Home for the Holidays

This PV pooch gives new meaning to the phrase "traveling companion"

JoJo Shedd will celebrate her first Thanksgiving on Thursday, and her adoptive mom couldn't be happier.

"She's really had an amazing life so far," says Louise Sumner, a Paradise Valley woman who adopted JoJo last spring. "She's been here, there and everywhere, and we're thrilled she's finally back home."

By "we," Sumner means her husband (Steve Shedd), her two sons (10-year-old Zachary and 13-year-old Jesse), her three cats and three dogs.

Louise Sumner with JoJo
Jackie Mercandetti
Louise Sumner with JoJo

Sumner retrieved JoJo at Sky Harbor International Airport two weeks ago, after a series of events that took the 8-month-old black cockapoo from the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control Center on a road trip to Juneau, Alaska. Actually, for a two-week period that ended happily November 9, the Shedds didn't know if JoJo was dead or alive.

"Her story is something that you couldn't make up if you tried," says Sumner. "It has good guys, bad guys, and people who just didn't know any better. She's my little star."

JoJo's tale began on the streets of Guadalajara, Mexico. Her opportunities for a long, healthy life seemed slim and none until she caught a monumental break in April.

Louise Sumner had volunteered to find a "small, fluffy puppy" to put up for bidding at a charity fund raiser. She says she found a newspaper advertisement for a cockapoo, and bought the dog (not JoJo). But that pup took ill on the evening of the auction, and later died of parvovirus.

Sumner quickly called around, and heard about a guy who had rescued a litter of abandoned poodle-mix puppies in Guadalajara and brought them to the States. Sumner ended up with JoJo (she was dubbed "Scruffy" at first for obvious reasons), and took her to the auction, injured tail, two sets of upper canines, and all.

But no one bid on the pup. Sumner even tried to convince her own mother to take JoJo. Plan B: add the puppy to her own menagerie.

"It's absurd," Sumner says. "I have cats, dogs, a hamster living in the attic, kids and a husband. What the heck did I need this dog for? But she was a real character."

In October, Sumner and her husband boarded JoJo at the Squaw Peak Animal Hospital, at 32nd Street and Lincoln Drive, while they went on a weeklong trip to Mexico.

The Shedds went to Mexico on October 17. The next morning, a Saturday, a Squaw Peak employee took JoJo out for a walk. Somehow, the dog slipped her leash and took off running on North 32nd Street toward Lincoln Drive.

She disappeared and, despite the vet's efforts to find her -- including running an ad and checking local animal shelters -- the dog was still gone when the Shedds returned from Mexico on October 25.

Early the next morning, Sumner drove to the trailhead parking lot with a photo of JoJo and showed it around. Again, the good fortune that seems to embrace JoJo took hold.

A man named Dave Reimold said he'd found JoJo wandering on busy Lincoln Drive the previous Saturday afternoon. Reimold told Sumner that he'd taken the unidentifiable dog home with him for a few hours, then took her to the county pound on South 35th Avenue.

"What a moment!" says Sumner, who tends to get worked up as she recollects the events. "I knew at that instant that JoJo was still alive."

Later that day, Sumner went to the pound, where she asked a clerk to look up Reimold's records in an effort to find out where JoJo was.

But, Sumner says, the clerk told her she couldn't reveal what had happened to JoJo. She could only tell her the dog wasn't there. More information, the clerk said, would require a public records request.

A scene ensued. "I was not thrilled at how rude and unhelpful they were, to put it mildly," Sumner recalls.

She says she drove to the home of a neighbor who is an attorney and sought advice. The neighbor, Cynthia Buness, phoned the pound and threatened to sue if she didn't get answers.

The next day, Buness wrote in a letter to the facility's director, Al Aguinaga, that she'd learned from someone there that the dog had been "dispositioned."

Later that day, another pound employee called back to inform the barrister that JoJo had been adopted.

Meanwhile, an unnamed "public record custodian" at the pound had rejected Sumner's request to access records about her wayward pup. "The names of person who claim, adopt or turn in animals to or from Maricopa County Animal Care and Control are not released. The disposition of said animals is not released."

On October 27, JoJo's vet reminded director Aguinaga in writing that no dog fitting JoJo's description had been posted on the "lost dog" part of the pets911 Web site -- a site to which the pound refers desperate pet owners in a telephone recording.

"Although the dog was brought to your facility on the 18th," Dr. Michael Ferrera wrote, "the dog's profile was never put onto the found' portion of that Web site. We request that the adopting family be contacted and informed of the fact that the dog's owner has been located, so that it may be returned as soon as possible."

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