A media event arranged Monday evening by the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had all the makings of a heartwarming dog-reunited-with-family story.
The Bee and television reporters recorded Sara Quinn's tears and hugs as she readied to take the cattle dog, a rare breed from the Azores, to its ranch home family in Friant.
Quinn, 27, of Clovis said the family had been searching for the dog since its owner was killed in a car wreck.
The problem: It wasn't the family's dog. It wasn't even the right gender. The story began unraveling Tuesday morning after Joe Erickson, 61, of Fresno saw the news on TV. He called The Bee to say his family's dog, Rogue, was safe at home and she never had been missing.
He said he had no idea why Quinn told the story.
What was true was that Rogue belonged to his adoptive son, Richard Erickson, 30, who crashed his sports utility vehicle into a tree Jan. 13 and died two days later. Quinn's boyfriend is Richard Erickson's cousin.
Media coverage of the purported dog reunion was shocking and hurtful to the family, Joe Erickson said.
Tuesday night, Quinn said she wasn't trying to trick anyone, that she thought she was doing a good deed by orchestrating a reunion of the dog with its owner's family, but she got it wrong.
So on Tuesday the male Cao de Fila de Sao Miguel was returned to the CCSPCA so either its rightful owner can reclaim it or an adoptive family can be found.
Joe Erickson said, "I felt sorry for the SPCA." The agency was doing what it thought was right, he said. Its job is to "reunite animals with their families."
CCSPCA spokeswoman Beth Caffrey said Tuesday, "we do the best we can to give animals the right opportunity. Unfortunately, we were all misled by this adoption." And the CCSPCA is "grateful to have the dog back in our possession," she said. The dog apparently isn't available for immediate adoption; Caffrey said he is being treated for kennel cough.
The wheels of the story were set in motion Monday, when the CCSPCA sent a news release with Quinn's story: She saw Rogue in a picture as she sat at her unconscious boyfriend's hospital bed and recognized the dog, which she said the Erickson family had given up on finding. And the CCSPCA said Quinn's boyfriend, Richard Erickson's cousin, awoke from a coma to hear that the dog was found and safe.
At Monday's news conference, Caffrey said animal control officers had picked the dog up on Aug. 13 after Fresno State Police spotted him in traffic. The CCSPCA put him up for adoption on Aug. 21. Quinn called on Aug. 23 to claim him.
Sitting outside the CCSPCA Monday, waiting for the dog to be released to her, Quinn said she planned to surprise Richard Erickson's mother by taking the dog to the ranch that evening. She wept and hugged the dog when he was brought out to her. The dog nuzzled her.
Tuesday night, Quinn said she "created a big mess." She said her boyfriend was never in a coma, but is hospitalized. And she said she was sorry for hurting the Erickson family.
She said she hopes the owner of the dog can be found "so something good can come from this."
Two of Quinn's relatives, who spoke on condition they were not identified by name, said she has many dogs at her Clovis home. And, they each said, "She has a big heart."
David Ketcheside, who is taking care of Richard Erickson's ranch, said Quinn brought the dog to the ranch Monday evening.
She had telephoned last week to ask if Rogue was missing but he missed the call, he said. He called her back -- he didn't remember the day -- and told her the dog wasn't missing and had never left the ranch, but "she said, 'I think I jumped the gun here and adopted a dog,' " Ketcheside said.
The dog Quinn brought to the ranch Monday evening bore a striking resemblance to Rogue, except for the different gender, he said. The Erickson family decided the dog should have a chance to be with its owners, and Ketcheside took it back to the CCSPCA on Tuesday.
Staff writer Pablo Lopez contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6310, firstname.lastname@example.org
or @beehealthwriter on Twitter.