Fritz the Reindeer Dog makes an encore appearance during the Kids-Only Shop sponsored by the Friends of the Wiscasset Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 9 a.m. to 2.p.m. How this lovable and slobbering mountain of a dog made his way into the arms of Wiscasset children is a good story for the season of giving and loving.
While Fritz may be one of the best-known and beloved dogs in the Wiscasset area, his life was not always so rosy. His current owners, Herb and Loretta Leighton of Wiscasset learned of his awful plight online and drove for hours in the pouring rain to save him from a bleak and brutal existence. According to the Leightons, when they found him attached to a heavy chain wearing a pronged choke collar, “his fur was matted badly and missing in places. He had an obvious limp. He looked pathetic.”
On the way home, the Leightons stopped at a pet store to buy supplies for their new charge. “Under the lights of the store, we could see the source of his limp, as his nails appeared to have never been trimmed and were broken, and poking into the pads of his feet. The (shop’s) groomers agreed to trim his sore feet. The difference was amazing. He was able to walk out of the store free from pain.”
This was only the beginning of Fritz’ new life. The Leightons could sense he was overwhelmed and scared so they took turns sleeping beside him on the floor. He ate rapidly, but warily. And they took him to be groomed. That’s the moment, according to the Leightons, when Fritz truly became himself. “He almost seemed to know how handsome he was as he trotted out to greet us. The groomers shared they had given him a deep conditioning which included a massage. They said he was so funny because as they massaged him, he sounded like a big bear, groaning, and clearly enjoying his spa day.”
The Leightons learned more about his past: He had spent most of his time outside on a chain, and went for days without food and water. He had clearly been neglected. They know he was abused because he would respond fearfully and sometimes angrily, when triggered by sounds or startling behaviors. At times, he seemed hostile to the comfort of regular meals and loving owners. But, according to the Leightons, love triumphed and conquered his trauma.
“Over time, he gradually began to trust and he became the dog he was always meant to be,” said Loretta Morse Leighton. “On one outing, we took him to the ocean and he waded out to his tummy, sat in the cold water, and gazed out across the sea for several minutes and then he sighed, turned, and started running through the waves, barking and playing. At the age of 7, and in a home in which he felt cherished and loved, I believe his life began. From a matted, mangy mess, he now enjoys regular swims, walks on trails, naps on the couch, and many hugs and kisses. He is honored to be the reindeer dog for the Wiscasset Public Library, and we are so proud he chose us to be his family.”
In 2016, Loretta Leighton responded to a call for volunteers from the first annual Wiscasset Holiday Marketfest – and she volunteered Fritz. He was matched with the Friends of the Library’s shopping event for children, and the romance began. This year, Fritz will return to the library at 21 High St. in his reindeer antlers, ready to take photos with kids - and be fussed over by kids and their families ... and he will love every second of the attention!