When Al Izzarone spotted Anny online, he knew she was the one.
Wavy hair, deep brown eyes, great big smile. She was a beauty … of a Schnauzer mix. What Izzarone didn't notice straight away, when he fell for the dog on Petfinder.com, was that she more than 600 miles away.
Anny was in St. Clair, Mich. Izzarone was in Delaware. The 70-year-old retired electronic technician was willing to make the drive, but his family and friends advised against it. Luckily, the Internet — through which Izzarone found Anny — would also help bring the pup home. A plea posted on Facebook found a Michigan family driving southeast on their summer vacation. They were set to leave Friday, July 13, and happy to give Anny a ride.
"Do you believe in karma?" Izzarone said when asked why he fell for a one-and-a-half-year-old dog who lives so far away. "I felt like it was karma when I found Anny."
Some of his friends were bemused that Izzarone wanted a dog so far away, but she was too familiar for him to forget. Izzarone has suffered his share of loss. His wife, three cats and a dog — they all passed away within 18 months, with his dog Thursday leaving him last in 2010.
"I was devastated when she died," Izzarone said of the dog his wife had rescued from the wheels of a garbage truck 14 years earlier, the dog they called a "schnoodle" (Schnauzer/Poodle mix). "I felt like I was cursed. I thought she would live longer."
Izzarone had been alone for two years when a neighbor who had several rescue dogs of her own encouraged him to give Petfinder.com a try. He flipped through countless profiles of available pups until he found Anny on a page posted by K-9 Resque in St. Clair. It's easy to see why he fell right away.
Anny resembled Thursday — a little bigger maybe, and with a brown Schnauzer beard instead of Thursday's silvery-white face, but "it was the video that did it for me," Izzarone said. "The way she walked on a leash and listened to commands." Or didn't.
"Thursday would listen when she wanted to listen, and when she didn't, she'd just lay down," Izzarone. Anny had that same friendly sassiness, and Izzarone had to meet her — and not just because of her resemblance to his late dog Thursday K-9 Resque requires all potential adopters to meet the animal they're applying for in person.
A pricey trip for a short-notice flight, but Izzarone had more than a few frequent-flyer miles, enough to fly into Detroit and rent a car. "He stayed three days and he visited Anny every day," K-9 Resque director Sharon Gorski told TODAY.com.
Anny and Izzarone took to each other right away — not that it was a question for Anny. "She's very very friendly," Gorski said of Anny. "There's not one person she doesn't like."
Surrendered by an owner whose hip surgery left her unable to care for a dog, Anny does suffer separation anxiety, which Izzarone is aware of and willing to help her with. Gorski is pleased with the placement.
"He needs her as much as she needs him," she said. It was just a matter of getting Anny to Delaware. Izzarone may have flown to Anny, but Anny couldn't fly home with Izzarone. At approximately 35 pounds, Anny is too big to fit under an airline seat, and Izzarone's flight didn't accept pets in the cargo hold.
Since Hurricane Katrina, five years prior, when Gorski helped coordinate animal rescue in New Orleans and online, she knew the Internet was the way to go. Like so many volunteer-run animal rescues across the United States, Gorski posted a plea for a driver on Facebook. Fans of the K-9 Rescue Page shared on their personal profiles. It was on a friend of a friend's Facebook page where Allison Jackson saw it.
With four cats, one dog and a horse, "I can't personally adopt any more animals, but I still want to help," Jackson told TODAY.com. The timing really worked out. Jackson and her family leave from their home in Midland, Mich., to visit family in Virginia. On the way, they'll meet Gorski and Anny in Flint, Mich., and head south with the dog in tow, staying at a pet-friendly hotel in the midpoint. "This will be an adventure," she said.
The Jackson family is set to meet Izzarone at a yet-to-be determined time and location spot on Highway 301, somewhere outside of Washington D.C., delivering Anny to her forever home, closing a story that started on the Internet and continues in real life.
Izzarone says he's all set for Anny's arrival.
"I have a leash, a collar and I still have the dog bowls," Izzarone told TODAY.com. He'll also put a blanket on the couch where Anny can sit and look out the front window, at the beach of Delaware Bay, the beach where, Izzarone says, "we'll walk every day."
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