A New Leash on Life

Stray Houston mutts make it big in Marin, thanks to Allison and the HSPCA

He may not have lost his house to the flood, but to him, losing his Akita, a Christmas gift from his wife seven and a half years earlier, was like losing a family member. O'Donnell theorized that the pet, frightened by thunder and lightning during Allison, had pushed through the closed gate and wandered too far to find his way home. And O'Donnell had forgotten to put on the dog's ID collar.

For the next three agonizing days, O'Donnell spent five hours a day knocking door-to-door with pictures, calling shelters and veterinarians, checking with police. Then he went to the Houston SPCA. There, shaking a paw at his owner through a temporary kennel, was Sumo.

As O'Donnell recounts the earlier anguish, he whistles curtly and abruptly. "Sumo!" he whispers.

Dog daze: Some of Allison's victims don't stay in nice hotels.
Deron Neblett
Dog daze: Some of Allison's victims don't stay in nice hotels.

The dog's ears perk up at O'Donnell's call -- and even the edges of the animal's mouth curl up into what looks like a genuine smile.

The Akita missed out on the ride to Marin County. Maybe this dog will never be licking bits of Brie from the manicured hands of the Northern California chardonnay set. But Sumo is sure content to just be back from the flood, back home with his master.

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