Charming, effervescent Woody was supposed to be on his last legs when he came to Top Dog Foundation. Yet three days after being abandoned by his family, this 14-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix was working the kissing booth at a local festival. He posed happily for photos and strolled down the streets, sturdily checking to see who might have a snack in hand just for him.

Woody has Cushing’s syndrome, a very treatable condition that went three years untreated before he came to Top Dog. Those symptoms—which include excessive thirst, subsequent urination, and some hair loss—stabilized well with one daily medication, and Woody went joyfully about his day, greeting everyone who came within reach.

Enter Harvey, a self-described “old cowboy” from Oklahoma who now resides in Northern Minnesota. Harvey’s wife Darlene has some medical issues that limit her mobility. They had recently lost Mort, Harvey’s nearly constant companion who was also a Jack Russell terrier mix. The loss of his companionship put a hole in Harvey’s day. Across the miles, he found out about Woody’s need for a new home. A thoughtful man, the more Harvey thought about Woody—abandoned more than once, he figured—the more he felt Woody might fit in for him and he might fit in for Woody.

So Woody took the road trip home with Harvey and Darlene. And the very first morning, Harvey called Top Dog Foundation to speak the kind of sentence everyone hoped to hear: “He already lights up my life,” he said. The second day brought photos of Woody riding in a shopping cart, wearing a new sweater in preparation for the upcoming winter. Subsequent photos showed Woody stretched out napping while Harvey started their morning routine. It is safe to say that Woody is Harvey’s constant co-pilot, traveling by his side on foot and riding companionably in the truck for errands and even a trip down to Oklahoma. The essence of their connection, however, showed itself to Harvey in a single memorable moment. From the front yard, he heard Woody asking to return inside the house from the back yard. As Harvey stepped through the backyard gate, Woody turned away from his mission at the doorway and came bouncing over to Harvey. “I have never had a dog come running to me without me saying a word,” Harvey said. “I’m not against telling you that he brought tears to my eyes that day, when he came just because he wanted to.”

That’s the kind of important work a small white dog can do when he shares his heart with an “old cowboy.”

Mary Gustafson


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