‘She was told to come and get the dog,’ says stepfather, who had pup dropped off at his Ramara home. ‘She knew I couldn’t look after the dog’
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The story of a dog supposedly rehomed has taken on a strange twist of the tail.
The relative, who was looking after Cola while his owner was on vacation, now says the dog ran away and that he had earlier let dog owner Cherylin Haus know on numerous occasions that he couldn’t look after the dog due to his poor health.
Mark Ritchie, Haus’s stepfather who lives in Ramara Township just outside of Orillia, says he phoned the Barrie woman on Dec. 23 to tell her he couldn’t look after the dog since the canine was defecating and urinating throughout the house.
“She was told to come and get the dog,” Ritchie says. “She knew I couldn’t look after the dog. She needs to be responsible for what she’s done. I would have looked after the dog if I could have.”
Ritchie, who already has a dog “and I look after my dog,” says he’s recovering from flesh-eating disease and didn’t have the strength required to look after a dog of Cola’s stature.
“I’m not a well person, I’m sick. I told her, ‘Cherylin, I can’t look after the dog,’” Ritchie says, adding Haus told him to “throw the f—ing dog in the bush for all I care. She told me she didn’t care about the dog.”
Haus says that’s simply not true and that she and her two sons greatly love Cola and just want to get him home.
“I take very good care of my animal,” says Haus, who has been inundated with messages from people who think they might have seen Cola; she has contacted organizations that deal with rescued pets for help.
“I’m just holding out hope.”
Haus says she thought she was leaving Cola in a safe place when she left for Cuba late on the evening of Dec. 25, returning a week later.
According to Haus, she dropped Cola off with Ritchie on the 22nd with an arrangement to pick up the Lab/Boxer/retriever cross on Jan. 4. But when she called to pick up Cola, she says she was told the pup had been rehomed with a family of four who have a hobby farm in Vasey.
“He’s claiming that I had no intention of picking up my dog,” says Haus, adding her two children, who didn’t go on the trip, are very upset that their best friend is no longer there.
“He took it upon himself to completely rehome Cola. He told me an apartment is no place for a dog. But he gets lots of exercise.”
But Ritchie says from that moment forward after they spoke on the morning of the 23rd, Haus ignored his repeated calls and texts to come and get her dog before departing on her holiday to Cuba.
“She was here for three days before she went on that trip,” Ritchie says. “All she was worried about was going on vacation. She didn’t give two shits about the dog until she got back.”
But that’s simply not true, according to Haus.
“That is completely incorrect,” she says. “There are absolutely no text messages and I can prove that.”
She says she followed up later that evening and was told everything was OK.
“I told him to please call me if there are any concerns,” Haus says, noting she didn’t receive any messages on Christmas Eve or Day so figured everything was copacetic as her family celebrated Christmas before her flight south.
Haus, who points out she’s a single mother and full-time student, says she’s had Cola since he was a puppy and had him neutered just three weeks ago.
“He still has a fresh scar,” she says, noting that during her trip she was very anxious about not just how her kids were doing, but that Cola was OK.
But while Haus says she was originally told the dog had been rehomed to a farm in Vasey, Ritchie says: “I told her I had given the dog away so she wouldn’t be upset,” Ritchie says.
Ritchie says because of his continued poor health, which he notes includes regular home visits by a nurse, he wasn’t able to retrieve Cola after he escaped outside to the unfenced, 180-acre plot of land that’s adjacent to a quarry and is home to coyotes, skunks and porcupines.
“I don’t know what happened to him,” Ritchie says. “I couldn’t find him anywhere.”
Had Cola not escaped or if he’d been able to find him, Ritchie says he planned to bring Cola to the local OSPCA shelter since he didn’t believe Haus actually cared about the pup.
But Haus says she now doubts the “escape” story since she’s been in contact with numerous people who live in the area.
“They drive that same street every day,” Haus says, noting her boyfriend hiked around the area over the weekend and couldn’t find a trace that Cola had been there. “There have been no sightings. A lot of people are speculating that he did not run away.”
Haus eventually contacted Orillia OPP to investigate the matter.
A police spokesman says he wasn’t in a position to comment on the matter by press time.
Ritchie, meanwhile, says police talked to him about the matter, but had no plans to pursue any charges.
Haus says she’s supposed to meet with a police officer Monday evening to collect Cola’s crate from Ritchie’s home.
“I don’t know what happened to him,” Ritchie says. “I didn’t give it away, it took off.”
Ritchie says that he’s being pilloried on social media and notes that “if this shit doesn’t stop,” he may consider pursuing legal action of his own.
“I’m innocent of everything and now I’m the bad guy,” he says. “I didn’t steal anything. I felt bad for that dog.
“She abandoned the dog. She needs to be responsible for what she’s done.”