After escaping an animal hoarder among about 60 dogs and dozens of birds, then falling on hard luck in California, the sad-faced dog Kobe has finally found a forever home.
Kobe was one of the “giant” dogs that overwhelmed the Cheyenne Animal Shelter last April when authorities discovered a hoarding situation south of Cheyenne, his new caretaker Cheryl Blair told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.
The shelter’s staff was overwhelmed that week as they scrambled to care for dozens of animals and get them into foster homes, even while two of the dogs birthed puppies soon after they were rescued.
It took disaster to reveal the hoarding situation: The wind blew over a fence at the property where the dogs lived, allowing about 15 of them to escape. They ran a horse through a fence, sending it to the vet, which prompted calls to animal control, authorities said at the time.
Once swarmed with nearly 60 dogs, many canine foster families had to help the animal shelter that week.
Somewhere in all the chaos, someone adopted the large, butterscotch-colored dog with the sad eyes.
Blair said her research into the dog’s medical records and history indicates that a Wyoming woman adopted Kyobi and named him Thor. The woman then left Wyoming for California, leaving Thor with behind her boyfriend, said Blair.
Animal control got involved again at some point, though Blair didn’t know the details, she said.
The dog’s adoptive mother reclaimed him and the pair lived together in Southern California. But in early January, she contacted a dog rescue page on Facebook, asking if someone could take care of him.
“She was going to lose her home, if she isn’t already homeless,” said Blair, adding that the woman had done “a lot of traveling.”
Blair had a Tibetan mastiff of her own, Chief, for 12 years until he died of cancer in December. She and her husband were devastated when he died, she said.
“We didn’t want to get another dog,” she said. “Ours was just too much.”
But she just happened to look on Facebook one day, and her eyes met Thor’s.
The Tibetan mastiff rescue page ran Thor’s rescue request, though he’s a Leonberger.
“By the time he came to me, he was in horrible condition,” she said.
Blair set up a GoFundMe account to get transportation and vet care for the dog, who lived about two hours from her home in Lancaster.
“It took us five hours to get all the matts out of him,” she recalled.
Blair renamed the dog Kobe.
And that will be his last name, in his last home, she said.
“He’ll just live out his life here,” she said. “We would never release him to another family because you’d have to understand the trauma he’s been through to deal with his little tics and things.”
Kobe has claimed one corner of the house. He’s on a leash for now because any loud noise makes him try to escape. Blair had to take him outside every 30 minutes for several days to train him to relieve himself outdoors.
For several weeks, Kobe wouldn’t eat or urinate if others were watching him, said Blair, adding that she and her husband keep their voices soft around him and approach him slowly.
“He’s still very timid, very shy,” she said. “But he’s starting to kind of come to me more. He doesn’t cower from my husband or myself too much.”
And Kobe walks well on a leash, said Blair.
There are times when Blair is fatigued from caring for Kobe, she said, but she presses on, especially when she remembers that as a retiree, she has more time to socialize and comfort the dog than another caretaker would have.
“Sometimes I’m like ‘why am I doing this?’” she said. “But what’s the alternative – nothing.”
It’s also reassuring that Kobe is not actually a Tibetan mastiff, Blair added. The dog is 5 years old and at that age, a Tibetan mastiff escaping trauma would have been harder to socialize, she said.
“Things can go south real quick with Tibetan mastiffs,” Blair said, whereas Leonbergers are quieter and gentler.
But at this point, it doesn’t matter what breed Kobe is, Blair said. All that matters is that “he’s OK. He’s safe and he’s loved, and he’ll live here ‘til the end of his days.”