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Aug 31

A bittersweet ending to the summer of Annie

So after several weeks of angst and grassroots outrage, the Annie saga has come to a close in an uncomfortable manner — torn up, emotionally rent and fully not tied nicely with a pretty bow as I had originally hoped.

Annie’s new owners returned her to her old owner on Monday evening, and as the photo above shows, a heartfelt bond has been repaired.

Surely one family is bitter and sad about how a simple trip to adopt a stray dog has turned out, but an image like this should offer some cheer.

Bob Cuddy, who sparked the controversy with his original column, is also bitter and sad, chagrined at having participated in the process and the melee that ensued.

Dave Congalton, who took the proverbial ball and ran with it, may have at one point been bitter and sad but now is mostly happy and content with just a bit of bitterness and sadness, but that’s only because he believes Bob called him a terrorist.

Me? I’m okay. Neither here nor there, I guess.

I’m happy Annie is back with Chuck Hoage.

I’m not happy that to make it happen, a family had to be intimidated to the point they feared for their safety.

I’m happy so many people were energized and inspired to participate.

I’m not happy a few of them proved to be the kind of knuckleheads whose license to use a keyboard should be revoked.

I’m happy the county stepped in and tried to correct a previous mistake by trying to reunite Chuck and Annie.

I’m not happy they screwed up further and made it worse by inadvertently releasing the adopter’s name to the frothing masses.

I’m am happy someone (Congalton) led a crusade to keep the case alive.

I’m not happy he elevated the crusade from radio show to Facebook group to public rally to personal phone call.

As polite as he may have been, at some point a media and Internet phenomenon hits too close to home, and voicemails on the family phone are that point.

There can be no denying the tinge of threat in both his e-mail to the county and his message to the adopters, even if he didn’t intend it that way.

Terrorism may be too strong of a word. Intimidation certainly isn’t.

In the end, I never did get my Hallmark Channel ending, the one that should have made most everyone feel good.

And in the end, while I appreciate Bob’s effort to refocus attention on larger issues, this wasn’t just about a dog.

It was about a man first, one who made a mistake, certainly learned from it and hoped to reverse it.

It was about a family that, for whatever reason, started out in a noble act and then went astray, eventually making an honorable decision, but probably because they were compelled by fear rather than charity.

And it was about a radio personality who went from community soundboard to something akin to self-appointed hostage negotiator.

In the end, many people with good intentions acted less responsibly than they should have.

We got the result we wanted, but the road is now littered with the carcasses of those good intentions.

What do you think? Share your thoughts here.

Tribune photo by Joe Johnston

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19 comments

  1. Cindy

    I truly believe that the only fear this family felt was the fear of embarrassment. They had hoped the Annie supporters would go away but the supporters rather rallied in front of the SLO County Building and then set their sites on Arroyo Grande. This family grudgingly returned Annie rather than take the chance that 90% of an entire community would consider them careless, self centered, morally inept, and heartless. They had every opportunity to return Annie early on, they learned that they didn’t “have to” regardless of pleas from the Director of the Animal Shelter or the circumstances. They played finders keepers, literally losers weepers (knowing that Chuck was literally weeping) and they almost lost their dignity in the process. I’d say all’s well that ends well. They have kept their anonymity and returned the only evidence that could reveal them back to her rightful owner.

  2. Joanna

    I am thankful that Annie is with her rightful owner and was so disappointed that the adoptive owners refused to return her as soon as they were informed. If they were truly animal lovers and could imagine how Chuck felt (not to mention Annie) it was so wrong for them to not return her right away. I understand that “Sasha” is angry but so were a lot of other people and I think Dave Congalton was a prince of a guy to intercede in his capacity of “Dogs Best Friend” and as the host of a radio talk show. Here’s hoping that “Sasha” and her family will find another dog to adopt that really needs them. As someone who is being forced by illness and circumstances to let her beloved dog go to a new home, I know Chuck’s pain.

