There is nothing Lexi Mama loves more than summertime, when the volunteers at the Hempstead Town Animal Shelter in Long Island bring out the plastic kiddie pool, the hose, and some of her favorite toys and balls.
Lexi first arrived at the shelter in 2014, meaning the majority of her life has been spent in a kennel. Volunteer Bonnie Zarillo remembers the day she met the little tan dog like it was yesterday. She was walking past all the dogs, and one of them tried to follow her.
When Bonnie turned her head, the dog turned her head too. When Bonnie waved, Lexi lifted her paw and waved back.
Lexi hasn’t changed one bit over the years. In fact, she gets so excited when someone comes to visit her that she jumps a few feet in the air and tries to hug them. She knows the sound of Bonnie’s voice and the rhythm of her footsteps.
Lexi has always been drawn to the water. Her favorite spot to walk is the nearby creek, and she always tries to get as close to the water as she can. So when Lexi first discovered the kiddie pool, she almost couldn’t believe it.
First, she plopped in the water. Second, she went to the toy chest and picked out a toy. Third, she brought the toy over to the pool and dunked it. Lexi did this again and again, until there were a bunch of toys and balls in the pool. Then she got back in the water and smiled.
This is Lexi’s ritual. Nobody knows why she does it, but Bonnie suspects Lexi might have been used for breeding. She thinks maybe Lexi wants to wash the toys and take care of them as she would her own puppies. Whatever the reason, it’s one of the sweetest things Bonnie has ever seen a dog do.
Summer might be Lexi’s favorite season because of the pool, but it’s also the hardest season for shelter animals. Families go on vacation and leave their dogs behind. Dogs get lost while running from fireworks. The shelter currently has more than 140 dogs and is filled to the point of overflowing. Lexi gets lost in the shuffle.
Unfortunately, the last few months have taken a toll on Lexi Mama. She’s started losing the fur on both her sides. It’s called bilateral hair loss, and it’s something that can happen when a dog is in the shelter system for a long period of time. It’s hard to treat it medically because it’s caused by stress signals from the brain. When a dog is finally adopted and feels safe, the hair grows back.
Bonnie gets choked up a few times talking about Lexi Mama— it’s hard not to get emotional when a dog is going through a tough time. But she keeps going back to one thing: Lexi in the pool. The water is Lexi’s happy, safe place. It’s where she can be herself and play with all her tennis balls.
“This beautiful dog just goes unnoticed in the crowd,” Bonnie says. “But she stands out when you’re with her.”
If you’re interested in meeting Lexi, please reach out via her Facebook page, and contact the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter at (516) 785-5220 or email@example.com. Find her details here, and follow the shelter itself on Facebook.
Header images via Bonnie Zarillo / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter