Jul 10, 2018 | Atlanta, GA
Georgia Tech industrial engineering graduate Blaine DeLuca found his best friend just in the nick of time.
"I'd been on the prowl for a dog for the better part of six months," DeLuca says. "I knew I definitely wanted to get a rescue."
Along comes Penni, a dog in desperate need of a loving home.
Animal rescuers believe Penni spent most of the first part of her life locked in a basement. She was abandoned on the streets of the Bronx, and when police found her she had a sore on her ribcage that was growing a tumor.
A medical evaluation coupled with shelter overcrowding led to a decision to put Penni down. Fortunately, though, the rescue group arrived just in time to save her life and contacted DeLuca hoping he’d be able to provide a good home.
Due to the physical abuse Penni endured, there would be some challenges.
“She was terrified of everything in sight. She was untrusting of every situation. She simply did not want to interact with the world,” DeLuca explains.
He started taking Penni on daily walks to encourage her to explore. She had been confined for so long, DeLuca says it seems like she forgot how to run.
So trips to the dog park and plenty of encouragement helped.
Even still, Penni would sometimes get skittish in confined spaces.
That’s when DeLuca realized what would be the best therapy for Penni.
“This dog loves being outside. I have made a point of seeking different destinations as often as possible,” DeLuca says.
So walks turned into hikes. The duo has explored Zion National Park, Lake Mead, and the Grand Canyon together.
“We share a unique bond when we are out experiencing these events, too. I mean, not everyone can say they have been rappelling with their dog!” DeLuca laughs.
Yes. Rappelling. An amazing transformation for a dog many felt could never recover from the abuse she endured.
Now Penni’s story has been seen more than 50 million times through channels like USA Today and National Geographic. DeLuca chronicles their journeys on Instagram.
The consummate Georgia Tech alumnus, DeLuca kept Penni styled in a Georgia Tech bandanna. She lost the gold neckerchief in a creek on one of her adventures.
When Penni and her human came back to Atlanta for a visit, the Institute made sure she got a replacement — and a good walk around campus.
“It’s so cool to see her here,” DeLuca says.