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County gets canine ambassador

By Chris Van Ormer

Oreo, one of the county’s newest employees, is earning her keep.

In fact, she’s a “superstar.”

The Catahoula leopard mix dog is the canine ambassador for Citrus County Animal Services and was chosen for her job as an example of the well-behaved animals available for adoption at the shelter.

“People may think the dogs at the shelter are just strays and not well behaved. I’d like to take an example of a well-behaved dog,” said Kelly Gill, the shelter’s volunteer outreach coordinator, when she selected Oreo a couple of months ago.

As a Catahoula mix, Oreo is partly a Native American breed from Louisiana and partly other breeds brought to the United States by human immigrants. Last week, the spotted dog helped track an adopted German shepherd that jumped over the new owner’s 6-foot fence and ran away.

Animal Services Operations Manager Patricia Amon described Oreo’s role in retrieving the wayward shepherd.

“A customer, who had two days prior adopted a German shepherd from our shelter, frantically called our office to say Karah had scaled her 6-foot fence and she couldn’t catch her,” Amon said. “While I was on the phone  with her giving her suggestions to help — which involved tasty treats — in walked Joanne Peters and Lorraine Clark from Courtroom Dogs for Kids, and they offered to drive to the woman’s house to assist.”

Peters and Clark are the founders of a nonprofit organization that provides registered and trained therapy dogs to serve as calming companions for youngsters who will testify in court cases.

Clark suggested they take a dog to catch a dog.

“We offered up Oreo, our newly appointed shelter ambassador dog, to accompany them,” Amon said. “Within an hour they had returned to the shelter to tell of their success story. They said Oreo was a superstar and made it so easy to tempt Karah to return.”

The happy ending effort went beyond Oreo’s original job description, which is to visit public facilities and public events to raise awareness about the shelter. Such an event is coming up during the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Citrus County Auditorium at 3610 S. Florida Ave., Inverness, when the shelter will sponsor its second Best Friend Fest, a pet adoption extravaganza.

Happy ending stories abound at the shelter. Many adopters have taken the opportunity of telling the tale of finding their perfect pet on a page on the shelter’s website, www.citruscritters.com/adoption_stories/adoption_stories.htm.