If you walked through the Buffalo Niagara International Airport Wednesday morning, there's a good chance you met Morris.
He's not a local, and his time in Buffalo was short.
After flying thousands of miles from Colombia, Morris came to the City of Good Neighbors to begin a his new life.
Morris, a 3-legged dog, was rescued this July in the city of Cartagena by Buffalo native, Maureen Cattieu.
"[He was] collapsed outside of a gas station, just with his bone halfway out of his skin, so we don't know originally how it was amputated,” said Cattieu, pointing out that Morris’ nerve endings were exposed at the time, causing him constant, severe pain. “He didn't move for days. He was severely anemic, he needed IVs, and then we had to get him healthy to do another amputation."
Add in a healthy dose of love from Cattieu, who fostered Morris herself, and the pup made a healthy recovery.
It’s just one of many success stories put out by Cartagena Paws, Cattieu’s organization in Colombia that rescues street animals and rehabilitating them.
Many of their animals are flown to their perfect homes internationally, Cattieu says, and a good number of them are flown through Buffalo.
Most of the times they rescue dogs, sometimes cats; they even rescued a pig last week.
After she originally moved to Cartagena with her bilingual education degree, the 2nd-grade teacher was struck by the horrific conditions animals face in some South American countries.
"Machete slashes, hot acid, tied to trees, no concept of giving food or water to an animal, no concept of spaying neutering,” said Cattieu, fighting off tears. “A lot of it now is educating the community."
But rescue and the rehabilitation are good places to start, according to Cattieu; it becomes a true success story when those animals find their perfect home.
If you'd like to learn more about Cartagena Paws, you can visit their website here to learn more about adopting, sponsoring, educating, or any other way you'd like to help complete another animal's success story.
Which brings us once again to the Buffalo airport, where Maureen sat next to Morris, cuddled in his lucky blanket, after flying for more than 13 hours.
Another flight landed shortly after they arrived, with a passenger headed in from Seattle, visiting Western New York for the first time.
Luis Balbosa, who lives in the Seattle suburb Port Orchard, adopts old or disabled dogs with his partner.
After losing his last dog, Johnny Cakes, Luis was heartbroken, but he eventually knew there was a spot in his home, and his heart, to adopt again.
But he never would have guessed that when Maureen called him about adopting Morris, the resemblance the pup has to Johnny Cakes is uncanny.
"It was just a nice coincidence. I mean he's not Johnny Cakes, he's his own dog, but it's still nice because he reminds me a bit of him,” said Balbosa, who broke down into tears talking about his desire to give Morris a great home for the first time. "It's something nice that I feel like I'm able to do, and so I'm happy to do it."
And so that first introduction was key: after unbelievable abuse, how would Morris respond to his new owner?
That moment when Morris and Luis first locked eyes, he said, was perfect.
He took it slowly, respectfully, and when he petted Morris for the first time, it’s almost as if he knew the pup’s favorite spot was right behind his ears.
"If you can let a dog know that you're not there to hurt them, a lot of the time, they'll decide to take a chance and trust you,” Balbosa said with a smile.
Morris, Maureen and Luis left the airport together to grab some food, debrief, and ease the transition as smoothly as possible.
Maureen admitted she’d probably cry the rest of the day, saying goodbye to Morris, but the whole experience motivated her to return to Colombia and continue her mission.
Luis stayed with his newest companion in Buffalo overnight, choosing to fly out on Friday.
But that first trip to Buffalo will always be special for Luis and Morris; and for Maureen, there was no more perfect place than Buffalo to write the final chapter of her latest success story.