Merry Christmas River George

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Special to The News-Democrat

Saturday’s Carroll County Animal Support adoption event turned into a miracle reunion for a Pendleton family and their dog that was stolen more than 15 months ago.

The dog, known by many in Carroll County as “River,” was rescued in April on Hwy. 36, where he was found tied to a tree and standing in chest-high water from the rising Ohio River. Carroll County Animal Support’s Executive Director Tammie Crawford resuced River and the organization’s president Sherry Stamper has fostered him since.

During Saturday’s adoption fair at Butler Outlet Mall, Stamper overheard two women talking about how River, a doberman/rottweiller mix, looked like the stolen dog they knew as George. CCAS members said the women became more excited the closer they got to the dog.

Because of the way River was found, the situation raised Stamper’s anxiety as she wondered how to handle this situation.

Elizabeth Baxter of Pendleton introduced herself to Stamper and explained what had happened to River.

“My dog was stolen from us 15 months ago and we’ve not seen or heard from him since,” Baxter told Stamper. She told Stamper that if River had a scar on his left front paw, then she was sure this was their dog George.

River’s paw was raised and CCAS members found the scar. This led to tears as emotions rose higher. Stamper asked some pointed questions for clarification and  River was now, River George.

River George recognized Baxter from the beginning and appeared excited to see her.  Those looking on as this reunion transpired saw the dog was torn between his original owner and the woman who had help save him from not only the rising Ohio River, but from loneliness and fear.  CCAS members said that no one knows how long the dog had been tied to the tree, in the dark with food thrown at him before campers left him there.

With identification and an obvious look of love, River George got to go home to Pendleton. He was once an outdoor dog, but now may become an inside dog.  Baxter said her husband adored George. She called him from Butler Mall and said, “I have found George, can I bring him home?”  CCAS members could hear the reply —  “of course!”

This Christmas gift for the Baxter family came with mixed emotions for Stamper, who said she knew there was something special about River.

“We had a few families consider adoption and nothing ever worked out,” she said. “I was holding him back for some reason.  I brought him to the Adoption Event as an afterthought.  It was as though it was meant to be.” 

With foster homes, it is understood that the animal is up for adoption and may leave at any time. CCAS members explained that it is easy to get attached as shelter and rescue animals are sincere and grateful animals. But, when the time comes to give them up, they said, foster caregivers realize their job of preparing the animal for the rest of their life is finished as they move on to forever homes.

For Stamper, the dog known known as River George will have a fond place in her heart.

CCAS has placed more than 200 animals in 2011 and saved even more. CCAS officials say other animals have died and there remain many who need forever homes or foster homes. The organization works to save as many dogs as possible from the Carroll County Animal Shelter.

But members say one of the problems they face is so many animals being “dropped” and surrendered voluntarily that the group cannot keep up with the demand in their foster homes. This places the dogs at the Carroll County shelter in constant threat of certain death. 

CCAS continues to hold fundraisers, food drives and awareness events with the goal to save enough money to rent a building that will allow the exposure to adopt the animals quickly. The building will allow photos of the animals to be available for viewing and a place for adoption events on a constant base.

Anyone interested in helping the group, contact Tammie Crawford at 732-6040 or Sherry Stamper at (502) 732-0033.