Washington Woman’s Special Gift for a One-eyed Shelter Dog

From The Examiner:

A few weeks ago, a one-eyed, 3-year-old, homeless pit bull named “Harvard” received a beautiful gift from a special woman in Washington who hoped to see him find a forever home.

That gift was a glorious “vacation from the shelter” – a weekend full of pampering, love, sunshine and freedom. Harvard has been housed at the Kitsap Humane Society since this past February. Suffice to say, the months behind bars have taken their toll.

The woman who gave Harvard his special vacation is Tracy Dunham, and her motivation for providing this respite weekend is nothing short of beautiful. Dunham recently lost her own beloved standard poodle, “Simone”, to cancer. When it was evident that Simone would not be able to beat the disease, Dunham took her to the beach…carrying Simone’s weak body down the stairs to the warm sand by the ocean.

Together, the ailing dog and the grieving owner sat side by side, listening to the waves and enjoying a special day together.

Years before, someone had rescued Simone after she was discarded by another…that someone gave Tracy Dunham an amazing gift when they recognized Simone’s beauty, despite her emaciated, neglected body. That individual’s efforts, so many years ago, provided Tracy Dunham with her best friend for the next twelve years. On Simone and Tracy’s special day at the beach, an idea formed in Tracy’s mind – a way to honor her best 4-legged friend’s life.

She decided to offer a sheltered dog a special weekend away from their dreary kennel run, saying:

I decided as I sat on the beach with Simone that when she passed I would take shelter dogs to my home to give them a respite weekend, lift their spirits, and hopefully someone might see that same light I saw in Simone so many years ago.

Which is exactly how Harvard came to enjoy a weekend away from the kennel run which had been his “home” for so many months at the Humane Society. Dunham chose Harvard for the “weekend away” because she knew that he was losing hope behind bars.

Last Friday, the one-eyed pit bull had the time of his life by Dunham’s side. The following is a snippet of their weekend adventure:

This boy adores people and is willing to work hard to please. Harvard visited two dog stores on his vacay and impressed everyone with his good manners and obedience. He met many people on his weekend out of the kennel and was friendly and appreciative of pets and attention from both children and adults. He knows sit and down and is working on a new skill, bed. If he is allowed to sleep in the bedroom on a dog bed he is quite and does not get up until you take him out.

He loves to lay in your lap and get pets, he is an affectionate guy. On walks he acknowledged other dogs but did not over react to them.

Like all vacations, Harvard’s had to come to an end. Dunham describes his heartache:

Sadly, when walked him into the building, I could see the sadness overtake him. He did not resist going back into the cold enclosure that he has known for so many months, I was asking him to do it and he went willingly. When I went back to check on him a few hours later all the signs of stress were back, he cowered down when I approached the kennel and barked a lot at the other dogs that passed by.

Tracy Dunham worries about Harvard…he is a one-eyed, “disabled”, adult pit bull who is stressed and unhappy at the shelter facility.

Who would want to adopt such a dog?

Perhaps someone who reads this article and knows that a loving dog desperately wants to give his loyal heart to someone will provide him with that chance, she says.

Please take a moment to share Harvard’s story. You can access his profile and shelter information at this link.


  1. Barbra Gordon says on  07/23/2012 at 8:15 pm

    I too think it was a bit cruel to take him for the weekend and then return him to that hell. He was then confused and wondering what he did wrong that made you bring him back thete.

  2. Anonymous says on  07/23/2012 at 8:26 pm

    He was on his very best behavior, felt loved and freedom, only to have it stripped away again so quickly. NOT a great idea at all. I’m sure Simone would not have wanted any dog to suffer as much as this dog has had his heart and spirit broken. If he’s such a great dog, then adopt him yourself. He obviously bonded with you and would be an excellent, grateful companion. Anything less is just beyond sad. It’s cruel and it’s not right.

  3. Anonymous says on  07/23/2012 at 9:03 pm

    I have no words… no words… for what this woman did to this dog. Shame on you… and I can’t believe this site is touting this as a positive story. Or is it a negative story? Unbelievable…

  4. Anonymous says on  07/23/2012 at 9:05 pm

    Special gift… SPECIAL GIFT??? Unreal.

  5. Anonymous says on  07/23/2012 at 9:09 pm

    i would not of took him home for a relaxing weekend. dogs dont understand why they are loved one minute and then hated the next. that dog is probably wondering why he was returned to the shelter, wondering what he done wrong to go back there. that is cruel to do that. especially since she saw him going back into depression, me as a animal lover would never do that. most animal shelters you can volenteer and play with the dogs there outside of their cold concrete cage. poor doggy.. she should of adopted him.

