Oscar had developed a very expensive habit—he ran away. A lot. He was impounded by City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) Animal Control Officers six times for “running at large.” A big, energetic, and unaltered 6-year-old male, his prior owners were not able to control him. And impoundment and citation fees add up quickly. The first impound, boarding, and citation fee for an unaltered animal is $110.00. This amount is even higher if the dog is not licensed. Impound and citation fees also go up with additional offenses. Unfortunately, even friendly dogs end up in places they shouldn’t, and the CBJ enforces its ordinances to keep both animals and people safe. After 6 impounds, Oscar’s previous owners gave up on him and relinquished him to GHS.
The GHS strongly believes that no animal should ever be given up on because of their past. They knew that with just the right owners, Oscar would thrive. GHS also spays or neuters all animals before placing them into adoption. Neutering can decrease a pet’s urge to wander, which they felt was an important factor in Oscar’s roaming.
In the spring of 2011, Greg and Tina Brown unexpectedly lost their beloved dog, Pluto—also adopted from GHS-- to a health crisis. One day he was here and fine, and the next he was having emergency surgery, which he didn’t survive. Although the Browns also have two cats adopted from GHS—Graycie and Sparkle—they started looking for another dog right away because they knew there are always animals needing good homes. They had a couple of specific criteria: they were looking for an adult dog, because many people overlook older dogs as they want a puppy, and they wanted a dog they could play with. They thought a lab might also be a good choice because labs are good in the water and the Browns are frequently on the water.
After several months looking, they still hadn’t found the perfect match. Then, one day GHS called and told them they had a couple of dogs they might like. As Greg said, “they were nice dogs, but they didn’t click.” Preparing to leave, he glanced at the pet photos in the lobby and saw Oscar’s picture and decided to take a look. What they found was a big (95-lbs), full of life, and happy dog. They liked him right away! They were admittedly a bit uneasy about how this big dog would interact with their cats. GHS staff “tested” him around cats awaiting adoption. And, while Oscar would bark, he was not aggressive in any other way. So, the adoption was completed. Ironically, after bringing him home, they discovered that Oscar seemed to be more afraid of the cats than they were of him. It took about six months for the three animals to get completely used to each other, but then all of a sudden, everything was ok and each animal found their own space in the house. Tina reports that Oscar seems to have a special rapport with Sparkle.
The Browns also knew about Oscar’s runaway history and were concerned as they did not want this pattern to continue. They placed a GPS collar on him, just in case, but they also give him the best gifts of all—they spend time with him and they don’t let him outside unattended. Shortly after Oscar moved in with them, they discovered something else about him—he didn’t know how to play or retrieve a ball. This discovery reinforced their belief that Oscar really didn’t get the attention he deserved in his previous home. But, as with many things in life, patience and love pay off. Oscar is a quick learner and playing is now high on his “favorite things” list. In fact, he seems to be making up for the play deficit earlier in his life!
An experienced animal lover, Tina notes that critters “teach you what they want and need.” Oscar needed a friend, he needed attention, and he needed affection. These days, he is totally imprinted on Greg. He loves to be around him, even if it’s just resting quietly in his presence. He is very affectionate and likes to go for car rides and long walks. He also loves to play fetch, and one of his favorite things is a long walk and fetching at Eagle Beach. He likes Eagle Beach so much that sometimes, when they turn out of their road en route to town, Oscar will give a little cry because he knows that Eagle Beach is the other direction. He also seems to know from the clothes Greg and Tina put on what activity is in store. When walking, he is stays close by and is totally focused on play, ignoring other dogs or distractions.
When asked their thoughts about adopting an older animal with some behavior issues, Tina says, “Patience goes such a long way. When animals move in, they have a big adjustment, but pretty soon you have a marvelous member of the household.” Greg adds that there is “no substitute for spending time with your animals. You get back from animals exactly what you give them. If you spend time with them, they spend time with you.” It was clear to both Tina and Greg that Oscar never had a “pal” before. But he does now—for life!
Greg and Tina Brown are big supporters of GHS. In addition to Oscar and their dog Pluto, they adopted their cat, Graycie, in 2006 and their cat Sparkle a week later. Further information about spaying and neutering, licensing, and animal control can be found on the GHS website.