When Kodak arrived at Big Cypress German Shepherd Rescue in Naples, Florida, in late November, the Belgian Malinois mix had been picked up as a stray by a nearby shelter. The gorgeous, blue-eyed boy was jumping and barking constantly.
"To any person unfamiliar with this breed, it can easily be looked at as aggression or fearfulness," Shirley Lubo, the outreach coordinator for Big Cypress, tells MNN. "He was a ball of energy and excitement that just really wanted to be out of the shelter environment. He was pretty skinny and in desperate need of some TLC. We agreed that his striking looks would draw the wrong attention, and that he needed to go to a Malinois-experienced home."
Volunteers took care of the sweet 2-year-old, working with him on basic manners while searching for a home with someone who had experience with this sometimes-challenging breed.
Afghanistan veteran Joe Bane heard about Kodak from a friend he knew in the Army. Bane was a K-9 contractor who now lives in Morristown, Tennessee, with three Malinois and a Dutch shepherd. His 17-year-old daughter, Syd, fell in love with Kodak when she saw him online.
"I’m very well versed in the breed," Bane tells MNN. "My daughter was determined to save him."
Bane applied for Kodak and with the help of a village of volunteers, Kodak made the trek from Florida to Tennessee. The pup made the trip courtesy of Pilots N Paws, a volunteer group that flew him to his destination.
"We knew there was no one better suited to take Kodak. He has handled countless Belgian Malinois as both working dogs and pets. Joe thoroughly understands the breed," Lubo says.
"After many, many phone calls over the last couple weeks and emails to coordinate flight plans, vet visits, transportation, etc. we were able to connect with Pilots N Paws, Ryan Fiorini, Rob Lucas, and so many others that stepped up to make this all possible. It is by far one of the most wonderful things we have ever done, and we are all so ecstatic about finding the most perfect home for Kodak."
When Kodak arrived, the Banes were there at the airport waiting for him, eager to meet their newest family member.
"Syd was so excited. I knew we did the right thing. We helped save him," Bane says.
It's only been a few days and Kodak is slowly adapting to his new life. At 80 pounds, he's still underweight, but getting healthier.
"He is coming out of his shell," Bane says. "He slept with my daughter last night. He's finally allowed to be a dog."