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I had wanted a cat for years, but my roommate was a bit allergic to them and had resisted the idea.  One day she came home and announced that she really wanted a pet to come home to.  We talked it over and decided if we kept a cat out of her room and vacuumed frequently to minimize the effects, she could deal with the allergies for a few weeks until her body adjusted.  We also knew that at some point in the future, we wouldn’t be living together anymore, so we agreed that it would be “my” cat, but that we would both be mommies.  So we got online and started looking for cats and adoption fairs.  We inquired about a few different ones but one little furry orange and white one definitely stuck out for us, and we were thrilled when his foster mom, who worked with Homeward Trails, said she could bring him by for a home visit the very next day.

GideonWhen his foster mom opened his carrier in our apartment, he immediately shot out and started exploring, but was sure to keep low to the ground so he “wouldn’t be spotted.”  He was the most adorable little kitty at about six months old.  We loved how he shot out to explore instead of hiding in the carrier, and we was (and still is) a BIG talker.  We played with him for a little bit, expecting to have to give him back at least until arrangements could be made, but to our delight, his foster mom said we could keep him that day!  We had to run out quickly to buy supplies, and when we got back he was a little timid and hid under the bed for a while before coming out to get to know us.  We decided to leave him alone (hard as it was!) to let him get used to his new home.  At first he was a little timid – I would find him lounging on my bed, or the couch and he would immediately jump down, thinking he was going to be yelled at.  We reassured him that it was his home too and he could go wherever he wanted (in retrospect, allowing him to lounge on the dining room table was a bad idea and has led to a bad habit, but he was too cute and we were powerless to resist him).

Almost two years later, Gideon (as we named him) is a full-grown, happy cat who still loves to talk (and on occasions where he really wants canned food, or just feels like it, scream).  In some ways, he’s like a dog – very loyal to me and follows me everywhere, even lounging on the kitchen floor while I do dishes, or screaming outside the bathroom door while I take a shower.  His greatest joy in life is when we bring home new paper bags from the grocery store, and he loves giving us “headbutts” – which we love too!  My roommate and I have each moved in with our significant others now, so Gideon has gained a great daddy, but luckily his “other mommy” lives just a few floors down and visits him frequently, too.  I am so blessed to have Gideon in my life and so thankful to Homeward Trails for introducing me to him.  I’m now in law school and he is a great little study buddy, always hanging out with me while I’m doing my schoolwork, even though he could be playing with his daddy instead.  My boyfriend and I love having him as part of our family, and hope to get him a canine brother or sister in a few years.

-Meagan Fassinger


Rudy is a lab/shepherd/something else mix. About 5 years old, I’m told.

When I saw Rudy on the Homeward Trails site (via, the description repeatedly said, “Poor Rudy.” Not any more! Yes, according to HT, he had been in an outdoor pen at a rural shelter for nearly four years, with no contact with other dogs and minimal contact with humans. He was described as extremely timid, with the addition that “He wants to love and trust” but obviously, hadn’t had much experience in that in his previous life. (Although the Homeward Trails foster homes obviously had done a very good job getting him started.)

RudyHe needed a fairly quiet home, no kids or other dogs, because sudden movements or noises spooked him. Me, I’m the quiet type. Sounded like it was worth a shot.

His foster mom warned me that he might be very timid, so when she brought him over for the home visit, I didn’t try to approach or coax him. But I did have treats in my pocket, in case he came to me. Once she settled in on the couch, Rudy did lie down in my living room, and eventually came over to sniff me and take a treat. Done deal. Good boy.

After I adopted Rudy, I started learning lots of things about him. He is perfectly house-trained. He hardly ever barks, and only for a reason. Yes, he was timid, but really more bewildered than frightened. He just hadn’t had much of a chance to learn about the world. His foster mom, who had two other dogs, said he needed a “safe” place, so I got him a kennel,to put in “his” room, but I always leave the door open so he can come and go. He went into the kennel with no coaxing, and obviously liked having his safe place, but after a few days, he started to come out and lie down on a doggie bed that I had strategically placed by my TV-watching chair. He definitely likes to hang out with me. Good boy.

