For the first time in 963 days, instead of sleeping on the concrete floor of a shelter, Lucy woke up in a plush brown dog bed inside a warm home. The 4-year-old black-and-brown mastiff-pit bull mix, who’d spent the majority of her life inside a Philadelphia animal shelter, had finally been adopted.

“These are the days we wait for in animal welfare,” the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals wrote in a Facebook post. “The days when we know an animal rescued from cruelty got their second chance, no matter how long it took.”

The adoptive family, a woman named Kathy and her 8-year-old daughter, drove to the East Erie Avenue shelter from North Carolina on Dec. 30 after seeing Lucy’s “letter to Santa” on the shelter’s Facebook page. The shelter’s longest-stay dogs and cats wrote to “Santa Paws,” asking to start the new year in a “fur-ever” home.

Lucy had been at the shelter for more than 2½ years after the nonprofit organization saved her from a breeder who was denying her veterinary care, a PSPCA spokesperson said. The PSPCA didn’t provide further identifying information about the family who adopted her.

Kathy, her daughter, and Lucy on their way back to North Carolina after the family adopted Lucy from the PSPCA in North Philadelphia.
PSPCA
Kathy, her daughter, and Lucy on their way back to North Carolina after the family adopted Lucy from the PSPCA in North Philadelphia.

The December initiative led to the adoption of seven pets. The five longest-residing animals had been at the shelter for a combined 2,921 days.

The three longest-stay dogs after Lucy found homes in the Philadelphia area: Maronna, who was in the shelter for 632 days; Black Beauty, who was there 631 days; and Captain Hook, a resident for 207 days.

Deuce, a 10-year-old gray tabby with diabetes, was adopted after 488 days at the shelter by a family whose young son — who also has diabetes — saw the cat’s touching letter to Santa.

While the animals longed for permanent homes, they were cared for by shelter volunteers. Nicole Modrell, of Huntingdon Valley, has been volunteering at the PSPCA’s North Philadelphia headquarters for 7½ years and formed a bond with Lucy in May 2017 after her own dog, Roxy, died.

Nicole Modrell and Lucy connected in May 2017, shortly after Modrell's dog Roxy passed away. They remained best friends at the shelter ever since, and Modrell was thrilled that Lucy finally found a loving home.
Nicole Modrell
Nicole Modrell and Lucy connected in May 2017, shortly after Modrell's dog Roxy passed away. They remained best friends at the shelter ever since, and Modrell was thrilled that Lucy finally found a loving home.

“We just emotionally connected,” said Modrell, 47, who would take Lucy on field trips to cafes and parks. “She was very in tune with your emotions.”

Lucy’s letter to Santa went viral, and Modrell said she received hundreds of emails from people interested in adopting her. But she had to make sure the family could accommodate Lucy’s fear of strangers, particularly men, and intolerance of smaller animals.

When she received the email from Kathy, of North Carolina, she suspected it would be the perfect fit: “I had a feeling she was it.”

She said that Kathy has sent numerous pictures of Lucy enjoying her new family, and in every one, the former shelter dog looks so happy.

“She never had a real home ever in her real life,” she said. “But now she totally hit the jackpot.”

Lucy enjoyed her new "throne," a plush dog bed inside her new home in North Carolina. Lucy was at the PSPCA shelter in North Philadelphia for 963 days, the longest of any other dog.
PSPCA
Lucy enjoyed her new "throne," a plush dog bed inside her new home in North Carolina. Lucy was at the PSPCA shelter in North Philadelphia for 963 days, the longest of any other dog.