Panda and Dallas are so much more than pets to owner Carly D’Eliseo
Working from home outside Dallas during the pandemic, Carly D'Eliseo decided it was time to adopt a dog.
"Growing up in my family in Florida, we always had dogs — I've always been a dog lover," she tells PEOPLE of fostering and rescuing throughout childhood.
And once she saw pup Panda on Petfinder in 2020, "I knew: This is my dog," she says, adding that actual pandas have "always been my spirit animal." She drove 90 minutes to meet the pup — and the rest is history.
In the months that followed, D'Eliseo, 32, got more involved with rescue work and fostering, eventually meeting another panda-esque dog named Dallas.
"I started getting tags in all the videos of dogs that look like pandas," she recalls. "A rescue tagged me in one of Dallas, and I was like, there's no way. I've never seen a dog that looked like Panda before, and now there's this little puppy that looks exactly like Panda!"
After agreeing to foster Dallas, "I was again like, 'This is my dog.' There's no way I just all of a sudden moved to Texas, have never seen these types of dogs in my life and then two of them appear within about two years of each other."
"The minute I brought Dallas home, it's like it was meant to be," she continues. "They're always next to each other."
Panda, now 7, is the "more relaxed and calm" of the two, while Dallas, 2, is "full of energy," D'Eliseo says. "But they are attached at the hip. Dallas doesn't really know much of a life without Panda." She continues to foster as well, joking it's "a revolving door of dogs coming in and out of my house."
The rescue and foster work has helped her feel more at home in her new state, easing the "homesickness and making me really feel like I was meant to be where I am — the right place at the right time," D'Eliseo shares. "It's the bigger purpose of moving and getting out of my comfort zone: what was always meant for me found me."
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Panda and Dallas have become a sensation on TikTok and Instagram @packofpandas, and D'Eliseo is grateful their story is encouraging others to adopt. "You can find your dream dog at a shelter if you just give them a chance," she says. "I want other people to feel the way that I feel about my dogs and know that rescue dogs can give you that feeling — they're out there!"
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