PEOPLE | PETS | COMMUNITY

The King of Hearts: Love For Leroy, at Long Last

Author’s note: I have had the pleasure of covering the journey of Leroy the dog for six years. Seattle Dogspot writer Robert Pregulman, reporter Jeff Burnside, and I were the three journalists who covered Leroy’s much-needed rescue…and now it’s my great privilege to provide the rest of the story.

Author’s note: I have had the pleasure of covering the journey of Leroy the dog for six years. Seattle Dogspot writer Robert Pregulman, reporter Jeff Burnside, and I were the three journalists who covered Leroy’s much-needed rescue…and now it’s my great privilege to provide the rest of the story.

By Tracy Campion

For decades, radio host Paul Harvey’s dulcet tones rang out across the airwaves with his radio program, The Rest of the Story. The show featured vignettes that withheld the twist to the story – some little-known morsel or historical mystery. The tale of Leroy the dog would’ve been perfect for The Rest of the Story, from rags to riches and every step in between.

Leroy is an ancient family name that originated from the Normans, descendants of the Norse Vikings that later migrated to Normandy. It derives from “le roy,” meaning “the king,” and this Leroy truly is royal. But a decade ago, this handsome hound felt anything but.

Leroy is truly royal, but a decade ago, he felt like anything but royalty.

In 2009, Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation (AARF) found Leroy walking the streets of the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. No one knew who he was or how he’d gotten there. AARF founder Heather Enajibi loved this tawny dog with the golden smile and knew she had to help him. When it was discovered that Leroy had a strong prey drive, however, his options became limited. Olympic Animal Sanctuary (OAS) in Forks, Washington, was deemed to be his best option, as its founder, Steve Markwell, specifically worked with dogs who had behavioral issues. Sadly, this sanctuary was anything but: dogs lived in a crates in a small warehouse, and after several years, Leroy began to shut down. Heather had no idea what Leroy was living through until she went to visit him in 2012; this typically gregarious guy was no longer focused on human attention, but instead, hyper-focused on playing with a rock. Heather was appalled.

Former KOMO TV reporter Jeff Burnside documented the plight of the OAS dogs, calling it the “Sanctuary of Sorrow.” After Heather’s request to have Leroy returned was denied by Markwell, a court battle ensued to get Leroy out. A judge ruled that Leroy needed to be returned to Heather and AARF.

“We hadn’t been able to see Leroy and were so concerned that he was ‘broken’ emotionally,” Heather recalled. “I thought we’d be getting back a dog who had no trust or interest in humans anymore. As soon as we saw him, though, he jumped up and hugged me. My spirit just soared.”

Certified Animal Behaviorist Dr. Jim Ha assessed Leroy, determining that Leroy had no aggression toward humans, but might have PTSD from his ordeal at OAS.

This time, Leroy landed in safer territory: a boarding facility with a caregiver named John who loved and advocated for him. Pawsitive Alliance (PA), an umbrella organization that supports local animal rescues and shelters, added Leroy to their special roster of long-term homeless pets, called “Why Not Me Pets.” Pet Connection Magazine (PCM) partnered with PA to provide more coverage for Leroy. Former Seattle Seahawks and animal lovers Kevin Pierre-Lewis and Steven Hauschka stepped up to help Leroy, as well, and Leroy graced two of PCM’s covers with them. Leroy was particularly smitten with Lindsey Hauschka, giving her a liberal smattering of kisses behind the scenes, but the Hauschkas couldn’t adopt Leroy because they had two small dogs of their own and Leroy was an “only dog” candidate due to his prey drive. He needed a home with a large, fenced backyard and no other pets. PCM networked with Q13 Fox and King 5’s New Day Northwest to provide even more coverage for this hard-luck pup. Leroy received further support from Brokers Supporting Pet Rescue and Mud Bay, which hosted an adoption event for him.

“I first met Leroy during his Q13 debut,” recalled Pawsitive Alliance Executive Director Amy Ferguson. “He gives the BEST kisses and love nibbles. I loved finally experiencing that while working on helping him find a forever home. It was almost surreal.”