  3. man from moqui

    The Annie saga had a happy ending of sorts, but I feel dirty
    just the same.

  4. Al

    I’ll be dog gone!

  5. Rover

    I’d say that voice mail message that Congalton left with the adopting family was pretty weird.

  6. Catriley

    I’m really disappointed in you, Joe. You had a chance to make amends for the scathing and frightening blog post by Mr. Cuddy, and you chose to repeat the attacks on the people who supported Annie going home to Chuck. There was no mob, no intimidation. There was a handful of people (as there always are) who went too far with their rhetoric. One person learned their name, not the “angry mobs” or whatever it is the Trib is calling them this afternoon.

    The truth is that Annie would have never gone home had people not spoken out. Period. The letter on Facebook from the adopter was every bit as scary and weird as a handful of folks who left anonymous posts on the internet forums. Annie and Chuck would not be together had there not been public pressure to reunite them. The adopters were given the chance to do right by returning her two days after they got her, and instead say no “adamantly” and went off on vacation with Annie left behind. No amount of righteous blogging will ever change the good that came out of this. It struck a chord in so many people because of the injustice of someone taking a finders-keeper attitude with a widower’s dog. It was as simple as that. I do think that part of the vitriol I’m reading has more to do with ongoing battles with a certain news outlet at which a certain radio host resides.

  7. Pillowfight

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. So many mistakes were made by all parties.

  8. Lee Perry

    The right thing has been done. It shouldn’t have taken this long. They should have responded immediately with class, even though hard. And with respect for Annie’s feelings, she was probably lonely and confused, and her happiness at being re-united with Chuck is so obvious from the pix, as all of us dog lovers knew from the beginning. There is owning an animal, which is different from loving, enjoying and caring for an addition to the family. This certainly has not been the first unfair mistake that they, or any one of us has been through. Doing the right thing should never have to be requested.

    If things had been done responsibly and respectfully, no one would have been hurt, misread, terrorized (what an act of irresponsible verbage), or disrespected with regard to their love of animals. I also think you go too far when you talk of intimidation and threat. Thank God for people like Dave…so few of them around.

  9. Nancy

    Im just happy he has Annie back. Losing something thats means so much to someone was heartbreaking to hear …when all that was required to end his suffering was to see his dog again. I think thats one huge YEAH for humanity.

  10. John

    So let’s kick Dave. He can’t have his fuzzy moment. He left a voice mail that said county council accidentally released your name. I won’t disclose it, but if it slipped up once it probably will slip up again. You should get this resolved.

    He didn’t say give back the dog, he said get the situation settled. Maybe he should have just said ON THE RADIO county council released the name due to a public request, so here is the name. After all, the family said the county animal services gave us Chuck’s dog, so it’s our dog. Fair is fair.

    Or maybe he shouldn’t have said anything, then if something had happened to the family he could have said, “Well I wanted to warn them, but they may have taken it wrong.”

    (DO NOT take this post wrong. I wish the family no harm!) You have painted Dave into a no win scenario and it’s not fair to him. Of course the Tribune really isn’t know for being fair, are they?

  11. Nancy

    I am thrilled that Annie is back home!! I feel that there would have been a lot less, perhaps no carcasses if the adoptive family would had just done the Hallmark thing to begin with and politely returned Annie to Chuck as soon as they were made aware of the mix up.
    I think the shelter needs a major overhaul as it sounds to me like ALL of this sad mess could and should have been avoided from the start!!

  12. WILLAM P

    I agree with Scott. Congalton is the one to blame here. He has never had a child but if he had he would know to never leave a scary threatening voice-mail that could be heard by a young child. What an outrage.

    The new owners were the proper owners for Annie the dog. The old man simply didn’t provide proper care her. She was suffering from an abscessed tooth that was not being treated. She was clearly overweight which shows lack of exercise and free feeding. How could you love a dog so much and not have her micro chipped and properly tagged with the county. He didn’t even look for her at the county shelter. He may think he loved her but his lack of proper care proves differently. No loving owner would NEVER let a pet run wild without proper fencing in the country. We should all be outraged!

