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A Home For The Holidays

Laura Beil

Tri-City Tales, Issue No. 15

Milo wasn’t supposed to go to Wisconsin.

It was early November, and Tri-City Animal Shelter staff put together a list of dogs to be moved elsewhere. The transfer was routine — a kind of pressure valve to help relieve shelter overcrowding by transporting dogs to cities with more space. Milo’s name wasn’t included, but somehow he still got loaded into the van. A few days later, he arrived at the Humane Society in Green County, WI.

Milo was what shelter workers call a "long timer,” an older pooch who had been picked up as a stray last March. Month after month, he was passed over for adoption, as new owners went home with younger, more sprightly guys who would come to the window and eagerly wag their tails. 

About the time Milo was making his way up Interstate 39, Shawn Stapleton was thinking about getting a dog. A pastor in Beloit, WI, near the Illinois border, he was a single man whose children were grown and moved away. Shawn’s only daily companion was a 10-year-old, sometimes-grumpy cat, who didn’t seem interested in exuberantly greeting him at the end of a long day. He wanted a settled, senior dog who was long past the days of puppy energy.

Scrolling through photos online, Shawn only saw one dog who wasn’t young. He was brown and black—like he’d stuck his face in coal dust—with soulful eyes. It was Milo. He was at a shelter in the next county over, but Shawn made the hour drive to meet him. When the staff let Milo into the visitation room, he gingerly walked over and pressed his forehead into Shawn’s leg, like he had been waiting for him all these months. “It was so tender,” he says. “I get a little choked up just thinking about it.”

He took Milo home for a three-day trial period, but called the next day to tell them that Milo would not return. Now, he goes to work with Shawn and naps in the church office. He’s practically on staff; kids knock on the door and ask for Milo. The only one not thrilled to have Milo around is the cat (but she’s getting there).

When Shawn thinks about how long Milo lived in the shelter, his heart breaks. “He’s so sweet,” he says. “I know Milo came from a loving home, but we don’t know that part of the story. I’ve had dogs before, but Milo is special.” 

And he wasn’t supposed to end up in Wisconsin. Or maybe he was, all along. 

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