A woman saw Leroy’s story and adopted him, but sadly, that adoption didn’t last; in under a year, lovable Leroy was homeless once again. Heather, PA, PCM, and everyone from Team Leroy was devastated. Heather updated the team with the bad news.

“It had been such a long road – almost 10 years!” Heather recalled. “I never gave up hope, though. I was so worried for him. Even after this failed adoption, I knew his perfect family was out there for him somewhere; we just hadn’t found them yet.  With the help from Pet Connection Magazine, Pawsitive Alliance, and his many fans, we spread a wide net. I just knew we’d find them somewhere.”

No one with Team Leroy gave up on him. “Leroy is the kind of dog that steals your heart in an instant—as soon you meet him, you know he deserves all the good in the world and you can’t help but to fall in love with him,” Amy said.

“Funnily enough, his forever home was closer than we thought,” Heather said. “Sean and Danielle McCarthy had helped us years previously with a photo shoot and poster of Leroy. Danielle has a very special Mom named Deanna Goertz. Deanna (Dee for short) had always been afraid of bully breeds due to the negative stigma constantly surrounding them, but she finally experienced how amazing bullies are when Sean and Danielle’s dog, Shorty, came to stay at their house for awhile.”

Shorty

“It’s funny because I never wanted a pit bull. I was very disappointed when Danielle and her fiancé, Sean, adopted Shorty,” Dee recalled. “I fell into the stereotyping of the breed. The next thing you know, I was being asked to watch Shorty every once in awhile. I was scared to death. I’d sit on their couch with Shorty, praying he wouldn’t attack me.  Later, all three of them moved into our home to save up for their wedding and their move to Colorado.  It was then that Shorty and I became best buds and spent most of our time together.  Then it came time for them to move and I found myself with a huge hole in my heart, so I contacted AARF and told them that if they have a pitty that needs fostering to please let me know.”

Only a few days later, Dee’s other daughter, Brandi, called and said that a pitty was posted on AARF’s website. “After seeing Leroy’s post, I quickly responded and asked if I could foster him,” Dee said. At that time, Dee had no idea how famous Leroy was. “There was something about his face that just made me want him,” Dee said.

“Dee and family agreed to foster Leroy for us and it quickly became a love story,” Heather recalled. “They have all worked very hard to help him through his health and socialization issues. I knew very quickly it was forever, but I didn’t want to pressure them.  I think they also knew very quickly how they felt about him.  The love all around between Leroy and his family is so apparent and everything I’ve ever wanted for him.”

“As soon as his family started posting about how much in love with him, they were and committed to getting him everything he needed—especially the training he needed to get to know other dogs—we knew his forever home had finally found him,” Amy said. “There’s something so profound about knowing how long he waited to find his real forever home that kept us all going in making sure we found that home. Being part of the process, he went through and finally knowing he has a warm bed to sleep in at night and people who will give him all the cuddles he could ever want is why #WhynotMEpets exists. We are ecstatic for him and so glad we could help him on his journey.”

After Leroy became their foster pitty, Dee received a surprise. “Danielle called me from Colorado. She was so excited that she was almost in tears. She said, ‘Mom! Do you know who you’re fostering?  It’s Leroy!’” Danielle and Sean had wanted to adopt Leroy but couldn’t because both Shorty and Leroy needed to be the only dog in the house.  She then told me how famous he was and about his horrible time at OAS.  To make it even more of a ‘meant to be’ story, Leroy was Dani and Sean’s poster dog for their Pit-A-Billy’s Helping Homeless Hounds fundraiser. She was over-the-top excited that Leroy found his way into our family.”

And what a family Leroy found! “Between my husband and I, we have six daughters (oldest to youngest), Brandi, Lindsay, Kelsey, Danielle, Cali and Anna,” Dee said. “We call Anna ‘mom’ because when Leroy first came to our house, he went straight to her and they made a special bond.  Since I’m already a grandma, that name stuck with me and it just made sense to call Anna mom (see attached pic). Our girls have all moved out of the house and Leroy loves it when we have our monthly family gathering.”

