When Katie Grilli-Robles, a volunteer at the Hempstead Town Animal Shelter, is having a hard day, there’s one dog who can make her smile. This dog has licked tears from her eyes before they had a chance to fall down her face; he’s plopped to the ground and rolled around until she’s laughed out loud. This is Bernie.
“Bernie is the funniest dog I’ve ever met,” Katie admits after years of working with animals.
Bernie came to the shelter on May 21st of 2015 after being discovered on the streets by police officers. “He was skin and bones,” Katie says.
Still, despite his mysterious and tragic past, Bernie has always been a ray of light. He knows Katie’s voice by heart, and even if she’s walking down another hallway opposite to his kennel, he pokes his nose to the bars so he can see her face.
Once she takes him outside, he runs in circles around her. It’s his way of celebrating life.
Even though Bernie has brought joy to so many people, his own life hasn’t had much happiness. He’s spent more than a third of his life inside a small kennel, and Katie mourns the time he’s lost.
“I would hate for him to think that this is the rest of his life,” she explains, “I want him to feel like he belongs to someone. I want him to feel like a normal dog.”
Bernie does show signs of knowing that somewhere and somehow there’s someone for him. He has a habit of trying to hop inside Katie’s car when she opens the door to retrieve something.
It’s as if he’s asking her if she can take him with her to wherever it is she goes when she says goodbye.
While most of Katie’s favorite stories about Bernie are the silly ones, like the time he cuddled with her so much he fell off a bench, there are some poignant ones too.
There’s the time she brought him into the bathroom after he got dirty playing outside. When she cleaned him, she could tell he was afraid—after all, he had probably never experienced this kind of tenderness—but he chose to trust her.
That moment taught Katie the real meaning of vulnerability, and it gave her a peek into what Bernie might be like in a home someday. “Whoever adopts Bernie will be saving his life,” she says, “but they will also be enriching their own.”
Although Bernie is a big fan of treats, he isn’t interested in them when Katie first brings him out of the cage. He presses his head against the bars until she opens the door, and for the first few minutes, he just wants to spend time with her. That’s the thing about Bernie: for him, love always comes first.
If you think you might be the person for Bernie, please please reach out via his Facebook page or contact the shelter at (516) 785-5220 or .
Header images via Hempstead Town Animal Shelter