His foster mom said he would “play bow” but didn’t really seem to know how to play, and definitely didn’t know how to fetch. Ha! Once he wasn’t competing with other dogs, he loves to chase toys and even occasionally brings them back. Even more fun is that he invented a game of running from one toy to another in the back yard, racing like a maniac, or maybe a quarter horse, touching each one and hurtling on to the next, while I cheer, “Run, Rudy, Run!”  He is full of joy, and it makes me happy to see him so happy. No more “Poor Rudy.” Good boy.

We walk every day. I give kudos to HT for the wonderful work they already did in rehabilitating him, because according to the paperwork, walking was not one of his skills, and he was especially afraid of traffic. He still gets a little startled by the sudden noise of a bus or truck changing gears, but it is momentary. Mostly, he likes to sniff every inch of the ground, and I let him because I think he is making up for lost time. But he walks really well on the leash and has learned to sit and stay before we leave the house, and even to walk very slowly down the front steps, no matter how much he wants to get out and “see” the world. Good boy.

Because I knew I needed to board him for a week over the holidays, I took him in to Dog Paws and Cat Claws University, which is literally within walking distance of my house, for their “entrance exam” well in advance. The owner, Ryan, did a wonderful thing. Although Rudy was said to have been (and in my limited experience at that time, was and still is) more wary of men than women, Ryan quietly gained his trust and slowly introduced him to one dog, then another, then another, until Rudy was part of a group of about eight dogs. He gets along great with other dogs that aren’t too rambunctious, and on our walks, he wants to meet other dogs that are nice. Dogs that are charging the fence or barking fiercely, he ignores. Good boy.

He doesn’t beg for food when I am eating, although I’ll confess that when I’m done, that last corner of the sandwich often ends up in his dish. But even if I’m eating something wonderful, he will leave me alone — sometimes, three feet away, but facing away from me, or he’ll leave the room. I didn’t teach him that, but maybe someone else did. Good boy.

Rudy is such a good dog, it is hard to imagine that someone didn’t want him before. I feel lucky that I got him. He’s such a good boy.

Do we still have challenges? Sure. Going to the vet, sudden noises, strange people — but he’s really adapting well. The Homeward Trails volunteers said he wanted to learn to love and trust, and you know, I think he’s learning that. Good boy, Rudy. Good boy.
See all posts about: Shy Dogs

Six months ago, my fiancé and I were searching for a puppy to start our new family life together.  We had both grown up from families that encouraged rescue groups for pet adoption so we knew we had to find the right rescue group for us.

Luckythumb_Lucky_YoungWe came across Homeward Trails online after reading the great reviews and seeing their beautiful puppies.  We immediately fell in love with “Rusty” now known as Lucky.  He was about 5 months old, underweight with worms, and was rescued as a stray in South Carolina.  Once we met him we knew he was ours.

Now approaching his first birthday, we couldn’t be happier with this cute dog. He is extremely intelligent, calm, fun-loving, affectionate, and happy. He is great with the neighborhood kids and a true ladies man at the dog park. He enjoys taking hikes on the trails in Seneca Park behind our home. But who would have thought he would have grown this much fur? He truly loves the snow and we think somewhere in his “Heinz-57 varieties” pedigree he is built for it. Thank you again Homeward Trails. We couldn’t be happier.


We have always loved chow mixes and were looking on the Homeward Trails website when we discovered our little guy.  His name was Brutis at that time and he was in a shelter in Tucker County, WVa.  We adopted him from the picture/narrative and waited a few weeks for him to be delivered to the DC area… but there weren’t any drivers in WVa able to meet the Homeward Trails volunteers mid-way.  We decided to drive to Elkins on a Saturday morning and pick up our new family member.  We also brought 2 other adopted dogs to their new homes.

Mr. MagooWithin 5 minutes of meeting our new boy, we realized he was not a Brutis —- but he definitely was a Mr. Magoo.  We were told by Minnie, the wonderful animal control officer of Tucker County, that Magoo came from one of the worst homes in the county– he weighed 17 pounds on the day we brought him home.  He is our wild boy:  seems to have a few coyote mannerisms and does not have polished manners but is full of love and mischief.  His personality makes us laugh everyday, especially when he tugs at our pants!  He enjoys life with his rescue sisters.

