Dog Who Lived In An Empty House Can't Believe His New Family Is Real
"He finally exhaled and sighed and fell asleep surrounded by everybody."
Even though he was surrounded by his new family, Ham spent much of his first night wondering if he was actually there.
As he lay sprawled on his bed in the living room, the dog would occasionally lift his head and take stock of his surroundings.
There was his new family: Neil Abramson - a prominent champion for animal welfare - and his veterinarian wife, Amy Rodriguez. Their children were there too. The TV was on.
And there were his four new dog siblings. Somewhere, there was also a parrot. A horse. A tortoise. Pigs. A flamingo.
No, you're not dreaming, Ham. This is for real.
"He would wake up every 30 minutes to make sure everything was the same," Abramson tells The Dodo. "I hope that eventually he wakes up every two hours or every four hours. And then he will wake up when everybody else does and know that this is his life now. And he doesn't have to worry about it being taken away."
You can't blame Ham for wanting to double and triple check.
Just a week earlier, he may have been the loneliest dog in the world. Ham's former family considered him too much of a bother - all that fur on the furniture, all those demands on their time.
So they kept him at their second home, an empty house in the suburbs of White Plains, New York.
Ham would sit in the window, watching people pass by.
As often as she could, Lisa Heart, a volunteer at Special Needs Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Northeast, would pay him a visit. The family had asked her to try to find a home for Ham. It was either that or the shelter.
Heart took Ham on daily expeditions. He always cried when he knew he was going back to the empty house.
Abramson and Rodriguez read the story of the dog who lived in the empty house - and realized he was practically in the neighborhood.
"You see a lot of stories about dogs and places that I can't get to - the West Coast or South America or in different countries," Abramson explains. "And then I looked and said, 'Holy crap. This dog's in White Plains. I mean this dog is like 20 minutes from where I live.' "Sometimes, you've got to pick up the phone."
On Sunday, Heart picked up Ham from his empty house for the last time.
He arrived at his new home outside of Manhattan - nine sprawling acres that are home to a kaleidoscope of animals.
"We got there and they had everything," Heart recalls to The Dodo. "Pigs, chickens, tortoise, rabbits, cats, parrots. I thought there is no sensory deprivation here. This is overload."
All the animals shared one thing in common: They had been rescued.
And Ham insisted on meeting every one of them.
There was the horse, who mystified Ham.
And the other dogs, who were keen to greet him. Then there was the parrot who pecked his nose - sorry, Ham, not into it.
And the eight cats who decided to judge, as cats often do, from a distance.
And then, there were the humans. Abramson, a celebrated author and groundbreaking animal welfare attorney would just be daddy. Mommy? A veterinarian who has devoted her life to helping animals.
Yes, Ham. This is the place.
That first night, Ham must have felt it at last. Because at some point - after waking up every few minutes to check - he surrendered.
"He finally exhaled and sighed and fell asleep surrounded by everybody," Abramson says.
Want to help dogs like Ham find their dream families? Consider supporting Special Needs Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Northeast.