COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE HAWKINS

Return of the pooch

Sometimes things just break the right way, serendipity-like. With the help of groups that run the animal shelters around San Diego, a website called lostdogsandiego.com and a total stranger, what began as a sad story for us ended happily.

Several weeks ago, one of our dogs, Lexi, locally famous for being part of a duo that has dispatched more than a dozen skunks in the past four years, chased one of those striped rodents all the way to Jamul, 10 miles away. Or so it would seem.

Lexi disappeared very early on a Saturday morning. She turned up nearly a month later at a county-run animal shelter.

When she decided to explore a larger world than our backyard, she was wearing a collar with her license and name attached and a separate collar with the receiver for the radio transmission from our electronic fence. We presume she just blew through the warning from the fence and kept going.

When the county animal rescue people picked Lexi up near a busy intersection in Jamul, neither of our collars were around her neck. It could be she took them off; we’ve seen Lexi do some rather unusual things. Jack Russells, we are told, have the mental ability of a 3-year-old child. Lexi has used that intelligence to find more ways out of our backyard than the master planner in the TV comedy "Hogan’s Heroes" devised in getting people out of that mythical German prison. It does seem unlikely, though, that she managed to use two paws to squeeze the two latches and get loose of those collars. I have trouble getting them off, and I have fingers. It is also unlikely that she stopped at a pet shop and picked out a new collar. When we fetched Lexi from the shelter she was wearing a new one.

We’d like to think it was a Good Samaritan who thought Lexi’s owners were mean and careless with the dog that had become part of our family. More likely it was someone who saw a cute little fluff of white with incessantly wagging hind quarters and decided to take it home. Lexi wound up near Jamul, just a bit worse for wear. Our guess is that, being the escape artist she has become, she found a weakness in the perimeter of her new home, making it a temporary one.

Immediately after Lexi took to wandering we made the rounds of the area shelters. No Lexi but plenty of understanding and advice. We continued to check the animal shelter listings daily, along with a website called lostdogsandiego.com. The manager of the website posts new pictures from all the shelters daily. Each afternoon we hoped we would see a picture of Lexi.

It is really discouraging to see all the new postings, as many as a dozen or more each day, and stay positive. On a Wednesday, nearly four weeks after she left, we were close to giving up. We didn’t, but had we quit there was still a back stopper out there. Thursday, someone who was also scanning lostdogsandiego.com either looking for her own animal or just hoping to help others sent us an email telling us that she thought a newly posted dog matched the description of Lexi. It did.

According to John O’Neil, a friend who has long been part of the San Diego Humane Society, shelters take in lost pets, keep them in their kennels for three or four days and then put them up for adoption. If not for this real Samaritan, that might have been Lexi’s fate.

I write all this as a way to both thank and praise the Humane Society for convincing the shelters to offer found strays for adoption after a few days rather than to put them down, to thank the people who manage the San Diego Animal Rescue program and its shelters for their courtesy and understanding, and to the Good Samaritan who tried to help by alerting us to a dog posting matching ours. I would also like to extend our great appreciation to Lucie, the person who created lostdogsandiego.com, as well as those who advertise on the site so Lucie can continue to be a legitimate Good Samaritan. It may be no big deal to the world, but it was a very big deal to us.


Hawkins is retired after 35 years as a construction industry association manager. He was a broadcast reporter and news anchor in Denver. As a Navy officer, he saw action in Vietnam in the River Assault Squadrons and is the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart. He can be reached at george.hawkins@sddt.com.

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