Few things compare to the unbreakable bond between a dog and its owner. Spending so much time together makes it almost impossible to leave each other's side. But, the same can happen for two pet pals...
Pair by Chance, Friends by Choice
In October 2014, Rocket Dog Rescue in San Francisco took in two new dogs for shelter. The owner of Merrill, a female pit bull terrier, and Taco, a male chihuahua, came across as unique to the staff very quickly.
Much to their amazement, the rescue team from California realized the dogs would not separate. When it came to finding the pups a new home, the staff knew they would have to find a way to work around this and keep them together. Still, it was a long shot.
Two Peas in a Pod
Merrill and Taco's owner did not inform the volunteers much about the two dogs, but it was obvious they were indivisible. It was incredibly heart-warming to watch two pups - with one overpowering the other in size and strength - rely on each other.
The volunteers shared the puppy love on Facebook. It was clear the pair had not left each other's side in a while and was not ready to any time soon. "We just could not stand the thought of them being separated or waiting at the shelter for months to find a home TOGETHER, so they are coming to Rocket Dog Rescue!!!" they gushed.
Finding Out More
When the owner handed over Merrill, the staff noticed her uncared-for condition. After scoping out the situation, they found she had a bad urinary tract infection which required immediate action. Though she was allegedly only three years old, they suspected she had been used for breeding.
Merrill's infection was putting her life at risk. The volunteers assumed her owners couldn't care for her any longer. From being unable to afford the expensive surgery required to Merrill being unable to breed, there were several suspected reasons why the owner gave her up. But, the volunteers discovered something more alarming.
Healing & Heartbroken
As the story goes, the volunteers had to separate her from her best friend in order to undergo surgery. Taco was eight years old and noticeably anxious as he patiently waited for Merrill's procedure to be over. It was probably the longest the two had ever been apart.
Once the procedure had finished, the veterinarian wanted Merrill to heal faster - and alone. This was not an easy process, as the staff started to hear Taco weeping from a distance, knowing Merrill needed him by her side. So, the sympathetic staff decided to come up with a solution.
Taco To The Rescue
After constant wailing from the two dogs, the volunteers realized how much the two needed to be together. It seemed the only right thing to do was to reunite the two pups. So that's exactly what they did. And almost immediately after, the two began to calm each other down. The staff was in awe.
Taco did not leave Merrill from the moment he was allowed to be by her side. Although it was a rare and warm moment, the staff started becoming concerned. They began to wonder why the two were so inseparable. And perhaps more importantly: what would happen in the long run if one of them left?
The Painful Truth
The San Francisco rescue shelter was prone to seeing many situations, from minor to extreme. But this was one they had never come across or thought about. Still, they were experienced and knew how to move forward with the situation - especially regarding adopting two dogs at once.
While the two pups had such a special bond, outstanding factors affected a combined adoption. Taco was a lot older than Merrill, and it seemed no adoptees had an interest in taking him when the shelter posted separate pictures of them. However, soon after, there was a sudden shift in perspective.
A Package Deal
Merrill was more of an attractive dog bachelor. It was easier for Merrill to find a home as she was a mixed pitbull and only three - while Taco was not getting any younger. As a result, sadly many adoptees showed a liking more towards Merrill than Taco on Facebook.
One day, an interested adoptee arrived at the shelter and showed immediate interest in Merrill. No other dog stood out as much as Merrill for this potential owner. It seemed this person would provide a loving home for Merrill - but they were blissfully unaware of the two-for-one Taco bargain.
Moment of Truth
To the naked eye, there was no doubt the man would adopt Merrill. He had his eye set on the pup and immediately signed the paperwork. He packed up her cage and prepared to take his new companion home. Rocket Dog Rescue was delighted. But it wasn't that simple.
The underlying issue was that the man was about to face separating Merrill and Taco. The two dogs were together in one cage, and when they opened it to take Merrill out, the duo started to wail out of control. The adoptee was taken aback by the situation, turning to the volunteers for an answer.
Never Letting Go
The Rocket Dog Rescue staff proceeded to explain to the man that these two dogs came together and were inseparable. The dog's behavior soon made it clear to the man that Merrill did not want to leave without Taco. They were two peas in a pod. But would they remain that way?
Thankfully, the man also sympathized with their situation. It was an unspoken bond that could not be broken, and this adoptee would not be the reason for it. It was clear the two dogs had to be adopted together or not at all - but only if they were going to be correctly cared for.
A Change of Heart
The man made a heartbreaking decision to withdraw his adoption. He could not take care of both dogs and, therefore, could not move forward. He chose another pup to take home, but only with good intentions. The staff was happy one dog was adopted. But they remained curious about how to deal with the Merrill/Taco fiasco.
