by Anna Cooke
The heart is going to do what the heart is going to do, and one woman’s broken heart led her on a round trip journey of almost 3,000 miles to adopt a senior dog. When Laura Rehbein’s beloved dog Myra suddenly and tragically died, she was inconsolable. “Myra was imperfectly perfect,” said Laura, tearing up easily from the still-fresh hole in her heart. “She was a senior dog who came into my life four years ago. The small but mighty dog stole my heart from the moment I saw a picture of her.”
Rehbein was actually in the research process of adopting another senior dog as a companion for Myra when she unexpectedly died. “Myra was the pack leader without a pack,” Rehbein told us. In shock, Rehbein temporarily abandoned the idea of adopting another dog. “But, my house felt so empty. I have had a dog since I was twelve years old, and suddenly, I realized, I didn’t know what to do without a dog by my side,” Rehbein told us during a recent meeting at her Tampa office.
She soon resumed her search for another adoptable senior dog and came across an Apple Head Chihuahua at Dolly’s Legacy Animal Rescue in Lincoln, Nebraska. He ended up at the shelter after his human, with whom he had lived for years as a constant companion, died. A volunteer for Dolly’s Legacy pulled the dog, along with three other dogs, all of whom were found inside the home with the deceased.
Rehbein, who lives and works in the Tampa Bay area and has fostered for local rescue groups including Rugaz Rescue, put in her adoption application. “I just saw that face looking back at me through the posted photos, and knew. But, in reality, he was so far away,” said Rehbein. “If it was meant to be…”
Within four hours of sending in her application, Rehbein received an email saying she had been approved to adopt the dog named Half Pint. She responded to the rescue group’s email remarking how fast their approval process had been. Their response to Rehbein was, “What can we say? We spoke with your veterinarian, and what she had to say about you convinced us you would be perfect for Half Pint.”
Rachele Walter, a volunteer for Dolly’s Legacy and Half Pint’s foster mom said, “We do vet checks on all potential adopters. If we find a good match, we will adopt across state lines as long as the adopter is willing to travel here to pick up the dog. We don’t do transports.”
After a Zoom call to meet Half Pint and speak with Rachele, Rehbein began making plans for her journey to Nebraska. She would fly into Omaha, where Rachele would meet and greet her with the dog, then she and Half Pint would return to Tampa, all in less than 24 hours. “No hotels. Just up and back. I knew that I would be pooped, but it would be one day, without having to miss work,” said Rehbein. She used her saved miles for the airfare, and her only out of pocket was for the pet fee on the return flights home.
From start to finish, the entire process including planning and traveling, took five days. Not for a moment did Rehbein have second thoughts. “I knew that if I didn’t do it now, it was never going to happen, especially with the holidays,” Rehbein added.
Friends followed Rehbein’s clandestine sojourn on her Facebook page. She only hinted at what she might be doing until revealing her secret through a video of Rachelle delivering Half Pint to her at the airport. Once home, a friend helped give Half Pint his new name, Levi, which is Hebrew and means united or “joined in harmony.”
Rehbein (shown above with Levi) admits she has a soft spot for older dogs and Chihuahuas. Levi is 10, and she likes to say that he’s come to Florida to retire. “He will live his best life, riding in a convertible to go to the beach, coming to work with me or dining out,” said Rehbein. “I know some people will think, ‘how can she adopt a senior dog knowing he may may not be around for long?’ Well, we’re all going to die. We cannot control that outcome. Who knows how long Levi will be with me. Maybe eight years? Maybe two. However long, this well-mannered, chilled senior dog will now have the best years of his life. Levi came into my life at this moment for a reason,” said Rehbein.
About Dolly’s Legacy Animal Rescue: Dolly was rescued at age 11 by Kerri Kelly from a terribly neglectful environment along with 11 additional Pekingese. They were all ‘show breeders’ and had champion bloodlines and trophies. Sadly, the breeder stopped caring for them and placed them in crates in a furnace room where they lived 24 hours a day. When rescued, they had burns on their bellies from laying in their own waste, ulcerations on their eyes causing some of them to be blinded, and severe matting of their coats that was pulling on their skin. Kerri immediately bonded with Dolly and knew the sassy Peke was meant to be hers. Dolly lived for just 2-1/2 more years. Dolly’s Legacy Animal Rescue was founded by Kerri Kelly on what would have been Dolly’s 14th birthday, August 9th, 2013. Your donations will continue to help this all-volunteer rescue group’s efforts. www.DollysLegacyAnimalRescue.org