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A tail of coincidental friendship

Spunky pooch connects two families nearly 1,000 miles apart
by: Jim Clark, Pirelli and Carson Schnackenberg head out on a walk in Corbett. Pirelli wandered away from his family while they were visiting Southeast Portland from Las Vegas. He ended up in Corbett and was taken in by Carson. The family found a chip imbedded in the dog and used the information to locate the dog's family, who allowed him to remain in Corbett.

There's a case brewing for a dog whisperer in Corbett these days.

'The house across the street is vacant, and we've noticed Pirelli is wearing a path all around the outside,' said Lorinda Schnackenberg, referring to the golden haired four-legged critter, who has adopted her son, Carson.

'Is he looking for his other family? Do dogs remember where the front door is on a house they lived in? It's a mystery why he goes there.'

Pirelli, a free-spirited 3-year-old dog of questionable breed, recently wandered into the Schnackenbergs' 5-acre property in Corbett. How he arrived in the area is indeed a mystery. But through a remarkable coincidence, Pirelli has connected two families, both during difficult times, and still managed to remain true to himself. It's almost as if Pirelli not only knew where he was needed, but where he longed to be.

Lorinda, a labor and delivery nurse at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center, was still coming to terms with her father's lung cancer diagnosis in late March. She returned home one afternoon after visiting her father in his Gresham home to find Carson outside with the family's 10-year-old German Shepherd, Blaze. And Blaze had a buddy.

'I was outside picking up sticks,' Carson said. 'Blaze ran across the street, and when he came back, Pirelli was with him. He was barking at us and wouldn't let us touch him, but he didn't run away when I got close to him.'

Though shy and skittish at first, Pirelli quickly grew to trust 17-year-old Carson. The teenager hiked around the rural road near the family's home, asking neighbors if anybody was missing a dog. When no one claimed the pooch, Lorinda called the Oregon Humane Society to see if someone had reported a lost dog. When that turned into a dead end, she called the vet to see if they could check Pirelli for a microchip.

'They ran the wand over him and it beeped,' Carson recalled. 'I was hoping that meant there was nothing there, but he had a chip.'

Microchip leads to owners

Lorinda buried her father on April 24. Later that afternoon, she received a phone call from the Home Again Pet Recovery Service.

'I gave them the chip number the vet had found, and the woman told me, 'Oh! You've found Rusty,'' Lorinda said. 'Then she connected me with the owner who lives in Las Vegas. It was like 2 in the afternoon. This woman answered the phone, sobbing. She said, 'You have our Rusty,' and we were able to share our stories of this little dog over the telephone.'

Pirelli/Rusty had traveled to Oregon by car. His family had made the trek to visit their elderly father and grandfather who also has lung cancer. The owners were afraid to leave Pirelli/Rusty home during their absence, since he suffers from an unquenchable wanderlust and frequently jumped the fence at their home in Las Vegas.

The woman told Lorinda that Pirelli/Rusty often laid by her father's bed in his home on Southeast 82nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard in Portland. One afternoon, they let the dog outside in the backyard but later found him missing.

'The family has four young children under the age of 10,' Lorinda said, 'so Pirelli was part of their family. When they had to go back to Vegas, they had to leave without their family member. They were devastated.'

Lorinda learned that Pirelli/Rusty was a runner. She told the owner that he had free reign on their unfenced wooded acreage in Corbett, which is bounded by protected Bureau of Land Management land.

'She tearfully asked if he could stay with us,' Lorinda said. 'I told her they could come and visit him at his new home and since then, we've exchanged email photos of Pirelli with their family and ours.'

Pirelli, whom Carson named after the motorcycle tire manufacturer, is still a runner. He frequently wanders off to explore the hills in Corbett, but is gradually learning the wildlife in Oregon is different than in the deserts of Nevada.

'We heard him barking and barking one night and found him in the woods by a tree,' Carson said. 'He had treed something, and in the dark we could see three sets of eyes looking at us, so we had to pick up him and get him out of there. He isn't scared of much, but I don't think he knows about coyotes yet.'

Carson likens Pirelli's running ability to that of a deer. But speed and instinct probably didn't get him from Southeast Portland to Corbett on his own four legs. Most likely, Pirelli had help from a human, who the family believes probably dropped him off nearby.

Still, his appearance has been a welcome distraction to one family and provided peace of mind to another nearly 1,000 miles away.

'He definitely brought me comfort during a tough time,' Lorinda said, 'but he also brought together two families linked by fathers with lung cancer. I think this amazing dog just found his own home and knew where he was needed.'