Welcome to my first official pet column, which is going to begin with an ending.
It's a happy ending. There's no sense beating around the bush, so I'm just going to blurt it out -- Hairless Harry has a home!
If you don't know who Hairless Harry is, I'm deeply disappointed in you.
By way of background, I shared Harry's heart-tugging tale in a column last week, a story that went viral shortly after it hit our website.
He's a nearly hairless two-year-old dog who went from freezing and starving in a barn in Ohio to sitting on death row in a U.S. animal shelter, before finally being transported to Winnipeg via the "Underhound Railroad," a network of volunteers who donate their time and cash to drive and fly dogs and cats to safety.
With almost no hair other than a goofy Mohawk on his head and tufts around his ankles, skin covered in sores and a rash, and suffering from a severe case of separation anxiety, Harry was not the most likely candidate for adoption.
Four attempted adoptions failed here, largely because Harry has panic attacks when left alone. His Winnipeg "foster mother" was determined to keep him, but her cancer returned and left her fighting for her life.
The woman who brought him to Winnipeg -- Sally Hull of Hull's Haven Border Collie rescue, a non-profit Manitoba group that finds homes for all breeds, but has a special focus on border collies -- told me it would take a miracle to find a home for a dog no one seemed to want.
Well, last week, Harry -- given his name by Hull because "hairy was the one thing he wasn't" -- got his miracle.
The hard-luck cross between a border collie and a Xolo, also known as a Mexican hairless, found a home and a job last week with the staff at the Taylor Avenue outlet of The Pawsh Dog, an upscale doggie salon, daycare, luxury boarding facility and training studio for pampered pooches.
It would be an understatement to say Harry is in heaven.
Laurel Skuba, owner of The Pawsh Dog's two city stores, said it didn't take long for Harry to make himself at home.
"He's doing fabulous!" Skuba gushed last week when I visited Harry's new headquarters. "The first night he came he was quite nervous, but now he's pulling toys off the shelf and helping himself to cookies.
"He knows he gets cookies when he comes and lies down on his bed. So now he jumps on his bed to get a cookie, then jumps off and then jumps right back on."
When Harry met Sally, he was saved. When he met Skuba, it was love at first sight.
"He loves me," Skuba laughs, "He instantly decided that I'm mommy. He follows me around all day, everywhere. He's pretty much been chill. He loves the other dogs and people once he gets to know them. He's a little cautious of men at first."
Which I can vouch for. When we met, Harry barked to indicate that he had his doubts about newspaper columnists, but those concerns vanished when I fed him a handful of treats.
At the dog salon, Harry has found more than a home; he's found a job. He's now the Pawsh Pooch at The Pawsh Dog, the canine version of a Walmart greeter.
"He's going to be our greeter," Skuba says as Harry drapes himself over her legs and begins snoring contentedly as she strokes his all-but hairless skin. "He'll greet you at the door and put other dogs at ease.
"He's our mascot and we want people to get to know him. He's got a Twitter account and a Facebook page that he'll use to keep everybody up to date on when he's going to be at dog events in the city."
Skuba says she's already been overwhelmed by the number of people dropping by just to say hello to Harry and thank her for giving the well-travelled hound a home.
The affectionate pooch's duties also include helping staff practise new training techniques, demonstrate skills for other dogs, test new products, and be a guinea pig for the store's new doggie massage and hydrotherapy (swimming pool) services.
Skuba learned about Harry's plight when a friend in the animal rescue community sent her a link to the column detailing the dog's cross-border odyssey. "We read it and we were both crying," she sniffs.
He already knows how to sit, fetch and shake a paw, but Harry still has issues that make him high-maintenance. "He panics when he's away from people," Skuba says. "He's never alone here. There's always dogs and people around. He doesn't have to go in a kennel if he doesn't want to."
Harry's trademark mohawk rubbed off in a kennel while he was in foster care.
When he's not working, Harry will be at Skuba's home, or having the odd "sleepover" with the store's overnight crew. "I would say this is one of the luckiest dogs going," the dog salon owner declares.
Hull, whose rescue group has placed more than 1,000 dogs since opening in 2006, was deeply emotional about finding a home for a dog some feared was a hopeless case.
"It's really hard for me not to cry now," Hull gushes over the phone from her home in Meleb. "But these are tears of joy for Harry. He couldn't have landed in a better place. We can finally stop worrying about this poor guy. I wish we could put all our dogs in such spectacular homes."
Hull's Haven, which has a network of about 40 foster homes in Winnipeg, saved Harry after a friend in the animal rescue community in Ohio emailed photos of him on death row in the U.S. shelter.
Hull says the happy ending came about because Harry's amazing journey appeared in this paper. She has at least 50 other dogs in need of homes. And there are many other rescue groups out there.
"They are all deserving of good homes," she says softly. "Rescue dogs know they have been rescued. They are the most loving, affectionate animals. I don't know how they know, but they know."