Wilfredo Vega adopted the dog from an Orange County Animal Services shelter after seeing his story on the local news

By Nicholas Rice
December 15, 2020 01:53 PM
Advertisement
Credit: Orange County Animal Services

Home for the holidays!

Last month, a 7-year-old pit bull named Tonka found his forever home after almost breaking the record for Orange County Animal Services' longest shelter stay.

Described as "affectionate, loving and energetic," by members of the central Florida shelter, Tonka was five days short of setting the new record when South Daytona resident Wilfredo Vega adopted the pooch. Vega finally found his forever home after 216 days in the shelter.

On Nov. 21, shelter officials announced Tonka's adoption in a Facebook statement and posted a photo of the animal beside his new family members. "After 216 days in a shelter this year, we are hopeful this boy will never have to leave the comfort of home again," Orange County Animal Services (OCAS) wrote.

Tonka's months-long shelter stay began in April, after he was abandoned in his previous owner's backyard, according to a press release from OCAS.

OCAS contacted Tonka's previous guardian, who told the agency that he had recently moved and was struggling to find a home for the dog. The previous owner then agreed to surrender Tonka to OCAS.

At the OCAS shelter, Tonka was adopted twice during his seven-month stay but was returned both times, "through no fault of his own," the shelter noted.

"Tonka is a handsome boy, who can definitely turn on the charm," Diane Summers, manager for OCAS, said of the pit bull. "We’ve struggled to find that lasting match for him because he has shown that he needs to be the only dog in the home, a factor that drastically limits the pool of interested adopters, and he has heartworm disease, a treatable condition, but one that can come with a stigma due to lack of understanding."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

OCAS then decided to share posts about Tonka on their Facebook account, and his story was picked up by local news outlets.

Seeing Tonka's heartbreaking story prompted Vega to inquire about bringing the dog home, which he eventually did just before Thanksgiving.

While speaking with Spectrum News 13, the father of four shared with the outlet that his mother recently died from COVID-19 complications, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to celebrate any upcoming holidays. Tonka's story changed that and inspired Vega to adopt the dog and "do the right thing," something that he said his mother raised him and his siblings to do.

Though their initial meeting didn't go as planned, Vega's daughter Aaliyah, who volunteers with a local pet alliance in Orlando, encouraged her father to give the dog a chance. The two eventually hit it off.

RELATED VIDEO: Hero Pit Bull Protects Young Lost Owner Until the Child Is Found by Police: 'Give That Dog a Bone'

After spending his first holiday with his new canine companion, Vega told the OCAS shelter that Tonka has been "absolutely phenomenal."

Vega added that his family spoils Tonka with love and toys and that the dog is adjusting well to his new life.