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Pets Large & Small

Coming together in exactly the right way

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(11/2013) Do you ever find yourself marveling at how things work out some times?

Me, too, and on that note, boy, do I have a story for you.

A few weeks ago on a Friday night, we received an emergency call about a man who had passed away in his home, but he left dogs behind. There was no other family member around to take the animals. No next of kin. So, authorities had to call the animal shelter.

One of the dogs was a 4-year-old boxer named Ramsay. Really sweet boy.

I happened to be here when the call came in and I went to the residence to help our shelter manager collect the animals. I have to tell you, when I was there, I just had this feeling (I can't adequately describe it) that maybe dad was still around in that house, watching over the welfare of his babies.

I tried to coax the dogs out of the house and I have this very vivid memory of the model airplanes hanging up in the basement. Evidence of a life, you know? A man who had a history. His wife had passed just weeks before and he obviously loved his dogs and he existed. On the planet. With model airplanes in his basement.

I wished him well as I stood on the threshold of his home.

I know it sounds too much like some reality show on TLC, but from that night, I really think some kind of destiny took over this story.

We loaded the dogs into the shelter van and they were quite well-behaved by the time we got back to the shelter, especially for not understanding where dad went and for being taken out of their home at night.

I remember getting a real sense of loss, though. I even texted my brother and sister to explain where I had been that evening because I felt this odd need to share.

Earlier in the day, Ramsay was home with his dad. Now he was in a kennel. There was a lot of sadness here.

We worked with rescues and got Ramsay's photo and information out there, but it was just last weekend where the story seemed to really be guided by…something.

A man stopped by the shelter -- seemingly out of nowhere -- and asked the ladies working if we had any boxers.

He hadn't seen anything online -- he knew nothing. He just stopped by on a whim and a chance.

The man went on to explain that he was having a rough time because his two boxers had recently passed away from cancer -- and it had happened fast. They died within three months of each other and the gentleman was really struggling to deal with the loss.

He had lost 30 pounds and started growing out his goatee. He explained that he actually preferred to keep his whiskers in the shape of a goatee, but since he lost his dogs, he couldn't really be bothered to shave, so a pretty thick beard had grown.

He was retired and likely had too much time to think. I really don't know what brought him to the shelter that day -- if I think too long about it, my instincts start to lean toward something otherworldly.

Naturally, we introduced him to Ramsay and needless to say, we have one less dog at CVAS because Ramsay was adopted by this gentleman.

On the day of his adoption, as he filled out the paperwork, the man told one of our staff as he rubbed his scruffy face that he was going to have to start shaving again because (are you ready for this?) he "couldn't really feel Ramsay's kisses."

And that was unacceptable to him.

We make happy endings at CVAS, but this was kind of something else.

I know yesterday was Halloween and I'm sure by now you think I've been checking out way too many paranormal websites and watching far too much Long Island Medium, but it really makes you wonder if something else was at work here.

Do you know everything that had to happen for this story to end this way?

I can't help but imagine that forces beyond our ken may have lined these paths up to cross exactly where they did.

Look, my dad was a chemistry teacher and I can almost guarantee you he's shaking his head as he reads this right now. I know the scientists (dad and the other Sheldon Cooper's included) will say coincidence -- that the chaos of the molecules and atoms that we live in just happened to come together in exactly the right way to create this. Nothing more; nothing less. And that's valid. I get that.

You don't have a chemistry teacher for a dad without getting at least a little understanding of science and a skepticism of what folks term "paranormal."

But if you had seen how the gentleman who passed away had kept his boxers -- he had a fenced in yard for them and a doggie door and everything…and if you'd listened to the other man speak so reverently of caring for Ramsay and how we all just knew he was one of those pet owners who would do anything for his animals…I don't know. It just might make you scratch your head a little.

We make happy endings at CVAS, but with a story like Ramsay's I have to wonder if we also, sometimes, may witness miracles, too.

Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau