Caitlin UltimoPet Parenting / Pet Stories

Sunny the Rescue Dog Brightens Lives of New Owners

Sunny’s journey is the perfect example of how adopting rescue animals will give you a life filled with happiness and love. What started as a devastating and difficult situation for both the pup and his veterinarian ended up as an inspiring, heartwarming story.

Sunny is a beautiful, sweet and trusting dog; traits immediately apparent to his veterinarian when Sunny was first brought into Victoria Park Animal Hospital a few years ago. Although Sunny’s spirit was bold, he was physically weak and wounded. Dr. Alison Birken, Sunny’s vet, recalls him suffering from dehydration and severe infections on his body. His wounds were so deep that she could see his bone. Sunny had lost his right ear, and Dr. Birken was concerned that he may lose his right hind leg, if not his life.

The story behind Sunny’s traumatic condition is as devastating as you would expect; Sunny’s previous owners had gone out of town and left Sunny tied up in the backyard—virtually defenseless. The other dogs must have had no hesitations in taking advantage of the vulnerable pup, as his injuries were extreme and required serious medical attention.

Completely heartbroken and determined to give Sunny a better life, Dr. Birken made the decision to take Sunny into her care at the clinic. With Sunny’s sad and gentle eyes staring at her, begging for help, Dr. Birken simply couldn’t help her innate urge to give Sunny the happy ending he deserved.

For about four months, Sunny was under the care of Dr. Birken at the clinic, with the employees each taking turns bringing him home for overnight care. With adoption signs posted up in the clinic, Dr. Birken was hopeful she would be able to find a forever home for her beloved rescue. Finally, after months of fostering Sunny, a client of the clinic had referred her friend who was interested in adopting.


The friend, Sarah Sibley, and her boyfriend, had taken Sunny for a walk only a few times before deciding he was the one for them. “[The] first time going home without him, we knew we had to adopt him!” Sarah said. “[It was] love at first sight.”

“It took a while for him to get used to us—[it took] a lot of work and spending time by being home with him,” she said. Sarah recalls Sunny strictly sleeping next to them in his bed at night, and staying at the front of the house by the front door during the day. It wasn’t until a few months ago that Sunny started acclimating better; he was noticeably more confident and started sleeping in different areas around the house. “[A] different personality starts shining through every day,” she said.


Helping Sunny get comfortable wasn’t always easy, and required some subtle lifestyle changes to support this adjustment. “We had to change how we lived in general,” Sarah said. Accustomed to having guests stop by whenever they wanted, Sarah knew she had to put a stop to this—even instructing those guests that did visit on how to properly treat Sunny. “Don’t get in his face; it will scare him,” she would say.

After the first few months after the adoption, Sarah couldn’t help but notice his amazing progress. “He’s a completely changed dog at this point. He’s a lover… [and has a] sense of gratitude for his new home. He makes us so happy.” Sarah has even taken a road trip with Sunny from South Florida to Virginia, which Sunny thoroughly enjoyed. “He loved it,” she recalls.


Sarah explains that Sunny has improved her and her boyfriend’s life for the better. “[He] makes us so happy [and] gave us the motivation to help other rescues,” she said. “Victoria Animal Hospital did an amazing job bringing him back to life.”


Dr. Birken recommends to anyone looking to adopt a rescue to be patient, as behavioral issues such as separation anxiety are common. “[It takes] two weeks to a month for puppy to get attached to you and feel confident. An adult abused dog would take three times that length if not longer.”

Dr. Birken hopes that Sunny’s amazing journey will inspire others to rescue and give these animals a new lease on life. “Rescue forever,” she says.


Samantha Schwab, Junior Editor
As an aspiring cat mom, Samantha Schwab can be found mining keywords, meticulously editing Pet Central blog posts or standing at her desk (usually all three!). An espresso shot and kitty cuddles are the only things that stand between Samantha and conquering the (pet) world!