The road to second chances is never easy, but it’s almost always worth it. That’s something Denise Christinzio of Gloucester Township knows well.

When Denise’s dog, Princess, 17, passed away in April 2019, she wondered if she would ever adopt again. She found her answer the way most people today do – through the internet.

“I saw a Facebook post that said, ‘God didn’t give you another day on this earth because you needed it, he gave it because someone needed you.’ I took that as a sign that I would adopt again someday.”

As luck would have it, Denise stumbled upon VAO’s Facebook post about Junebug, a chihuahua mix between 10 to 15 years old and Lester, a shih tzu mix between eight to 10 years old, who were found on the side of the road, huddled together and defenseless to the stones being thrown at them from kids on the street.”

“I saw the story, and I immediately knew I wanted to care for them,” says Denise. “I went in to meet them and adopted them soon after.”

The pair wasn’t in the greatest shape – both were suffering from an upper respiratory infection and malnourishment. However, despite their sickness, something changed the moment the dogs got in the car to go to their new home.

“They already looked so much different than when they were huddled up in the kennel,” said Denise. “I believe animals know when they are being rescued, especially seniors. It was amazing to witness their reactions.”

That day, the dogs were visited by family members, fed heaps of chicken and slept comfortably in their new owner’s bed.

If the first day was any indication of their future, the dogs were in for a good life.

“They’ve adjusted quite well,” said Denise. “They keep any eye on each other, but they have settled into their own spaces.” Denise also renamed the dogs. Junebug is now Gigi, named after the supermodel, Gigi Hadid, because of her long thin legs and her slight walking problem that gives her a model-esque “strut.” Lester was named Buddy simply because he seemed to like and respond to the name.

The dogs, while still very much connected, are opposites.

“Buddy is a very happy, energetic dog. I think he’s mapped every inch of our backyard running around,” said Denise. “Gigi is quiet and more content to lay down and cuddle. However, they are both gentle and well-mannered. I thank whomever socialized them correctly.”

Another commonality among the dogs is their love for breakfast treats – both delight in bites of bacon, buttered toast dipped in coffee and donuts.

“They were so sickly thin when I got them. I’ve been trying to fatten them up a bit,” said Denise. “Buddy has gained about 5 pounds. Gigi has gained about one and a half, but she’s on her way to being healthy again.”

Denise is grateful for the care VAO provided to Buddy and Gigi before she took them home.

“It takes very special people to love and care for them after what they had endured,” said Denise. “The people at VAO are kind, compassionate and dedicated. Most importantly, they help those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Denise firmly believes in the work of VAO and encourages those in her community to support the nonprofit’s mission any way they can, whether that be through adoption, fostering, sponsoring events or donating to their capital campaign, “Building for a Pawsitive Future,” which raises money for the shelter’s new facility to care for cats and dog while they wait for their forever home.

“As a nonprofit, we need to stand behind them and help them continue to carry out their mission,” said Denise. “Animals are willing to adjust, and there are so many of them in need. I encourage everyone, young and old, to give these animals a second chance. Anything you can do to help matters.”

Denise is passionate about rescuing and believes if you have the opportunity, you should jump on it.

“We may be doing the rescuing, but I truly believe animals rescue us,” she said. “They remind us each day to trust and love, forgive easily and enjoy the simple things in life like cuddles, walks on a sunny day and naps. Becoming one with their quiet, devoted companionship is most certainly worth it.”

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