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Homeward bound

Volunteers help husky travel to Oregon from Georgia for second chance at adoption
Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneShelter Technician Leah Hertel takes Cooper for walk Tuesday at the Jackson County Animal Care & Control in Phoenix.

PHOENIX – A white husky named Cooper had his own incredible journey this past week with over three-dozen good Samaritans helping him make his way from a shelter in Macon, Georgia, to a vaguely familiar place in Phoenix.

Unlike the classic Disney movies where two dogs and a cat wander the wilderness to reunite with their family, 9-year-old Cooper warmed the hearts transport drivers, riding shotgun on an eight-day adventure.

Adopted from the county shelter five years ago as “Blizzard,” the pup and his family moved from the Rogue Valley in recent months, said Jackson County Animal Services director Kim Casey.

Once an indoor family member, Cooper’s family had a change in their living situation, forcing the pup into an outdoor kennel with a previous nemesis.

After an instance where Cooper and the kennel-mate got into a tiff over food and a handler was inadvertently nipped, the husky found himself at the shelter in Georgia. With a policy against placing dogs with any bite history, the shelter reached out to Jackson County.

“His only option was that he had to come back to Oregon,” Casey said.

“I, somewhat half-jokingly, said ’if you could get him to us, we’d take him back.’ I didn’t expect they’d figure out how to get him to us all the way from Georgia.”

Enter Colorado resident Eryn Leather and “Just a Girl Moving Dogs.”

For the past five years, Leather has been a go-to in the shelter animal world, creating extensive –often cross-country – transports for canines, felines and other types of critters. Within a few weeks, Leather had created an extensive network to give Cooper a ride back to Oregon.

While not the group’s longest run to date – they once moved a dog from Key West to Lodi, California, Leather said Cooper’s journey was fairly extensive, traveling through parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.

“We had 42 legs of Cooper’s trip, one short-term foster and four overnights with over 40 volunteers involved to get him back to Oregon. He traveled 3,546 miles,” Leather said, noting that Cooper was “a really, really special dog.”

“I don’t usually drive, but my partner and I actually did a leg of Cooper’s trip, and he was just such an amazing dog. He’s very kind, and I don’t know what other word best describes him. He’s very soft-hearted and a very courteous animal, different than a lot of huskies that I’ve met,” she said.

“Several of our volunteers really fell in love with him when they drove him. He just really has this personality that makes you want to be with him.”

Denver resident Erin Amos, who fostered Cooper – most transporters can only drive on weekends – said it was tough to let the dog leave for the final leg of his journey. Amos said it was heartwarming to see so many volunteers come together to make a difference in one dog’s life.

“It’s crazy how every weekend, for Cooper and all the dogs that we help, that so many people can come together to make such a difference. I’ve been doing this for six months. and it’s the most fun thing you could possibly do,” Amos said.

“Especially Cooper. He was just the sweetest boy. and I’m so glad we were able to help him be able to be adopted again. Eryn put together this whole chain of people together to help save his life. I know he’s going to find a great family and be such a wonderful dog for someone’s family.”

Now back in Oregon, Cooper has been assessed and placed in foster care. Casey said the transport group was a special batch of people, sending photos as Cooper made his cross-country road trip.

“His journey included 36 different exchanges through more than nine states, and they all chatted on Facebook during his trip. They made it seem just like this seamless effort and we got these adorable photos of him riding in all these cars. I was half hoping to get a picture of some touristy stuff, like the world’s biggest ball of twine. If I were transporting, I’d have to stop and send photos next to the most unusual things,” said Casey while laughing.

“But it was obvious that Cooper was very well loved and well treated. He was lucky to be on the receiving end of this group of people.”

Cooper is hoping for a quiet cat-free place to live out his retirement years, said Casey. He’s had a thorough checkup for medical and behavioral issues and passed with flying colors.

According to his online profile (fotas.org) he’s a handsome dude with “a gentle spirit,” weighing 45 pounds. Described as mellow, Cooper does well with other dogs, children and is a fan of walks and any humans he happens to encounter.

Cooper’s adoption fee is $95 plus $25 for his dog license. For more information, or to schedule a time to meet Cooper, visit the Friends of the Animal Shelter website for details. fotas.org

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com