My 81-year-old “young” aunt Maggie lives in a small tourist town — an old silver mining town high on a hill. Since my uncle passed away 11 years ago, she has lived alone with her two best friends, Kapu and Tony, small Lhaso mix dogs. In her Christmas photo card to me a few years ago she wrote: “These are the reasons I get up in the morning.”
Tony, the younger of the two, has always been too curious for his own good, trying to get beyond Maggie’s yard whenever he can. Friends installed a secure fence to keep him in while giving him freedom. My aunt often enjoys sitting on her wrap-around porch with her coffee in the morning, or her martini in the afternoon, while the dogs run the yard and watch the many passersby.
One afternoon Maggie came home, let the dogs out, and went in to fix lunch. She sat on her usual side of the porch eating, confident the dogs were exploring the yard and fulfilling their role as greeters. Readying to go inside, she called them. Kapu came, but Tony didn’t. Upon investigation, Maggie found a parcel had been delivered and that the front gate had been left open — out of view from her spot on the porch.
Tony had escaped.
Witnesses reported seeing a man pick Tony up, getting into a vehicle and leaving town. One witness thought the car had California plates.
For my aunt, this was a nightmare; these dogs are her world. Wonderful friends and neighbors helped in every way they could . . . posting flyers EVERYWHERE . . . all over California, Oregon and Nevada, since the stranger’s whereabouts were unknown.
Ignoring pain from arthritis and back problems, my aunt walked the town putting flyers on tourist vehicles every day. We also blanketed the state of California with postcards, posters and flyers for about a month. Every day we called veterinarians’ offices, groomers, shelters, etc. My aunt and I, along with her grown grandchildren, stayed with it . . . even though we became very discouraged at times and considered giving up. But something within me wouldn’t let me. So, encouraging each other, we kept going . . . often thinking and even crying out, “What more can we do?” Many friends were praying. God DOES care about us and about our pets.
The sheriff’s department in Maggie’s county did an amazing job of “protecting and serving.” They were extraordinary! They finally were able to track down the man who had taken Tony, and connected with the California County Sheriff’s Dept. in which he lived (it was a California plate!). Sheriffs persuaded the man to deliver Tony to a nearby police substation where we could retrieve him and finally take him home.
I believe it took five years off my aunt’s life to have Tony missing those five endless weeks. Tony was affected, too; it was several days before he was back to his usual self.
The day we got him back felt kind of cloak-and-dagger exciting. At least to Maggie. We had gotten word that Tony would be taken to the police substation at 4 pm that day. My husband and I were working around the house when my aunt called at noon, saying Tony needed to be picked up before 5 when they closed. We were five hours away. We threw together overnight bags and were on the road by 12:15.
Knowing we wouldn’t make the 5 o’clock deadline, we enlisted help from a friend who lived near the substation. She picked Tony up and took him to her home. I had strict instructions to call my aunt the minute I had Tony in my “hot little hands.” I did, and we also emailed a photo taken on my husband’s phone. When she answered my call I said, “Aunt Maggie, go look at your email!” It was such an emotional time for both of us since we had literally worked all day every day these long five weeks to find him. Neither of us could believe we finally had him back.
We are so grateful for the prayers, for the good people at the Sheriff’s Dept., and for all the efforts by Maggie’s many friends and grandchildren.
Maggie tried to convey to the delivery company the misery and heartache this situation caused her . . . not to mention the financial expense. Through the ordeal my aunt learned that this was a common complaint: that reps from delivery, utility and other companies often pass through gates and do not leave the property the way they found it. My aunt worries about this now more than ever, thinking of the danger this could also pose to young children. The one to two seconds it would have taken to close that gate would have saved Maggie a month of misery and approximately $2500 in search and rescue fees (which the parcel company would not reimburse though they admitted error).
If you ever “rescue” a pet running loose, PLEASE do your best to find the owner. You never know how much that pet might be missed and how much the guardian might grieve his or her loss. May aunt and I are really thankful to the man who took Tony, especially that he finally did the right thing. If we knew who he was, we would express it directly to him (after a wee bit of a lecture). ;-)
There is nothing but gratitude for Tony’s safe homecoming — the Miracle on C Street! See Tony’s rescue photos at www.photoarticulations.ifp3.com. Go to the gallery called Tony’s Return.
Diana’s aunt Maggie lives in Virginia City, NV, was a elected county official for four terms, and works on contract (at home) for the county today. Diana used to raise Kyi-Leo Lhaso mix dogs and had given Maggie Kapu and Tony. Married 54 years, Maggie lost her husband Willard 11 years ago. She has two grown sons who live away, so her dogs are her constant companions. She is active in her community and has many good friends.
Diana lives on the Central Coast of California. Married 40 years, Diana and her husband have two sons, nine grandchildren, and a grandchild and great-grandchild on the way. She teaches yearbook and photography at a private school. No longer raising puppies, the Ralphs’ two canine girls are older now.