  6. Anna says on  07/23/2012 at 9:21 pm

    I just donated $50 to help sponsor the cost of Harvard’s adoption. I hope others will consider doing the same, since the adoption fee is pretty expensive: $350. I agree this was not the best approach and hope they’ll reconsider allowing Tracy to do more “overnights” with shelter dogs. There are other ways to give the dogs some happy outside and socialization time without risking that the dog will be worse off.

  7. Beth says on  07/23/2012 at 9:25 pm

    I somewhat agree…we as humans can understand the situation somewhat!! But an animal who is in the situation like that doesn’t understand why he is back in the cage with no one coming to get him after a “weekend out!” That is cruel in my eyes, how would she feel if she only had a weekend if love & than shoved back into a cold unforgiving place? I can’t understand why she thinks that’s a special gift? HOW? Than when she checks on him he is back at square one? That boy baby is wondering why am I back here? Where did she go? No that wasn’t a special weekend, that was a tease & it wasn’t right for her to do that & than have the balls to drive back to the shelter & walk away.!.! Hope the other family has a better heart to realize that u don’t play games like that to a shelter animal that is just looking for a forever loving warm family & home.!.! I’m so sure she wouldn’t have liked to be teased like that & than dumped AGAIN.!.! Just cuz he is a dog doesn’t mean he doesn’t have feelings.!.!.!

  8. Anonymous says on  07/23/2012 at 9:39 pm

    i was thinking the same thing, she should maybe have kept him,even as a foster…don’t send him back to what was depressing him…poor baby

  9. Anonymous says on  07/23/2012 at 9:57 pm

    I agree with many of the people who have already commented. This lady might have had good intentions but I believe only made things worse for this poor dog! I am sure he was happy for the first time in months. Thinking he was out of the shelter for good and starting to feel the love of a human again, only to be brought back to the horrible conditions of the lonely cold shelter. He is probably wondering what he did wrong and is now waiting for this woman to return. She should NEVER have taken him out for a weekend unless she planned on adopting him and giving him a FOREVER home! This is NOT a positive, feel good story. I feel so sad for this precious dog!!

  10. Anonymous says on  07/23/2012 at 10:38 pm

    I’m wondering about the person that runs this site who thinks this is a heart-warming story.

  11. Anonymous says on  07/23/2012 at 10:53 pm

    Isn’t the point of this story to get those of us who follow this site to rally and get our networking going to find Harvard a new home? Don’t we all spend hours after work diligently trying to find homes for these dogs? Ask yourself is this story:

    Able to be believed; convincing.
    Capable of persuading people that something will happen or be successful

    This story made me put another hour into networking try and reach as many people as possible about Harvard.

  12. Anonymous says on  07/23/2012 at 11:29 pm

    So many people do things with good intentions – it’s up to the people who are entrusted with the care of these animals to make the best decision for the *animal*. The person’s wishes – grieving or not – are secondary to what is good for the dog. It helped her cope with her grief momentarily and I’m sure she thought she was doing Harvard a favor, and ultimately all the attention this story is getting will probably mean he’ll find a family … does the end justify the means?

    What if the next dog she or another well-intentioned person inspired by this story takes out for a “respite” ends up not just fearful, but even less appealing to adopters due to behaviors perceived as even more negative – barking, snapping, trying to get out of the cage, etc.? Then what. “Respite” is a human concept. Let’s not assume dogs will be able to understand it.

    The law of unintended consequences. I hope the shelter seriously re-examines this policy and encourages Tracy to contribute in other ways.

  13. Anonymous says on  07/24/2012 at 12:54 am

    I am appauled by all the negative feedback that traci has received. I work with her and get to hear about the amazing weekends these dogs get to have. Traci is giving these dogs an amazing gift. More importantly than having a vacation from the shelter, these dogs are getting an extra special chance at finding their furever home. Traci takes a ton of pictures while she has the dogs and does write ups on them and then spreads the word about each dog as far as she can get it out. A lot of people are hesitant to adopt shelter dogs because there is no history on their demeanor but traci takes them home and discovers their true personality and then let’s people know what they are getting when they adopt that dog. That is a gift!!! I know that traci is saving lives by providing this gift to these dogs. Thank you traci!!!!!

