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After two years, a dog reunites with Chester officer
Published:   Saturday, May 16, 2009
By Cassandra Shofar
CShofar@News-Herald.com

It was meant to be.

At least, that's what Rich Foster believed when he found his dog, Vegas, exactly two years after rescuing him from an abandoned house.

It was love at first sight for this Chester Township police officer, who helped remove 14 sick and malnourished dogs from a house on Mulberry Road on April 10, 2007.

"We went to the garage and had to wear masks because of the smell," Foster recalled. "A (humane society agent) handed me a leash and Vegas came out on the other end."

The 36-pound brindle mix identified as a pit bull was extremely emaciated, Foster said, as he gave the now 91-pound Vegas a few pats on the stomach.

"He was a head on a stick," he said. "I don't know what it was, but he seemed like a great dog. I wanted to take him right then and there."

However, Geauga Humane Society's Rescue Village had to take all the dogs in to be evaluated and treated.

"While he was at Rescue Village, I'd go visit him once a week," Foster said. "I was going to adopt him but circumstances (at home) ended up preventing it from happening."

The dream of Vegas was tucked away then and Foster did whatever he could to put the dog out of his mind.

Two years passed by and Foster's living situation changed. However, he figured at this point, Vegas was either adopted or at a faraway shelter.

Little did he know, all the rescued dogs went to a Cleveland-based organization called For the Love of Pits, and Vegas was taken into foster care by Shana Klein, president of the organization.

Because of Vegas' calm, gentle nature, Klein used him as her education dog at a few schools while he was in her care.

"He went to a couple schools with me ... to teach kids how to interact safely with dogs," said Klein, who came over to Rich's house to see Vegas for the first time since his adoption.

"He's definitely an ambassador of dogs. He really proves that you need to get to know a dog before judging it by the way it looks," she said while sitting on Rich's floor, giving Vegas a big belly rub.

"I used to call him my gentle giant."

Obtaining this gentle giant wasn't an easy task, however. Foster tried to track him down through Rescue Village, but had no luck and finally accepted defeat.

His mother, who works at a local veterinary clinic, found another pit bull for Foster to adopt and on the eve of the adoption, Foster decided to search "pit bull pictures" on the Internet to get a better idea of what she'd look like.

"Shana's Web site popped up ... and guess who's picture came up?" he said, grinning at Vegas, who maintained his lackadaisical look as he awaited more belly rubs.

An excited Foster called Klein that night, but remaining true to policy, she wanted him to still fill out an application.  Exasperated, Foster filled it out and sent a couple e-mails in the few days that followed, finally getting a call back to set up a meeting with Klein and the dog.

"He leaned right into him and was very affectionate with him," Klein said. "There was definitely an immediate connection. He's a true love."

So, April 10, 2009, exactly two years later, Vegas was Foster's.

"He's my buddy. He's a big bed hog, too. I have to wake up in the middle of the night and push him over," Foster said with a chuckle, patting Vegas' box-shaped head while he closed his eyes in contentment. "But I love this dog. He's great."