Editor’s note: Willy (formerly Darryl) was sadly returned to the shelter because of his adopter’s hospitalization. Please share Willy’s story so that we can help find him a forever family!

Dear Future Human: You don’t know me yet, but my name is Willy.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the word “home,” but I’ve heard it many times in the eleven months I’ve been at the Hempstead Town Animal Shelter.

dog walk happy

Source: Bonnie Zarrillo / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter

I think I did have a home at one point in my life, but it was not a happy one. The volunteers at the shelter say I have the shortest cropped ears they’ve ever seen, and those ears have caused me a lot of pain.

Related: Dog Nurse Is the Best Medicine After Doggie Brother Has Surgery

When I arrived as a stray, I was so afraid I couldn’t eat my food. My right eye was blind, probably due to an infection caused by my cropped ears. I had that eyeball and socket removed, so half the world is dark to me.

adopt darryl

Source: Danielle Guzzardo / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter

I’m not writing to tell you about the dark parts of my life. I want you to know about the light ones.

I’ve lived inside a small kennel for almost a year, but in that year, I’ve learned that not all humans want to hurt me like my former owner did. I’ve discovered the play yard and the swimming pool.

dog in pool

Source: Bonnie Zarrillo / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter

Recently, I gave my first kiss. I used to be afraid to let people touch me, but one of the volunteers taught me “paw.” I gave her my paw, and I didn’t want to let go. Then I licked her on the face.

She was so surprised she yelled, “Did anyone else see that?” and all the other volunteers replied, “Yes!”

happy shelter dog

Source: Cynthia Raven / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter

I don’t flinch when people try to pet me anymore. In fact, there was one day a volunteer took me to play in the pool, and I didn’t go in like I always do. She told me to go play, but I just wanted to do something to tell her “thank you.”

Related: The Most Playful Dog In the World Is Losing Hope After A Year At A Shelter

I stuck my head in her lap and stayed there until it was time to go back in the cage. I didn’t get to play that day, but it was worth it.

adoptable darryl

Source: Bonnie Zarrillo / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter

When I first came to the shelter, no one knew if I could ever learn how to trust. I’d only been treated with cruelty. Today, I can say that I know what it means to be vulnerable and to allow myself to love.

The shelter is a scary place for any dog, but it’s especially confusing for me because I’m partially blind.

I’m five years old, but I never got to be a puppy. I wanted you to know that I’m finally learning about a thing called joy.

happy dog at shelter

Source: Cynthia Raven / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter

I want to jump way up in the air when I see someone I know, but I try to be a good boy by only jumping and wiggling a little bit at the cage door. Sometimes, when a volunteer tries to fill the pool with water, I get so excited I stick my whole face right under the hose and close my eye.

dog swimming pool

Source: Bonnie Zarrillo / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter

In the grass, I turn over on my back and roll like I’m dancing upside-down. At the shelter, people talk a lot about miracles, but for me, miracles are the little things: a half hour outside, a gentle pat on the back, a moment to splash in the pool.

Not a single person has ever asked to meet me during my time at the shelter, but let me tell you something. For the first time, I’m starting to believe you will find me and take me to that place called “home.”

I love you already.


Willy the Dog

adopt darryl

Source: Danielle Guzzardo / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter

This letter was written with the help of Bonnie Zarrillo and Danielle Guzzardo, two volunteers at the Hempstead Town Animal Shelter, with special thanks to staff members John Bonner and Michael Whalen. If you think you might be the person for Willy, please reach out to the shelter at (516) 785-5220 or via email at .

Header image via Danielle Guzzardo / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter