GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Animal Shelter’s longest resident hasn’t given up hope on finding his fur-ever home.

Blimpie is an American Staffordshire terrier mix that is estimated to be around 5 years old.

“He has been here for a little over a year. He came in last March, so I think that puts us at 14 months,” Heather Hughesian, volunteer coordinator, said.

This quirky, energetic dog was found near the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital dragging a leash. Hughesian said that since arriving at the shelter he hasn’t left.

“He’s never gone to foster, he’s never been adopted once. He did go for a couple of nights of a sleepover with one volunteer but other than that, he’s been in this building,” she said.

When dogs are in the shelter for extended periods of time they can start to not cope well and develop behavioral issues, become depressed or shut down.

“(They’re) living their most stressful day over and over and over again. They’re living in a lot of confinement. They’re living in a lot of social isolation. Even though we do these things where we take them out on walks and volunteers and staff interact with them, it’s no replacement for a home,” Hughesian said.

These negative coping behaviors haven’t been the case for Blimpie.

“Honestly, Blimpie has done better than expected. Part of that is probably because he is not so needy in the social department. There are particular people he really likes to spend time with. His people are his people, not that he hates other people it’s just, ‘You’re my person and I want to spend time with you.’ He still finds joy in things…” Hughesian said.

He has even made a dog friend named Toffee.

Heather Hughesian and Blimpie outside of the Kent County Animal Control on May 5, 2023.

Hughesian has developed a unique relationship with Blimpie after taking him on as her “personal project” last fall.

“I said, ‘This dog can’t walk on a leash without acting a fool and grabbing people and biting at them,’ so I said, ‘You’re going to have to walk on a leash if you’re going to get adopted,’ so I took him on as my little project pet,” she explained.

She explained that he can become mouthy when he gets over-excited and doesn’t know how to show it appropriately or when you have something he wants and tries to take it from you.

She has been working on catching him doing well and marking the positive behaviors and rewarding him for that while also letting him know there are boundaries.

“These kinds of dogs are cool, (the ones) that are very excitable and impulsive because once you teach them the rules, they’re good to go,” she said.

Once he is adopted his forever family will need to make him learn to earn. Hughesian said that while at the shelter, he is expected to earn his reward whether that be a treat or playing.

“Everything comes at a price. Walking out the door, you sit. Once he’s got sitting down, he needs to sit and wait for the door to be open and wait for you to release him,” she said. “When you put down his food, he needs to sit and wait. He needs to learn to wait for the things that he wants and he learns that when he waits, good things happen.”

She added that some of the skills he’s learned while at the shelter are transferable to other people but some are not and will need to be reinforced.

A sign made by Sandy Hill Elementary School second graders on display in the lobby of the Kent County Animal Shelter on May 5, 2023.

Hughesian isn’t the only one rooting for Blimpie to find his forever home. Many people in the community have reached out to the shelter to show support or tell Blimpie when they see him out for walks.

Blimpie has also been featured on WOOD TV8 four different times as a Kent County Animal Shelter Pet of the Week.

“He’s got a lot of cheerleaders I would say. It’s cool,” she said.

Blimpie playing outside at the Kent County Animal Shelter on May 5, 2023.

After spending so much time with Blimpie, Hughesian has a good idea of what his ideal family would be: an active, patient family with older children and preferably no dogs because he can be picky with other dogs.

“If you like an energetic dog, if you like a dog that likes to work with you and have that working relationship. He doesn’t show great initially because he’s not super social with everybody but once you work with him, he will love you forever and ever and he thinks you are his best friend,” she said.

“He’s a confident dog. He likes to investigate things. He likes to sniff. I don’t think he needs an enormous about of land. And somebody, most importantly, who will give him tennis balls. Tennis balls are life for Blimpie,” she said.

Hughesian added that the shelter staff is here to support families that adopt long-term shelter pets in the transition.

“We want to do whatever we can to make our dogs, cats, whatever successful in the home and help support you. As long as you’re willing to work with them, we’re willing to help you,” she said.

At the Kent County Animal Shelter, euthanasia is not an option for long-term pets if they are thriving, Hughesian said.

“What we look at is the quality of life of the animal whether that be medically or mental health wise. He is not declining in that way but we are fortunate and hopefully, the community to help us to adopt dogs and get them out of here. … As long as Blimpie is coping, as long as Blimpie is happy and we are still proving a quality of life, he’s still finding joy, he’s still happy, he can stay as long as it takes in order to get adopted,” she explained.

Anyone interested in meeting Blimpie is asked to come with patience and meet him or any other shelter pet where they are at.

“They’re no different than any other dog in a home, it’s just that they’re living their most stressful day over and over again,” Hughesian explained. “It’s awesome if adopters can look forward and see the potential of the dog, of the cat, of the whatever they’re meeting with because it’s there it (might) just take them a minute to relax and come back to their normal self.”

For more information on adopting Blimpie or any pet from Kent County Animal Shelter, visit the organization’s website or call 616.632.7300.