Dogs like Delilah don’t always find forever families.
There’s a list of reasons people might pass over the 10-year-old pit bull mix who arrived at the Austin Animal Center in August 2016 and through last week was being fostered by jail inmates as part of a program at the Travis County Correctional Complex. Wrong age. Wrong breed. Wrong background.
But when musician Steve Ondrechen saw her face looking up at him from his copy of the Austin American-Statesman last Tuesday, he said it was fate.
Earlier this year, Ondrechen and his wife, Lesley, lost their beloved 15-year-old dog, Charley. When he told Lesley he was ready for another dog, she asked him to hold off until "the universe gives us one."
"I’m in my easy chair, and there is Delilah, in my lap," he said. "I called her and said, ‘The universe put a dog in my lap.’"
Last week’s story about Delilah detailed her history and explained how her participation in the new animal foster program at the Travis County Correctional Complex, where inmates are responsible for her care, was preparing her to be a better family pet.
After reading about Delilah, Ondrechen immediately called the Austin Animal Center and started the adoption process. By Thursday afternoon, Delilah was sunning herself in the grass — something she hadn’t had the luxury of doing in years — in the backyard of her forever home.
"She’s just a sweetheart, just a real lover dog," Ondrechen said, adding that besides sunbathing Delilah also enjoys watching "Downton Abbey" from the comfort of the couch. "I was glad and real lucky that we got to her first."
Jennifer Olohan, communications and media manager for the Austin Animal Center, said that while several families inquired about Delilah after reading the story, the Ondrechens, who specifically wanted an older dog, were the best fit.
"We are so thrilled that Delilah found her perfect match and that she’ll get to spend the holidays in her new home," she said. "It was difficult for the inmates who fostered her to say goodbye last week, but that just goes to show what an impact this program and our partnership with TCCC has on everyone involved. It really has been invaluable for our shelter pets."
The TCCC foster program is beneficial for both the animals and the inmates. For Delilah, living at the jail offered an opportunity to experience around-the-clock love and affection from the eight male inmates with whom she shared a unit. For the inmates, taking care of Delilah provided a chance to learn marketable dog-grooming and dog-training skills as well as a reason to start each day with a sense of purpose.
During a graduation ceremony at the jail last Thursday, Delilah donned a mortarboard and enjoyed a "pupcake" from Woof Gang Bakery with the words "Happy Adoption Day" written on it as inmates in black-and-white stripes said their goodbyes. Once the ceremony was over, Delilah walked through the jail gates a free canine, off to start a new life with the Ondrechens.
"Adoptions like Delilah make this whole program worthwhile," said Heather Stan, programs coordinator for the TCCC who started the animal foster program at the jail. "I am thrilled to play a part in their second chance. Each and every dog deserves it."
There are hundreds of dogs who still need homes in Central Texas. Learn more at austintexas.gov/department/aac.