Two cousins were enjoying a day out when they spotted a terrier alone by a dumpster at the back of a fitness center. At first, they thought nothing of it. Perhaps he was simply tied to a tree while his owner was shopping. Then, however, they saw the note, and their hearts dropped, as they realized that this owner wasn’t coming back for their pet.
You don’t expect to discover an abandoned dog when you go out shopping. But that’s exactly what happened to this pair, who visited the South Carolina shopping mall on March 7, 2017. And not only was it an unusual event in such a setting, but there was something very strange about the whole situation.
For one thing, the dog wasn’t tied up with any old piece of rope; no, he had a leash attached to an expensive-looking collar. He also didn’t look like he was neglected or abused – which can often be the case in examples of abandonment. However, no other passersby paid the dog any attention.
Bianca Cushman and her cousin Maria Jaramillo were the people who found the dog, and they couldn’t bear seeing him alone like that. “[It] broke my heart,” Jaramillo told local news in March 2017. “Actually, there was people… passing by and they saw him and… wouldn’t do anything about it.”
Yet someone had obviously cared about the dog before leaving him out on the street. Furthermore, two pet dishes were set down nearby, presumably so that someone could feed him. Then, the cousins saw the letter left on the ground at the dog’s feet, and their hearts sank.
The note was in fact written on a white tile with a pink pen, and although it answered some of the questions surrounding the dog, it also raised several more. “Free pup,” the note read. “Name is Scooter. Owner went to jail today.” Whatever exactly had happened next, then, had left poor little Scooter all alone.
For their part, Cushman and Jaramillo couldn’t just leave Scooter by himself, so they took some photos of the dog and uploaded them to social media. “My cousin just found this dog tied to a tree at the back of MUV Fitness West Columbia,” Cushman wrote on Facebook.
“We don’t know where to go from here,” the post continued. “Clearly the owner is a piece of garbage and left the dog here. It’s getting dark and I don’t want to leave him. Does anyone have any ideas please? I can’t keep the dog for the long-term.”
As luck would have it, a woman named Paula Langford saw the pictures and was moved to offer her services. Langford is the founder of a non-profit animal rescue group South Eastern Homeless Animals (SEHA). SEHA is also based in South Carolina, and it specializes in helping abandoned pets.
SEHA’s goal is to stop euthanasia in shelters by offering rescues a foster home to stay at during their recovery and until they find their forever homes. The organization’s ultimate aim, though, is to see the animals get placed with the right families. So, with that purpose in mind, Langford got in touch with the cousins.
“I just reached out to them and said: I’ll take the dog,” Langford told The Dodo in April 2017. “I have a microchip scanner, I’ll get him scanned and validate the story first. And then we’ll get him wherever it is that he belongs.”
Langford proved true to her word and met up with the cousins at a gas station the very same day. It was, moreover, obvious to Langford’s trained eye that the little dog wasn’t just another neglect victim. “As soon as I saw him, I knew this was a loved pet,” she told The Dodo.
“He was clean [and] flea-free. He was abandoned with an expensive carrying case for him, an expensive collar [and] a bag of grain-free dog food.” Langford also noticed that despite his nervousness, Scooter was a very affectionate little pooch. In fact, he even fell asleep on her during the drive home.
When she got Scooter back home, Langford found that Scooter was indeed chipped. However, although there was a contact number on the chip, it only served to deepen the mystery. As Langford told The Dodo, “We tried to contact the number on the microchip, but the number was disconnected.”
“The microchip company informed me that [Scooter had] been found in 2015 in Colorado,” she continued. “And then again in 2016 in St. Petersburg, Florida… he’d been returned to the owner, but that’s all he knew. And then, all of a sudden, he’s in South Carolina!”
Yet while the microchip didn’t lead to Scooter’s owner, Langford did manage to find the cop who had arrested him. The suspect in question, Eric Dugwyler, had been taken into custody for possession of a controlled substance. However, he hadn’t abandoned Scooter on the streets.
“When he was arrested, [Dugwyler’s] main concern was that his dog did not go to the shelter,” Langford told The Dodo. “So he handed his belongings, his money, his backpack, his carrying bag and his beloved dog to his friends. He asked them to ensure that the dog was safe.”
Contrary to Dugwyler’s wishes, however, his friends abandoned Scooter at the shopping mall. And as a consequence of such animal cruelty, the police have a warrant for their arrest. At the same time, though, Scooter’s story gave Langford an idea for finding the dog a potential new home.
Langford tracked down Dugwyler’s mother, who lives 2,700 miles away in Nebraska. The lady was, moreover, happy to take Scooter in, and so Langford made the 24-hour journey to reunite the little dog with his grandma. She told The Dodo, “It was a very touching and emotional reunion.”
“It was quite obvious that Scooter was very happy to see his family again,” she concluded. “I am 100 percent confident in my decision to reunite this beloved pup with his family.” So, after a turbulent break from his owner, Scooter was finally home.