R.O.A.R. Squad: Challen, Jessie and Gavin and their dogs, Otto and Patton

Welcome to our latest R.O.A.R. Squad members from Virginia: Jessie, Challen and Gavin!

Jessie’s brother and sister-in-law are R.O.A.R. Squad members as well: Zakk and Emmy from Maine. How cool is that?

There are no less than 20 beautiful photos for this family including another gorgeous wedding photo at the end after the jump… make sure you check them out!

Thank you guys so much for joining the R.O.A.R. Squad!

To learn more about the R.O.A.R Squad (Rescue Owners Are Rockin!) all the info you need is HERE. A special shout out to the fabulous folks in Newfoundland. These is the last province we need-  we really need you!

Rockin’ Rescue Owners: Jessie, Challen and Gavin Parker

Gorgeous Pups: Otto (aka, Otto von Waggles, Ottosian and Toesy) and Patton (aka, Fat Tony, P-Tony Brown and the Brown Bean)

About Jessie, Challen and Gavin: Challen is a director at a consulting firm in Northern VA and I (Jessie) work for a non-profit in downtown Washington, DC. There is some truth to ‘opposites attracting’ as Challen’s hobbies include hockey, snowboarding and riding his motorcycle … and mine are more like Book Club, cooking, photography and spontaneity (yes, that is a hobby). Our family also includes Gavin (the 12 year old going on 20) and we are currently expecting our first child together this summer (just two days before Patton’s birthday!). (Check out Jessie’s blog: Chasing Windmills)


Checkin’ Their DNA: Otto is currently 1.5 years old.  Though we adopted him as a “St. Bernard mix,”after having his DNA tested (yes, we did that), we discovered he was 25% Great Pyrenees and 25% Shar-Pei … the other 50% is completely unknown making him truly one of a kind! Patton is about 1.5 years old as well.  He is about one month younger than Otto.  We rescued him as a “Mastiff mix” but were skeptical about that from the start.  The DNA test showed him as 50% American Eskimo (really?!), 25% Borzoi and 25% Staffordshire Terrier. Who knew!! (Read their DNA Test Post)


It’s Time: Initially, I was the one who pushed Challen and convinced him it was time for a dog.  I tried for YEARS… and then something finally clicked. We went in search of a Mastiff mix because that was what Challen had always wanted.  We agreed to get two… to start. I researched and came up with a list of 80+ dogs that fit our general needs. We sat down as a family, each on our own laptop and culled that list to about 20.  Then we voted.  The mastiff mix was covered pretty handily by a dog named Stanley (soon to be Patton) and then, after a handful of emails, and a couple disappointments later, we were approved for Otto. We raced down to Amherst County to pick him up and we have never looked back!   

Wonderful Rescue Orgs:

  • Otto was rescued through the Humane Society of Amherst County- read Otto’s Welcome to the Family post complete with puppy pics here. Otto was dropped off in the night drop box at about 8 weeks or so. He weighed about 10 lbs. And he spent the night alone, in what amounts to a dark closet with a huge metal door. Now, don’t get me wrong, I thank goodness for that “dark closet” all the time … because the other options were likely a box or crate left out in the elements. But, still highly unfair for an 8 week old puppy.
  • Patton was rescued by a woman who used KNine Rescue to place him- read Patton’s Welcome to the Family post here. Patton’s mother was found tied to a post in a park in Maryland. She had cigarette burns on her head and face, and she was so emaciated that the vet didn’t even know she was pregnant at the time she was found. The woman who brought her home provided a home for the mother and her eventual puppies until they were 8 weeks old. However, the puppies were never allowed out of the bathroom. When we picked up Patton, it was the first time he had ever seen daylight. The world was just too much for him and he was so ill tempered that I cried the whole way home. It only took him 2 or 3 days to settle in … and he made himself right at home!

Livin’ Large: We got our dogs with the idea that they will go everywhere with us.  So far they have:

  • Spent a week living on the beach in the Outer Banks
  • Spent two weeks in Maine
  • Spent one weekend canoeing on a river and ‘sleeping’ in a tent
  • Spent one weekend running on the beach in CT
  • Spent an afternoon at a cook out in West VA
  • Spent Christmas in Massachusetts
  • AND, Spent three whole nights in hotel rooms!

