Consider This: Finding a Home for Bereaved Pets

Following the sudden death of a neighbor, the neighborhood pitched in to find a home for two bereaved dogs. Billie Salvucci was part of the search that ended five doors down and five streets over. /Photo: John Altdorfer

I often told a favorite story about my Cedarhurst neighbor, Lynne Beck. She worked at the gift shop at one of Pittsburgh’s big hospitals, where I had just started a new job. One day, she stopped me as I walked past her and told me that she lived on my street. “Billie told me you are working here,” she said, referencing my youngest child, while I tried to place her in my mind. I asked the name of her dogs, because Billie knows our neighbors by their pets. Her answer, “Buttercup and Belle” made her instantly recognizable to me as the lady who walked one or the other or both dogs down our street multiple times a day. When I told the story, then, it was to joke that my kid does my networking for me. Now, it’s part of a bigger story about neighbors caring for some much loved pets.

Lynne Beck died suddenly April 25.

Buttercup and Belle became everyone’s concern. For her neighbors, Larry and Jen Katz, they were the primary concern. Larry and Jen loved Lynne and the dogs, but Buttercup would not have adapted well to their home. They have dogs of their own, and Buttercup would need her own space with Belle. Luckily, the dogs were able to stay in their home with the help of a community of neighbors. Some, like my kid, helped in big ways and some, like me, in small ways. A half-dozen neighbors walked, fed and watered the dogs, and others went on the search for a new home. Older, inseparable, and unaccustomed to other dogs or children for housemates, they were challenging to match. A new home would need to be quiet and prepared for the dogs’ potential medical needs in the future, though the dogs are healthy now.

Billie helped to care for the dogs, and she was the one who kept me in the loop. Finding a home was not easy, and eventually, some of us took to social media. Many of our individual posts were shared more than 200 times. We reached people in Ohio and West Virginia, but we needed someone closer to home. Finally, the new technology worked, and my post was shared by a friend whose friend, Lisa Fevola, saw it at the right time. She had lost a couple of beloved dogs some years ago, and she was finally ready to take new pets into her life when she saw Buttercup and Belle in her Facebook feed. She was interested in meeting the dogs, and gave me her number. I gave it to Billie, Billie gave it to Larry, and Larry met Lisa. Lisa lives in a quiet home in Cedarhurst, walking distance from Lynne’s home.

It was a small miracle, finding a home five doors down and five streets over. Against the odds, Buttercup and Belle found a new home with the same visitors as their old home. Lisa brought Larry and Jen into her family of friends, and Billie rides her bike up the road to walk the dogs regularly. After the dogs were settled, Lisa even brought the neighbors together for a barbecue, where everyone was excited and happy to see Buttercup excited and happy again. Lisa has embraced her new pets’ old friends with open arms, well beyond our hopes much less our expectations! Lynne can rest in peace, knowing that her sweet dogs are loved, safe and together, and that her neighbors are even more grateful for this place she called home. I got to be a part of something bigger than myself when I circled my wagon with neighbors I didn’t really know, all because my kid loved a couple of dogs up the block.