Downeast Dog News

Making a Difference One Pup at a Time

By Susan Spisak | May 01, 2019
Columbo preparing to write a Facebook post.

Columbo, a Great Dane mix, has become the face of helping dogs in need with the backing of his many friends and number one fan, mom Andrea Shaw. This mission started in Columbus, Georgia on July 10, 2018. “The day that shall live in infamy for me, for sure,” Andrea said.

Andrea was in the southern town for work--she’s a corporate lawyer and at the time was part of a legal team for a bank (she’s now a Shareholder at Portland’s Bernstein Shur). She and a colleague were exploring the sights after dinner. She stopped in front of a bike shop and was “drooling” over a gorgeous German Shepherd. “I joked I’d take that dog home.” Oh, she’d take home a southern dog all right, just not that one.

Out of the blue, an approximately 5-month-old pup ran to Andrea. She looked around for his owner and realized he was with a group of cyclists heading towards the shop.

Biker Chris Dixon explained to her that she and Jarrett Little came across the injured but friendly dog--they guessed he’d been hit by a car. They weren’t going to leave him behind so Jarrett--who also rescues dogs--shouldered him and biked the seven miles into town. (Chris showed Andrea a pic of the dog on her pal’s back--the picture and story went viral.)

That fortuitous meeting had Andrea dialing her husband, Joel Shaw. “It’s me. I’ve got bad news. I’m in Georgia, and this very broken little dog came running into my arms and bled on my shirt. And it’s Georgia, he’s certainly going to die if I take him anywhere but an ER hospital and pay for him.”

‘Is your hotel dog-friendly?’ he asked. “It is now. And I’m going to the vets.” Joel agreed. Rescuing him then and there, she put the pup in her rental Mustang and off they went. She arranged for his orthopedic surgery in Georgia--he had a broken toe and fractures in his femur, required countless stitches, and needed TLC. She named him Columbo aka Bo after the town where their bond began.

She checked out Grateful Doggies, a canine freedom transport and was pleased with their professionalism. (She was prepared to cancel her flight and drive him if necessary.) She booked him on a Georgia to Maine run to his new home, the Shaw’s five-acre farm outside Portland, complete with a pony, a horse,and two rescued Black and Tan Coonhounds. (“I rescued them like a normal person as opposed to sitting on a sidewalk and stealing a dog,” she quipped.) And the “crazy, naughty” Columbo is especially taken with the couple’s young son, Christopher.

While his rescue story is a touching, it’s only the beginning.

Friends of Midcoast Humane

Once in Maine, Columbo saw a veterinarian and began shock wave treatments and physical therapy to promote healing. The vet also discovered broken and abscessed teeth that had to be dealt with. But the biggest challenge Andrea faced was keeping him quiet and mentally stimulated during his 10-week recovery.

He was treated to countless chew toys. She bought a soft crate with a zip top opening so he could go for car rides or sit outdoors watching over the farmland, “I called it his convertible.” She took him for walks (making use of Christopher’s old stroller). And Bo discovered the joys of boating and swimming with his family on Sebago Lake.

Many people familiar with his story offered to set up a GoFundMe page to offset Columbo’s medical bills. The Shaws weren’t comfortable with that--she said they would gladly cover his costs. Instead, Andrea came up with a plan, so they could make a difference in shelter dogs’ lives.

“I approached Midcoast [Humane, a 501(c) 3 shelter in Brunswick] about creating a fund that we could tell people to donate to, for dogs with non-routine vet needs.” They were open to it, and the Columbo Fund for emergency, urgent, and specialty veterinary care was created. Midcoast Humane hosts the Columbo Fund and donations go directly to them.

Nicole Evans, Director of Development for Midcoast Humane, said they’re incredibly grateful. She added that it’s been a remarkable resource for them--for example, in a 3-week period in March, two critically ill dogs’ lives were saved because of monies available in the fund.

As Columbo’s remarkable rescue story continued to go viral, people flocked to his social media sites--Andrea created an “Adventures of Columbo” website, Instagram account and Facebook page. (He’s a social media star with 20k+ Facebook followers.) Using her natural wit and creativity, she writes as the lovable and goofy Bo, highlighting his fun personality and sweet nature that the Shaws know so well.

The posts are heartfelt as he encourages his beeps (Bo’s peeps) to adopt not shop and to donate to the Columbo Fund to help needy canines. His beeps are drawn to him, awed by his journey and share his mission of making a difference in shelter dogs’ lives.

Andrea said his following was born by chance. “Truthfully, I started the Facebook page because people in the South, vet techs, rescuers, Jarrett, all wanted updates on the dog.”

To bolster monies for the fund, she has an online Columbo Store stocked with Bo merchandise. Columbo “hosted” a Pampered Chef online party with 15 percent of the total sales going to the fund. His Facebook page has an Amazon Wish List for those who prefer to purchase needed items for Midcoast Humane and their shelter partners. “I would do as much as I could to save as many dogs as I could,” said Andrea.

His fans have stepped up beyond the Columbo Fund. In February, Nicole relayed to Andrea that their Sprinter van used for out-of-state transports broke down in Maryland. Midcoast staffers were there to meet and pick up rescued dogs from a Georgia partner, Castoff Pet Rescue. (Castoff allowed them use of their van to transport the dogs to Maine safely.) The repairs would be $7k. When Andrea heard this--especially that it was a Georgia freedom run--she took to Facebook as Bo and asked fans to donate for the repairs.

Within 5 days Columbo’s beeps donated $6k. “They’re very dedicated, very engaged, and they love them some Columbo,” laughed Andrea. “What was cool was that Midcoast was able to raise the $1k before their next trip down South, and not miss a run.” That run brought up 77 pups and young dogs and all have been adopted.

Bo’s beeps also aided Jarrett Little, Columbo’s original rescuer. Jarrett was aware of a momma and puppies that had been abandoned in his area. Could they help him? Andrea posted a Facebook plea, and within hours, the beeps raised $722 to cover necessary vetting. (Some folks ordered and direct-shipped food, collars, leashes, and blankets as well.) Jarrett found new homes for all dogs.

Andrea has more fund ideas on the horizon, including a Columbo team that will participate in Midcoast’s Save a Stray 5K Run, 1K Walk & Festival at L.L. Bean in Freeport on August 24. (Downeast Dog News is sponsoring the event--here’s the link to sign up as an individual, team, join Columbo’s team, or race virtually.

He’s had an impact on so many dogs and people…with her leadership. “It’s about 84 dogs that he’s had a paw in helping,” said Andrea--and that number will continue to grow. “I really had no idea it would blow up and turn into what it did. It’s been my pleasure and not anything I’ve ever imagined in my life.”

Nicole agreed. “Columbo and Andrea have inspired folks to donate more than $12,000 to the Columbo Fund…This total does not include the monies raised for the rescue van. Needless to say, we are beyond thrilled for the support.”

Her final sentiment sums it up,“Andrea is an amazing example of how a person and community can make something happen. We need more Andrea’s. We need more Columbos.”

Read his full story at Click on the Facebook and Instagram icon to follow his adventures.