This week’s article about Thor, the sad Saint Bernard mix, is the perfect Christmas story and, we think, a great choice for our last newsletter issue in 2022. It reminds us that despite the many heartbreaks of rescue, happy endings make it all worthwhile.
Thor comes to Rescue Ranch as a fire evacuee
I first noticed Thor during the Mill Fire incident. I was onsite photographing fire dogs held in kennels associated with the Rescue Ranch Kennel Squad monthly gift program. There were quite a few.
As the Designated Dog Evacuation Center for Siskiyou County, Rescue Ranch was extra busy last summer. The McKinney and Mill Fires occurred just weeks apart. They brought in roughly 160 and 90 dogs respectively. There were a few strays, but most were evacuees.
Although Thor was in the Dynamic Doggos Squad kennel at the time, he looked anything but dynamic. His sad demeanor brought tears to my eyes. I later learned that he had actually come in as an evacuee during the McKinney Fire. When the evacuation lifted, he was simply left with us.
A mature Saint Bernard mix, Thor was gentle giant and naturally friendly. But he was also confused and totally lacking in self-confidence. We suspect he may have been roughly treated and neglected earlier in life. Whatever his history, he was a very sad boy when he arrived at the Adoption Center.
Thor decompresses and improves at Rescue Ranch
With a little TLC, Thor began coming out of his shell, revealing a big teddy bear. He still had a ways to go, but after a while, he decompressed and was no longer as shut down. That’s when his naturally social disposition reasserted itself, increasing his desire to interact with people and other dogs as he acclimated to his new environment. He had a way of making everyone just want to hug him and tell him everything was going to be okay.
Once we officially took possession of him, Thor was made available for adoption. In October we even took him up to D & S Harley Davidson in Medford to shoot some promo pictures for an upcoming Halloween adoption event there. He was well behaved and easy to transport despite his size. He rode unconfined in the back of the van among the crated dogs and did wonderfully.
Thor’s insecurity meant that he was always looking for cues to understand what was expected of him. On that day trip, he watched Adoption Center Manager Rick Formanek’s every move and responded to him best. He was such a good boy!
We all hoped that he would find a home quickly. Although he was doing much better, he needed the stability and affection of a family to thrive. I worried that he might be hard to place.
Hope for Thor comes from Ohio
Then, in November, Rick called me with the good news: a potential adopter had come forward after seeing Thor online. The hitch was that Lorraine was in Ohio, and Rescue Ranch has a strict policy that requires a meet-and-greet before approving any adoption. Moreover, Thor was alarge dog, not a Chihuahua that could be carried on the plane.
Undeterred, Lorraine said that she would fly out to California with her partner and drive Thor home to Ohio in a rented vehicle. Rick made it clear that even if they travelled to California, the adoption wouldn’t be final until the couple had met Thor and it was a good match. She understood.
Our adopter was an experienced dog owner. In fact, Thor had first come to her attention because he reminded her of her late beloved Saint Bernard. And at home, there was already a Rottweiler named Koda who couldn’t wait to welcome a new sibling and show him the ropes.
It almost seemed too good to be true, but Lorraine followed through. She organized her trip and then contacted Rick with the details.
On November 17, Rick and I headed down to Sacramento with Thor for what we sincerely hoped would be a successful meeting. As before, Thor travelled well and slept most of the way. We were confident he would do great on a long road trip.
When Thor wasn’t sleeping, his attention was on Rick with whom he appeared to have bonded. When we stopped for gas, he watched for Rick through the window the whole time.
During rest stops it was Rick who took Thor for his breaks. If I remained alone with him, he just stared in the direction Rick had taken and waited anxiously for him to reappear. I feared that goodbyes would be difficult.
From sad and lonely, to loved and pampered Saint Bernard
After more than four hours, we arrived in Sacramento. Naturally, the whole adventure was disorienting for Thor, but he gave Lorraine his paw right away and the meeting went well.
We waited while the adopters completed arrangements for a vehicle. Then we went for dinner together before hitting the road again.
After a very pleasant meal, it was time to transfer Thor to the SUV. We bid him a bittersweet farewell. If I found it hard, I’m sure it was doubly so for Rick. But our boy was on his way to a much better life with a loving family, so we were happy for him.
At first Lorraine worried that the long drive with strangers might be stressful for the big dog. We did our best to allay her concerns. Given our experience, we were certain he would be fine. He seemed to truly enjoy being on the road. Sure enough, their trip went very well. Lorraine reports that, “He rode perfect across the entire country, no issues at all.”
By all accounts, and as evidenced in the pictures shared here, Thor is thriving in his new home.
Lorraine tells us that he and Koda are doing great and that they love to play tag and hide & seek.
She says Thor is a joy to have around and loves his bed, his couch, and his toys.
“I just knew I had to have him […] I had to save him. I couldn’t get him out of my mind, so I didn’t quit until I could find a way to get him to his forever home with me!” – I think that says it all, don’t you?
And that’s how a sad Rescue Ranch Saint Bernard mix found love and family just in time for the holidays.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from tall of us here at Rescue Ranch!