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A tale of Bangor Humane Society gratitude

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Godon, black lab mix and the match Mike Dow met eight years ago. Godon, black lab mix and the match Mike Dow met eight years ago. (photo by Debra Bell)

BANGOR - I met my match eight years ago and it's all because of the Bangor Humane Society.

It was a chilly fall Saturday and I had attended that year's Paws on Parade, the annual fundraising dog walk for the Bangor Humane Society.

Six months earlier, I said goodbye to my best friend, a 14-year old golden retriever named Mayberry. She had been trying to tell me for a while that she was ready. There was a look in her eye that said 'This has been great but my ride's here.'

It felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest and tossed into a paper shredder and I knew it would be a while before I could consider bringing another dog into the house.

My job at Paws on Parade then just like it is today - was to announce the fundraising walk's various events and play a little music beforehand and afterward.

My friend Hallie Tyler of Canine Camp suggested that I walk one of her dogs at Paws on Parade.

Hanging out with all of those dogs (and dog people) was the perfect therapy; I decided to go to Bangor Humane Society two days later 'just to look.' I was there for maybe 20 seconds when I heard the following.

'Mike, you need to meet Vito!'

(Oh no! They've already matched me with a dog! This feels like an arranged marriage; I should make a run for it.)

'UmOK,' I said.

(What the hell kind of name is Vito?' It sounds like a name for an old-timey, fast-talking gangster. You know - the kind that would dress up in a very expensive suit and hat before whipping out a piece and putting some daylight through you.)

Rochelle, the adoption counselor, asked me to go outside and said she would bring Vito to me. 'He's a little afraid,' she said.

(Was she talking about me or the dog?)

Vito had not yet been placed into the general adoption area. I would soon find out why.

I walked outside and waited. Rochelle came around the corner with this skinny, trembling character that was missing patches of hair all over his body. He was a black-lab mix that had clearly been neglected and probably abused. It was scary to wonder what he had been through. At least the people who had him did one good thing for him they brought him to the Bangor Humane Society.

Rochelle suggested that I take him into the enclosed fenced-in area on the property and play catch with him. He chased a Frisbee for a few minutes. Then a ball. Then he sat down and looked at me, seemingly unable to focus.

I wasn't sure this was going to work out. I walked him back inside and told Rochelle 'I'll think about it.'

I went back to see Vito the following day and again played with him outside. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but there seemed to be a glimmer of recognition on his part. I couldn't stop wondering what his life had been like up to that point.

When I went back a third time, he definitely recognized me. His tail, even though it was tucked between his rear legs, wagged furiously when he saw me.

'All right, Vito - let's do this.'

I signed the paperwork and drove him home. According to the info left behind by his previous people, he had been kept outside in a crate. This might explain his posture - which was even worse than mine - and the fact that he was scared even of the sound of a squeak toy. It took him a little while to adjust to indoor living. He was allegedly two and a half years old but had the teeth of a puppy, pure white and seemingly absent of any sign of food contact up to that point.

'We have to come up with a new name for you,' I told him. 'Vito' doesn't suit you.'

After looking at a website with suggestions for baby names, I laughed when I saw Gordon.' It's a strong name and somehow, it just seemed perfect.

Fast forward eight years. It's hard to believe that Gordon is 10 now. My boy is getting older. Once 25 pounds underweight, he's now 10 pounds overweight. Hey, who isn't, right? All of that missing fur? It grew back within a few months. He sheds enough hair each fall to almost make a new dog.

I know it sounds like a clich, but I can't imagine life without Gordon. He has become the sweetest, funniest and most loyal of friends. I often wonder what would have happened to both of us if I hadn't walked into Bangor Humane Society eight years ago to have a look at the trembling character that nobody wanted.

I'll be at Paws on Parade again on September 24 to support Bangor Humane Society. Maybe I'll see you there. And who knows? Your Vito could be there now waiting for you.

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