Coquitlam dog ‘Gemma’ finds forever home after waiting a year to be adopted

A Coquitlam dog that captured the hearts of animal lovers across Metro Vancouver has found her forever home. Gemma, an 11-year-old husky with arthritis, had been waiting to be adopted for a year.

In late May, the City of Coquitlam posted about Gemma on social media in the hopes of finding adoptive owners.

On Monday, the City shared the happy news that the playful pup had been taken to her new home.

“Gemma has left the building! After 366 days, we are happy to share that Gemma left for her amazing forever home over the weekend.”

Gemma husky

Gemma, an 11-year-old husky, was in the care of Coquitlam’s Animal Shelter for 366 days before she was adopted. (Courtesy: Facebook/cityofcoquitlam Facebook page)

According to the city’s animal shelter, Gemma spent a little bit of time in foster homes over the winter holidays, but had been back at the shelter since January.

Despite her arthritis, Gemma is a playful dog. However, she needed a home that was child and pet-free and a place where someone could keep her company most of the time.

“She’s a geriatric dog, has separation anxiety, and some dog reactivity. So not something that the appropriate homeowner and dog owner can’t overcome, but things that are specific to her care,” explained Aaron Hilgerdenaar, bylaw enforcement and animal services manager with the City of Coquitlam.

That’s a big reason it took so long for her to be adopted.

“We take it very seriously, when we’re placing animals in people’s homes to set not only the adoptive parents up, but the animal for success in those homes,” Hilgerdenaar said, adding he’s happy they found Gemma her “unicorn home.”

“The property that she’s going to has a fenced yard. It’s over on Vancouver Island with experienced handlers who are actually looking to add a geriatric dog to their family. So it’s definitely a win-win.”

Read more: This Coquitlam dog has been waiting nine months to be adopted

Older dogs are much more difficult to place in homes compared to puppies, and while Gemma’s wait for adoption was unusually long, Hilgerdenaar says they’re generally seeing animals stay in shelters for longer periods of time.

“We would encourage anybody who’s looking to add a family member to look first at local animal shelters, because many of us are getting quite full.”

When people were spending more time at home during the pandemic, Hilgerdenaar says the number of dogs in need of homes were at a minimum.

“During the pandemic, there was a point in time where we didn’t have any animals, specifically dogs, up for adoption. We still had a lot of small animals like bunnies and guinea pigs and cats, etc. But dogs, it was very hard to find a dog during the pandemic. Now that things are starting back up, in terms of people going back to work, we’re finding that thirst for adding an animal to their family has kind of subsided.”

When the city originally posted in late May about Gemma’s long wait for adoption, her photo was shared hundreds of times on social media.

“Gemma proved to be quite the star,” Hilgerdenaar said. “I think that Gemma is indicative of animals that aren’t talked about in shelters all the time. Gemma is just a specific case that got a lot of uptick and community interest. We had children doing drawings and all that type of stuff.”

Gemma husky

A photo shared on May 25, 2022 of Gemma, an 11-year-old husky. Gemma was in the care of Coquitlam’s Animal Shelter for 366 days before she was adopted. (Courtesy: Facebook/cityofcoquitlam)

The city’s post about Gemma led to a lot of calls to the shelter about whether people could offer a suitable home. But given her specific needs, most people were told no. However, some of those calls did lead to the adoption of other animals.

“When people come to us, they fill out an application form and it’s reviewed by multiple staff members. And sometimes people apply for an animal that may not best fit their lifestyle or their home or their community or their experience level. But another animal may be right. So, that’s something that we always look forward to,” Hilgerdenaar explained.

The City of Coquitlam has dogs, cats, ferrets, Guinea pigs, birds, and bunnies up for adoption. If you think you can provide a forever home, click here for more information.

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