A month ago in downtown Columbus, Andrea Shaw, an attorney visiting from Maine, acted on both instinct and impulse when she immediately agreed to adopt an injured stray dog that had been rescued by a small group of cyclists on their weekly ride along the Chattahoochee RiverWalk.
It’s a decision that Shaw does not regret.
Asked earlier this week if she was glad she took in the dog she named “Columbo,” Shaw was quick to respond.
“Glad is the understatement of the century,” she said. “I never imagined what any of this would turn into, but he’s the love of our lives. He fits right in. I love all my fur kids and my humans. I can’t imagine not having him and he’s been here only a month.”
A 6-month-old Great Dane mix, Columbo has become a social media sensation.
The story started with a Facebook post on the Ride On Bikes page. Local cyclist Jarrett Little was shown in a photo carrying the dog piggyback on his bike while he rode the 7 miles from South Lumpkin Road back into downtown.
From that curious beginning, this has turned into is a story that has attracted the attention of dog lovers across the world. It has turned into a Facebook page, Adventures of Columbo, that had drawn more than 18,000 followers and chronicles the dog’s road to recovery from serious leg and paw injuries in his new Maine home. People are sending dog supplies to “Columbo,” and Shaw is working with a rescue shelter in Brunswick, Maine, to share those goodies with other dogs.
Recently on the Adventures of Columbo page, Shaw asked those following where they were from.
“We got comments from Kenya; Capetown, South Africa; Australia; all over Europe; Canada; and all over the U.S.,” Shaw said. “I joke that he’s an international superstar.”
That social media reach has led to traditional media coverage.
Dozens of print, television and online stories have been written about Shaw and Columbo since the Ledger-Enquirer published the original story on July 13. Shaw estimates she has done 25 interviews in the last four weeks. Dozens of other media outlets have just picked up the story off Facebook and not reached out to Shaw for comment.
CBS, Fox, the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom, Bicycling Magazine, Poodle and Dog blog and Southern Living are a small sampling of the news outlets that have picked up the story.
“I literally took a half a week off to respond to my dog’s media inquiries,” she said. “I know that’s silly, but I did.”
Columbo is living proof that good news can travel the globe.
“I got a note from somebody in Italy saying they saw Columbo on Italian TV and they love the story and they love him and how great it is,” Shaw said.
Though still on crate rest, Columbo is getting better every day and it won’t be long before he has the run of Shaw’s horse farm in Gorham, Maine. He has been treated well by his big brothers, a pair of Black and Tan hounds named Pluto and Levi.
“I give him as much time as I can outside the crate when I am home,” Shaw said. “I try and give him chew toys and things to occupy him so he’s not jumping out of his skin wanting to run around because he can’t.”
Shaw’s 5-year-old son, Christopher, has claimed Columbo as his own. When Columbus has an accident in his crate, Christopher is the first to clean up the mess.
Maine has been good to Columbo.
When he left Columbus four weeks ago, he weighed 38 pounds.
“He was a rack of bones,” Shaw said.
Today he’s 48 pounds and filling out nicely.
“I have had to loosen his collar a couple of times,” Shaw said.
Shaw knows she probably saved the dog’s life with the decision on a Broadway sidewalk in Columbus. If Columbo had ended up in a shelter, it would have been a death sentence because of the extent of the injuries, Shaw said.
“I am not criticizing the shelters for that, at all,” Shaw said. “What it cost to save this one dog, they can probably save 10. It’s the reality of the situation.”
When asked how much she has spent to get Columbo the surgeries and medical care needed to get him healthy, Shaw won’t give a dollar amount.
“Let’s go with a lot,” she said. “It’s in the thousands.”
Shaw admits she has gone the extra mile, getting the dog shock-wave therapy to promote healing. Columbo is also having physical therapy on the wound leg.
“In my mind, if you are in for a penny, you are in for a pound,” she said. “I view doing the extra now as being a way to give him a better chance not to have complications when he gets older.”
Helping other dogs
Now that Columbo is on the mend, Shaw is trying to figure out how to use the dog’s celebrity to help other rescue dogs and the people and organizations that save the animals. That’s an opportunity she didn’t see coming a month ago when she adopted Columbo. And the Facebook page has been the jumping off point for this new-found platform.
Shaw has put a wish list for Columbo on Amazon and people have been sending everything from dog food and flea and tick treatment to chew toys and peanut butter.
“The wish list is not just for him,” Shaw said. “It’s things that I have been told by shelters they always need so we can make donations to different shelters.”
That has led Shaw to hook up with organizations like the Coastal Humane Society in Brunswick, Maine.
“One of the reasons we have chosen to work with them is because they have a partner in Georgia and they have a partner in Mississippi,” Shaw said. “The Georgia connection was sort of the lynchpin for us. They take dogs up from Georgia and Mississippi eight to 10 times a year and adopt them out up here. They also take supplies down to the rescues. When the van leaves here, it is full of supplies. One of the things we have talked about is taking of these things and getting them to Bo’s friends back in Georgia.”
Coastal Humane Society Marketing Manager Jane Siviski said Columbo is “living the life” in Maine.
“We were aware of Columbo and his journey even before Andrea approached us,” Siviski said. “The picture of him on the bicycle is a stunning visual, but when you hear the story behind you, it blows you away.”
Coastal Humane Society, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is in the process of setting up the Columbo Fund to help dogs faced with big medical bills.
“It will help dogs like Columbo that have some sort of trauma or require extensive veterinary care,” Siviski said. “The fund is reserved for animals just like Columbo that need extra special care. Andrea was fortunate and didn’t need the financial assistance to care for Columbo. She is now paying it forward to give the same care for animals who need it.”
Coastal Humane Society is going to launch a fundraising campaign featuring Columbo next month, Siviski said.
Shaw knows that she has been given an outlet to help dogs other than Columbo and she is trying now to figure out the best way to use it.
“I am very excited to see how much good we can do,” Shaw said. “He has a platform. So many animals in need are out there and people are doing this good work and don’t have this crazy platform that we been lucky enough to stumble into. We are trying very, very hard not to squander it. I am not sure I am not going to mess it up. I very well may. But I am doing my best not to.”
Every decision she has made so far, starting with the one to adopt a dog though she was 1,200 miles from home, has worked out well. If you don’t believe that, just ask Columbo, if you can get the chew toy out of his mouth long enough for him to bark out an answer.