    • Ray Orr says on  07/24/2012 at 8:40 am

      You’re saying “Tracy” does this all the time? This article reads like a one-off weekend excursion for Harvard and never alludes to “Tracy” doing this all the time. Maybe that should’ve been included as perspective but… it doesn’t read like “Tracy” does this all the time. From this article (“three weeks ago”) and from my research, this was a recent development on behalf of Harvard and “Tracy”. I don’t know. Maybe you should get your facts straight first. Also, if you know her & work with her than have some courage and stand up for both her and yourself. Don’t hide behind an “anonymous” profile.

    • Una Geiger says on  07/25/2012 at 5:22 am

      If she ‘does it all the time’ it is even worse. Imagine yourself as an orphan (let’s say, six years old) and you are taking in by a nice woman, at her home, have the best time possible and on Sunday afternoon you areshipped back to the orphanage .. what would you think?
      A dog is a dog and not a child, that is a given, but dogs are sentient beings, too and while we often forget that dogs are not human, they cannot comprehend our concepts of doing a good deed or giving a respite, for a dog this means .. I had a nice home, now I’m back in hell.
      If she really wants to make a difference and also wants to carry on the legacy of her dog Simone, then why not acting as a foster home for Harvard or any other dog? Once that dog has found his forever home, she can take in another one, and afterwards yet another one… one pet at a time. That is how we save them.
      Giving him the time of his life for a weekend is just cruel.

  14. Anonymous says on  07/24/2012 at 9:17 am

    My name is Jaemi and I was just being lazy by not putting my name in. I will 100% back Tracy up. The article was a write up on one dog. She has taken several dogs home and one has been adopted already because of her hard work. She just had a dog a couple of days ago and has already put up pics to try and spread the word about him. One thing you people don’t realize is that Tracy already has several dogs that she has adopted as her own. If she adopted just Harvard than only one life would be saved by her. By doing this weekend vacay for many dogs, she’s giving lots of dogs the opportunity to find furever homes. And just one last thing about tracy’s wonderful gift to these dogs. She spends hours on her days off at the shelter walking dogs. She’s doing everything she can to give these dogs a glimmer of hope. Just curious… What do you do besides complain about others good intentions?

    • Anonymous says on  07/24/2012 at 10:08 am

      I do as much as I can, contributing money and time – just like Tracy, I am also a volunteer at my local shelter. Thanks for asking. No one is questioning her good intentions.

      In my view, it is legitimate to question whether this is the best approach. ‘Overnights’ that risk making the dog feel even worse and make him/her even less attractive to would-be adopters who drop by and don’t look online at photos and writeups – are just that: risky. There are other ways to achieve the same thing Tracy seems to want to do, that minimize the risk. Overnights aren’t necessary to get to know a dog, take nice photos, and write a nice description. Sorry if that hurts people’s feelings.

    • Ray Orr says on  07/24/2012 at 5:42 pm

      Jaemi… the story tells one story about Tracy and you’re telling another. I don’t know who to believe! What I do believe is that thinking a “vacation” is good for a dog is a human concept. Dogs are not humans. They are dogs. A harmonious but completely different species than humans. The most-telling statement you made is “good intentions.” I’m not doubting her intentions. I seriously doubt the end result. Is Harvard in a better place after his “vacation”? Direct quote from story: “When I went back to check on him a few hours later all the signs of stress were back, he cowered down when I approached the kennel and barked a lot at the other dogs that passed by.” And from the 9-1 negative-to-positive reaction to this story, I’m not the only one to doubt the end result… but NOT the “good intentions.”

      • Anonymous says on  07/25/2012 at 12:48 pm

        So by your logic, if the two choices are A) leave the dog in misery with a death sentence and with limited resources to market their personalities vs B) give the dog a weekend in heaven and develop a narrative of that dog’s behavior along with pics etc . . . you would choose A?

        Makes absolutely no sense. What is the downside even if they return to their former depressed self? YOU are the one equating it to how a human would react in that situation. Who the hell are you to decide how a dog feels.

        Everyone’s an expert on the interwebz.

  15. Anonymous says on  07/24/2012 at 9:28 am

    Maybe the problem lies with the editorial then as it certainly reads differently to the story you’re telling! I still have my doubts however for about these ‘weekend vacations’

  16. Penny says on  07/24/2012 at 11:50 am

    To everyone questioning what Tracy did, this is a sanctioned and welcomed practice at this shelter – they ENCOURAGE people to give these dogs a break from their time in the shelter. Harvard has been there a LONG time and was going kennel crazy. If no one gets them out of the stressful situation and learns more about their true personality, their chances for adoption are slim. Tracy gave Harvard a huge gift.

