After two strikes against him, Carlos has hit a homerun in life.
In September 2008, I wrote about a special young pit bull named Carlos who had a tough start in life. He was just 2 years old but had already been through a couple surgeries and improper cropping of his ears with rope. Just when there was hope his forever home had been found, he was returned with scars indicating he had been used in dogfights.
Lucky for Carlos, he had a guardian angel watching out for him. Paola Arango, a caring rescuer in Oman who has been re-homing dogs for three years, contacted Best Friends and pleaded for help from abroad to give this special dog the life he deserved.
Paola explained why she felt compelled to help Carlos. "He never demanded anything from me and he was always grateful for so little. He is so powerful and still possesses so much humility. He grew on me and his happiness became vital to my own; his happiness meant that I could finally forgive myself.” She is thankful she did not listen to the many people who told her to give up Carlos.
For many months, there were discussions that a rescue group in the United States would rescue him and bring them to their shelter to begin the rehabilitation process. For many months, I waited for the good news to hit my email. Time passed and my hopes faded.
Last week, almost 11 months after I wrote the article, I had an email that just made my day. I could hardly contain my excitement as I read Paola’s email, letting me know that Carlos had finally made it to the United States. He was safe and on his way to a new life.
It has only been a week since Carlos arrived at Stray Rescue of St. Louis, a rescue organization whose mission is to rescue stray animals in need of extra attention or those deemed unadoptable, and give them a second chance in life. Randy Grim, the group’s founder and director, played an integral role in rescuing Carlos.
The big goofy dog has only been at their shelter for a week now, but he has already captured the hearts of many staff members and volunteers. Given his rough start in life, he is still very timid and afraid of his own shadow, but he is starting to find happiness. It will take time and love for him to realize that people are not the enemy; to begin to trust, perhaps for the first time in his life.
Carlos will spend some time at the shelter before going into a foster home. After spending the last year without much human contact, he is fearful around people. Living at the shelter will expose him to many different people during the socialization process.
Back in Oman, Carlos seemed to have a special connection with female dogs, so Randy quickly introduced him to Ovaltine, a recently rescued mama dog. It was love at first sight (or sniff) for Carlos.
Randy describes Ovaltine’s personality as “…one of those rare rescue types that you don’t [often] see. She must have channeled her “inner Lassie” for she is the closest thing to the perfect dog I have ever met. My idea was to let Carlos see her and see if it changed his depressed, scared demeanor….and boy did it.”
Although Ovaltine is easily adoptable, she has another purpose in life right now - to help Carlos come out of his shell by acting as his therapy dog. Said Randy, “they both now live in the shelter office (which is huge) and it is really a romance….everyone started to cry. They play and just love each other.”
The primary goal now is to increase his confidence with people and learn to associate people with kindness. Many different staff members and volunteers will play a key role in building this confidence.
He is already socialized with dogs and they will continue making him feel comfortable in all situations. Randy believes he is adoptable to the right family and this is the ultimate goal.
Even though the scars of his early years are evident in his tiny ear stubs - all that are left from improper cropping of his ears - Randy is hopeful he can erase the emotional scars and get him on the path to a happy life he so deserves.
Carlos’ journey started with one caring person, but it took an army of many dedicated people behind the scenes to make his rescue happen.
Transporting a dog from Oman, a small country in the Middle East, to middle America is no easy feat. It is not as easy as buying a ticket online, providing your frequent flier number and showing up at the airport. A coordinated effort of filling out the right paperwork, navigating airline regulations and U.S. Customs requirements, planning the logistics and relying on many individuals to do their role made this story a success.
His trip itinerary reads like a game of hopscotch across the Atlantic Ocean, where three was the magic number. Three continents, three countries, and three airports later, Carlos completed his 30-hour journey by air – getting his passport stamped along the way in Muscat, Oman, Amsterdam and Memphis. A 300-mile road trip to from Memphis to St. Louis is all that stood in his way to his new life. Gaynell Gallagher, a Stray Rescue board stepped in to fulfill this final leg.
It all started with Paola and a caring KLM employee who got in touch with Randy. Many phone calls and emails later, Jerry Gillentine, an international animal broker with extensive knowledge about U.S. Customs regulations, got involved and agreed to waive his normal broker fees. Paola contacted Randy and they discussed options for sending him to Missouri.
Through the entire process, Rich Crook, Rapid Response Manager for Best Friends acted as a traffic cop – providing direction on the requirements to facilitate the transport. More importantly, perhaps, Rich preached patience when issues arose and events did not go as planned.
I found myself wondering why I cared so much for a dog I had never met. One look into his sad, deserted eyes was all it took for me to become attached. I guess I realize, as so many animal lovers do, that every animal on this earth deserves a chance to live a life free of pain and suffering. In many instances, humans have caused the pain and it is up to us to be a solution to the problem. I realized it does not matter whether the animal lives in my neighborhood or on the other side of the world, each one is special and worth saving.
Carlos is more than 10,000 miles away from where he first started, and it took almost one year of planning and 40 hours of traveling to make it to the beginning of his new life.
I know I wrote that Carlos hit a homerun in life. On second thought though, Carlos did not just hit a homerun – he hit a grand slam in life. It‘s a whole new ballgame for this special dog - who just made it into the playoffs.
Note: You can read the original story, posted in September 2008, on the International Best Friends Network.