I’m sitting here, on April 4th, and it’s snowing. I’d just like to document that. Other winters, that wouldn’t a big deal, but when winter decides to show up in April, I’m taking note. As are the local farmers, who aren’t thrilled.
A few weeks back I mentioned I had a doozy of a story about Otis – here it is!
I was having my Red Letter Day because Carmel has posted my kitchen to her blog, buuuut TimTheFarmer wasn’t responding to my excited texts. What the heck?! Then, I got a call from my FIL who was helping out at the farm and said, “Katie, I’m here at the farm and we’ve got a bit of a situation.” I braced myself for the news that TimTheFarmer was hurt or that there’d been a confrontation with a poacher. You worry about poachers too, right? It turned out to be far crazier than I ever could have imagined.
Bob went on to tell me that Otis had run away and they’d spent the last couple hours looking for him. Someone on the street stopped them and told them that a policeman had been called to pick up a wandering dog. Unfortunately Otis didn’t have his name tag on (we’d ordered it, but it didn’t fit on his collar). Tim called the local police who had Otis who asked where he was – the policeman would come to him.
When he pulled up, Otis wasn’t with him. TimTheFarmer figured he was in for an off-leash violation. The cop started questioning Tim about where he got the dog. He explained that I’d found him at a NYC adoption event and he’d gone down to Petco in Brooklyn the next weekend to pick him up as an early Christmas present for the kiddo. As Tim told the story, the cop looked more and more confused. He then explained that Otis’ microchip says he’s a stolen dog from Queens, whose name is Christopher (the name we adopted him under). Ummmm…come again??!
The cop went on to explain that he’d called the owner and that her reaction wasn’t the overjoyed relief he expected, but that she would come up and get him this weekend. He thought the whole thing seemed a bit odd and suggested we call her to try to sort this out.
This is where I come in. Bob called me and recounted this whole story. I was livid and scared and really, really confused. After last year, which wasn’t the easiest, the last thing we needed was to lose a dog who had immediately become family, who slept with the kiddo every night, and who spent days exploring the farm with TimTheFarmer. How on Earth did this happen?! Bob said that he thought we had a chance of keeping him and that I should call her immediately to see what I could do. In my head he said, “Do your Katie magic,” but that totally could have only been in my head. When I asked him where Otis was and if we could at least keep him until Saturday, he said something I’ll never forget: “Katie, as of right now, Otis is no longer your dog. You have no right to him.” My heart broke for our family, and for Otis, who was back in a shelter.
I set out on a mission to get him back and to get answers. Despite the agency being a friend’s agency, I had every intention of getting the press on this national agency who was dealing in stolen dogs and figured I would be on The Today Show before the end of the week. I’d be interviewed by Natalie, because she’s a mom and just enough of a hard-ass to tell this story and get our dog back. Yes, that’s how my brain works.
But before I issued my press release, I had to get my dog back. I called the owner who didn’t answer and while I was waiting for her call, I sent an ALL CAPS EMAIL to the agency saying they’d given me a stolen dog who’d been confiscated by the police and that they’d better call me NOW. I then called our vet to figure out why when they scanned the chip, this didn’t come up – they kindly explained to be that their scanner just confirms there’s a chip, it doesn’t read it – and they wished me luck.
As I hung up, the owner called me back and I tried to calm my nerves and anger as I spoke to her and not be a total lunatic who was asking to keep her dog. We spoke for a while and it ended up being quite a sad conversation. As her story goes, her boyfriend gave Otis to her as a puppy and she had him for a year. Then, last November when they were fighting, he dropped him off at the pound to get back at her. At some point, someone called the microchip company and said he’d been stolen. She was very nervous and seemed sweet and said she just wanted the best for Christopher (Otis to us). She said it seemed like he had a good, loving home with lots of room to run and that we could keep him if we wanted. She later texted to say that Christopher had been through a lot and had been a strong positive influence for her and she hoped he could be for the kiddo as well. The whole thing just ended up being really sad and heartbreaking. For the woman, who loved and lost a puppy (and clearly had a nasty boyfriend) and for Otis, who’d been yanked out of his home and into a scary shelter and then who’d found a home and been thrown back in a shelter. Not cool. Any of it.
After I thanked her profusely, the next steps were to get ahold of the adoption agency and have a “What the hell?!” conversation and speak with the police to get Otis back. The agency was first and before I could lay into them, they told me their lawyers and entire team had been activated and they had the story for me. They explained that according to the shelter’s records, he was an “owner surrender” and the shelter had full rights to him (to pass on to an agency). I then told her about my conversation with owner which aligned with this and she explained that the shelter is responsible for the intake and scanning the chip and at the time, when they scanned the chip, it came back clean. She agreed that this case illustrates the need for the chip to continued to be scanned and said they’d reevaluate their intake process the next week. My initial reaction had been to be highly unimpressed with the agency for giving us a stolen dog, but they mobilized their entire staff and legal team within minutes of my email to come to our defense and was willing to go to bat for us to keep Otis. So, they are still the good guys in my book.
But….the story isn’t over. By this point, there were too many cooks in the kitchen and as I was talking to the cop, TimTheFarmer was talking to animal control. One was saying we couldn’t pickup Otis from the pound until we got him licensed (we live in a small town with a town hall that’s only open 4 hours per day, 3 days per week and it’d be two days before that could happen) and one was saying that we should go get him. BTW – licensed?? I’d never heard of such a thing. Neither have most of the people I’ve asked about it – glad I’m not the only law-breaking dog owner out there. Luckily TimTheFarmer mentioned that Otis needed his giardia meds – – we couldn’t get him out of the pound quick enough once animal control heard that …. “We had that once in our kennel, couldn’t get rid of it for months.” And just like that, Otis was home.
That my friends, was a doozy of an afternoon. At first I thought that maybe this comes with the territory of adopting dogs, but the vet and agency assured us they had NEVER heard of this before. Awesome. Only us. We seriously have more weird stories from our 5 years as a family than most collect in a lifetime.
The range of emotions I experienced in that three hour window was one for the books. Today, I’m sad for and grateful to Otis’ original owner, appreciative to the local policeman who quickly recognized my husband isn’t a dog thief and offered guidance on how to get Otis back, glad we had an adoption agency with the resources to help us fix this so quickly, momentarily thankful for giardia (not sure that has ever been said before), and 100% confident that Otis is where he’s supposed to be.
With that, I’m going to go sew up the third dog bed he’s destroyed.
And, I really hope Otis’ former owner dumped that jerk once and for all.