Barb & Lou, Fairfax Station, VA


In March of 2009, our 17 year old cat, Fancy, had to be put to sleep.  This was one of the most difficult decisions for us to make, but we knew we had to do what was best for Fancy, even though it broke our hearts.  There was such a void in our home, that we decided to look into adopting a kitten.

Cooter & Roscoe

Jane with all her Foster Kittens

Jane with all her Foster Kittens

We looked online at kittens that needed homes, but I wanted to see a picture and just “feel” that this was the cat for us.  Finally, I got my “feeling”!  I saw this picture of a mommy cat named Jessica that was rescued when she was pregnant, and had given birth to 5 beautiful kittens.  Something about this picture just grabbed me!  I knew this was it!

We met with their foster mom, Jane.  We went every week until it was finally time to bring our kittens home.  Jane was the most wonderful foster mom EVER!!!  On the day we brought our kitties home, she made a CD for us of all the pictures and videos that she had taken of the kittens since they had been born.  What a wonderful gift for us!  On that day, we took a beautiful picture of Jane with all her foster kitties.  Roscoe and Cooter are the sweetest, most loving cats ever.  Surely, that is due to the wonderful care and love they got from Jane!  We can never thank her enough.  Our family is complete now.

-The Martinis Family, Frederick, MD


Toffee was adopted from Homeward Trails in January of 2005. She came from a rural shelter in North Carolina. After clearing up her initial dirt and worms, and getting through a chewing stage, Toffee grew into a well-behaved, friendly dog who sits on command and has never had an accident in the house.  She loves to run every morning in Congressional Cemetery and accompany her owners on beach vacations (shown here in Nags Head).

ToffeeShe has friends in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, including neighbor dogs, vendors at Eastern Market and kids on their walk to school.  Toffee is known by all as a lovely, gentle, confident dog and we couldn’t imagine life without her.

-Rachael, Washington, DC

On May 23, 2008, my beloved cat Emma passed from this life.  She fought a brave 20-month battle with cancer before taking her well-deserved rest.  I miss her and will never forget her.

Emma’s friendship and love made me certain that I would eventually adopt another cat; perhaps later in the fall when some of my grief had eased.  However, as Fate would have it, about a week or two following Emma’s death, I received an email from PetMAC/ Homeward Trails.  On a whim, I viewed their website of adoptable animals, and a female black and white “tuxedo” cat, a “tripod” named “Casey,” immediately caught my eye.  She was beautiful, and her personality profile described her as “affectionate and sweet.”  I was also sympathetic to her having only three legs, knowing that such a physical “challenge” might make it more difficult for her to find a home.  I wanted to meet her.

I completed an application, and Danette Cordone, Casey’s Homeward Trails “foster mom,” responded immediately and positively, suggesting that she and Casey come for a visit.  Casey was understandably shy at our first meeting, so while she cautiously explored her new surroundings, Danette shared what was known of Casey’s life story.  Casey had been surrendered once to the Prince William County (Virginia) animal shelter, then adopted, and then returned by the second adopter.  Sometime in her past, for a still unknown reason, her left rear leg was amputated mid-femur.  When Homeward Trails and Danette discovered her at the shelter, Casey was facing imminent euthanasia.  It was by the grace of God, Homeward Trails, and Danette that this sweet and beautiful little cat was saved.

In the brief six months they had spent together Casey had completely and utterly won Danette’s heart, so much so that she herself considered adopting Casey.  But, with numerous other foster animals needing her care, Danette directed her heart and love toward finding Casey the loving, permanent home she so deserved.

I had already fallen in love with Casey from her website description, and our first face-to-face meeting sealed the deal.  Casey came to live with me on July 12, 2008.  Danette wisely advised that it might take Casey time to adjust to yet another new home and new human companion.  But, if Casey was ready to give me a try, I was more that ready to welcome her into my family.

Indeed, Casey spent most of that first day under the bed, while I sat in the next room patiently waiting for her courage and curiosity to bring her out.  Every few hours I went and talked to her, offering food, toys, and reassurances.  But, this timid little cat, who had been bounced from shelter to home and back again, who had only three legs, and who had faced certain euthanasia, was understandably reluctant, fearing perhaps that she had once again been abandoned.

