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The retriever mix will go home after he completes his obedience training program later this week.

By Austin Cannon
April 05, 2021
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An aptly named dog who broke out of a Nebraska home—alerting rescuers to five other dogs who were trapped inside—has finally been adopted after nearly five months in shelter care. 

Hero, a retriever mix who's about a year old, had broken through a boarded window in a Columbus home on Nov. 13 when he was spotted by a neighbor, The Columbus Telegram reports. The poor guy was actually hanging half out the window, covered in feces. 

"My girlfriend came over to look ... and she goes, 'Well, it's OK, but oh my God the stench,'" neighbor Tonie Quinlin told the newspaper.   

Hero eventually freed himself from the window. Quinlin, who at this point had called the local animal control service, went out with a leash to retrieve the retriever. She tried to calm him with treats because he was in such "bad shape," the Telegram reports. Indeed he was: a veterinarian later reported that Hero had sustained scars, muscle wasting, sunken eyes, and emaciation. 

Because of Hero's escape, authorities rescued five other dogs from what the newspaper described as a "hoarding situation." Those five dogs each found homes, leaving Hero as the only one still waiting for a forever home. 

Lab mix at kennel before adoption
Credit: Courtesy of Erna R Badstieber Paws and Claws Adoption Center

"He was very friendly but regressed and became highly energetic and anxious," Deb Potter, director of the Erna R. Badstieber Paws and Claws Adoption Center, told The Telegram. 

With Hero not quite ready to be adopted into a new home just yet, Melissa Ripley and Second Chance Pups stepped in. The Second Chance training program is a nine-week obedience training initiative where dogs like Hero are placed with volunteer handlers at the Nebraska State Penitentiary who are incarcerated. Along with a professional trainer, the inmates teach the adoptable pups basic training and socialization cues—like how to walk on a leash, sit, stay, and more—during the course of their time in the program. These skills help dogs who may be unwanted or overlooked find a forever family. Since its inception in 2004, the Second Chance program has adopted out 349 dogs, with 220 inmates participating in the program.

Not all dogs are a good fit for the rehabilitation program, but Ripley says the ones who need a little extra love and TLC are at the top of their list of paw-spective canine clients. "We're looking for some that still need some manners—that may be why they're getting overlooked and not adopted as quickly as some of the other dogs," Ripley, Second Chance's adoption coordinator, told the newspaper. She also added that black dogs like Hero will oftentimes get passed over for adoption at local shelters. 

Ripley became the vital connection to Hero's new family. She's friends with Carrie Herrera, who was looking to adopt a dog for awhile and had lost her husband, police investigator Mario Herrera, last fall. She soon contacted Ripley and told her she wanted to adopt Hero, The Telegram reports. The dog and his new mom met the next weekend.

"He was a little skittish because he hadn't been around a lot of people, but he was super loving, very loving to us. It was kind of emotional, too. It was nice," she said. 

Hero is set to graduate from the Second Chance program on Friday. That's when Herrera will bring him home to his new family.

"I'm super excited, the kids are excited," Herrera said. "It'll be a good addition to us."