A dog who was abandoned on the side of the road, captured the hearts of people all over the country and sparked media attention now has a new chance at life.
As of Aug. 24, Orson, a 2-year-old English Settler mix, is living permanently with the Encinitas family that has cared for him for months, as he was going through surgery and rehabilitation for a deformed front leg.
He was found abandoned by the side of a freeway in Mexico. A good samaritan took him to a Baja Rescue Group before he was transferred to the Rancho Coastal Humane Society (RCHS) in Encinitas in April.
When the 35-pound pup arrived, RCHS staff discovered Orson had a bone in his right, front leg that was too short. His original adoptive family agreed to have Orson's leg fixed but eventually returned him without the surgeries after learning the costs would range from $5,400 to $5,800.
"Our medical fund was depleted after we recently accepted dozens of dogs and puppies rescued from commercial breeding operations, also known as puppy mills," explained RCHS President Jim Silveira. "[Orson's original adoptive family] did not have the surgery and returned him in worse condition than before."
RCHS reached out to its volunteers and successfully raised the money needed for the surgery with Dr. Joshua Jackson at Veterinary Specialty Hospital. Orson had a fixator installed to stretch the bone, and his back right knee was also operated on for another problem.
RCHS received dozens of applications for Orson, including from the family that has been caring for him since May.
Their home was the right fit, RCHS decided. The Lofshult family, including their two other dogs, officially adopted Orson on the morning of Aug. 24 after receiving clearance from the vet.
Diane Lofshult said when she first met Orson, she wasn't expecting that she would adopt him because she didn't want to be a "foster failure."
"That's what it's called when you adopt your foster," she explained, laughing. "But if you have to fail at something, that's not a bad thing to fail at. I did think about if this was the best situation for Orson, and when I saw how well he got along with our other dogs, I knew he was home."
While Orson's surgery was a success, he will suffer some long-term effects, such as a slight limp, said Kathy Zerkle, RCHS vice president of adoption services. His family will also have to watch for arthritis, and they have been training him in the pool for water therapy.
As he entered RCHS Thursday morning, Aug. 24, Orson trotted in with a smile on his face, as if he knew he was on his way to his forever home and like he was no longer in any pain.
Lofshult described Orson as a sweet, mellow pup who actively plays with the family's other dogs.
"When we first got him, he wanted to play with the other dogs but wasn't able to, physically," she said. "Now, he's able to do everything they're able to do. He's very grateful. You can sense that he's glad for everything everybody has done for him. Orson embodies a lot of people coming together to make his life better."