On the day twisters ripped Pasco houses apart, flipped a car and toppled trees, a doctor drove up from St. Petersburg and gave us a reason to smile.
You may recall subjects of this column about a month ago, Abbey and Buddy Boy, senior dogs who might have been euthanized if not for the concern and generosity of Dr. Joe Imburgia and his staff at Animal Hospital of New Port Richey.
Patricia Wilson, 71, dropped off Abbey and Buddy Boy in early February while she underwent tests to determine why she had so much trouble breathing. Three weeks later, she was dead from lung cancer.
Her relatives, all out of state, could not place the 12-year-old dogs, and Imburgia had legal authority to put them down. But Mrs. Wilson, a widow since 1995, had been a valued client for years and took great care of her pets. The veterinary staff was determined to find a solution.
Clarann Imburgia-Kunz, the vet's sister and office manager, appealed to me to tell the story. Soon the clinic's phone lines lit up with people wanting to help.
But the staff wasn't about to turn over Abbey and Buddy Boy to just anyone. They interviewed applicants and contacted their veterinarians to make sure they had a record of responsibility.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bob Escoe, an anesthesiologist who lives in Treasure Island, had read about the dogs and floated this offer: If you can't find anybody else, I'll take them. But Escoe already had three 9-year-old chocolate Labrador retrievers.
One by one the candidates for adoption fell by the wayside. One woman had allergies; another who seemed like a great candidate disappeared. Imburgia-Kunz called Escoe and Tuesday afternoon, as storms still pelted Pasco, he left a surgical clinic in St. Petersburg, drove north an hour and introduced himself to Abbey, a Rhodesian ridgeback with arthritis, and Buddy Boy, a German shepherd mix, frisky for his age.
They easily followed him into his vehicle. "I think they thought they were going home,'' Imburgia-Kunz said. "They were; just a new home.''
Escoe wondered how this might play with his other pets, especially Stella, who had long ago proclaimed herself the head dog over Baxter and Max. "Stella had to put Buddy Boy in his place,'' Escoe said, "but it didn't take long for them to get along.''
Escoe, 56, said he lives alone in a big "dog friendly'' house with a fenced yard, and he has friends who help him care for his dogs. He grew up on a farm near Athens, Ga., "and we always had dogs — and pigs, and cows, you name it.''
"I'm a big pushover for animals, period,'' he said. "I can give these guys a good life. And I take my hat off to the folks at the animal hospital for not euthanizing them. It cost the clinic a lot of money to care for them.''
Don't you just love happy endings?
Bill Stevens is the Times' North Suncoast Editor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (727) 869-6250.