Helping Strays was hoping for a Christmas miracle for Demi, a longtime resident. While it started closer to New Year’s Day and wasn’t finalized until nearly St. Patrick’s Day, the end result was a wish come true: Demi was adopted 809 days after being found nearly dead in a convenience store parking lot.
Demi was featured in a December Republic-Times article describing her time and training at the shelter as well as her special requirements and the specific attributes needed for a potential adopter.
Arland Steppig of O’Fallon, Mo., was a perfect match. Steppig, originally from Columbia, filed paperwork to begin the adoption process Dec. 30. After three months of determining if Demi would be a good fit, the adoption was finalized March 7.
Angie Berry, Helping Strays volunteer and Demi’s personal trainer for the past two-plus years, explained why the process took so long. Since Demi is a dog that requires special attention, Steppig had to meet with her several times at the shelter and then at his home to see if she responded well to him and his dog Remi.
On Steppig’s application, he indicated that he had adopted from a shelter before, wanted an older female to be a companion for his male, and he knew Demi was trained and smart.
Berry then contacted Steppig to give full disclosure of everything that went along with adopting Demi.
“He thought she was more than he could handle,” Berry remembered of the call, “but I told him ‘I would just like for you to meet her.’”
During the inauspicious first meeting, the shelter was short on staff and Berry had to accompany Demi. Demi did not interact with Steppig because of her close relationship with Berry.
Undeterred, Steppig came back the following Sunday and three times after that, twice with Remi, just to get a true feel for how Demi would interact with them. Everything was going well, so Berry arranged an in-home visit with Demi.
“It all just came together,” Berry said, adding that Demi “loves her brother (Remi).”
Nearly two months after the initial paperwork was filed, Steppig began the foster-to-adopt process, which provides an extra layer of support during the transition from shelter to permanent home. Six weeks later, Demi became an official member of the Steppig family.
“It really is amazing,” Berry said, recalling, “the last time I took Demi there, she recognized (Steppig’s) house and her tail wagged and I could tell we were done. I knew we’d be OK.”
Berry credits Steppig’s dedication for the successful adoption.
“He listened. He did everything we asked and he stuck to it,” Berry said, referring to specific instructions regarding how to manage Demi’s behavior, furniture and crate training, among other things. “If we had more people just listen, we would have a better (adoption) success rate.”
Steppig still has Berry for advice and training, but “only if he needs my help, maybe in the summer when they start walking more,” Berry continued. “He has a pretty good structure and is calm.”
In addition to working with a leash lead to familiarize Demi with his backyard fence boundaries, Berry reported Steppig has been “taking her on walks, car rides and has taken her around strangers” successfully.
“He’s put the time in,” she said.
In addition to Demi’s other foster families, Berry also credits Helping Strays staff for their support and patience.
“Our staff and people have come a long way with training,” Berry said, also noting that turnover has been low the past couple of years helping with consistency of training while getting pets ready for adoption.
Demi’s adoption was reported in several area media outlets – and even some in Kansas City and Chicago.
Steppig told Berry that Demi’s “fame hasn’t changed her.”
Berry said Steppig sends her a picture and an update about every three days, but that she also has to transition from her years as Demi’s main point of interaction.
“I’m kind of lost,” Berry admitted, adding she gave all her training equipment used with Demi to Steppig. “I’ve had to re-train myself even with going to walk the dogs” at Helping Strays due to the past years’ volunteering at the shelter being focused so much on one animal.
Berry knows she will not be lost for long.
“There’s always one more behind (the most recent dog), and then there’s three more after that.”