Saturday, December 18, 2010

Homeward Bound

This is the true story of a dog named Chance who was known as Patrick before and after and Patches before and after, but he was Chance in between. 

Chance was picked up by animal control in late June 2010. A local rescue group pulled him from a municipal shelter, named him Patrick, and took him to an adoption day on a Saturday in July.

It was there that a young couple looking for a lab mix fell in love with Patrick. Maybe it was his silly ears. Or maybe it was the patches on his nose.

The young couple adopted Patrick and named him Chance—after the dog in Homeward Bound that eventually finds his way home. And, after all, they were taking a chance on him. No one knew anything about his history. He had never lived in a foster home, so the couple knew nothing of his temperament or quirks. He was just a stray.

The couple soon came to find out that Chance was more than they bargained for. It started with aggressive behavior toward other dogs, then evolved into weird reactions to strangers. Soon there after, Chance developed protective-aggression behaviors toward people who weren’t “his people.” No one other than the young couple could approach him without a low growl, nasty barking, and near bites. Chance wouldn’t even let the brave dog walker into the house. Over the course of several months, the young couple worked with a trainer, but the problems only got worse. It became impossible just to walk him because of his reactions to just about everything along the way.

The young couple agonized over what to do and eventually made the tough decision to return Chance to the rescue. It broke their hearts into a million pieces. But the situation had become dangerous, and they acknowledged that they weren’t giving Chance the life he needed—confident, experienced dog owners to deal with his issues and a big yard where he could expend all of his energy.

So, on an October day, the couple gave Chance back to the rescue. He became Patrick again. As he was driven off in a van, a woman from the rescue consoled the young, crying couple. She understood that this had become a dangerous situation; in fact, Patrick had turned on her several times. She knew they weren’t bad dog owners. She offered the young couple any puppy from their rescue, or would they like to foster? They could get to know different types of dogs and learn which dog might fit their lifestyle. But the couple wasn’t ready for another dog. They couldn’t even look at or think about a dog without crying.

As weeks passed, they acknowledged that there was an empty space in their lives. They took serious consideration into fostering with the hopes of becoming experienced dog owners and helping a dog like Chance one day. But would it break their hearts to give up the dogs, just as they did with Chance? They decided that the pain of doing nothing to help these dogs is a hundred times worse than the pain of giving up a dog to a good home could ever be.

On a Saturday in November, they stopped into a local pet store where another rescue was having an adoption day. They fell in love all over again, but this time with all the dogs. They asked if the organization needed foster volunteers.

And the rescue did. The young couple took in one dog, and then two…

In the mean time, Patrick spent some cold nights in a boarding facility, then landed himself with a foster family who could help with his behaviors. October, November, and much of December came and went without any potential adopters.

Then, a week before Christmas, a little girl living a few towns away wrote a letter to Santa.

“Dear Santa, please bring back our dog Patches for Christmas. We lost him last summer and we all miss him so much.”

Out of desperation, the girl’s father checked Petfinder one last time for Patches—something he had done many times months before. He wanted to make his daughter’s Christmas wish come true. And, I know what you’re thinking, parents, but no look alike would do. Patches had very distinct silly ears and patches on his nose. Perhaps a shelter or rescue group had him now. Perhaps there was some hope. But who knows what could have happened to Patches in the six months since they lost him.

As the father searched, a familiar face popped up. There he was, Patches, also known as Patrick to the rescue group, and previously known as Chance to the young couple—us. 

The father contacted the rescue and, the very next day, Patches/Patrick/Chance was homeward bound.

The little girl got her Christmas wish, Patches found his new old home, and we were able to make room in our home and in our hearts to save the lives of two dogs—Wookiee and Jack—with the hopes of saving many, many more. 

The universe works in mysterious ways.   

1 comment:

  1. I never read this post. Wow, I'm smiling and tearing up at the same time.