Rescue Me: Bringing Love Home for the Holidays

It all started with a little dog named Max, a Schipperke mix.

Brianna Nastasi, Regional Sales Manager at McGrory, always loved dogs, but Max was the one who truly changed her life—and ultimately the lives of other dogs as well. Brie has been adopting rescues for over a decade. This holiday season, another Schipperke named Charlie joined the family from the Providence Animal Center.

Rescue Puppies Christmas
Two of Brianna’s rescues, Nellie (left) and Charlie (right). Charlie joined the Nastasi family this holiday season. | Photo: Jessica Gulnick ©2019

Brianna and her husband believe in the power of a loving adoptive home to rehabilitate even challenging rescues.

“We took Max in back in 2009, and I honestly don’t know who rescued who,” Brianna says. “Max just changed our lives, and our outlook on older dogs that need homes and love and care.”

When they met 3-year-old Max at Lancaster, PA-based Plain and Fancy Animal Rescue, they could see his scars weren’t just skin deep. “He was used as a fighting dog, and had serious burns on his body from being pushed to fight,” she says. “I knew he’d need time and care to really come around.”

The Pup Pack

Two years after they brought Max into their home, Tina—a stray at the Gloucester County Animal Shelter, who was used as a breeder in a puppy mill—joined him and they became fast friends. Schipperkes, an unusual breed that tend to be a bit harder to place in adoptive homes, had fast become one of the Nastasis’ favorite kinds of dogs.

A year after Tina joined the family, a Schipperke rescue contacted Brianna about a little spitfire of a dog named Roxie. When the 2012 recession hit, Roxie’s family was forced to move to Georgia, and sadly, couldn’t take the pup with them.

Roxie had some anxiety issues, and her high-strung behavior meant that Brianna had to work a little harder. But as Roxie settled into her new home, the trio of dogs became a close-knit family.

In 2015, one of Brianna’s friends discovered a senior Schipperke with bad eyes that she thought would be a wonderful addition to the Nastasi pack. Lucy’s elderly owner had passed away, and while Lucy was loved, she didn’t have the best care.

Although each dog came with their own personality and history, the quartet was inseparable until 2018, when Roxie passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Just a few months later, Lucy would also cross over the Rainbow Bridge after a long and valiant battle with an inoperable tumor.

Nellie, Survivor and Superhero

Nellie The Rescue Dog at Thanksgiving
Nellie (aka the Fur-nado) pictured this Thanksgiving, just a year after Brie adopted her. | Photo: Jessica Gulnick ©2019

A month before the loss of Lucy, Brianna had brought a tiny pup named Nellie into the fold. “Peaceable Kingdom based in Whitehall, PA said they had a little Schipperke who was the runt of her litter,” she says. “She was very abused, and they didn’t even know if she would be able to make it.”

Nellie was riddled with fleas and malnourished, with infections in both eyes and a painful broken jaw. The abuse Nellie had suffered left her with just four teeth, one of which was dangling out.

Like Max had done years before, Brianna says that this time it was Nellie who rescued her from the despair of losing two dogs so close together. Nellie’s transformation has been nothing short of miraculous.

Although she had to have all of her teeth removed, Nellie’s fur has grown back and she has gained weight.

An unstoppable ball of energetic love, one of her many nicknames is “the Fur-nado”. Nellie’s visits to McGrory’s headquarters and dog-friendly firms are welcomed with joy by clients and staff alike.

“She’s had multiple surgeries, she has no teeth, she’s a senior – and yet she’s living her best life,” Brianna smiles.

‘Give Your Dog Their Best Life’

Brianna’s goal is to educate potential dog owners on the unique benefits of adopting an older dog, even though their time here may be limited. “Everybody wants a puppy, but if you have the mindset that you’re going to love this dog for as long as God gives you the time to love this dog,” she says, “you can see the opportunity to give an adult rescue his or her best life.”

She notes that older dogs are a bit more mature and calm, and may already be house-trained.

“It’s not senior dogs’ fault that they got old, their owners passed away, someone stopped loving them, or they were abused,” Brianna says. “Older dogs need more love, and I believe that they appreciate it more.”

In addition to rescuing dogs, Brianna works with the Special Olympics, which has helped her brother. She dreams of spending her retirement training rescue dogs as seeing-eye partners to assist people with visual impairments.

“I believe God put dogs on the planet simply to be good companions to us, and to be our close friends,” Brianna says. “We enrich each other’s lives. Sometimes, we can even save each other’s lives.”

To learn more about rescue dogs, donate, volunteer, or adopt this holiday season, click on the links below:

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