CANTON, Ohio — The unusual journey of five Golden Retriever puppies captured the attention and the hearts of several Stark County residents who slept in their cars for the chance to take one of the dogs home.
The purebred puppies, believed to be a few months old, were found walking together on a nature preserve trail in Wilmot last Wednesday and were taken to the Dog Warden Division of the Stark County Sheriff's Office. The four girls and one boy were spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and micro-chipped.
Deputy Jon Barber said it's not clear if the pups were lost or abandoned. As required by Ohio law, the dogs were kept for 72 hours, giving the owners a chance to claim them, but no one stepped forward.
"Obviously, there's a lot of speculation on what could have happened, but we don't know," Barber said. "I've been here a little over six years now and never had this happen. We've had litters of puppies, but usually when they come in, they're mixed breeds."
On Valentine's Day, pictures of the puppies were put on the Stark County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, indicating they were up for adoption on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The post led to a flood of interest from dog lovers.
People started showing up at the dog warden division around 4 p.m. on Monday. Multiple families decided to sleep in their cars overnight in the parking lot to ensure being among the first five to pick a puppy. Deputies monitored surveillance cameras to determine the order that people arrived.
"From 9 p.m. until the morning, there was probably 20, 25 people in the parking lot by the time we got here," Barber said.
All of the dogs were adopted by 10:30 a.m.
Terry and Sonya Freeman, who slept in their truck overnight, were the last people to adopt one of the pups.
The Canton couple immediately fell in love with a female Golden who was named "Passion." After contemplating names, they settled on renaming her "Millie."
It was an emotional experience for the Freeman family because their last Golden Retriever, "Brownie", was hit and killed by a car two years ago.
"When our dog died, we all cried like babies," Terry Freeman said.
The new puppy was also special to Freeman who took her home on his 61st birthday.
"I'm happy. I'm very happy, emotional a little bit. Today is my birthday and this is something that I wanted again," he said.
Once "Millie" made it to her forever home, he snuggled on the floor with the newest four-legged member of the family.
"This is me and my wife's companion, you know what I'm saying? This is our friend, just need a companion in our house," he said.
Sandy Lutz and her son, Josh, also took home one of the puppies. They too lost a Golden Retriever two years ago.
"When I saw them post that they were going to put them up for adoption, it was like I'm there!" Sandy Lutz told News 5.
The Dog Warden Division of the Stark County Sheriff's Office still has plenty of dogs available for adoption, including about 40 currently in the building. The cost for adult dogs is $99 and $150 for puppies.
Those interested should call (330) 451-2343.