A Washington animal shelter pleaded for help after seeing how much Dexter, the 2-year-old German shepherd, had declined since he arrived. But now he’s thriving in his new home, all thanks to social media.

Every animal deserves a loving home, which is why Tri-Cities Animal Shelter were calling for people to open their hearts to Dexter, who came in as a stray in January of this year. Billie Wensveen, a volunteer at the shelter, told Newsweek that Dexter “rapidly declined, almost immediately” after he came in. It was clear, for the sake of his wellbeing and overall health, he needed to find a family soon.

Staff at the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter in Pasco, Washington, loved Dexter from the moment he came in, and although they always gave him plenty of affection, that wasn’t enough. He was constantly stressed out and nervous, so the shelter worked even harder to spread the word that this loving boy needed adopting.

Wensveen said: “He exhibited extreme signs of kennel stress, including a decreased appetite, weight loss, depression, poor behaviors, and he cried or howled for hours on end.

“All the volunteers loved him, but the interest for him only started once his video was posted on social media. We share pictures and videos of all the available dogs from shelters and rescues on a Facebook page called SAAVE.”

Dexter German Shepherd
Dexter, the 2-year-old German shepherd, pictured as he waited for his adoption day to come. Dexter was taken in as a stray in January 2024, and in the days that followed he became incredibly stressed…

Tri-Cities Animal Shelter

The shelter also enlisted the help of Julie Saraceno, a volunteer with over 78,000 followers on Instagram. On February 22, Saraceno posted the heartbreaking video of Dexter in a kennel, explaining that “he is stressed, he hardly eats, and he cries a lot.”

They were hopeful that the more people who saw Dexter’s story, the better chances they had of finding him a home. Fortunately, Saraceno’s post received over 37,300 views and 2,600 likes, which helped spread the word.

Dexter’s story certainly captured many people’s attention, but sadly he isn’t the only animal in need of rescuing. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that more than 6.3 million pets wind up in shelters across the country every year, including 3.1 million dogs.

It’s thought that there are approximately 4.1 million adoptions annually, but there are still many more who are waiting to be chosen.

How Social Media Helped Save Dexter

After the footage of Dexter, looking forlorn and devastated, was shared online, it was only a matter of time before his gotcha day came. The posts across Instagram and Facebook helped drum up lots of interest, and finally on February 28, he walked out of the shelter with his new owner.

It’s still very early in this new chapter in Dexter’s life, but Wensveen was “so relieved and happy” that someone came forward for him. Being in a shelter was a traumatic experience for him, so he was in desperate need of a forever home.

By using social media accounts to show people the realities of being in a shelter, Wensveen hopes to encourage more people to consider adopting, rather than going to a breeder.

Dexter the shelter German Shepherd
Dexter pictured looking happier after finally being chosen for adoption. The shelter became increasingly worried about Dexter, who refused to eat and cried out all the time.

Tri-Cities Animal Shelter

“Dexter isn’t the only dog in need of a home, so please visit your local shelter or rescue today. Be the voice for the voiceless, advocate and educate everyone that will listen. If you can’t adopt, then please foster, donate money, or volunteer if you can,” she said.

The videos of Dexter touched many people’s hearts, and Saraceno’s Instagram post gained more than 250 comments as people offered their support for the German shepherd.

One comment reads: “He does deserve better, as all animals do. I hope he soon can find a family.”

Another person responded: “German shepherds are the best, intelligent and loyal. I hope Dexter finds his perfect match and starts to thrive, beautiful boy.”

While another Instagram user wrote: “Such a beautiful boy who deserves better.”

Do you have any adoption or rescue stories that you want to share? Send them to life@newsweek.com with some details about your best friend and they could appear in our Pet of the Week lineup.