Adopted Dog Brings Encouragement and Hope to Adventurous Couple

Otter’s love is the best medicine to help his family heal after trauma.

Linda + Otter

Otter’s unconditional love brings healing to a couple whose adventurous activities had taken pause after a skydiving accident. Together, they’re learning to enjoy their next chapter.

"Otter is perfect for us. He doesn’t always behave perfectly, but he is our best friend. When Ian is in pain, Otter joins him on the couch. When I want an adventure buddy, Otter will enthusiastically hike or go paddle boarding with me. He is always ecstatic to see us, no matter how rough our days are."

Our friends and family would call us the “adventure couple.” We met in 2013 and on our first date, we went skydiving from a Twin Otter plane. It was Ian’s idea; he had just gotten his parachuting license, and I excitedly agreed. As we built a life together, we always discussed wanting a dog but acknowledged that it would have been unfair to our pet; we were constantly busy with our jobs and hobbies. Ian and I got married in 2017 and bought our home a year later. Life was good, and the sky was the limit.

On July 4, 2019, life suddenly changed when Ian suffered a catastrophic skydiving accident. He had jumped over 600 times before, but that day he impacted the ground at over 60 miles per hour. I was vacationing with my family and received a 5 a.m. call that Ian was hospitalized, comatose, and wasn’t expected to make it through the day. The impact caused massive organ damage and countless shattered bones. Because of the summer travel season, it took me three days to get home from Alaska. The doctors couldn’t believe it, but Ian held on. He spent nine long months in Morristown hospital in New Jersey. Besides the incredible medical team, the best thing about the hospital was their volunteer therapy dog program. Even when in excruciating pain, the friendly, judgement-free dogs would bring a smile to Ian’s face. We learned many of the dogs were adopted from St. Hubert’s, a same-day rescue shelter just minutes from the hospital.

Ian was far from recovered, but was finally able to return home on March 11, 2020, mere days before the coronavirus shut down New Jersey. After being stuck in a hospital room for almost a year, now we couldn’t leave the house. We decided our life would finally allow enough time to properly care for a dog, and a few days later we finally went to St. Hubert’s. We filled out the application, saying we wanted an all-around great dog. The volunteer, Jason, said there was one dog that would be perfect for us. He took us through the kennels to a young Lab/Hound mix who quietly wagged his tail at us. We went outside for a meet up and instantly he jumped up on Ian’s wheelchair and licked his face. Within minutes, Ian turned to me and said, “This guy is coming home with us.”

We named our dog Otter after the jump plane. Jason was right: Otter is perfect for us. He doesn’t always behave perfectly, but he is our best friend. When Ian is in pain, Otter joins him on the couch. When I want an adventure buddy, Otter will enthusiastically hike or go paddle boarding with me. Otter also convinces Ian to spend more time outside to play fetch. He is always ecstatic to see us, no matter how rough our days are. It is impossible not to grieve our lost time and capabilities, but Otter never fails to cheer us up. Life after trauma is full of uncertainties but adopting Otter has inspired us to happily move forward with our next chapter.

Each year, the Petco Foundation Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Linda won St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.