Joe looked out the airplane window Thursday morning. He seemed puzzled by the crowd of onlookers who waved, snapped photos and wiped away tears.
The American bulldog-pit bull mix departed from Fort Worth Alliance Airport for a cross-country trip to a new home in Oregon. His unlikely journey began last month when he was rescued by a Grapevine woman.
Mary Kauth found the black-and-white dog lying bruised and malnourished at a Houston gas station. He had scars on his legs and face and blood on his muzzle.
She coaxed him to stand and led him to the car. “I just didn’t want him to die on the street,” she said.
He was smelly, dirty and bleeding. For hours, he lay on her lap as they drove to Dallas. She didn’t expect him to make it, but he did.
Kauth named the dog after Joe Bailey, a 70-year-old retiree whose funeral she had attended just blocks from the gas station. Joe the dog reminded her of Bailey, who was a large, gentle man.
Kauth, a 46-year-old mechanical engineer, met Bailey nine years ago at a Colleyville coffee shop. Each day, Bailey arrived at the Starbucks at 5 a.m. He helped employees take down chairs and move tables before he took his usual seat. He stayed for hours, greeting customers and making conversation. He earned the nickname “The Chairman.”
“If you sat with him, you didn’t just sit with him, you sat with other people,” Kauth said. “And they would all share their life story.” A thousand visits
Bailey talked about growing up in Galveston, traveling the world and working as a baggage handler for Delta Airlines. He spoke of his daughter and his German shepherds. Sometimes, in his baritone voice, he’d sing an old church hymn.
“We talked about the tough times in our lives and the good times in our lives,” Kauth said. “When I got divorced, I didn’t tell anyone, but every day I went in and I would just sit there with Joe and we would talk about nothing. It would clear my mind and let me get on with the day.”
Kauth estimates they shared “probably a thousand visits, a thousand cups of coffee.”
Three years ago, Bailey grew ill and moved to Houston to live with his daughter. The circle of regulars threw him a farewell party.
Bailey died in January. Four of his coffee shop friends, including Kauth, drove to his funeral.
Kauth said that Joe was a gift from Bailey. “It was his final gift to all of us, saving this dog,” she said.
A veterinarian told Kauth that the injuries on Joe’s legs indicate he had been strung up with wire, likely used as a bait dog for dog fights. The sores on his muzzle and abcesses on his face may have come from dogs that attacked him.
But the abuse did not scar Joe’s spirit. He quickly adjusted to Kauth’s home, where he lay on her feet and sunbathed in the yard. He took antibiotics and ate six cups of dog food a day. He gained about 10 pounds to tip the scale at 72 pounds — and the vet said he’ll get even bigger. He’s estimated to be 3 to 5 years old.
Kauth took Joe to the coffee shop, where he met her friends. He sat on the patio and ate a cup of whipped cream. Strangers petted him and kids tugged at his fur.
She said Joe taught her about resilience: “He has happy eyes now.”
With three other rescue dogs and two rescue cats, Kauth could not provide a permanent home for Joe. The veterinarian warned that if Kauth called animal services, Joe probably wouldn’t be offered for adoption. They’d probably put him down.
“I had to make a good effort to find him a home,” she said. “I felt like I owed that to him.”
Joe’s rescue effort brought the coffee shop regulars together. They donated money for his vet bills and dropped off dog food at Kauth’s house. Starbucks manager Vicki Thompson started a website that helped raise about $2,000 for his care.
To the rescue
A former commercial pilot saw a post about Joe on Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit with an online bulletin board for dogs who need flights. Dave Whitney, 56, of Golden, Colo., began volunteering about seven years ago and has flown more than 100 dogs. “They just lay in the back seat and go to sleep,” he said. “They’re perfect passengers.”
Whitney flew Joe to Denver on Thursday and will drive him to his adoptive family in Portland. Amy Parent, a former preschool teacher, saw Joe’s
Facebook page and said she fell in love with the rescued dog. She lost her big dog, a German shepherd/red heeler mix, Tressa, in November.
“I have a doggie bed beside my bed and it’s been empty for months,” Parent said. “I couldn’t get rid of it. It was just a hole in my life that needed to be filled.”
His new family has a miniature pinscher named Teddy. They live in suburban Portland but have a cabin on Mount Hood and a ranch in the country where Joe can roam.
Before he left Texas, he accepted belly rubs in the airport terminal. He wagged his tail and licked the pilot’s ear.
Kauth and a group of friends walked Joe to the plane. She threw her arms around him, tears falling into his fur. “You’ll be with us forever. You know that, right?” she whispered.
She tucked him into the six-seater plane with blankets and squeaky toys, dog treats and medicine. She squinted into the sun and let out a sob as the plane pulled away. She waved as it took flight.
“Here he comes. Here he comes,” Kauth said. “Goodbye, Joe.”