“Soft” isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when you think of an NFL player.
But Ronnie Stanley, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, does, in fact, have a huge soft spot when it comes to shelter animals. In the summer of 2016, he came to the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) with his girlfriend, Emily, and a teammate and told staff he wanted to adopt a dog that had been there a long time and, in their eyes, was “maybe not-so adoptable.”
That’s how he came to meet, instantly fall in love with, and ultimately adopt a six-year-old retriever-terrier mix named Winter. Just weeks earlier, she’d been discovered locked alone inside a hot, vacant house. She’d been there for at least a week and was suffering from dehydration and, unsurprisingly, a severe case of anxiety.
Winter had likely been used for breeding, leaving her with a loose, hanging stomach that stretched almost to the ground, then abandoned. By the time Ronnie came along, she’d been at the shelter for less than a month, but her age and less-than-perfect physique made it unlikely she’d ever find a forever home.
But Ronnie had a different take on her stretched belly: “Well, that’s just what happens when you’ve had babies.”
It was a perfect match, and Ronnie brought the sweet girl home, renaming her Lola and providing her with all the love and attention a pup could ever want. He also enrolled her in an obedience program to help her cope with separation-anxiety issues she’d developed from how she’d been treated by her former owners.
She’s an angel when I’m around, or even someone’s around, but when you leave, she claws up the door. … She’s a loving animal. She just wants to be loved.
BARCS staff were ecstatic with the match and thanked Ronnie for serving as a role model, saying, “Not only does his single act of kindness make adoption cool, but it makes giving love to an imperfectly perfect dog a ‘manly’ thing to do.”
But he wasn’t done with BARCS just yet. About a year later, Ronnie signed up to model for the shelter’s Pawject Runway fundraiser, and that’s where he met Zappa, a blonde brindle pit bull puppy. His mother was abandoned when she still pregnant with him and his siblings, but thankfully, she was rescued and whisked to safety.
Baby Zappa wasn’t even breathing when he was born, but a shelter worker was able to clear his nasal passages and breathe life into him. After hearing about his rough start to life, Ronnie couldn’t resist adopting the little guy, telling him, “You’re a miracle baby! Now you’re even more special to me.”
Listen to Ronnie talk about why he decided to adopt Winter and Lola, and why he advocates adopting from shelters in general, in the video below.
Share if he convinced you to go to a shelter the next time you decide to bring a dog into the family!