Dudley the golden retriever loves everyone he meets. But when one particular 6-year-old boy walked into his house in January, there was an almost magical connection, the likes of which owner Marcy Kronz had never seen.
David and Tracy Stevenson were looking for a puppy. They and their three children had to meet Mrs. Kronz at her West End home so she could decide whether she would let them have a puppy that wasn't even born yet.
In April the Stevensons returned to look at 4-week-old puppies. While Tori, 8, and Tristen, 9, played with the perfect little ones, Landon, 6, politely asked if he could play with Dudley, and this led to a joyful reunion.
Although Dudley, too, was still a puppy, at 8 months old he was almost full-sized and less than perfect, with hind legs that are straight and rigid, giving him an unusual hopping kind of gait.
Dudley "touches all who meet him," Mrs. Kronz said in the March 23 Pet Tales column that grabbed the hearts of many. Mrs. Kronz refused to give up on the puppy whose four legs were paralyzed last October for reasons that could not be explained by veterinarians. At least one specialist suggested he be euthanized, but Mrs. Kronz, who thought the problem started with a tick bite, took him to veterinarians and physical therapists in two states. Dudley's front legs completely recovered, and his back legs recovered enough that he can run, navigate stairs, play with other dogs, jump up on furniture and do anything else a young dog enjoys.
Landon understood that Mrs. Kronz and her husband, William, weren't looking for a home for Dudley, but that didn't stop him from talking about the dog.
"He drew pictures of him, he told all his friends about him, and he prayed for Dudley every day," Mrs. Stevenson said.
Mrs. Kronz could not shake the image of Landon and Dudley and the way they looked at each other. After much soul-searching with her husband, she asked the Stevensons if they would like to take Dudley to their Butler home for a three-day trial.
When Landon got off the bus on June 6, the last day of school, Dudley was there to greet him. "We told Landon we were just watching Dudley, briefly," Mrs. Stevenson said.
"It was like Dudley had lived there his whole life," Mrs. Kronz said, and she could not take him away from the family. "Dudley changed me forever and we deeply miss him, but Dudley is where he needs to be. Landon and his family were sent from heaven, just for Dudley."
The Stevensons also have Gracie, an almost 10-year-old Labrador retriever who grew up with their children. Gracie likes Dudley, but like most older dogs, she doesn't enjoy boisterous play with an exuberant puppy.
Remember those little puppies the Stevensons visited? In mid-June the pups were 9 weeks old, and they brought home one of the females.
"Gracie tolerates Bailey, but when the puppy tries to play with Gracie, we tell Bailey to play with Dudley, and she does," Mrs. Stevenson said.
As Dudley and Bailey romp in the family's big backyard, Mrs. Stevenson has noticed that Dudley's hop is giving way to a more natural gait. Apparently, the exercise provided by three active children and a high-energy puppy has taken the place of the many months of professional therapy and massage Mrs. Kronz got for Dudley.
Although Dudley loves everyone in his new family, the strongest bond is clearly between Dudley and Landon.
"Dudley's paw is always on Landon," Mrs. Stevenson said.
Mrs. Kronz, a professional trainer who operates A+ Dog Training, had been training Dudley to be a therapy dog. She feels like that mission is accomplished every day, when Landon reads to Dudley.
When people asked Mrs. Kronz how she could part with a puppy she fought so hard to save, she posted a picture taken by Mrs. Stevenson on the Facebook page Dudley the Golden Retriever.
In it, Landon sits on the floor, a look of utter happiness on his face. Lying next to him is Dudley, a paw gently draped over Landon's right leg. The look on Dudley's face leaves little doubt that in just 10 months this puppy has improbably found a second happy ending.
Help with grooming
Learn how to keep your dog looking good between visits to a professional groomer. The seminar is 1-4 p.m. July 14 at Keystone Canine Training Club, 5167 Brownsville Road, Baldwin Borough.
Certified IPG master groomer and obedience trainer DeAnne Orive, owner of Grand Slam Grooming, will show how to comb, rake or brush the coats of your specific breed. She'll also show how to trim nails and the best ways to clean ears, eyes and teeth.
Cost is $30 for nonmembers and $25 for members. Register at www.keystonecanine.com.
"Beat the summer heat. ... Adopt a cool pet!"
That suggestion comes from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, which is offering reduced adoption rates in July and August at its North Side and Elizabeth Township shelters. With a special coupon, adopters receive a $20 discount on dogs, cats and rabbits 6 months and older. Adoption fees for kittens are half the usual charge. Adopters also get a $20 gift voucher for the wellness clinic, training classes or the gift shop. Go to www.wpahumane.org to print out the $20 coupon.
Yappy hour specials
Arrive at the Animal Friends shelter at 562 Camp Horne Road, Ohio Township (15237) before 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays this summer and adoption fees are 50 percent off for dogs, cats and rabbits older than 6 months.
Shelter wish list
It's Christmas in July at Orphans of the Storm, where shelter workers made a list and are asking you to check it out.
The Kittanning shelter's wish list includes gift cards for PetSmart, Tractor Supply and Walmart; unscented, nonclumping clay cat litter; canned dog food; new or slightly used dog sweaters in small and extra small sizes; dry Purina One adult dog food in lamb or chicken flavors; any kinds of dry Iams adult dog food; dry Purina cat chow in the blue-and-white bag; dry Purina kitten chow in the yellow bag; and dry Purina puppy chow.
Also, soft dog treats, all sizes of rawhide, adjustable dog collars 8-12 inches and 12-14 inches, break-away cat collars, dish liquid, dog/cat shampoo but not flea and tick formula, postage stamps, unscented bleach (not ultra), plastic garbage bags, Q-tips, hand sanitizer and 9-by-12-inch clasp envelopes.
The shelter is at 11878 Route 85 East, Box 838, Kittanning (16201).
Light-up leashes will light up the nighttime skyline July 26 as the Pittsburgh Pup Crawl takes dogs and people across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to PNC Park. It's a fundraiser for Animal Friends, Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center and the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. There will be music, games, contests, vendors and pet adoption opportunities. Register for $35 at 7:45 p.m. The walk starts at 9 p.m. Go to www.pghpupcrawl.org for $25 advance registration.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3064. First Published July 6, 2013 4:00 AM