First Snow: Patton was only about 4 months when it snowed in VA.  It was his first snow and he hadn’t grown out of his puppy coat.  He would just stand on the threshold of the house pleading not to go outside. He is just as bad in the rain too! We got him his first horse blanket. He outgrew two before the winter was over. For a big and burly dog, he can be pretty wussy when it comes to weather!

Water Dog: At Challen and Jessie’s wedding in the Outer Banks (2009), when the boys were just 3-4 months old Patton fell into the pool on the first night in the house.  Challen took a nasty fall that sent his blackberry swimming while trying to get there in time to rescue him.  By the time Challen managed to get to the pool, Patton was already out and shaking himself off.  That was the start of our ‘water dog’.  Patton can’t get enough of swimming and fetch … we even taught him how to use the ladder to get out of the pool!

Brown Bean: Patton’s favorite sleeping position from day 1 is how he earned one of his nicknames: the Brown Bean. No matter where he is, he isn’t comfortable until he can curl himself up in the smallest space possible … and someone is touching him.  It is usually crammed up in the pillows in the most inconvenient place possible, but he is happy. He is truly a pack dog.

The Voice: It was at about 4 months that we realized Otto was likely not a St. Bernard mix after all (and it wasn’t that he stopped growing at knee height).  We came home one day, and he just howled with excitement.  Since then we have harnessed his talent and he can “speak” on command.  The throws his head back and to the side and starts silently … then a quiet ‘ruff’ … and keeps going until we get something between a long howl and some remote form of conversation.  He also does this if his toy gets lost under something… or Patton takes it away and won’t share.

I Love Socks: Otto has recently discovered his true love in life: Socks.  He loooooves picking up sock, throwing them around and just all around having a good time with them.  It’s all fun and games until Patton starts a tug of war with them … that usually gets the socks taken away … boo!

Puppy Nurse: Ever since I found out are expecting, Otto has been extra affectionate with me.  He races to me, leans hard into my knees and wags so hard his curly tail becomes straight! We are completely convinced Otto thinks he is getting puppies …

FAMOUS! Otto’s One Year Letter was recently published in the Humane Society of Amherst County newsletter!  You can read the letter was here.

Where: Virginia

Want to meet another wonderful family from Virginia? Check out Tricia and Derick and their dog, Bennet!

Join the R.O.A.R. Squad

Our goal is to make having a rescue animal THE coolest thing around! Check out ALL of the R.O.A.R. Squadians

Recruiting Members

We are well on our way to reaching our goal of finding at least one rescue owner from every state in the U.S. and at least one rescue owner from every province and territory in Canada by April 2011. WE NEED YOUR HELP!

We’re looking for rescue dogs, cats, rabbits, parrots, horses… donkeys… snakes… we’re not biased around here. We just want rescues who have found fabulous homes! Check out all the R.O.A.R. Squad members HERE.

We need rescue owners from the following province asap:


  1. Newfoundland

I look forward to hearing from you!

3 Responses to “R.O.A.R. Squad: Challen, Jessie and Gavin and their dogs, Otto and Patton”

  1. Kristine says:

    Such a gorgeous family. Congratulations to them!

    Sounds like they had similar surprising DNA results to mine. Borzoi? Really? I see the staff but… Ah well. Breed testing clearly isn’t an exact science yet! Thanks for featuring their great story! They sound like so much fun.

  2. @Kristine- I love reading the DNA results! Eventually they have to get better! :)

  3. Mel says:

    Wow! What awesome pictures and what awesome stories! Challen, Jessie, Gavin, Otto and Patton – Welcome to the R.O.A.R. Family! I loved your story. It is so clear that you love your dogs and that they love you. I know there are a lot of lucky dogs out there, but I have to say your dogs are indeed truly fortunate to have such wonderful lives after such tough beginnings. They are simply adorable. :)