“We were extremely confused.”
In November 2021, a mysterious package arrived on the doorstep of Jessica Sattelberger’s home. There was no note explaining who it was from, nor any return address. Inside the Amazon box were two chew toys and a bag of chicken and waffle-flavored dog treats.
Sattelberger and her boyfriend, Adam, had adopted a dog named Myrtle earlier that year, so the package was definitely for her. But … who had sent it?
“We were extremely confused,” Sattelberger told The Dodo about receiving what was just the first of many packages sent for Myrtle. “If anyone would be sending Myrtle a gift, I would have guessed my sister because she will often send our dogs things.”
But the secret sender was actually someone neither Sattelberger nor Adam would have ever guessed.
The anonymous gifter ended up being the father of one of Adam’s childhood friends. “We figured it out after one of his sons had told Adam that their dad had asked for our address,” Sattelberger said.
But the funny thing is that Adam doesn’t have a relationship with the man they’ve dubbed “Uncle Bill.”
In fact, Uncle Bill had only met Adam once (back when Adam was in high school), and it took some backtracking to figure out how Uncle Bill knew about Myrtle in the first place.
“We officially adopted [Myrtle] in June of 2021, and then we started an Instagram page,” Sattelberger said. “He must have followed it because Adam shared it on his own page and Bill follows Adam as well.”
Soon after the packages started arriving, Uncle Bill then began liking and commenting on all of Myrtle’s Instagram posts, confirming that he is, in fact, the secret sender.
Sattelberger said that the situation gets even funnier when they factor in that Uncle Bill has his own kids who have their own pets, and he rarely sends his granddogs toys and treats in the mail.
“He’s taken a liking to our dog,” Sattelberger said in a TikTok video explaining the lore of Uncle Bill. “Eventually he started writing, ‘Love, Uncle Bill’ on [the packages]. The whole thing’s incredible.”
Uncle Bill has never shared why he sends Myrtle gifts, but Sattelberger and Adam have their theories.
“Part of me wonders if it’s just her story that really touched his heart,” Sattelberger said. “We were making lots of videos about her and just showing how scared she was and how she was making strides, so maybe the gifts were a ‘you’re doing great’ bit of encouragement.”
Myrtle was rescued as part of a cruelty/neglect case in Georgia. And because she was in such rough shape and had enormous trust issues, Myrtle was one of the longest residents at the Humane Society in Chittenden County.
“She was in HORRIBLE shape upon intake,” Sattelberger said. “We don’t know for sure, but based on her scars all over her face and body, we think she was [used as] a fight dog.”
“Adam kept showing me Myrtle’s photo on the Humane [Society’s] Instagram and being like, ‘She’s still there and no one is going to visit her.’ And so, of course, we decided to go visit her,” Sattelberger added.
Sattelberger and Adam devoted two weeks to visiting Myrtle at the Humane Society, giving her treats and earning her trust.
“Eventually, she warmed to us a little and they offered to let us foster her for a few weeks to see if it was a fit,” Sattelberger said, admitting that the foster period was tough for all of them.
“She was terrified at first,” Sattelberger said. “She would hide in her crate and laundry baskets in the closet. She wouldn’t go on walks either. She would just freeze the second we got her outside.”
But Sattelberger and Adam knew they needed to push through.
“We thought, ‘Who else is going to give this dog the time and space she needs to come out of her shell?’” Sattelberger said. “It took her a long time to feel comfortable in our home. Every step forward felt like a milestone.”
With the help of a positive reinforcement trainer and a veterinary behaviorist, Myrtle started to blossom into the spunky dog she is today.
“She is a completely different dog now,” Sattelberger said. “She is so comfortable in our house, and more comfortable with people IN our house … She now LOVES to go for walks. She has gotten very vocal, [and she also] LOVES to do training exercises. She is so smart, and since all our training involves food, she can’t wait to participate.”
Sattlelberger and Adam have briefly connected with Uncle Bill through Instagram, sending him thank-you messages after Myrtle opens her gifts. But he’s still mostly a good-natured stranger who just loves spoiling a dog during her second chance at life.
“We don’t even think of it as spoiling,” Sattelberger said. “Our entire ethos around dogs is to make their lives as fulfilling as possible … They are sentient beings with their own thoughts and feelings, and they should be treated as such.”
On top of Uncle Bill’s gifts, Myrtle’s parents provide her with a variety of fresh food and kibble, “spare no expense in getting her treats,” Sattelberger said, and she even has five beds (one for every room in the house plus the cars).
Though Uncle Bill has been a surprise addition to their lives, Sattelberger and Adam love that he’s become part of the family in a way.
“At the end of the day, we love that a semi-stranger has found a special place in his heart for a pit bull who was abused and neglected,” Sattelberger said.
And thanks to Uncle Bill, Myrtle’s life has just gotten that much sweeter.