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Time at home allowing these TOUR pros to foster dogs

6 Min Read

Beyond the Ropes

    Written by Helen Ross @helen_pgatour

    Maya Brown had her eye on Troy even before they got to the animal shelter.

    She and her boyfriend, Lanto Griffin, had talked about getting a dog almost from their first date. But the nomadic life of a professional golfer doesn’t exactly lend itself to pet ownership.

    With the PGA TOUR shuttered in the wake of the coronavirus, though, the couple was thinking about giving it a trial run and fostering a dog. Reports that shelters in the Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and surrounding areas might have to shut down only strengthened their resolve.

    “We actually went to the one near our house and they didn't have any dogs,” says Griffin, winner of the Houston Open last fall. “I guess the community kind of all came together and they all got taken. I basically gave her the OK, let’s get one. She started looking at every shelter within two hours of us.

    “So, she shows me this picture of this dog and she said, it's down in St. Augustine, which is about 50 minutes from our house.”

    That dog was Troy, a golden-brown Labrador mix with wrinkled Shar-Pei ears. He had been at the shelter for 18 long months, and even before they got there, Troy had captured Brown’s heart. Griffin, now, he was not so sure.

    “This dog looked pitiful,” Griffin recalls. “She kept on every day, she was like, Troy needs a home, Troy's been at the shelter the longest. And I was just thinking, this dog is just going to hardly be able to walk. So, I'm like, all right, let's go. We had nothing to do, so let’s drive down to St. Augustine. I was like, there's no promises.

    “So, I tried downplaying it as much as possible, but I wanted a dog just as much as her -- but it had to be the right fit.”

    Troy was actually sitting behind the counter, greeting all-comers because he’s so laid-back and good with people. But he’s a big dog, an older dog, maybe 6 years old, perhaps as old as 9, and let’s face it, most people are drawn to the puppies.

    Not Griffin and Brown, though.

    “Within about 12 seconds, we knew we were going to be taking him home,” says Griffin, who ranks eighth in the FedExCup standings as the TOUR returns to action next week at the Charles Schwab Challenge. “... All the people there loved him, and they were all sad when we took him. When we met him there and then that night, he was pretty shy and kind of didn't have much of a personality.

    “But we liked the fact that he was kind of a chill dog and within two days … he came out of his shell and it's been really cool to see just how happy he is. And obviously, he's brought us a lot of joy.”

    Collin Morikawa and his girlfriend, Katherine Zhu, are sheltering at home in Las Vegas and also have fostered dogs during this coronavirus-induced layoff.

    Their first was a Bichon Frise, which was adopted within a week. The second was a small poodle mix that lasted less than two weeks before finding a forever home, while the third, Binki, is much bigger, a mix of Pit bull, terrier and boxer, who has been in the adoption network for several months.

    “(She’s) been there a lot longer than the other two dogs were,” Morikawa says. “We have our fingers crossed that she does find a home, but we kind of want to keep her a little longer than the week, week-and-a-half short little stints we had with the other two dogs.”

    Morikawa, who won the Barracuda Championship last fall, and Zhu are actually involved in the adoption process, too. They go and meet with the prospective pet parents – socially-distanced, of course -- and then talk with the agency about who they think might be a good fit.

    Was the 23-year-old ever concerned that the he and his girlfriend might get attached?

    “I was more worried for my girlfriend,” Morikawa says. “... But knowing what we're doing, and I just know at some point they're going to find a great home that unfortunately can't be our home, just because we go to so many places throughout the year.

    “But, you know, it was more on my outlook from how can we give back to these dogs a little bit and how much extra fun we can give to them because they don't realize the quarantine stuff that's going on. They just understand you're there for them.”

    Someday, though, there might be a puppy in the household. Zhu grew up with dogs and Morikawa’s parents got their first, a chocolate Lab, that the couple loves visiting, two years ago. The foster experience was a good compromise.

    “It gets us a little trial run before we actually get a real dog and to stay in the house,” he says.

    Troy, on the other hand, has made himself comfortable in Griffin’s beach condo. The couple knew he was staying for good within about 24 hours of bringing him home. Not only was he housebroken, he doesn’t chew things and he’s not a barker. He loves riding in the car – what dog doesn’t? – and he’s been good company for Maya when Griffin is working on his game.

    “It's cool that our personalities, mine and his, are pretty similar personalities where, in the mornings he's got a lot of energy,” Griffin says. “If I go downstairs before 8 o’clock, he's following me downstairs and we're eating at the table, he's sitting there hoping to get something. But after about 8 p.m., it doesn't matter if we're eating, if I'm going downstairs, he doesn't get off the couch.

    “He kind of looks at you like, why are you talking to me? Why are you touching me? I'm trying to sleep. ... And that's how I am. Maya keeps on saying that we have the same energy level past 8 o'clock, because I usually pass out pretty early too, so that part's good.”

    Griffin plans to play at Colonial as he resumes his travel-heavy life. But the couple has several friends who are more than willing to take care of Troy when they are on the road. And in the meantime, the family of three is enjoying getting to know each other.

    “It's just not right for a dog to be sitting in prison for 18 months,” Griffin says. “So, we picked him because he was the most, kind of pathetic dog there and after a day or two, he went from being a real low energy, real kind of depressed, to full of energy, full of life.

    “And so, that's probably the best feeling for us, is just seeing the transformation that he made, knowing that he's got a home, he's out of jail. So that's been the gratifying part for us because he's given us. ... He's been nothing but tons of love.”

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