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An open letter to the family who has Annie the dog 

San Luis Obispo

We cannot imagine how hard this letter will be to read any more than you can imagine the days of rewrites that went into drafting this correspondence. Even more daunting is the seemingly endless weeks, days, and hours that Chuck Hoage spends, waiting for his Annie to be returned.

Your heroic effort of adopting a dog and making a home for that companion is to be applauded. You are in no way responsible for the volume of errors at the hands of Animal Services. You are not responsible for the refusal of Animal Services to acknowledge not one, but three reports of Annie being missing. You are not responsible for the lack of an identifying description of Annie on the Lost Pet call-in Line. And you are not responsible for the cruel (if un-intentioned) call to Chuck to come get Annie—only to be told that she had been adopted out six days before.

Imagine your child being lost. Imagine that call. “Sophie” is safe. She is here. Come and get her. Only to be told once arriving that she is gone and gee, we are so sorry, but a nice adoptive family has taken her home. And no, we won’t tell you who they are.

Comparing Annie to a child is a stretch, unless you are Chuck Hoage. Without the comfort of his dearly departed wife or the comfort of children never born, Chuck’s whole life and indeed his life companion, was Annie.

Annie and Chuck worked together on the ranch. Annie knows every horse. She knows the routine, and, I am sure, dreams about her job on the ranch as much as she dreams of the old, wrinkled hands of Chuck, that pet and soothe her each evening.

We don’t want to talk about what happens when you take the one earthly gift that keeps a senior wanting to wake up each day and keep going.

We do want to talk about doing the honorable, ethical, and morally right thing for your neighbor. This man, Chuck Hoage, on his own, would not have rallied. He would not have set up a Facebook page with more than 2,314 community members and counting. He would have been too embarrassed and too hurt to ask for anything other than the quiet voice, wracked with tears, that asked on the radio last week, to please bring Annie home to him.

We are the voice for Annie and Chuck. We are willing, not only to ask, but to beg for her return. We have offered money, a new dog (purebred or mutt, puppy or trained), artwork, free food, free vet care, and pretty much anything within reason you say you want. For this good man, Chuck, to have his companion, Annie, returned.

There are many dialogues going on about family loss, the loss of a pet, and grieving. Grief, which not one of us can do anything about. We imagine Annie has been a good listener and a loving canine bridge between you and your grieving process.

We ask, no, we beg for you, in the most generous act of human spirit, to present Annie back to Chuck Hoage. You will be met with a hero’s welcome and the generous outpouring of gifts from your community. But the gift that neither our donations, nor a new dog, nor any other monetary gift will give you, is the peace of mind that in the end, you saved not only one life by adopting Annie, but Chuck’s life by returning her.

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