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Bruce 1Six and a half years. That’s how long Bruce had been waiting at LifeLine’s Avondale shelter to find his perfect family, and that’s a very long time to wait.

Beyond his extreme patience, Bruce was a very special case in other ways. It was challenge to find a forever home for him because Bruce needed to be an “only dog,” and, on top of his dog aversions, he was selective with his people. But to those whom he connected with, Bruce was a big-hearted love chunk who simply needed the “right” people. So for six years, LifeLine waited with him while Bruce held out for his happy ending.

Helen Gardner was browsing Facebook in late January 2016 and came upon a friend’s post linking to an adorable “panda-bear” dog with a face she couldn’t resist. Recently divorced after six and a half years of marriage, Helen had left a home with dogs behind, and while she knew it was for the best for them, she also knew there was someone special waiting for her out in the world. When Helen saw the photo of Bruce, she just knew she had to meet him.12119085 10153619272566788 8408301022952445029 n

Love at first sight, it wasn’t exactly. Bruce wasn’t nearly as excited to meet Helen as she was him, and he spent their first walk together smelling things and taking in the world. And taking a dump. That was the highlight. And then there was the humping. He was really humpy.

In retrospect, Helen knows that he wasn’t indifferent to her—the poor guy had just spent so long in the shelter. But at the time, she didn’t know the whole story. She just thought he didn’t really like her. As she was leaving, she asked how long Bruce had been there and where he came from. She was told that he had been chained up and abandoned at the shelter and that he had been there for over six years. Six years. He’d been there as long as she had been married.

Helen had a lot to think about as she left the shelter.

Twelve hours later, Helen was back at the shelter to retrieve this “weird, shitting, humping, beast of a dog,” and the pair left to the cheers of the LifeLine staff who had known and been rooting for Bruce all this time. At nine years old, six of which years he had spent in the shelter, Bruce had found his happily ever after, and Helen had filled her heart with love again.IMG 20161002 153557

Helen brought him to live on Lake Lanier with her before leaving the next January to pursue work outside of Denver. In just over a year, Bruce went from shelter life to lake life to enjoying the snow and mountains of Colorado, and Bruce and Helen made a wonderful adventure out of their new surroundings. They spent the next year settling in and finding their way together, Bruce by Helen’s side and always on her team while she found her footing and stepped out of her comfort zone to grow in new ways.Screen Shot 2018 02 14 at 3.11.37 PM

But last month, nearly two years to the day from when they met, Helen learned that Bruce was very ill and that he didn’t have much time left. Within a few days, Bruce lay in Helen’s lap and snored his last goodbye.

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Their life together was a testament to resilience, to patience, to finding the good in difficult times, and to easing transitions with best friends to lean on. We are so grateful to Helen for the beautiful life she made for Bruce these last two years. And we celebrate all the Helens and the Bruces who take a chance to turn a stranger into a love story.

Rest in peace, Brucey. You were absolutely loved.

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Founded in 2002 and now managing DeKalb and Fulton County Animal Services, LifeLine Animal Project is the leading non-profit organization working to end the euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats in metro Atlanta shelters. Together, we will make Atlanta a no-kill community.

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