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Second Chances

Laura Beil

Tri-City Tales Issue No. 10

When Jim and Donna Strickland came to Tri-City Animal Shelter in 2016, they weren’t sure they were ready to adopt a dog. But if they did get one, they knew exactly what kind of dog they had in mind: One that was young, and female. 


Instead, they went home that same day with a not-so-young male.


He was 8 years old, and had just arrived the day before, surrendered by a woman who was moving into assisted living and could no longer care for him. In the visitation room, he ran immediately to Donna and leapt into her lap. She looked at the gray and white poodle mix and remarked that he ought to be named Smokey. The name his previous owner had given him? Smokey. They were meant to be. 


For years, Smokey was the Strickland’s constant sidekick. Donna even ordered a harness labeled “Emotional Support Dog” so they could take him on flights when they traveled. (And yes, airlines probably frown on this, but Smokey was such a good boy.) As he grew elderly, he began to lose his hearing and sight. The Stricklands decided Smokey could use a friend, and returned to the shelter.


It was 2021. Hurricane Ida had just hit the Louisiana coast, the deadliest storm in the state since Katrina. A Shih Tzu mix had come to the shelter on an animal evacuation transport. Jim, Donna and Smokey met the little white dog with dark ears. His eyes were wide with fear, but immediately the two dogs became fast friends. The name on his records was Ruger. “Let’s change that to Buggar,” Donna told Jim. 


Problem was, Ruger came only to “Ruger.” So Ruger he remained.


No one knows what kind of trauma he endured during the hurricane, only that “it must have done a number on him,” Jim says. They quickly noticed that he would not go outside to use the bathroom if the grass had any water on it, even dew. Sometimes he hid under the bed. But mostly, he was happy being Smokey’s pal.


A few weeks ago, Smokey passed away. Jim is unsure if they will get another friend for Ruger. But who knows-- maybe at the shelter, there’s a dog who has lost his first home, and is waiting for someone to give him a second. 

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