Fairy Tales into Nightmares

Fairy Tales into Nightmares

By: Kerrin Winter-Churchill  Date: 08/14/2014

The story of a little lost dog that should have had a fairy tale ending has instead, turned into a nightmare.

Accounts of what exactly happened differ, but we do know that Piper, a champion Shetland Sheepdog went missing from her pet sitter's home in Ohio, and was picked up by the Franklin County Animal Shelter. Despite knowing she had a microchip, they turned Piper over to Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue - which stonewalled the owner, refusing to give back the dog. Knowing the law was on her side, the frantic owner contacted a lawyer, filed a lawsuit and waited for justice to prevail. After reviewing the case, the judge ordered Central Ohio Rescue to surrender Piper to her legal owner or post a ten thousand dollar bond within five days.

Sadly, Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue chose to spend money that could otherwise be spent onl homeless dogs by posting the ten thousand dollar bond. The big question is, “Why?” Why would an animal rescue claiming to be "all about the dogs" not return a well-loved, microchipped and perfectly cared for pet back to its rightful owner? Why would a 501(C)(3) animal rescue, dependent on donations   -  entrusted to care for homeless dogs - spend thousands on a dog obtained outside legally prescribed procedures when its rightful (and loving) owner was desperately trying to get her back? Why does an ownership and control fight take precedence over obvious evidence and the emotional weight of a very personal human-animal bond? Piper isn't a "throw away." She is a retired couch potato whose absence has left a huge void in her owner's home - a home that any rescue would drool over for one of their uncontested homeless dogs.

Maybe the biggest question is, “Where is Piper?” No one has seen her. No one knows if she is living or dead. Did the rescue attempt to have her spayed? An older female Shetland Sheepdog, did she die on an operating table? Is the COSR covering up her death? Did the owner not have the right tone of voice when she made the initial contact with rescue? Did COSR Director Sanderbeck cop an attitude and act out of pride? Or is it really "all about the money" as many in dogs believe? As a beautiful, black and white Sheltie, did COSR think they had a very marketable commodity to sell at a premium to an unwitting new owner who knew nothing about this case?

These questions and more are now circulating throughout the tightly-knit dog show community and rapidly expanding into the homes of every dog lover who now realizes for the first time that - "this could be me." Hoping to find some answers to this mystery, an NAIA reporter contacted COSR's attorney for this case, John A. Bell who refused to answer any questions about Piper.

Piper, the dog at the center of it all.

Occasionally beloved pets become lost. It's a fear that every dog lover faces, hundreds experience, and we can only hope and pray that if they do escape or stray, they will be returned through the kindness of strangers who pay it forward. Where is Piper and why can't she come home? The living room sofa is a shrine to her absence. Meanwhile, COSR has other dogs that need to be adopted but who would adopt a dog from a rescue tarnished by this kind of imbroglio? And would anyone donate money and time to a rescue group that has so little regard for owner-animal relationships?  

What her true motives are, no one really knows: Sanderbeck refuses to speak to reporters and stands behind the COSR website motto which begins with the words "Making a Difference One Dog at a time," and ending its mission description with "It’s all about the dogs." One has to wonder if "One Dog - Piper" was consulted. Wouldn't she want to go home? And if it’s "all about the dogs," Whose dogs? Yours? Mine? Ours? Theirs? Mottos are just words on a page. Who can believe Sanderbeck when her refusal to return a beloved pet to its rightful owner has marked her as the very poster child for a rescue gone bad?

There’s no question that there is a bell curve in all human enterprises. There’s also no question that innumerable rescues across the country live and scrape by with volunteer efforts that extend beyond human endurance. Until we have the answers, it is all over but the waiting; what’s important to the ones who bend over backward to make things work right is the light that shines on rescues that impugn the integrity of the entire effort (in that spirit, we congratulate the National Sheltie Rescue Network for distancing themselves from Sanderbeck's group and its behavior). It is important that tragedies like this do no begin to define the entire movement.

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