CaseyThen late that evening just when I wondered if Casey would ever feel safe with me, I looked under the bed again, and out she came – purring and meowing and head rubbing against me, asking for pats and attention.  Like we had been friends forever!  We two stayed up until nearly midnight, exploring her new home and each other.  She delighted in discovering her old, familiar cat condo and her new catnip and feather toys.  Finally, exhausted but very happy, I tucked Casey into my arms and took her with me to bed.  There she curled up on the pillow next to my head, one paw deliberately touching me, and purred us both to sleep.

Casey’s indomitable spirit of love won the day!

Four months later, all is wonderfully well with Casey.  She is healthy and nicely adjusted into our home and family.  She happily chases feather-wand toys, goes crazy for catnip, and has discovered the joys of grazing on her own pot of organic grasses.  She’s a happy chatter-box, talking and singing to me throughout the day.  And she greets me by flopping on her side and offering her furry white tummy for a rub.  Best of all, not one night has passed without Casey snuggled close to me in bed, purring us both to sleep.

It’s said that certain, special individuals come into our life when we most need them.  Danette was there for Casey at the shelter, to save her life and to help her trust humans once again.  There is no doubt that Casey came into my life to help ease my grief at my Emma cat’s passing.  And, I think I’m here for Casey to forever keep her safe and loved.

Casey has a unique and special place in my heart.  I now affectionately call her “angel.”  She is the beautiful little embodiment of the need we all have to love and the indomitable spirit that allows us to do so, no matter what.  Thank you, my little angel.  I will love you forever.

Christine, November, 2008


Or how 2/3rds of The Three Stooges came to live with us.

Moe & LarryIn the late 1990’s we purchased two standard poodle puppies (same mother and father-one litter apart) in San Antonio Texas.  The oldest was named Curly Joe (hmm let’s see two kids and a dog named Curly Joe-it took the kids years to figure this one out) and the youngest BB.  Those two boyz saw the growing up of our two children, flying on an airplane to move to England (and had to spend six months in quarantine-a program now since gone and rightly so), flying back to Washington DC and our oldest going off to college.

It was while the oldest was in college; we had to make the awful decision to put Curly Joe asleep.  It broke our hearts and still does to this day, but it was the correct decision to make.  We even had to tell our oldest while we were driving home from the animal hospital what we had done.  While we were away making that fateful decision, BB began to howl (as told to us by our neighbors) and upon our return and for days afterwards, he would wander about aimlessly looking for his friend and brother.  It was then we made a decision to bring another standard poodle into our lives.

LarryWe happened upon Moe thru Homeward Trails Animal Rescue and upon meeting him I asked one simple question “Would you like to come home with us?” and his response (as shown in the photograph), one simple lick.  Little did we know we were adopting what would become an 80-pound bundle of love that is convinced he is part lap dog, part horse and part cat dog (he rubs up against one like a cat).  He bonded with BB from the start and likes to make Larry sit when being trimmed or if he is about to leap over a gate.  He is the conscience of all three. We were a little concerned that Moe, who gallops like a racehorse and is fast/quick on his feet was a bit much for BB, who is now 12 years old.  We had talked about a younger poodle to be Moe’s companion and allow BB to be that adult leadership.

Moe & LarryWe talked and talked but took no action until out of the clear blue sky we got a call, “Are you still thinking about adopting another poodle?”  I said we had discussed it, but had not made a decision.  I was then told about this wonderful 7-month-old standard puppy up for adoption and after some discussion asked to see more about him.  I kept wondering what if anything was wrong.  We found out he was in an animal control center in West Virginia, and had worn down part of his front teeth gnawing on the cage bars.  He had one week to live before he was put down.  I knew if I showed that picture to the Commander in Chief House, or wife for the rest of you, it was all over and he would be our third standard.  So I wrote “Hello Larry” in the upper left hand corner of the announcement and handed it to her.  Shortly thereafter we were meeting Larry and taking him home.  Larry is a good match for Moe, he thinks he is a steeplechase horse (leaping) or Tigger and is as goofy as Larry was in the Three Stooges movies.  Sometimes we hear him purring just like a lion in that low guttural sound.  He is a little rough around the edges, but what a sweetheart he is.

