STORY AND VIDEO BY JOHN ANDERSON
Coming out of the pandemic, SPCA’s across Western New York noticed people were getting out and doing less with animals. That meant a decline in adopts, fostering and donations to shelters housing thousands and thousands of homeless dogs and animals.
On July 4, a dog wandering the streets of Niagara Falls was dropped off at the Niagara County SPCA.
“He was very emancipated, a very skinny guy, and weighed 43 pounds,” said Amy Lewis, executive director of the Niagara County SPCA. “We thought he was just thin, but after some blood work, we found out he had advanced stages of kidney failure.”
The staff literally started preparing the last supper for the dog.
Little did anyone know, this dog, now named Lloyd, would become a regional and then world-wide sensation, go on amazing adventures and start to turn the shelters around.
“Lloyd is bringing life back to the shelter and shelter involvement,” said Liz Marshall, director of events and marketing for the Niagara County SPCA. “We have people who want to take a dog for the day, who want to foster and actually really want to adopt. They have come in to adopt Lloyd’s friends! We had so many adoptions this week, it’s been amazing.”
Lewis admits, “We thought he would make it three days, maybe five days, we weren’t sure.”
So the food began.
“We started to give him cheeseburgers, ice cream, hot dogs, but then we said ‘he has some life to him.’ So we started switching up his diet,” Marshall said. “We made him homemade cooked food, chicken and vegetables. We think the love of the community has given the dog the will to live. This dog could barely walk, now he chases me.”
Lloyd’s adventures were documented on the shelter’s Facebook page. A bucket list for Lloyd. Community members obliged and picked Lloyd up, or the shelter employees took Lloyd to attractions and media obligations.
“The SPCA has received messages from all over the world,” Marshall said. “A woman from Scotland donated money to buy Lloyd dinner. It’s a story that is pretty far-reaching. A radio station in Maine talked about Lloyd on a show.”
ENTER ALLEGANY COUNTY
Lynda Pruski was a board member for the old SPCA in Stannards with a dream for a new facility. She relied on other SPCA’s for help because of the size of the old shelter. She also loves terminally ill dogs, also referred to as “Hospice Dogs.” Pruski would adopt many of them to give them the best quality of life in the short time they had.
A new shelter was opened in February of 2019 at 5440 State Route 19 in Belmont and Pruski is now the executive director and still has her passion to help all animals.
Pruski read and laughed at the posts about Lloyd and reached out to her friends at the Niagara SPCA. The SPCA Serving Allegany County has a Hospice Dog, Loretta, so a date was set up for the dogs to meet.
“I’ve known Lynda for a number of years and she’s been following Lloyd’s story and from what I know about Lynda is, she loves elderly dogs,” Lewis said. “Initially, it was going to be a visit for Lloyd to tour the shelter and then it became a tour of Allegany County.
“I think the news shelter is incredible,” Lewis said. “A few years ago, we transported some animals when she had a hoarding case, and the old shelter was falling apart, substandard, and to see what she has done and the community has done to shelter its homeless animals is amazing.”
Marshall added, “It is amazing, it’s what we aspire to do at the Niagara SPCA. We want to remodel the whole shelter, we want the same type of doors so it will be easier for the public to go in and view the dogs.”
WHAT A DAY
Lloyd was given a hero’s welcome.
“We were so surprised to pull up in the driveway of the shelter and have ‘Welcome Lloyd’ signs and balloons and an entire group of people waiting for him,” Lewis said. “Many of the people traveled from all over the county to see him, including someone who drove over from Hornell.”
There were signs from Loretta’s friends welcoming Lloyd with hearts. Loretta and Lloyd met up in the lawn and went on a tour of the facility. Loretta is being fostered at the SPCA and is not used to the daily adventures Lloyd goes on. The two exchanged pleasantries (they rubbed noses) and then Loretta went to take a nap.
Lloyd visited the annual Seniors Citizens Picnic at the Allegany County Fairgrounds in Angelica hosted by the Office for the Aging, met the pets at the SPCA Serving Allegany County and went to the Wellsville Country Club to see some golf and ride in a cart.
Dr. Paul Axtell and his wife, Lorraine, then let Lloyd tour the Bradley Gardens and Lloyd took a dip in the pond.
With hunger built up, it was time to try some food at the famous Texas Hot before enjoying some of the dog treats at the Giant Food Mart. Lloyd found out proceeds from the treats and change rounded up at the register are going toward the SPCA.
Lloyd now had a chance to visit the highest peak in Western New York during a trip to Rich and Gwen Shear’s farm. The day was completed with some doggie ice cream from Sugar Daddies.
“Allegany County a beautiful county. I love that kind of country feel and everything is so lush and everybody has been so welcoming,” Lewis said.
Marshall added, “I thought it was pretty great. We went to the Wellsville Country Club and Lloyd loved my driving, the wind in his face, and the stops and the food was great. “
A HAPPY ENDING
What has Lloyd’s story done to help the Niagara SPCA and SPCA’s across Western New York?
“Lloyd’s story has brought a lot of attention to our SPCA, but it helps to publicize the needs of shelter animals and there are thousands upon thousands of homeless animals out there and they all depend on their community to support their local shelter,” Lewis said.” “An animal shelter depends on its community to provide a shelter, so it’s so important that the community continues to donate, foster and adopt.”
Vera Bradley donated blankets for the dogs and other donations are coming in to help the animals.
As for Lloyd, despite the Kidney failure and the original outlook of a week to live, almost two months later, the staff sees improvements and on the day Lloyd visited Allegany County, his urine was a normal color for the first time.
Pruski said the day was a success and said Lloyd’s positive story is having an impact at the shelter in Belmont as well.
“We were thrilled to have Lloyd come and visit. Our shelter and our community welcomed him. He was a huge hit at the Office For the Aging Senior Picnic and every place he went to,” Pruski said. “He wolfed down his Texas Hot, he smiled while riding the golf cart and he was very intrigued when he met a pig, Maxwell, at Rich and Gwen Shear’s farm. Maxwell is a former SPCA pig the Shear’s adopted.
“We had a record adoption during Covid. Now that people are going on vacation for the first time in two years, it’s quieter at the shelters and adoptions have slowed down,” Pruski said. “Gone are the times when 10 dogs or 10 cats are adopted in one day as it’s significantly reduced. But I think Lloyd’s story is helping all the shelters. It makes you think of all the animals sitting at a shelter that need to be adopted. Hopefully it helps bolster adoptions again.”
Pruski added, “We would love to have Lloyd back, there is so much more to do in Allegany County.”
As Lewis and Marshall pulled out of the shelter in Belmont to head home, Lloyd was eating the biscuits from Giant Food Mart and with his window rolled down, getting pets goodbye.
Almost every moment of Lloyd’s trip was captured by video or photos. As the cameras turned off and the phones went away, Lloyd perked up, poked his head out of the window and kissed Lynda goodbye.
Photo gallery of the visit. Photos by Nick Davis of Genesee Valley Media, John Anderson and the SPCA Serving Allegany County: