About ten years ago, shortly after my former wife, Rhonda, and I went in different directions we decided to get a dog for our son, Nick. Nick has autism and is a differently-developing kid who we believed would really take to a little puppy. And we were right. Nick instantly fell in love with his new Shih Tzu puppy, Ziggy. They quickly became “Best Buds” and while they have both grown older, their feelings for one and other never changed.
Wherever Nick went also went Ziggy. Whether it was my house or his Mom’s, Nick and Ziggy were a package deal. As the years went on, both Nick’s Mom and I remarried to others. Rhonda married Mike. I married Val and we were blessed with our daughter, Natalie. Natalie is now 3 ½ and needless to say, she loves her little Ziggy Dog! “Isn’t he just the cutest little puppy?” was one of the first sentences she ever uttered.
In the past few years, like a lot of dogs, Ziggy became increasing afraid of loud noises, especially thunder. Last Sunday, November 17th, played out like any other day until huge storms started to brew mid-afternoon. About 4:00pm, as Nick and I, along with Ziggy, were lumbering around the house one of the loudest thunder-boomers we had ever heard shook the entire house. Ziggy totally freaked out. He began scrambling in every direction looking for a place to escape the dreaded thunderous noise.
Coming upstairs from the basement and without a sense of what was happening, Val inadvertently opened our front door at just that time and before I could say “don’t let the dog out,” Ziggy saw his opening and bolted out and down the steps in full sprint. I knew instantly this was trouble.
I ran to put on my shoes and coat to go after him, but before I could get outside the dog had run like the devil and was nowhere to be seen. Val joined me in the search as a hard rain started to fall and day began turning into night. Val quickly got into the car with Natalie and they started driving around the area looking for Ziggy. I walked throughout up and down the increasingly muddy dirt road calling his name and doing the whistle call that always worked to bring him home before. But I had no luck this day. Ziggy was nowhere to be found.
As I kept looking and decided I needed to call Rhonda to tell her what was happening. Ziggy was her dog as much as anyone’s and she needed to know that this was getting serious. At her suggestion, Val and little Natalie went up to the Police Station near our home to report the lost dog. Natalie told the kind police officer “…her dog had a green collar.” With Rhonda and Mike having now joined us, we all kept up the search as it was getting darker and darker.
I went into the house with both kids for a moment as I was soaked to the bone and needed to find a dry coat to continue the search. Just then I got a call from the police telling me they had just received a call from a woman who told them she believed she had just hit a small white dog with her car as she was driving over the highway overpass about a mile from our home. My heart just sank. I called Val and asked her to head in that direction. I told Rhonda and Mike the same. I sat the kids down and tried to figure out what to tell them to prepare them for the worst.
The three adults convened in the general vicinity of the overpass where we had been told there had been incident. As the rain fell steadily, they began looking around in dark for something, anything. At first there was nothing. Then they saw what – at one time –was a small furry animal crushed beyond recognition spread across the middle of the highway overpass. Everyone just broke down. Val quickly returned home and directed me to head to the spot with a shovel and a bag. I was going to need it she said. And she was right.
When I got there Mike and Rhonda led me to the along the overpass and there it was…a scene of complete devastation. I was crushed to see this scene. It was impossible to completely identify what was there, but what else could be other than our little puppy? I wasn’t about to start picking through to see if I could see his green collar. I just didn’t have it in me. With the rain pouring and the night as dark as it could be, we picked up the earthly remains of what was left strewn across the road as we dodged other cars to make sure we didn’t have two tragedies this night.
We all headed back to my house. Rhonda to pick-up Nick and tell him the terrible news. Me to try to explain it my little girl all the while with the remains of what had been our beloved dog in the back of the car. It was a very difficult time.
I had no desire to do anything that night except mourn and try to comfort others, but the truth was I was taking it as hard as anyone. I had loved that little dog like no other and I felt guilty and upset that I had not been able to avert the tragedy. The next morning we got up and did what had to be done. Nick began making a headstone and I dug a grave for our beautiful ten-year old puppy in our backyard to give him a proper burial. I did it best I could through the tears.
The next two days were a blur. All of us, even little Natalie, were in a complete funk. I read exerts of Mark’s book “Rescuing Sprite” and tried to find some meaning in this tragic episode. However, little comfort came our way. All of us were in mourning.
On Wednesday, three days after that dark Sunday afternoon, I got a late morning voicemail message. I didn’t recognize the number so I was in no hurry to check it. Later, as I was driving to a lunch appointment I saw what looked to be an animal carcass on the side of the road. It made me wonder…what if? Well, I put that out of my mind and decided to check my messages the first of which was from the number I didn’t recognize. On the other end of the line was a woman named “Kathy” who works with a group called “For the Love of Louie *Michigan Lost Pet Lookers* who said she had been contacted by a woman who told her she had found a dog in our general vicinity on Sunday night. Kathy had got my phone number by having called the Farmington Hills Police (who, by the way, have been just fantastic through all of this) in her regular routine of follow-up in a situation like this. Kathy explained to me why she was calling even though the police had told her they thought our “situation had been resolved.” She began to ask me questions about Ziggy and what had happened on Sunday. Then she blurted out “I think I know who might have your dog.”
As the Good Lord is my witness, I almost drove off the road right then and there!
Kathy immediately sent me a text photo of the dog and there he was…it had to be Ziggy!
Still not positive and feeling overwhelmed, Kathy connected me with Kayla (a gift from God) who had contacted her and had actually found the dog. Seems Kayla had just pulled off the highway on Sunday evening and looked up to see a cold, wet and confused little dog that was very vulnerable and everyone else was driving right past. In the true definition of a Good Samaritan, Kayla got out of her car, picked up the lost dog and began driving around the area looking for someone who might identify him. Of course she had no luck there so she took him home, cleaned him up and started to do what she could to reunite this beautiful little Shih Tzu with his worried owners. And that is exactly what she did.
Kayla and I exchanged calls and texts. She said the dog had been waiting by her door for the past two days as if he was just hoping for someone to come over and pick him up. The lady at the Humane Society told her to get solid proof that whoever claimed him was the rightful owner, but she was convinced the dog was ours when I told her his name and he came running right to her.
Though my schedule called for me to attend another political event, last Wednesday night, after three full days of grieving over the loss of our dog, I was thrilled to instead do what just hours before had been unimaginable. Meet my new angel, Kayla, in a fast-food restaurant parking lot on the west side of Detroit to pick up our little Ziggy. Needless to say, I brought him home to a happy, happy bunch of kids and adults, friends and family. Natalie’s cute little puppy was back and Nick’s best friend was back at his side where he belonged. Ziggy is back…safe and sound! Our family was whole once again.
Like many of us, I often find myself so wrapped up in the hustle-and-bustle of life that I forget what is really important. Too often, I don’t stop to recognize the people and creatures that make life special and give it meaning. A little dog did that for us and without very special people like Kathy and Kayla it would not have been possible. This Thanksgiving remember the little things we should all be thankful for. Because, in truth, the little things are really not so little after all.
– Paul from Farmington Hills, MI