BROOKSVILLE — Walter, a roughly 10-year-old pit bull mix, was malnourished and mistreated by his former owner, who is now in jail.
At Hernando County Animal Services, Walter was well-fed, treated for heartworms and neutered. But despite his gentle nature, Walter was overlooked by 91 people who adopted animals from the agency during a recent adoption event.
His life changed Thursday, when Mariesa Hughes and her father, Pat Caliguire, flew from New York to take Walter to his new adopted home in Berryville, Va.
“They saw his Facebook story and fell in love with him,” said Cindy Garner, a customer service representative at Animal Services.
Garner referred to a “story” on the agency’s Facebook page. Written in first-person, it detailed the recent adoption event:
“The kennel staff would take the different ones out of their kennels to be viewed and touched. ... I think I was invisible to everyone. No one even stopped by to give me a look or to even say hello.”
Hughes and Caliguire represented Rowdy to the Rescue, a New York nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about animal overpopulation and rescuing animals from shelters.
Hughes smiled as she knelt to meet Walter.
“I didn’t think I would be flying from New York to get him, but he’s heartworm-positive,” she said, explaining it would be better for Walter to ride in a car.
Walter wasn’t alone in leaving the shelter Thursday.
Hughes and Caliguire also took Marcie, a roughly 10-year-old beagle mix, that was a flea-bitten stray when she was found recently in Spring Hill. Marcie is going to a new home in Massachusetts.
Hughes seemed equally enamored of her.
“Oh, what a doll baby!” she said. “Does she give kisses?”
Walter and Marcie were helped through Rowdy to the Rescue’s Mr. Mo Project, which concentrates on finding homes for “senior” dogs living in shelters.
“Mr. Mo provides medical expenses for rescue dogs,” Hughes said. “They even helped us rent a car” to drive Walter and Marcie to their new homes.
Many Rowdy to the Rescue adoptions are filmed and shown on YouTube and msn.com, Hughes said. Titled “Life In the Doghouse,” the three-minute episodes are filmed weekly.
Thursday’s adoption also was filmed, but it was not immediately clear when the video might be aired.
Before he left Thursday with Hughes and Caliguire, Walter received so many visitors that Garner and other shelter workers started calling him “Mr. Hollywood.”
“For the dog who got no attention for the adoption event, he turned out to be the star,” Garner said.