In addition to being a mom of six, Dee is a proud veteran who served in the Navy from 1984 to 1991. “I was heartbroken when I had to leave,” she said. “I loved the hard work and challenges that the Navy brought and moving to new places and meeting new people.” It was then that Desert Storm started. “Being a single parent at the time, I had to leave the service,” Dee recalled.

Leroy quickly became part of Dee’s family, too. “It only took Leroy a few days to permanently have a place in our hearts. We started worrying that someone would want to adopt him.  Even though we knew it had been twelve long years of people who loved and supported him to help him get a home and no one had wanted him, we couldn’t help but have this fear that someone would.  However, with our financial situation and knowing how much a pet can cost we just couldn’t justify adopting him.  We started fostering him in November and I believe it was December when Heather Enajibi and Erin Halter from AARF approached us to become Leroy’s permanent foster family.  It took us all of two seconds to say yes! and we’re so happy and honored to have Leroy in our home forever!”

Leroy and “mama” Anna

Leroy, who was once considered to be too dog-aggressive to be around other dogs, can now interact with them safely.

“It’s terrifying for me to witness this!  Every time,” Heather said. “But I was wrong about him. With a TON of training, patience and love – Leroy has decided that other dogs are okay.  I don’t know that I’ll ever stop being nervous, but I do absolutely trust his family to know how best to do introductions and keep Leroy safe.”

That training came from Cheryl Frantz at Zoom Room North Seattle. “I give her full credit in helping Leroy learn to socialize with other dogs,” Dee said. “She was so patient with him and a great help teaching me how to help him be comfortable and safe around other dogs. Leroy started out in class behind a small fence and then moved out in front of the fence. From there, he started meeting dogs one at a time.   At the end of his training, he was able to be next to other dogs and learning with the rest of the class.  He even has his graduation diploma! I learned some behavioral signs to watch for to make sure Leroy doesn’t get into any bad situations while we are out on our walks.”

Dee, Leroy, and his Zoom Room diploma

“It’s truly amazing to see Leroy interacting with other dogs at events,” Amy agreed. “By the time Pawsitive Alliance was activated to help him find his forever home (in 2015), we’d only ever known him to not be dog friendly, so knowing his forever family went that extra mile for him to live the best life possible is everything to us.”

Shortly after Leroy came to his new family, he battled some serious medical ailments. “Unfortunately, Leroy had lots of hidden issues from his treatment at OAS,” Dee said. “In the year we’ve had him, he had kennel cough, pancreatitis, vestibular issues, hearing loss, and lastly, we almost lost him from a very serious kidney and urinary tract infection.  This poor guy has been through so much and yet he’s still so loving.  Now he has a healthy appetite, is at his perfect weight, and has been building up muscle and filling out. He loves to play ball with grandpa and go on long walks with me.”

Leroy recently had some snowy adventures in Leavenworth and at Steven’s Pass. “He loved the road trip and watching him play in the snow was hilarious,” Dee said with a laugh. “He’s a ham when it comes to posing for pictures. He catches snowballs with the girls and explores a new walking trail every week. He loves going to social events and is such a lover, having to kiss all the girls. I almost cried when he ran and played like a pup on the beach at Deception Pass with me, Heather, and his friend, Maggie McDowell. He just loves to be outside exploring and being surrounded by people.”

Heather added: “Leroy is such a special and loving boy. I’m so happy that we finally found him the people he was meant to be with.”

Please join Pet Connection Magazine in congratulating Leroy, and in thanking AARF and PA for their tireless dedication to this beautiful boy, Q13 Fox and Joe TV Seattle for sharing his story, and the community that came together to provide Leroy everything he needed.

Congratulations to Leroy and his entire family. This is the furry tail ending that we’ve been waiting to write for so very long – and it truly is meant for a king.

And now you know…the rest of the story.