Joey’s Journey: Shelter dog goes from stray to samaritan

I was going through some old files and found a copy of this article that was written about my dog, Joey.

Joey’s Journey: Shelter dog goes from stray to samaritan


They say that every dog has his day. For Joey, that day came in December 2010 when, against all odds, he was adopted from the Bedford County Animal Shelter  Joey, a yellow lab, was brought in to the shelter as a stray. Looking back, that might have been a godsend in itself.  How could that be?

Hands to paws – Brenda Goodrich, director of Bedford County Animal Control is very active in the “re-homing” of animal occupants, using websites like and programs such as PetSmart’s Rescue Waggin’.  She’s even come up with a nickname for the shelter, tributing its rescuing nature: “The Doggie Underground Railroad.”  Joey came to find a new home through Goodrich’s efforts on, and his adoption story is one that she’s very fond of.  Shirley Thaler of Harvest, Ala., had recently suffered the passing of her longtime canine cohort of 14 years, Brownie, and was in the market for another pup. She came across a picture of Joey, and that was it.

Picture tells story – “Joey’s picture popped up and he had this big, goofy grin,” Thaler says. “He just looked so happy and friendly. Shelbyville’s about two hours away, but Joey’s picture stuck with me so I decided to call and see if he was still available.”  Joey and his ever-smiling mug were still waiting, so Thaler took a day off from work — kindly granted by her animal-loving boss — to drive to Shelbyville. Joey’s lucky day had finally come.  The beginning of Thaler and Joey’s relationship was not as peachy as the story of their fateful meeting, however. There was no denying that Joey was an exceptionally hyper animal.

Wild, crazy guy – “He was buck wild when I got him,” Thaler says.  As it turns out, Joey was a tornado of destruction, tearing up everything he could get his teeth on. He was even a threat to himself.  “I asked the vet to put him on tranquilizers for his own protection,” says Thaler. Evidently Joey had a knack for running into things without looking. One night, he ran into a low branch, cutting his eyelid and scratching his cornea.  Eventually, Thaler signed Joey up for doggie day care, where he ended up getting suspended.  “I thought that was kind of stupid,” Thaler says. “I thought, ‘is he going to sit at home and contemplate what he did wrong?'” A week later, Joey was expelled.  It took Thaler two more tries at obedience schools to find the right fit for Joey. This came at the facilities of Steve Russell in Toney, Ala., where Joey was trained for a year.

Calmer demeanor – Albeit still energetic, Joey progressed into being a much more manageable companion. So much so that Thaler enrolled Joey at Kind Hearts Behavior Center in Huntsville.  Now, Joey is on track to become a therapy-certified dog. And Thaler and Goodrich couldn’t be more proud.  Joey has made a few trips to rehabilitation centers to visit with patients, picked up litter with Thaler at Adopt a Mile.  One could even say that Joey’s first therapy work was done with his owner.  “They always say that you should find a dog that matches your personality, and there is definitely some merit to that,” explains Thaler. “But with Joey and I, we were exact opposites. I really think that has made my life a lot better, because now I’m active in the community and meeting new people.”  It’s all too rare that stray animals who wind up in shelters are able to find good, loving homes … and even more uncommon that they are able to make a positive impact on their community, such as Joey has. Goodrich hopes that Joey’s story encourages more adopters to gear their searches toward shelters like hers.

Happy ending – “Most of our strays aren’t bad dogs, they’ve just had bad owners,” Goodrich says. “I’m so proud of how Shirley’s done with Joey. They’re just such a great adoption story.”  As for Thaler, she’s glad that she endured Joey’s early growing pains.  “In the beginning we had our differences, but I’m really glad that I stuck it out with him because he is so friendly and affectionate,” Thaler says.  Joey’s journey from stray to samaritan hasn’t been an easy one. But in the end, he’s found a new home and Shirley Thaler has found a new best friend.

© Copyright 2012, Shelbyville Times-Gazette Sunday, February 5, 2012