This is Chato’s story. He was surrendered to Pima Animal Care Center by his owner on April 11, 2013. This dog spent the first two years of his life as a “backyard” dog –never allowed in the house, never socialized, and never treated as a member of a family. However, in spite of all that, he loved and trusted people. He was affectionate, good with people and other dogs. He was placed for adoption on April 12. 

Chato is half Shar-Pei and half German shepherd. He has this funny Shar-Pei face attached to a German shepherd body. He had no training and was full of energy. Even with our best volunteers, he was a handful. To quote one of our long term volunteers, “You take Chato out, and you know you’ve been for a walk!” 

So he sat in his kennel, looked over by everyone who walked through. He wasn’t a cute puppy. He wasn’t a purebred dog. And he had training issues. 

But he sat there every day, happy to be in our shelter. For the first time in his life, he could count on being fed every day. He always had fresh water. He had a clean kennel with soft bedding to sleep on. He had access to the outside sunshine, or he could go back inside when the day got warm. He had a kennel mate who became his best friend, and he had dozens of shelter staff and volunteers who cared about him. 

But still he sat there, day after day, while people walked by him, never taking a second look. 

Then on May 1, we received a phone call from Kerrie Turner, from San Francisco. She told me that she had been on our website and had seen a dog that was her dog’s twin. Her dog, Rex, looked exactly like Chato, she said, and her family was looking for another dog. 

Her enthusiasm was contagious. She said she felt an immediate connection with Chato and just knew he was meant to be a member of her family. We spoke at length, and Kerrie and I started to form a friendship over this dog. We both wanted the same thing for Chato: We both knew he needed to be her dog. 

She was making plans to fly to Tucson, adopt Chato, then rent a car and drive back to the Bay Area. (more)

I spoke with Shelter Supervisor Ivonne Lopez, Shelter Coordinator Justin Gallick, Rescue Coordinator Rachel Molyneux, and Clinic Supervisor Helen Beach. We all agreed this was a great opportunity for Chato. Arrangements were made, we evaluated him for a clean bill of health, verified he was neutered and prepared him for Kerrie’s arrival on May 7. 

Then life happened. 

Kerrie found she couldn’t take the time away to travel all the way to Tucson. She and her spouse, a police officer, work full time, and they are raising three young boys. She and I spoke on the phone again on May 9 and she explained that she couldn’t make it to Tucson until May 23. Even though my heart was breaking, I told her that there was no way we could hold a dog that long. If another adopter came along, we would have to take that opportunity. She was so understanding, and just like those of us at Pima Animal Care Center, she didn’t want to limit his options. She said “If it’s meant to be, it will happen.” 

She and I spoke every few days over the passing weeks, while Chato sat in his kennel. She and I became friends, and we both knew that this adoption was meant to be. Sometimes you just know. 

We spoke on May 21 and I told her that Chato was still there. She left from California May 23. She was going to try and get to Pima Animal Care Center before we closed that night. I was out on my regular duties as an Animal Care Officer and said I would be sorry to miss her and the adoption process. My new friend said “she was not leaving Tucson without meeting me.” We made some arrangements to meet in the morning. 

When they arrived at the shelter the next morning, Kerrie jumped out of the car, and we hugged like old friends. Then I took her and her partner, Christine, to meet Chato. It was love at first sight with Chato. Within minutes they had him on a leash, doing “sit,”, “down” and “stay.” He was on a leash, not pulling, totally focused on his new Mom. She walked, he walked. She stopped, he stopped and looked to her for direction. It was the perfect adoption and a new life for a dog that had been ignored and treated like a lawn ornament. 

Thank you to all of my PACC co-workers. This took a group effort. I’ve been getting pictures and videos non-stop from Chato’s home. This dog is in his glory. 

But most of all thank you, Kerrie and Christine, for giving an amazing dog a second chance. And for me, I have been blessed with two new lifelong friends.

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