Butter the rescue beagle mix was there to remind Yukari Yamahiro what unconditional love looks like when she needed it the most.
petco dog helps chooses love over hate
Credit: Courtesy of Petco Love

On a lovely spring day in May 2021, Yukari Yamahiro stepped out of her doctor's office near the corner of 4th Avenue and 12th Street in Manhattan. The sun was shining and Yamahiro, just through the first trimester of her pregnancy, placed a loving hand on her growing belly as she moved toward the intersection and the rest of her day. She was on the phone with her mother, talking about her appointment as she walked. That was when the woman approached her.

Coming from the direction Yamahiro was walking towards, the woman looked Yamahiro in the eye and shouted a racist insult at her. She then spit in her face. The incident was one of many acts of hate against the AAPI community that were reported across the country in the last year.

"I always thought that I'd be ready, if someone ever did something like that," Yamahiro tells Daily Paws. "I always thought that I'd stand up for myself. But I just froze."

Initially afraid that she might be physically attacked and that the woman might injure her unborn child, Yamahiro protectively crouched away from her assailant. But as the woman continued on her way down the street, shock gave way to a wave of relief and sadness and Yamahiro stood motionless, sobbing on the street until police came and took her statement.

Going home after the attack, Yamahiro was distraught. She not only felt violated by the act of being spat upon, she felt alone. Alone, that is, until she opened the door of her apartment and was greeted by Butter.

"It was the best thing," she says, recalling the relief she felt seeing the 3-year-old beagle mix bounding up to her. "It was just the best feeling in the world to not come back to an empty apartment. I wasn't alone, I had this wagging tail. I was sobbing on the streets but when I got home, I just felt safe."

Everyone who owns a pet knows how comforting they can be in times of stress or sadness. Not only did the little dog snuggle up to her and let her cry on her neck, but by giving her another living being to focus on, she kept her from holing up in her apartment and closing herself off for too long. Yamahiro still needed to care for her and take her outside despite her fear and sadness, so the two leashed up and stepped out for a walk. Butter instinctively pulled Yamahiro toward her favorite dog park, even though she wanted to avoid people.

"I was terrified to go out," she says. "I was going to wear a hat, sunglasses, a heavy sweatshirt, whatever it took to hide. But the other owners saw me like that and asked what was wrong and I told them about my morning."

What she found in fellow dog lovers helped her see a kinder side of humanity. Yamahiro says she was moved by the outpouring of support she received from the other dog parents at the park, who offered to walk home with her and to meet her at her apartment to walk with her the next day.  

Butter may not have known it, but she wound up helping Yamahiro in an unexpected way. Not only was the little rescue pooch there to greet her when she got home, but she was able to connect Yamahiro to a supportive group of people who would become friends when she needed community the most. Their story of love in the face of hate was the winner of the Petco Love Stories contest, who recently awarded a $100k grant for Hearts and Bones, the rescue organization Yamahiro adopted Butter through. Theirs was one of hundreds of incredible pet adoption tales submitted to the contest, and was selected by Petco Love and BOBS from Skechers as the grand prize winner in December 2021.

"It's hard to find friends in New York that aren't from work or school," she says. "But all the people I've met at the dog park, they're all different ages, races, cultures, but they're all very empathetic."

Yamahiro did not let that moment of ugliness and anger change who she is as a person. But now, she feels like the people she has met at the dog park are a closer community of friends than she initially expected them to be. In the months since, she has continued to take Butter to her favorite dog park, chatting and walking with her fellow dog-loving friends every day.

Now the group has a new member of the pack—a baby boy Yamahiro welcomed to the world in November. Mom and baby are both healthy, happy, and doing well. Butter is there too, helpful as always. With the amount of love this little beagle mix has already brought into her life in their two years together, it should come as no surprise that Yamahiro says Butter is a great big sister.