Dan, the fictional redbone coonhound sent many of us into tears in the classic, “Where the Red Fern Grows,” and a real redbone coonhound named Dan, which was named for the fictional Dan, also has a bittersweet tale.
Dan, the one in Ohio was a stray on death row when a kind animal control officer sought refuge for him at the county’s no-kill shelter.
Dan may have well found his “forever” home, but it is in that same humane society rather than in a home with a family.
Whether Dan likes it this way is anyone's guess, but humane society workers who have cared for Dan for exactly 8 years, 11 months and 26 days doesn't think he is unhappy.
That’s right, Dan has been at the Highland County Humane Society since 2004 and while he is still listed for adoption, his slim chances of being adopted have grown ever slimmer with each new gray hair on his somewhat cantankerous muzzle.
Dan had issues right from the start. In addition to being a full grown adult when he entered the shelter, it was found that although he is very good at keeping his kennel clean, Dan doesn’t play well with other dogs, children and sometimes adults.
According to a story in USA Today, Dan was adopted four times by different people and brought back three times either because he got a little growly with other dogs or people. He was confiscated once by a humane society worker who stopped to check on his welfare when it was found he was taken home and put in the backyard on a chain.
Like many dogs of hunting lineage, Dan still also has a pretty intense hunting sense and has escaped the shelter twice. The first time he was hit by a car, the second time, he could be heard baying for two nights in the woods surrounding the shelter. Like his namesake, most likely treeing raccoons and squirrels.
He came “home” on the third morning, exhausted and wanting his bed back.
Melanie Dodson, the shelter’s director, sometimes takes Dan home, although it’s tricky as he cannot be with her own dogs and she also takes him for occasional rides in the car because he likes to ride. His favorite rides are near Rocky Fork Lake, where he was initially picked up by animal control so long ago. Maybe he still remembers his former life with a family.
Some people feel Dan might be better off now staying around the people he has come to know and who have cared for him at the shelter. He doesn’t seem to be suffering from kennel stress, he has a bed and access to the outdoors. Experts agree that as long as he’s happy, he has a quality of life.
Unlike Dan in the novel, this Dan’s ending hasn’t been written just yet and Dodson still hopes Dan could still find a forever home. A home with a skilled dog person who can gently handle Dan’s “moods” and who doesn’t have kids or other pets and who has a backyard where Dan might lie in the sun and enjoy his remaining warm afternoons, or even chase a squirrel or two.
Editor’s Note: Photo of Dan from the Highland County Humane Society
Do you think Dan should now live the rest of his days at a shelter or should the workers there continue to try to find Dan a “real” home?