After spending more than 1,000 nights inside a kennel, Bentley, a 100-pound American bulldog with a smile spreading from floppy ear to floppy ear, has finally shed his title of the Pennsylvania SPCA's longest-staying current resident.
"I came home today and found him rolling over and over and over again on the couch," said Britney Kennedy, 32, who adopted 7-year-old Bentley with husband Doug Bobrow, 32, a month ago. "We've come to learn he loves any kind of soft fabric since he's been living in a concrete cell for three years."
"There was one day we couldn't find him, and I thought maybe he was in the bathroom drinking the toilet water or scratching something, but he was just up there doing somersaults on our bathroom rug," chimed in Bobrow during a recent visit to their Graduate Hospital rowhouse, Bentley's new home.
Bentley was rescued by the PSPCA's Humane Law Enforcement Team. His owner had abandoned him and he was found tied to a tree on a Monroe County property. After settling into the shelter's Erie Avenue location, he remained reserved, and at times, intimidating. Most often, Bentley kept himself tucked into the back of his kennel, but occasionally he'd approach the front to growl at visitors. While he was quick to evoke fear, the shelter's behavior coordinators had an inkling that there was more to the burly white pup, a good-hearted nature that would've never been seen if he were kept kennel-bound.
So the staff started letting Bentley wander around the office area. Within a couple of months, his cuddly personality started to shine through, persuading the PSPCA to cement his stature as the unofficial office dog. During mornings and nights, he was free to roam, lending a smile and a heavy head to staff members who needed it.
"Bentley was as close to human as any dog I've ever met," said Mike Roth, 70, a weekly PSPCA volunteer. "His face is extremely expressive and he can read your thoughts. If he's sad, you know, and if you're sad, he'll come right up beside you and start licking your face until you're laughing hysterically."
Unfortunately, while he warmed up to those he knew, begging for daily belly rubs, Bentley continued to showcase a distinctly different side of himself to visitors.
"Bentley's fearful of meeting new people, so he didn't exhibit super sociable traits," explained PSPCA behavior coordinator Kayla Dorney. "If he did approach the front of his kennel, he'd end up barking, which is off-putting to most adopters."
So Bentley endured, day after day, without a "forever home," along the way wiggling his way further into the hearts of those closest to him. Often, staff would dress him in costumes, from Frida Kahlo to a triceratops to a cow where the grayish-brown spots dotting his ears and face blended in perfectly. Roth would regularly deliver cheeseburgers to Bentley, and sometimes bring him out on a car ride. Dorney would occasionally take him home for sleepovers. And all along the way, trainers spent hours teaching him skills: Ask for a paw, and Bentley delivers within seconds.
"What I saw was this lovebug and amazing companion dog, so it was tough to see him still there," said Dorney. "Six months is considered a long-term stay at a shelter, and so naturally it crossed our minds whether or not it was humane to keep him. But we just knew his future home was out there."