A chance encounter in a hallway finally reunited Ron Goden with the dog he reluctantly gave up for adoption a year ago.
It happened last year at the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Riverside when Wayne Kezirian, the agency’s president, spotted Goden, a tall, skinny former Navy member, “crying and crying”.
Kezirian didn’t know it then, but Goden had made a big decision. He needed to clean up his life and enter a long-term hospital treatment program. It meant he had to part ways with Riley, his year-and-a-half ball of energy and enthusiasm.
Kezirian inquired with the staff, got some of the story back, and then met with Riley. Looking at her, Kezirian could tell that the animal had been “beautifully cared for”. It was then that Kezirian decided that the SPCA would change the way it handled this and similar cases.
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He walked over to Goden and said, “Are you Ron? Come in and talk to me, because we don’t accept your dog surrender.”
Kezirian told Goden that the SPCA would place Riley in foster care and he could pick her up after she finished her treatment.
“I thought I lost her for good. Everything changed in 15 minutes,” Goden said this week, as Riley jumped between him, his adoptive mother and an SPCA staff member, looking for help. attention, doing tricks and licking their faces.
The SPCA has long offered a “residency care program for hardship,” but that program had a two-week limit and could only serve people with temporary setbacks, such as a short-term hospital stay.
After reviewing Goden’s situation, Kezirian decided that the agency should offer an extended boarding program in cases where it would benefit the animal and the owner of the animal.
“We changed the program on the spot,” Kezirian said. “It’s all because of Ron.”
New Extended Boarding Program
Since Goden and Riley, others have followed. “We will if there is a reasonable chance of success,” Kezirian said. In one ongoing case, the SPCA is caring for a large husky belonging to a family of five who have lost their home and are living in a hotel room.
The expanded program can help people escape their own predicaments, Kezirian believes. For example, he says victims are sometimes reluctant to leave domestic abusers because they don’t have room for their pets.
“You’re really doing someone a disservice if you’re just extending a two-week deadline,” Kezirian said.
Riley was in good hands while Goden was in treatment. She spent the first few months with a family, but they had to quit after COVID restrictions eased, and they had to resume regular working hours.
That’s when Ruby McCullers stepped in. McCullers is a senior at the Rhode Island School of Design and also works as a kennel attendant at the SPCA. McCullers, who brought Riley to live with her, said she fell in love with Riley, and, “All my friends fell in love with her too.”
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“Ruby did such a good job”
Between her studies and her duties at the SPCA, McCullers set aside an hour and a half of daily exercise with Riley. She taught him tricks and worked to teach him the difference between left and right.
“Ruby did such a great job,” Goden said, watching McCullers and Riley go through a series of tricks for treats.
Now 2.5 years old, Riley is a mix of several intelligent breeds including Springer Spaniel, Border Collie and Australian Shepherd. She can be a bitch. “She can open the closet on her own,” Goden said.
Goden bought it for “the best $250 I’ve ever spent, a lifetime of fun for $250”.
Goden, 59, describes his treatment as “a long-term sober-up program for veterans.” It all started at Providence VA Medical Center. His decision to go for treatment came when he realized, “I better do something. It’s not going to go well.
Worried about Riley
He initially worried about Riley, but said, “It made it easier for me to go take care of myself, knowing she was taken care of.”
Now done with her treatment, Goden and Riley were reunited a few weeks ago. She lives with him in Woonsocket and visits Cooper, the canine pet of Goden’s ex-wife, Pam Goden, almost daily. The Godens remain friends despite their separation.
Goden says it didn’t take long for Riley to readjust to life with him and the jokes she might have thought, “Dad went to the grocery store but didn’t come back for a year.”
In its March newsletter, the SPCA released a reunion photo showing Riley on her hind legs, her front legs on Goden’s kneeling shoulder as she tries to lick his face.
Typed at the bottom of the photo are these lyrics from a 1978 Peaches and Herb hit song: “Reunited and it feels so good!”
On Twitter: @jgregoryperry
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