Capistrano Beach residents Karen Morris and her husband, Matt, were enjoying a night at home one evening in early August, when Karen received a phone call from a concerned neighbor.
The neighbor had called about two dogs that appeared to be resting between two Beach Road properties in the Capistrano Bay District.
“They weren’t going anywhere, they looked very frightened,” Karen Morris said. “It happened to be dark and (at) high tide, and the dogs were sitting up on a staircase that was getting smashed by the waves, so the two (property owners) did not want to approach the dogs.”
After calling other neighborhood residents and confirming no one was missing their pets, Morris and her husband went down to check on the pups at around 8 p.m., setting in motion a series of events that would bring those same dogs back to their house for a permanent stay.
Now called Hobie and Wayne, the roughly 2-year-old poodle mixes were in a dire state when they were first found Aug. 3.
“They were very matted,” Morris added. “They looked like sheepdogs at this point. (They couldn’t) see out of their eyes (and were) very timid and very lethargic. You could feel their ribs.”
Wayne sat up when the couple approached, ready to protect his brother. But after a few minutes of coaxing, the dogs walked toward Karen and Matt and away from the staircase.
The Morrises provided food and water while they called the San Clemente-Dana Point Animal Shelter to see if the shelter would take in the dogs.
The answer was a yes, and in the two and a half hours before the shelter officials could mobilize to pick up the dogs, the Morrises picked up the roughly 30-pound dogs, took them back home, and gave them more food and water.
“(Animal Control) told us to name the dogs so we could follow them at the shelter,” Morris said. “My husband, Matt, chose the names Hobie and Wayne, because those are two iconic, classic past residents of Beach Road.”
After Hobie and Wayne reached the shelter, officials determined that the dogs didn’t have a chip inside them, and after five days, no one had come to claim them. From there, the dogs went to local groomers to be groomed, received veterinary care, and were evaluated by shelter trainer Esther Horn.
Heidi Cooper of BowWow Beautiful in San Clemente performed Hobie’s grooming.
Hobie was severely matted to the skin, according to Cooper, and looked terrified as he entered the building for his appointment.
“Literally, the animal control officer brought him in and I said, ‘Jesus Christ’ under my breath,” Cooper said.
Once the BowWow Beautiful staff started talking to Hobie and showing compassion, however, he relaxed, and Cooper was able to proceed with the grooming process. She shaved him down, removed two solid masses of matted hair and caked debris from his ears, and found dead beetles under his coat.
Cooper did her best, as she always does, to make Hobie as presentable as possible even with needing to shave off most of his hair.
“I do try and work some of the stuff out if it seems humanly possible and just work with them so they can have a fighting chance of finding a home,” she said. “A lot of people just don’t look beyond what a dog looks like.”
She could tell she was working with a dog that had experienced neglect and traumatic moments.
Cooper talked to Hobie reassuringly during the hour-long shaving stage, felt him relax once she got him in a bath, and watched as he laid on a bed next to her. It was an emotional time, she added, saying she cried that night when talking to her husband about the experience.
“It’s an overwhelming experience to see him falling asleep and, like, handing me his paw,” said Cooper. “You could just tell this dog had been on the run for so long and he was so emotionally and physically exhausted that he just fell asleep.”
Later, she posted on Facebook to document a moment that weighed heavily on her and had her questioning how anyone could treat such a dog so poorly.
“It just screws me up thinking about it,” Cooper said.
The Morrises expressed interest in adopting Hobie and Wayne. After Horn observed the dogs interacting with the Morrises, as well as Karen’s brother Glenn Wunderly and Glenn’s wife Melissa, the family was cleared. They brought the pair home on Aug. 17.
Morris said her family had been discussing whether to get some kind of labrador or retriever for roughly a year beforehand, and it just so happened that an opportunity presented itself.
“Because we’re all in it together, it made it a little bit less imposing, you know, the daunting task of training two dogs that had not been potty trained, (had) not been taken care of, and didn’t know how to walk on a leash,” she said.
The first few weeks with Hobie and Wayne have been an engaging experience, Morris added, as the dogs are “a lot of work” while simultaneously being fun to be around.
“It’s been quite the success story,” Morris said, adding that the dogs, once only 30 pounds when the Morrises first encountered them, are now up to 50 pounds.
Nancy Koritz, board member of the Pet Project Foundation that runs the San Clemente-Dana Point Animal Shelter, said the shelter still receives regular updates from the Morris family.
“Wayne and Hobie’s story is a beautiful example of a wonderful community of people who came together, along with the San Clemente/Dana Point Shelter and The Pet Project Foundation to help give these dogs a second chance at a forever home,” Koritz said in an email.