SALAMANCA — The cosmos was in perfect harmony for a local couple and a lucky dog when they met at the Seneca Salamanca Chamberfest, held June 8 at the Seneca Allegany Resort and Casino.
Heaven, a one-year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix fostered by the Empire Animal Rescue Society (E.A.R.S.), was just the dog for Nate Murtiff and Abigail Maguire.
The couple almost missed the chance to discover Heaven because they originally had other weekend plans. It all changed when Maguire won tickets from WPIG-FM to attend the Chamberfest. She said they met Heaven soon after they got to the event and spent the whole time hanging out with her.
“Nate has always wanted an Australian Cattle Dog,” she said. “He’s been following E.A.R.S. on Facebook and Heaven was on there, but he hadn’t seen her yet. When we were walking into the event, he said, ‘That’s an Australian Cattle Dog.’”
“As soon as we saw her, we went over and petted her. Then the E.A.R.S. volunteers let us take her out on the leash,” he said. “After we walked her around a little bit, we knew she was the one.”
Heaven’s adoption took place during the Chamberfest, an event held in support of E.A.R.S. Volunteer Erin Koch said whenever E.A.R.S. participates in an event, the volunteers bring what animals they can and walk around to let people meet them.
“When the event first started, volunteer Casey Cutting and myself were walking a couple of the dogs around. We stopped at the tarot card booth where we asked the lady if we could do a photo op with Heaven,” she said. “Her tarot card reading was pretty impressive because we put Heaven in the chair and the lady said, ‘I have the feeling that you’re going to find your forever home today.’”
Koch said Heaven is an Australian Cattle Dog mix with beautiful markings. She said E.A.R.S. doesn’t do any blood work on the dogs to determine their actual breed. They either look them over and decide that way or, sometimes, the shelter has already identified the breed. She said E.A.R.S. gets the dogs from a “high-kill shelter” so they come from death row, and the circumstances surrounding their history is unknown to them.
Murtiff said Heaven is well-trained and was already leash-trained, does well with people who come to their house or when they walk her in public as well as with other dogs and tolerates cats.
Koch said training the dogs is one of the things they try to do with all of their fosters.They do in-home fostering, so it’s all based on people taking the animals into their homes. She said living in actual homes with families and other pets help socialize the dogs.
“Each foster family does different things, but we recommend crate training. That way, once the dog gets into its new home and crating is something the new owners want to do, it’s already done for them,” she said. “It helps with the transition because dogs tend to get themselves into predicaments.”
Heaven has been in her new home for about a month now and adapted quickly, Murtiff said.
“She’s relaxed and acts like she owns the house now,” he said.
“Nate carries her around the house like a baby,” Maguire said. “When we come home, she recognizes us and she’s happy.”
Heaven has made herself right at home and already has her own chair and her own backpack for carrying essentials like her dish and a water bottle. She makes a ‘Chewbacca-type’ noise when she wants something, including her morning walk at 6 a.m.
“Heaven is the perfect size, but still durable and doesn’t tire quickly,” she said.
The young, active couple does a lot of outdoor activities and Heaven goes everywhere with them. Maguire said the dog runs with Murtiff and is learning to swim. She said they’ve already taken her to the state park many times for hiking and swimming.
“She’s perfect. We’re so in love with her,” she said.
Gary Quattrone, chamber marketing coordinator, said the couple that adopted Heaven would have never been at the festival if they had not won tickets. He said theirs was that chance meeting with Heaven and an instant “fall in love moment” that led to the adoption.
“When I saw the couple with the dog, I thanked them for adopting it and said to them, ‘By doing this, you are now two steps closer to heaven’ — totally not knowing that was the dog’s actual name,” he said. “It was just a magical moment.”
Heaven lives with her new owners in Limestone. Maguire is a Special Education Teacher at the Cattaraugus-Allegany Board of Cooperative Educational Services (CA BOCES) in Olean, and Murtiff is a corrections officer for the state.
Founded by Salamanca school teacher Courtney Valent, E.A.R.S. is a nonprofit organization utilizing a local network of foster homes. The 100-percent volunteer-run organization relies completely on donations as it is not publicly funded. The biggest expense is vet bills.