Was the moment Picaso raced over to help a girl having an anxiety attack a case of being in the right place at the right time? Or was it straight-up fate?
Last November, a Good Samaritan found the Plott hound mix running down a street in Charleston, West Virginia. He picked up the dog and dropped him off at the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association.
The staff originally named the dog Picasso after the artist. But a typo resulted in his name missing one “s” in the shelter’s computer system — so he became Picaso. He was not wearing a collar, did not have a microchip and no one claimed him.
Picaso spent 19 days in the shelter, waiting for someone to adopt him.
Everyone noticed his kind and well-behaved nature. That’s what earned him a spot walking with other dogs who needed homes in a local holiday parade.
Kim Vigneau, a shelter volunteer, walked Picaso in the event. “When I first met him, he immediately hugged me,” Vigneau told The Dodo. “He loves to give hugs. He was so sweet. My goal that night was to get him adopted.”
As Vigneau and Picaso wove their way past hundreds of parade-goers lining the streets, suddenly he was drawn to just one. “We were walking in the center of the road,” Vigneau said. “A girl was sitting on the curb. She looked like she was upset. Picaso took the initiative and pulled me right over to her. He put his head against hers and was physically supportive with his face. Then the girl smiled. I could tell by her body language he was helping her.”
The girl was 16-year-old Abby Ellis. Ellis battles postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a health condition that impacts her blood flow and can cause her to faint. It also makes her nervous at times. The night of the parade, she had an anxiety attack. Her mother, Melissa Smoot, was trying to help Ellis when Picaso ran over.
“Abby’s head was down on her legs, and she was falling forward,” Smoot told The Dodo. “He managed to get his body underneath her and pushed her back. Then she started to come around. All I could think was Abby would have face-planted into the ground if that dog had not been there.”
Ellis told The Dodo she remembers exactly when Picaso found her. “I felt his nose against mine,” she said. “I started to pet him. I felt safe. My mom asked his name.”
Smoot got the dog’s name, but at that moment, her goal was to get her daughter home. They left while Vigneau and Picaso stepped back into the parade. But Smoot could not get the dog out of her mind. The next day, Ellis went to the shelter, and there was no doubt Picaso remembered her.
Picaso ran right up to her. “He hugged me. I was really excited,” Ellis said.
That instant, Smoot knew Picaso was coming home with them. “Abby had been asking for a dog for over a year now,” Smoot said. “I kept praying, ‘Lord, just send me a sign that Abby is ready for a dog.’ Someone called this a God wink. It sure was. God winked at us and answered our prayers.”
And on his 20th day in the shelter, Picaso got adopted by Ellis and her family.
Vigneau succeeded in helping Picaso get a new home, but clearly, he picked his family. “It was amazing. I also have anxiety and know what it’s like to have an anxiety attack. I think it’s great everyone is talking about the topic,” Vigneau said.
Smoot does not think they met Picaso simply by chance. Ellis doesn’t like crowds. But that night, she insisted on going to the parade.
“It was meant to be,” Smoot said.
Ellis is thrilled she finally has a dog who not only loves her but appears to know exactly when she needs help.
“I’m just really happy he chose me,” she said.