When a lost dog showed up on her boyfriend’s porch in April 2010, Oregon State University student Jordan Biggs didn’t hesitate to help the scared pooch.
“We took him in for the night,” Biggs says of the black, white, and cream-colored mixed breed dog. “The next morning, I started trying to find the owners.”
According to Biggs, she was extremely thorough in trying to find the dog’s owner. For two months, she combed through “lost dog” ads on Craigslist, contacted local animal shelters, and even went door-to-door around the neighborhood, all to no avail.
Meanwhile, the lovable dog forged a connection with Biggs. Unable to find the dog’s owner and unwilling to relinquish him to a shelter, Biggs named him Bear and decided to keep him, bringing Bear with her to OSU in Corvallis, Oregon.
Since last year, Biggs has spent thousands of dollars to get Bear neutered, microchipped, vaccinated, and trained. Biggs, who suffers from asthma, even had Bear certified as a respiratory service dog. Bear carries a rescue inhaler for Biggs and is trained to seek help if she has an attack.
“He helps if I go unconscious or if I have trouble breathing,” Biggs explains. “He goes to school with me.”
But when Biggs took Bear back to Portland to visit with her mother on Mother’s Day, a chance encounter in a drive thru line put Bear’s origins into question.
“I look in my rearview mirror and there’s my dog Chase staring me in the face,” says Portland resident Sam Hanson-Fleming, who claims that Biggs’ service dog is the same dog that he lost more than a year ago.
According to Hanson-Fleming, he got Chase back in 2009, when the dog was just a six-week-old pup. In March 2011, he says, Chase jumped a fence and ran off. Hanson-Fleming says that he spent “almost a year” looking for Chase, posting “lost dog” ads on Craigslist and filing reports with both the Oregon Humane Society and Multnomah County Animal Control.
Hanson-Fleming’s car was in front of Biggs’ in the drive thru line. Upon seeing the dog, he approached Biggs immediately. “I would not mistake my family,” Hanson-Fleming insists, describing Chase as a black, tan, and cream Siberian Husky mix.
But Biggs isn’t giving Bear up without a fight. “I tried to tell him he’s my service dog, that I’ve trained him in agility,” she says. “He didn’t even care.”
Oregon law states that dogs are to be considered personal property. It is currently unclear who can lay claim to the dog at the center of this dispute, Biggs or Hanson-Fleming, or whether the poor pooch will live out his years as Chase, the family pet, or Bear, the loyal service dog.
For now, Hanson-Fleming has filed theft charges with the Portland Police Bureau. “He’s our family member,” he says of the dog. “My youngest son has been asking ever since Mother’s Day, ‘When’s he coming home?”
Biggs can’t even imagine losing Bear, her companion now for more than a year. “He’s my dog now,” she says.