Dog, adopter take healing journey together

Hutch the dog, wearing his cast, being held by a smiling person
When a terrier mix with a broken leg and a love for life helped foster volunteer Rocio Ritter heal her broken heart, she decided to never let him go.
By Lindsay Hutton

Hutch’s wiry, white fur whisps, scraggles and stands together create the appearance of a full beard around his muzzle, a windswept Bohemian hairdo between his soft caramel-colored ears. Even when he came in with an injured front leg to Best Friends in Northwest Arkansas from Pine Bluff Animal Shelter, the tiny terrier mix still exuded vivacity.

As soon as Rocio Ritter saw a photo of Hutch online and learned that he needed a foster home, she thought he was just perfect. Since he was small, Rocio figured he wouldn’t intimidate her equally small 15-year-old dachshund, Dickie. So, she sent an email to the team at Best Friends saying she would foster him.

As it turns out, sprightly Hutch came at just the right time, with Rocio still grieving the recent loss of her dog, Pisa. Hutch’s spirit and enthusiasm for life was just what she needed.

Help for a dog with a fractured leg

When Hutch came to Pine Bluff Animal Shelter, he was walking with a limp and staff members could easily see that he had an injured front leg. They arranged for him to join other dogs from the shelter on a planned upcoming transport.

As soon as Hutch arrived in Bentonville, he went straight to the vet, who determined that his leg was fractured. In order for it to heal properly, he placed Hutch’s little limb in a splint and wrapped it to create a soft cast. None of this fazed Hutch, though.

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Sarah Lorenzen, Best Friends medical coordinator in Northwest Arkansas, says the shelter had warned that Hutch was, understandably, a bit grumpy. “But when he came to us, he was an absolute doll,” she says. “I know that he was in pain, but even at the vet he was a perfect gentleman.”

With his leg splinted, Hutch returned to Best Friends and rested for the night before Rocio picked him up the next day, ready to help him begin his healing journey in the comfort of a foster home.

Making good on a promise to a dog

It had been a difficult winter for Rocio and her husband, Glenn. In January, their beloved Pisa, the dachshund they’d loved for 15 ½ years, became ill and died suddenly. This loss was unexpected and devastating for Rocio and Glenn, who see their dogs as treasured family. In Pisa’s final hours, Rocio held her, promising through tears that she would do good things and thinking that slowly but surely, all this pain would turn into love.

It felt too soon to adopt another dog, so in the weeks that followed Pisa’s passing, Rocio visited different local shelters and looked online for foster opportunities. For Rocio, the days were cold and painful with loss. Each day she called her sister to talk and, inevitably, to cry.

Then came Hutch, the first dog she thought she could foster because he was small. Just accepting him into her home was a first step on a new path, one she must walk without Pisa at her side. From the beginning, Hutch shone like a bright light, helping to scatter the shadows.

To help Hutch heal, Rocio was advised to crate the sweet pup as much as possible so that the leg could heal, and not to let the fabric around the splint get wet. But it wasn’t long before he got stronger and became more confident and comfortable in his new foster home (although at first, the laminate floors in Rocio and Glenn's apartment scared Hutch). He got along well with Dickie, and when he was outside, he cheerfully greeted all neighbors and friends.

Because he was young and vivacious, Rocio and Glenn allowed Hutch out of his kennel as much as possible. Total confinement wasn’t ideal for such a happy, curious dog. Hutch wore a protective boot over the wrapped splint to keep things dry and provide additional support on short walks. When he was outside the kennel sniffing the fresh air, he rested right next to Rocio, who works from home.

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Hutch’s goodwill toward everyone and his appetite for life were visible and contagious. It was a strong reminder to Rocio, who used to wake Pisa bright and early at 7 a.m., as she excitedly wagged her tail for a new day. Like Pisa (and Dickie, too), Hutch infused Rocio with a joy for living which, along with his loyalty, added to a connection that had been growing since he arrived.

About a month after Hutch arrived, the Best Friends adoption team contacted Rocio about a possible adopter. She hesitated. Could she let Hutch go? When it came time to decide a few days later, the answer was clear: Sweet and spirited Hutch was there to stay.

The power of a dog’s love

After Hutch’s wrapped splint came off, he had to rest for couple of days. Then, fully healed, he was free to run in the grassy field behind Rocio and Glenn’s apartment. While they take about eight walks a day now, Rocio, Glenn, Hutch and Dickie also go to a field each evening where Hutch runs and runs. He is constantly, exuberantly on the move. But when he rockets after something that catches his attention, he turns almost immediately to make sure that his family is still there.

One evening, as Rocio and Glenn sat in the large field watching Hutch sprint hither and thither through the grass, she found herself wondering: How did we get so lucky? Rocio is amazed by the power of love, the power of a dog in a person’s life and the power of this dog in her life. “It’s incredible,” she says, “how much light a little furry guy can bring into a person’s life.”

Hutch (now Einstein, for all that white, wispy fur) had come to her in one of her darkest hours. His loving light was the light she needed to move forward.

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