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Rescue through the printed word

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rock Creek couple Chris and Karen Sorenson were grieving the death of their dog, Sandy, when they were captivated by this ad for a local shelter dog who they later named Willey.Rock Creek couple Chris and Karen Sorenson believe in the power of the printed word — and the love of a good rescue dog.

In November 2012, they were grieving the recent loss of Sandy, their whip-smart, intensely loyal Belgian malinois. They had first caught sight of her 14 years before, while enjoying a leisurely weekend breakfast at a diner in Ojai, Calif. Cracking open the local paper, they saw an ad for the local Humane Society’s Pet of the Week. And just like that, they realized they were getting a dog.

They still have a copy of that newspaper clipping, now yellowed. Sandy was described merely as housebroken and good with older children and cats. That was clearly an understatement. Even in black and white, her personality seemed to pop from the photo (much as her tongue did, as she appears to be attempting to lick the camera).

An image the Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter posted on its website brought that feeling back, so many years later, at a time the Sorensons denied they were even looking for a dog. They had always been opposed to the idea of replacing a beloved animal, or of jumping into pet ownership again too quickly.

“I think that you do those comparisons, where you worry you’re trying to replace what you just lost,” Karen said.

Of course, the two were still lovingly caring for two “rescue turtles” their daughter had insisted on adopting more than 20 years before, during the height of her “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” obsession. But a dog?by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Chris and Karen Sorenson adopted their beloved dog, Sandy, many years ago after seeing this photo in a Southern California newspaper.

Ah, but the ad for “Sy” was persuasive. He was described as affectionate, and he had that focused shepherd look. And while his Petfinder writeup likened his prematurely salt-and-pepper “beard” to that of George Clooney, Karen made another association, remembering the sweet but pleading look of the dog-star from the 2011 viral video known as “Ultimate Dog Tease.”

“He looked like the ‘maple bacon kind’ dog,” she laughed.

“He’s so different-looking, too,” Karen said. “That gets to you.”

She showed the post to Chris, and within 20 minutes, they had the creeping suspicion — as they had in that Southern California diner, a decade and a half before — that they were once again getting a dog.

“We already have stuff for a dog,” Karen said. “Of course, this is all after missing a dog, and realizing: ‘I could walk him, he would have a nice yard.’”

“And,” she added, “I feel like Sandy would’ve wanted it.”

They went to meet him the same day they made the inquiry call: the day before Thanksgiving.

The meeting lasted no more than 15 minutes.

“He had kind of a ‘hang-dog’ look,” Karen said. “He was friendly. He was great with us, and we wanted him right away.”

“I’d pretty well made up my mind before I went in,” she added.

They were told Sy had a slab fracture in his tooth, which would require surgery. But instead of delaying the dog’s re-homing, the shelter suggested Karen and Chris immediately foster him, which meant the shelter would foot the bill for his procedure the following Friday.

“They wanted him to be in a home over Thanksgiving,” Karen said. “I thought that was cute.”

The Sorensons were impressed, too, with the care Sy received: The shelter had hired its first full-time veterinarian, Nicole Putney, two months before.

Although he was friendly, Sy needed help on his road home.

“He didn’t seem like he’d been in a car before,” Karen said.

Still, he settled in immediately. The Sorensons decided to rename him, finding their inspiration from a TV-appropriated replay of Billy Preston’s “Will it Go Round in Circles.”

“Of course, it sounds like ‘Willey Go Round in Circles,’ and I thought, ‘Willey! That would’ve been a good name for you!’” Karen, a professed Billy Preston fan, said.

In hindsight, the newly-christened “Willey” was perhaps a bit subdued in the beginning, by the pain medication he’d been prescribed for his tooth-pain, and later, by antibiotics. But it wasn’t long before he started voicing his gratitude. Or his everyday observations. For such a large dog, he’s quite talkative, largely when the couple takes him on regular car rides.

He’s really just vocal in general, as many members of the family have observed. He seems to love people, showing a kind of welcoming deposition that on one occasion made Karen worry he might simply jump in a UPS driver’s car. And last December, he could hardly contain his excitement about door-to-door Christmas carolers: As Karen held him back, she realized he was part-chirping along with familiar refrains of “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”

“I don’t know what happened,” Karen explained. “You just kind of click.”



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