Technology, air travel, heartbreak and friendship brought happy endings Thursday at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society.
OK, so maybe three out of four events happen every day in a place where pets are adopted and humans find new love.
But in the case of 41-year-old Matthew Graham and a husky mix named (for now) Dmitri, you have to add the fourth element – a 3,021-mile plane trip from Juneau, Alaska, to Santa Fe, priced at around $2,500 – to make it a true story.
Yeah. The power of the dog.
Grieving over the recent death of his dog, Kilo, after spending 12 great years together and determined to find a husky capable of filling really big paws, Graham and his family members scoured the internet for a worthy successor. Searches of shelter websites on the West Coast and as far away as New York turned up nothing, but Graham’s mother spotted Dmitri, who is about 1 year old, on the shelter’s website.
If it wasn’t love at first sight, it was at least the plot at first click.
A few clicks later – to book plane tickets – Graham walked into the shelter to take a look at a gorgeous gray husky mix – one of approximately 225 dogs housed at the shelter.
“I didn’t expect all the hype,” said Graham, who works as an air traffic controller in the Alaskan capital, as television and newspaper photographers documented the scene. “I was just trying to do my thing.”
Dmitri, like his kind of shy new owner, also seemed a bit bewildered by the prospect of reporters reporting on the meeting. But the more time he spent with Graham, the more obvious it became that this was a real match – not a fluke on a doggie version of match.com.
Dmitri’s background, like that of so many dogs in shelters, is a mystery. Santa Fe shelter spokesman Murad Kinder said the dog was a stray brought in by city animal control officers in early February — no microchip, no collar, no tag. Exactly why he was unadopted for so long seemed a mystery to Graham and his father, Bruce Stamile, who traveled to New Mexico from his home in Prescott, Arizona, to attend the reunion. .
“This place is awesome,” Stamile said, surveying the surroundings of the shelter.
For Graham and Dmitri, no time to check around. Each quietly and patiently questioned the other, the process accelerated by trust treats. And when the shelter’s adoption manager, Cynthia Chavarria, entered the large enclosure to see how things were going, the dog seemed to warm up to Graham even more.
“I hope you come through my dog’s door,” Graham told Dmitri. “You may have to crawl through it.”
Graham brought the kennel used by his former dog to help him on the flight home, but it was lost on the trip here. He planned to borrow or buy one from the Santa Fe shelter for the flight back to Juneau. And although it wasn’t an easy trip – 2.5 hours from Albuquerque to Seattle, 2.5 hours from Seattle to Alaska – he was confident that everything would be fine.
“He’ll be fine,” Graham said.
Thus, the connection was established: a man finds a dog online; air travel is taking over much of North America; grief over the death of a good friend eases a little; the possibilities of a new friendship flourish.
In short, a very good day. The only thing left was to determine if Dmitri would stay, well, Dmitri. Graham hadn’t committed to a new name Thursday, but he had an idea: Wilco.