    • Anonymous says on  07/24/2012 at 8:53 pm

      I clicked dislike but like came up. I don’t see this as a gift. Fosters can do this or people from the shelter or volunteers can evaluate these animals. This is cruel to take a dog for 2 days and bring him back. From her comment about going back the next day he was showing the same stress that he was when she took him. He thought he was going home with his special person and was being so loving and being good for her because in his mind he was home. What a heartbreaking situation.

    • Una Geiger says on  07/25/2012 at 5:35 am

      If that is the common practice then that practice stinks to high heaven. WHy not look for volunteers that act as permanent foster homes for these animals? This way the dogs can be evaluated over a longer time period, and when they find a forever home, the next dog moves in. This is much better than a respite, as can be seen by Harvard. Of course he enjoyed the days away from the kennel but now he is stuck there again and he is back to be depressed.
      We have foster dogs for a couple of years now and some stayed with us for months, some stayed with us only for a few days or weeks. It’s a lot of work, yes, it is sometimes heart breaking to wake up in the middle of the night because the fosterdog cries out while sleeping/having nightmares but it is work that makes you feel better because for this one dog you gave him the best start into a new life possible and not just a respite of a weekend.
      Our local shelter has walkers, volunteers who walk the dogs daily so they do not submit to kennel depression. These walkers cannot keep a dog (because their apartment owners doesn’t allow it) but they are the world for these dogs. And the dogs are in better shape, mentally and physically. This woman should perhaps become a walker for Harvard, so he can have an hour or two away from the kennel daily to decrease his stress.

  17. Sarah says on  07/24/2012 at 2:18 pm

    Tracy’s heart IS in the right place, BUT… like someone said, “respite” is a human concept. A dog does not think the same as a human being. Poor Harvard wouldn’t have seen that weekend as a much-needed break from his kennel. He would have seen it as a ray of hope, an exciting introduction to a new life. And then what? He gets sent back again. THAT is what’s cruel about it. If Tracy wants to do the right thing, then she should by all means VISIT with the dogs, take them for walks NEAR the kennels, and then take their photos and try to get them adopted. Taking them away from that depressing environment, only to return them again, is going to do nothing but create trust issues. She should be donating her time a little differently, I think.

  18. Cheryl F says on  07/24/2012 at 2:56 pm

    Jesus – how could anyone take a dog BACK to that?!

  19. Anonymous says on  07/24/2012 at 5:05 pm

    I hate this story. What that woman did was cruel and obviously did not help, and in fact HURT, that poor dog!

  20. emily says on  07/24/2012 at 5:07 pm

    Has Tracy considered fostering? If she can keep the dogs for a weekend, then it seems she has the room. Fostering would be a much better approach then a weekend “respite”.

  21. Anonymous says on  07/25/2012 at 11:55 am

    Just had to say to all complaining about her taking Harvard back….do you realize that we do this with children too? We take them sitters or how about the low income children who are dropped of with Big Brother/Sister or Foster Programs of that are involved in a more family type bonding than they are with their real family? Have you ever thought about these situtations? Don’t demean her for something our own society does. She’s doing a good and noble thing for dogs do give them a respite even a small one.

  22. Barbara says on  07/25/2012 at 11:59 am

    Sorry, I’m with the majority here. My heart broke to hear that the dog got a weekend of love and then was sent back to ‘jail’.

    ‘The path to hell is paved with good intentions.’

    That poor dog. He feels rejected yet again.

    • Anonymous says on  07/25/2012 at 12:54 pm

      You’re right, let’s be “humane” and just let the dog sit there and go crazy. This woman is obviously doing what she can to help and you people criticize her???

      If you were sentenced to life in prison, you are telling me you would rather not have a weekend to enjoy the world, maybe have someone see that you aren’t so bad and make a case for your release? Instead, you’d rather sit in jail and languish away? Makes sense to me.

  23. I can’t even bear to read the negative comments here. Saying this woman shouldn’t have given Harvard a fun weekend to relax is akin to saying there is no point to taking shelter dogs on walks or playing with them, since they will later be returned to the shelter, so why give them any joy at all as it will just confuse them? These comments are ridiculous.

    If you care about shelter dogs and don’t want them to be sad, adopt one. If you can’t, then don’t criticize other people for doing what they can to help.

    Thank you Tracy for honoring your own dog by helping others!

    • suzi fewter says on  07/28/2012 at 11:00 am

      Finally someone with a heart and some sense. Thank you so much for your comments as i agree with you ! I am saddened by all the negative and petty comments. As I commented: where were all those people? did they go visit Harvard? take him a treat? or go say hello? NO!! THEY DID NOTHING…but give negative comments. So thank you! God Bless Suzi

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