Larry just celebrated his second birthday and Moe will be four in October. We will always be grateful for the opportunity to have these wonderful dogs from Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.

Ken & Liz Caligiuri


We first saw Norbert (originally Jonah) on a Craig’s List ad from HT, and we went straight away to meet him at the next Adoption Event. He was as friendly, gentle and well-mannered as described.  His foster-mom (who turned out to be a neighbor) spent lots of time answering our questions, and we all took turns walking him and watching him interact with other dogs.It was love at first sight for us parents, but our kids were somewhat nervous at his size.  We’d had cats for 14 years, but he would be our first dog.

Jonah had been returned to Homeward Trails by his previous family, where a variety of stresses and lack of consistent leadership had caused him to start marking inside their house.  This wayward behavior stopped as soon as he had moved in with his foster mom, and we were convinced that stable environment and a consistent diet of exercise, discipline, and affection (in that order – we are big Cesar Millan fans) would keep him on the straight and narrow.  You could tell from just the first meeting that he had a sweet and ready-to-please nature; all he wanted to do was make you happy.  We were ready to adopt him on the spot.

NorbertI was frustrated with the length of time it took me to get approved to have Jonah placed with us, but I was equally impressed with HT’s concern for his welfare, and making the right choice for him.  They urged us to get a walker who could take him out mid-day while we are away, and we did so, finding a wonderful new friend in the process.  His walker created a blog named for him “The Norbert Report,”, as she has also fallen in love with our “big old pumpkin-headed” dog.

We are Norbert’s second (and final) family, and I still cannot imagine that he was ever like the dog his first family turned in.  With us he is extremely quiet, calm, and patient.  We go for long walks every morning and evening, and he loves making new friends. We find we get
out more in the neighborhood as a family and meet a lot of folks we haven’t met before. Norbert is big and strong enough that he will sometimes tow the kids on the their scooters while wearing his harness, and my wife and I have lost weight now that we’re in the habit of taking vigorous daily walks with him.  We always tell the kids that Norbert is spoiling them for dogs.  He is the best dog ever!

The Melnyks, Washington, DC


Rescues will often tell you that kittens need to be adopted in pairs and I found that is so very true.  I rescued a young kitten on his way to be abandoned in a village in Armenia and brought him back to the US with me.  Marco Polo was the perfect name for my little traveler.  After having romped with dogs and having constant companions, Marco was lonely as an only animal and very vocal in letting me know.  I knew he needed a pal and went in search of a playmate.  Lucky for us we stumbled upon Homeward Trails and Cosmo.

Cosmo was one of several kittens rescued with their mother by HT from a local shelter.  An all-black kitten with a tiny tuft of white at his chest, he was the last in the litter to find a home.  Cosmo’s foster brought him to my apartment as I insisted the cats meet before committing.  He was brave as can be and happy to meet the resident cat.  There were no hisses from either, just a healthy dose of curiosity and plenty of purrs.  Needless to say, he never left that day, and Marco and I adopted him.

CosmoLittle did Cosmo know what life would be like with us.  We moved to Moscow, Russia for two years and most recently to Almaty, Kazakhstan.  With pet passports in hand, Cosmo and Marco have traveled more than many Americans.  When people come to visit, they always compliment the shiny coat of my little panther and his adorable golden eyes.  Cosmo is a lover and total lap cat.  He’s calm, quiet and easy going.  He enjoys our clicker training sessions but is not a fan of the human toilet training – he likes his litter.  Cosmo’s favorite playtime is to chase the string on the wand without any attachments!

I sincerely thank Homeward Trials for having brought Cosmo into our lives.  I’ve since learned that black cats are the last to be adopted and the first to be put to sleep in shelters. Soon to be four wonderful years with my little Cosmo, I simply can’t understand it.  He is a dream kitty, napping on my lap as I type this, and I can’t imagine a home without him.”

-Shana, Marco and Cosmo

Almaty, Kazakhstan

See all posts about: Black Cats