult-only home and didn't have much experience outside the shelter, read a press release from the group. He also couldn't live with other animals and any adopter would have to have experience with large breeds.
"(His adopters) are amazing people who came in on Saturday and asked if they could try out fostering him," said Kimberly LaRussa, event coordinator for the Niagara County SPCA. "He was just so thrilled and happy – none of us knew how it was going to go. They updated us the next day. They posted pictures of him laying in bed, sitting on the couch, and looking as happy as can be and so well adjusted."
That was Saturday. When LaRussa went to the shelter on Monday, she was greeted with great news. Hooch's foster family had offered to officially adopt him into their home.
"We were just so thrilled, everybody was jumping up and down for him," she said. "It's special because Hooch had to go to a very specific adopter."
After the photo of Hootch on a Just Pizza box from Amherst went viral, his face was also put on T-shirts to raise more funds for the shelter. Hooch, effectively, was the face for the Niagara County SPCA.
"He was with us for a good while and the behavior specialist at Niagara County SPCA as well as staff and volunteers worked with him tremendously so he could trust people and feel comfortable. They worked very very hard with him with training and behavior and just learning through the Niagara County SPCA, Hooch learned what trust and love is. The staff there did just a wonderful job."
A video of Hooch leaving the shelter is available on the Niagara County SPCA Facebook page.
"You can just see what a difference these volunteers and our staff have with lives. They really worked hard with him, walking him and teaching him manners and all different things. It was just really heartwarming to see, when he said goodbye. That was a genuine good bye from him. He knew he was going somewhere and he made sure he said good bye to everybody.
"You can just see in his eyes that he knows something is happening and it's very special and he's just saying, 'Thanks guys.' He can't say it but that's how he looks right?"
Interested foster and adoption families and individuals can call 716-731-4368 or visit www.NiagaraSPCA.org.