CHAMPAIGN — Pulled from a cage in the chilly waters of a west Champaign lake about two-and-a-half years ago, Dory Fritz continues to bank on her notoriety to help other rescue animals.
“Life is fantastic. The dog is completely healthy,” said Bryant Fritz, who found and adopted the pit mix puppy he rescued from Kaufman Lake on Nov. 2, 2019.
Named for the main character of the 2016 Disney Pixar film “Finding Dory” about a fish who gets separated from her parents, Dory the dog was apparently destined for death when Fritz reeled in the crate she was trapped in that Saturday.
Now almost 3, Dory is taking part in another fundraiser for the Champaign, County Humane Society because who doesn’t like to celebrate happy endings by hoping that can be the outcome for another abused animal?
“They had reached out to us in February saying they wanted to share what they call ‘puppy love,’” said Sarah Sheppard, development director for the Humane Society.
A meeting between Sheppard, Fritz and his wife, Krystal, resulted in the idea of doing something in April, a month devoted to the prevention of cruelty to animals.
“Dory’s story just really embodies the theme of the month,” said Sheppard, who came up with the idea of trying to raise $910 by the end of April to mark the 910 days that will have passed between her rescue and the end of April.
But the account created on March 25 had surpassed that amount by almost $500 as of Tuesday. It was up to $1,388 from 46 donors by late afternoon and was still growing.
When Fritz found Dory, the size of her teeth suggested the pup was about 5 months old, so the family — which now includes Finn, a “big, drooly, fluffy” Newfoundland rescue who weighs in at about 120 pounds — celebrates Dory’s birthday in Jun.
In June 2020, a fundraiser linked to her birthday netted more than $10,000 for the Humane Society, Fritz said.
“My wife and I have always been big supporters of shelters. We love animals, dogs and I think it’s more than a coincidence that I was the one that found her and she ended up in a home she deserved,” he said.
The story of Fritz and Dory took off in a big way within days of the rescue and landed Fritz and his now wife on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show. Coincidentally, DeGeneres voiced the character Dory in the Disney Pixar films.
She also helped Fritz carry out his plan to propose to his long-time girlfriend on national television. Their huge day was capped off by a surprise $25,000 gift from DeGeneres.
“We weren’t expecting any money. We haven’t really spent it,” said Fritz, a teacher who describes himself and his wife as “really frugal.”
Married in October, they have yet to take a honeymoon but are hoping to use a portion of DeGeneres’ gift to go to Puerto Rico later this year.
They continue to maintain accounts for Dory on Facebook and Instagram “because it makes people smile and brings a good moment to their day,” Fritz said.
Dory, who he believes may have been burned as a puppy, looks very healthy with the exception of a spot on her back left hip where hair won’t grow and an area on her right side that appears to be a scrape featuring five equidistant claw marks.
But for those anomalies, Fritz said when they are out for a walk, “people will stop and say, ‘What a beautiful dog. People will recognize her and stop and honk and yell, ‘Hi, Dory.’
“Some of these people feel like she is really their dog.”