Not many canines come with their own shaggy dog story, and especially with tales that have meaningful endings.
For M, a golden retriever living on a West Weber farm, life was good, but it could have been better. It would take three strangers, one wrong number and four unlikely coincidences to get M to her own happy ending.
M's owner was Bambi Cutler, whose other animals include a few more dogs, a goat named Dirt, horses and various cows and pigs.
"I love golden retrievers," Cutler said. "I have one named Lucy, who is 10. Golden retrievers are smart. So when my friend's golden retriever had puppies, I had to have one."
Cutler chose a pup she named My Girl, then shortened to M.
"I loved M, but she would get bored and chew up any bedding I gave her," Cutler said. "She would be fine when she was playing basketball with my daughter, Brek'l, and with Bo, our Australian shepherd, and with Dirt, but when she had nothing to do, she would chew. I gave M an electric blanket with a tough cover, but she found one loose thread, and she took every piece of wire out of that blanket."
Cutler decided to look for an owner that could give M, now a 3-year-old, more individualized attention. Cutler decided she would only give up M to a home that was a better fit.
Cutler, a Weber School District bus driver, was waiting in her bus earlier this month for students to come out of Roy's Sand Ridge Junior High School. A father waiting to pick up his son was sitting in his car with his two dogs, one a golden retriever. Spotting a neighborhood dog, the two dogs started barking.
"I asked him if he was looking for another golden," Cutler said. "You have to be an awesome person to own a golden, because they are such awesome dogs. He said no, but said his wife groomed dogs, and he called her."
Coincidence one: Sandra M. Dowd had previously found loving homes for adult dogs, which is no easy task, and was willing to give it a try. Dowd took down Cutler's number with a promise to call her later.
"Bambi told me M had some issues and didn't seem to be happy," Dowd said. "I wasn't sure how I could find a home for a dog with issues, but I wanted to try."
Dowd found a neighbor who was mourning the loss of a golden retriever and who expressed a slight interest. Dowd decided to call Cutler with the news, but mistakenly misdialed the last digit in Cutler's number.
"A man answered, and I told him I was looking for the lady who was trying to find a home for a golden retriever," Dowd said. "He said he didn't have a golden retriever, but he had been trying to get one."
That's two coincidences and one wrong number, for those keeping track.
The man was Gene Hood, of Ogden, and he and daughter Elisabeth, 13, had tried a few days earlier to buy a golden retriever mix puppy only to find the breeder who had promised to hold a pup for them had sold the last dog.
What's more, Hood has a strong aversion to answering wrong numbers on his cell phone.
"The only reason I answered the phone was that Sandra's number was almost identical to my old phone number," Hood said, of the coincidence. "I was curious."
Cutler agreed to bring M to meet Hood. And M, who was unfailingly skittish around strangers, ran up to Elisabeth Hood to snuggle, as if she had found a long-lost friend.
Cutler was surprised to learn that Hood, a divorced father of two, had dog-training experience and as a self-employed mason, he would be free to take M and his chihuahua, Britley, with him on jobs. And when Hood wasn't working, M would be trained as a bird-hunting dog. So, Hood was a custom-fit "dog dad" for M's specific needs (in coincidence four).
"Gene was exactly what M needed," Dowd said. "She needed someone to give her attention, keep her active and give her a job."
M happily left the church parking lot with the Hoods.
"She made her choice," said Cutler, still a little teary at the memory. "She chose her new family."
Hood said any "issues" M may have had have disappeared.
"She is very well-mannered," he said. "She stays right with you when you walk with her. In my opinion, when you have a few dogs together, they tend to pay attention to the lead dog, and let the lead dog interact with people. M hadn't had a lot of attention. Since she's been here, she's just been a really good dog."
And the three former strangers have become fast friends. Hood sends photo updates to Cutler; Dowd gets updates and chats with Cutler when their paths cross in Roy; and Dowd will become M's new groomer next month when the golden gets her hair cut.
"It's like an open adoption," Cutler said. "I've made new friends and had a terrific experience. What an awesome memory to look back on when I get old."
Hood still can't believe how lucky he got after answering a wrong number.
"The whole thing's been pretty trippy," he said.
Dowd, a devout dog fan, thinks every dog has the right to a happy home. Still, she can't believe how, against the odds, M found her new family.
"It all happened so easily, it feels like something else is involved here," Dowd said. "I think it's truly divine intervention. M's going to have a great life, and I've got two new friends."