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Man camps out in pound parking lot for four-legged friend

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nothing was going to stop John Wilson from getting his friend out of jail.

Wilson, 19, of Charleston, had kept a watchful eye on Bear, a 3-year-old black Newfoundland, since the dog was picked up by a humane officer last week.

Because Bear came to the shelter as a stray, shelter workers had to hold him for about a week before putting him up for adoption. He became available at noon Tuesday, and Wilson wanted to be the first in line.

So he rushed home from work Monday night, changed his clothes, got in his car and drove to the shelter about 11 p.m. He then camped out in the parking lot for 13 hours until the shelter opened the next day.

A human friend, Justin Evans, kept Wilson company until about 10 a.m. Tuesday. The two slept on and off in Wilson's car as temperatures dropped to around freezing.

Wilson's mother, Diane, joined him at the shelter when workers opened the doors at noon.

The plan worked. Wilson was the first one through the doors. He was filling out adoption paperwork about 30 seconds after Bear officially went up for adoption.

Bear didn't enjoy his time behind bars. As other dogs in the stray room yapped and bounced excitedly in their cages, he could be found sitting silently on his haunches, his massive head hung low.

The two have known each other for some time.

Wilson, who works for a heating and cooling company, first met Bear while doing work for the dog's former owner in South Charleston. He was working in the neighborhood again last week when the officer loaded Bear into a truck headed for the pound. 

"It took me a little while to remember who he was, but I knew I'd seen him before," he said. 

Bear's former owner, an elderly South Charleston woman, recently died and had no family members in the immediate area. Bear managed to escape the home after her death and had wandered the neighborhood, relying on scraps and handouts, for about three weeks.

Eventually, someone reported Bear to the authorities.

"I tried to talk the officer into just giving him to me instead of taking him in," Wilson said.

The officer was sympathetic, but said he had to follow protocol.

Bear was shaking with excitement when the two reunited Tuesday morning.

Wilson said he recently purchased a house and about four acres of land. He spent the past week readying the property for Bear.

 "I built him a huge doghouse," Wilson said. "He's going to stay inside, but if he wants to go out and it's raining, he's got a house."

Wilson also installed an invisible fence on the property. Bear's days of wandering aimlessly appear to have been short-lived.

And Bear won't be lonely while Wilson is at work. Marley, Wilson's golden retriever, will keep him company.





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