    Congalton’s power trip was over exercised here. His taunting of the family and the officials who were doing their jobs at the county show a real lack of balance and maturity.

    In the future we can only hope that ONLY those directly related to an incidence are allowed to work through it without outside inappropriate influence from by standers or buttinskies.

    Personally I hold KVEC accountable for letting an employee get so carried away all the while using his name as an employee bringing disgrace to the company.

  13. Julie

    I have been involved in rescue and rescued my dog. I am so glad I don’t live in CA where apparently irresponsible pet owners are rewarded and people who try and do the right thing are vilified. Over half the animals in our local shelter are strays. Why would anyone adopt one if they can be taken away by threat even after the legal hold period is over.

  14. Toni

    I would say 7 of the 9 comments disagree with you, Joe. Mine makes 8. It’s articles like yours that make situations worse. People should know the difference between right and wrong. What mistake did Chuck make? Not teaching Annie to freak out from a gun shot? Maybe we should talk fireworks. Wish I could continue but I have to go love up my dogs…

  15. WILLAM P

    IF NUMBERS MATTERED WE WOULD STILL THINK THE EARTH WAS FLAT. TRUTH TRUMPS THE MOB MENTALITY EVERY DAY.

    THE MOB TERRORISM LIKE THAT USED IN THE ANNIE SITUATION MAY BE EFFECTIVE BUT IS A FAR CRY FROM OUR FOUNDING FATHERS INTENDED…BUT THEN THEY DON’T MATTER TO ALL OF YOU THE RADICAL FAR LEFT. WE INVITE YOU TO JOIN AN ORDERED SOCIETY.

    For the record Annie was abused by Houge. She was clearly overweight which shows lack of exercise and free feeding. How could you love a dog so much and not have her micro chipped and properly tagged with the county. He didn’t even look for her at the county shelter. He may think he loved her but his lack of proper care proves differently.

  16. Ru4REAL

    These “new adoptive owners” were NOT threatened or intimidated, sometimes it takes “PEER PRESSURE” for some people tp FINALLY “get the message!” It took these people much longer than it should have for them to FINALLY do the moral & ethically correct thing by reuniting Annie with Chuck & for that, I’m very happy. Can’t help but wonder though, “what took them so long to do the RIGHT THING?” It certaianly WAS NOT due to fear & intimidation, more likely guilty conscience???

  17. WILLAM P

    THE NEW OWNERS KNEW THAT ANNIE WAS ABUSED AND WANTED ASSURANCES THAT IT WOULD NOT HAPPEN AGAIN. THEN CONGALTON LEFT A THREATENING PHONE MESSAGE AT THEIR HOUSE…SO THREATENING THEIR DAUGHTER RAN CRYING TO THE NEIGHBOR AND SPENT THE NIGHT WITH HER IN FEAR.

    CONGALTON’S MOB MENTALITY THUGS PRESSURED AND THREATENED THE POOR FAMILY. THEY NEEDED MORE TIME TO HAVE ANNIE’S ABSCESSED TOOTH TREATED. DO YOU PEOPLE EVEN CARE ABOUT THE FACTS?

    IF THE ABUSE THAT WAS DONE TO ANNIE HAD COME TO DAVE HIS REACTION WOULD HAVE BEEN TO TAKE ANNIE AWAY FROM HOAGE WHO WAS CLEARLY NOT CARING FOR HER PROPERLY.

    THIS IS THE PROBLEM WITH THE MOB MENTALITY AND TERRORISM. sOME PEOPLE SHOULD JUST MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS.

  18. WILLAM P

    I just love how all of Congalton’s thugs have quieted down ever since the topic of suing the county raised it’s head. Watch the terrorists run now! “It wasn’t my fault”…I can hear him now.

  19. Barbar Catenaccio

    Its great that Annie was finally back to her owner. And the family who found her should have returned the dog right away knowing that the does not belong to them.

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