From the archives: This story was last updated in May 2019.
In Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens’s classic novel of a poor young boy making his way on the mean streets of London, the boys are given a simple bowl of porridge every day in the poorhouse. Their terrible hunger is symbolized by little Oliver approaching the master and saying timidly, “Please sir, I want some more.”
This classic scene seems to have played out with a very special rescue dog named, you guessed it, Oliver, in Memphis, Tennessee. This Oliver was in just as dire straits as the London street kid he shares a name with. Rescued from a backyard and taken in by Memphis Animal Services, the city’s public animal shelter, Oliver had heartworm and was very hungry.
However, it did seem like Oliver had had some humans taking care of him at one point, since he was great at doing tricks, responding to commands, and being especially playful and cute when he thought it might earn him some tasty rewards.
As Katie Pemberton, a staff member of the shelter, told The Dodo, Oliver knew how to win the hearts of his human companions and fill his belly before he arrived. “He sat immediately for me before I even showed him I had any treats.” While at the shelter, Oliver was given a metal food bowl that quite literally became his best friend!
Whether Oliver started carrying the bowl to make sure no other dogs could get at it or because a previous owner had taught him to do it as a trick, it definitely worked. When one of the supervisors passed by and saw him sitting with it in his mouth, with very sweet and sad eyes, she caved. As Pemberton said, “his cute trick was very effective because she gave him more food!”
After that, the dog and his bowl became inseparable. When they moved him from the intake area into a more permanent kennel, he brought the bowl with him. The shelter staff fell in love with the smart dog and his quirky habit, and posted pictures of him on their Facebook feed, which went viral.
Unfortunately, Oliver didn’t mix well with other dogs, possibly because of prior trauma (hence keeping his bowl close by at all times). This meant that he couldn’t be adopted by someone who already had other pets. He needed a special place to lay his head. As one friend of the shelter posted on Facebook, “Y’all, OLIVER IS ON THE URGENT LIST!! He doesn’t have much time left to find a family WHERE HE WON’T HAVE TO SHARE HIS BOWL.”
After spending a while at the shelter without being adopted, Oliver was slated to be euthanized as no one had stepped up to offer him a home. Thankfully, the thousands of people who saw pictures of him asking “please, sir, I want some more” with his trusty food bowl resulted in the emergency message being shared 9,000 times with their friends. Some loving owners stepped forward and said they would take him … and of course, his bowl.
Watch the video:
Video courtesy of oliverandhisbowl