The staff knew they couldn't keep Merrill and Taco in a shelter home forever. The dogs needed and deserved a good home to be loved in. So, after discussion, there was no way they were going to break the two apart and crafted ideas on how they would become attractive options as a pair.
The only way to inform incoming adoptees of the situation in advance was to advertise Merrill and Taco together. It was the perfect solution, as now they would not get their hopes up regarding a potential adoption. It was essential the dogs had to be taken as a pair.
The shelter released a heartwarming listing: "These two love each other more than any bonded pair the shelter has ever seen. They cry when they leave each other's side. This dynamic duo has lost their family, their home, and now we can't let them lose each other!"
Through Thick & Thin
Once the shelter shared pictures on Facebook of the two dogs together, people could not get enough. The post instantly turned heads - users could not believe the connection. It was more unbelievable that users even spotted Taco wedged between Merrill's protective legs!
The photos uploaded were a true reflection of the pair's puppy love. The iconic duo received 14,000 likes, 1,000 comments, and 26,182 shares in just over a few days. The volunteers knew they did the right thing by keeping the two together, and comments confirmed it. They were not giving up on finding the two a home together.
A Day in the Life
The rescue shelter was eager to find these two a home. Not because they didn't want to take care of them themselves, but because they deserved it. They constantly updated their Facebook statuses and documented adorable Merrill and Taco exchanges.
Although Merrill could eat Taco in one bite, potential adoptees would not have been put off by their size difference. All that stood out was the amount of love the dogs had for each other. They were not going to harm each other or anyone around them.
A New Home
For a while, Jodi, one of the volunteers, offered to take in the dogs until they found a home. But, the magic of social media started to play up. A family from San Jose was finally interested in both of the dogs. Ironically, they accidentally came across Merrill and Taco - but instantly fell in love.
As Jodi was currently taking care of the two pups, the family from San Jose had to meet the dogs at Jodi's. Once they did, it was an instant connection; the perfect match. Although, it was easier said and done. The family had to make sure they could attend to both dogs properly.
Taco was an old dog and had gone through his fair share of health scares. From developing asthma to dental complications, he only had four teeth left and a dehydrated tongue. Taco had clearly been abandoned and mistreated by his previous owner, leaving him in this state of health.
Still, the new family had to be cautious of these health problems if they were proceeding with taking him home. After taking care of Taco for a month, they took him for a check-up to ensure he wasn't in danger due to his health. Unfortunately, the family received startling news.
The Devastating Diagnosis
The vets were worried about Taco's health conditions. After running some tests, they found he was battling significant heart failure. The family had no idea, but the results showed fluid in Taco's lungs and heart expansion. It was alarming, to say the least.
The vets prescribed medication and an appointment with a specialist. While the family held Taco, waiting for updates, he was already on the medication. In a situation like this, the family prayed for a light at the end of the tunnel. Although Merrill's feelings were taken into consideration, the family prepared for the worst.
Fighting For Survival
Considering Taco's old age, the chances of survival were fairly low in this circumstance. Still, the family was not going to neglect the poor pup because of his health. Instead, they went to great lengths to show extra love and care during these dark days.
Ironically, it was not the family's love Taco needed the most: it was Merrill that he needed by his side. Merrill was brought to the frantic scene, where Taco was struggling. Seeing her sit by Taco's side and care for him immensely wasn't a surprise. Would their strong bond lead to a change in Taco?
The Power of Love
It was an incredible reaction: the combined support from both Merrill and the family miraculously transformed his heart condition to an extent. Taco began to feel better while the treatment started to manage his heart stability. But his struggles were far from over.
Taco was prescribed anti-seizure medication and steroids to manage the lung fluid. Thankfully, this was enough to heal his heart condition completely - though this was not the end. The family was told that the only way Taco had a chance of survival was to be medicated for life due to his asthma.
Living His Best Life
Taco was not going to let his new life on medication stop him from taking part in daily activities - especially with his best friend, Merrill. Despite their incredible and adorable size difference, these pals were seemingly made for each other.
Taco was treated like royalty. He was spoiled with playtime and carried around by his loving new family. If there was any silver lining, the outpour of love made Taco and Merrill fit into their new home perfectly. They even had a personal Facebook page made for them in their honor.
While the family wanted to keep their name low profile, they did not hesitate to share Taco and Merrill with the world. After naming the Facebook page after them, the family continued to share only the sweetest images which portrayed their bond so clearly. Users began to fall in love!
Footage of the pups showed them running around in the family garden while also playing with their family siblings. It wasn't just the shared images that made the two dogs seem unique; users noticed how well they were being taken care of. Still, the dogs continued to wail if they were ever apart.
The family shared special moments with each of the dogs. Taco preferred to be carried like a baby kangaroo inside its caregiver's pouch. He found the inside of the family's t-shirts incredibly cozy when trying to relax. And Merrill allowed Taco to cuddle, play or sleep wherever he wanted.
When Merrill and Taco weren't joined at the hip, their safe space was typically beside their human owner's sides. Despite Merrill's more dominant build, she never turned down a cuddle in baskets or beds. After a long run around, this nap time was definitely deserved.
It was clear Merrill and Taco would never have to feel abandoned or neglected again. They lived the doggy dream in San Jose, especially after experiencing their first Christmas together. It was a documented moment, and the dogs felt the holiday magic.
While the family was committed to updating their Facebook page's fans, they also shared Christmas footage. One moment that stood out for fans was when the family dressed Taco in holiday decor. They commended Rocket Dog Rescue and Jodi in the Christmas post, thankful for the special celebration.
One Year Later
In the blink of an eye, 12 months had passed since Merrill and Taco became a part of the family. After sharing priceless moments on Facebook throughout the year, this was a special milestone. To celebrate, the family took the pups out with other dogs from the shelter for a wholesome stroll.
The caption read: “It’s our 1 year anniversary!!!! We celebrated Merrill & Taco’s big day with a walk with friends. From left to right… Jack, Boo, Kim, Tigger, Merrill, Me & Taco. Kim is the one who posted the pic from Rocket Dog that got this whole ball rolling. Thanks Kim! It’s been a great year. We love them!!!”
A Happy Ending
The difference in size had never been an issue for the BFFs, proving their unique bond and status as a dynamic duo. Merrill was aware of her size and knew how to treat Taco carefully. It was an indestructible bond. And the shelter was eternally grateful the duo got to continue their journey together.
The shelter celebrated their happily ever after on their Facebook page, sharing a picture of Merrill and Taco lying beside a fireplace. "Merrill & Taco are doing wonderful in their forever home. They are enjoying hanging out by the fire, snuggling up after a long, fun-filled day."
Merrill and Taco knew they could never replace each other. Still, they continued encouraging and pushing one another to try new things and make new friends. It turned out Merrill made a new friend who went by the name PJ. They even shared a pup play date!
A photo was shared on Facebook of the arrangement, with a caption that read, "having a play date at (PJ's) house. Getting in some turning and burning before the rain comes." The photo became flooded with comments and likes - although users did notice one thing. Taco was not in the picture.
While Taco was a lot older, he couldn't keep up with Merrill's energy levels most of the time. As time went on, they learned to be away from each other when it came to certain activities - like relaxing vs. playtime. While Merrill was digging ditches with other pups, Taco was busy resting at home.
One Facebook user displayed his concern as to where Taco was. Could he have been replaced?! But, the user and other fans were soon reassured when the owner explained, "this is no place for him. He'd get creamed… This is like Clash of the Titan's stuff. Only for the fast, strong, and really hard-headed."
Merrill and Taco must always look their best with all the playing around. While they are still comfortable living with the family from San Jose, their treatment has become more lavish. The family even took the two dogs to a day spa for a bit of grooming!
Pampering is usually a luxury, but Merrill and Taco were not fans of bath time. Although relaxed the majority of the time, it wasn't easy. A posted photo of them at the groomers was captioned, "Can't say they love bath time, but they enjoyed the walk there and back... And the cookie they got afterwards."
Of course, though, a well-pampered pup can't leave the groomers without the most conditioned fur, freshly brushed teeth, cleaned ears, and new nails! A mani-pedi for dogs is actually totally suitable so long as one uses polish specifically for dogs, also known as Pawlish.
A day at the groomers took it out of them. After getting fluffed up for the next few weeks, Merrill waited for her fresh nails to dry as she dozed off into a peaceful post-pampering snooze. Although it was a mystery to see how tiny Taco was groomed, her nails might have been too small.
More Than Meets the Eye
Don't be fooled by Taco's size: in a later post, Taco shocked his Facebook fans as he dug into a brand new bone! They couldn't believe something so tiny could grab hold of a bone that large. Taco was most definitely small but mighty, and the story behind the bone was also one to read.
The caption for the image posted on Facebook read, "Merrill got a nice big yummy bone… We heard Taco barking from the other room and went to investigate. He was barking at Merrill, telling her to back off from his bone. He's not going to let a severe deficit of teeth slow him down."
But where are Merrill and Taco today? Unfortunately, after endless spa days and strolls around the neighborhood, their family took to Facebook to share some startling news with the rest of us. "Merrill has joined Taco over the rainbow bridge," they announced in July 2022.
"We feel so fortunate to have been given the gift of having these two become a part of our family," they reflected. "Thank you everyone who followed their story and loved them too. Dogs bring out the best in people. Go give yours an extra bit of love today from us."