"Pure luck and lots of prayers" are what helped bring a lost poodle home, says its grateful owner Leanne Hermary Fortune.
After a heartbreaking five days, her six-year-old black dog, LJ, was reunited with the Brandon family.
"It was the longest week of my life," Hermary Fortune said. "The hardest part was keeping our morale up ... I kept telling my husband (Murray), ‘Keep your Batman light on, he’s going to come home to us.’"
Hermary Fortune has a special connection with her tiny teacup poodle — he inspired her to walk again after spinal meningitis put her in a wheelchair.
"(I was) sent home with not very good odds about being able to walk again, and it’s a little devastating when your legs are taken from you," she said.
While it would have been easy to curl up on the couch, she said it was little LJ who got her up and moving again.
"When you’ve got a little guy who constantly puts a smile on your face and says, ‘Come on, Mom, let’s go for a walk, let’s go get the mail, let’s do our exercises … I don’t get that day to … pity myself. Every day we have a routine and it keeps me going," she said.
LJ’s photo was shared online and posters were given out after he went missing from his owner’s vehicle on Monday of last week. The story captured the attention of many Brandonites, some even volunteering their time to search for the pooch.
"It was absolutely wonderful. I kept reminding my husband how many good people there are out there," she said. "Some days you think the world is going a little crazy, but the good people are out there ... It was quite something the way people grouped together and were helping."
Hermary Fortune left the dog in her SUV while she went to the Western Medical Clinic for an appointment. She was inside the clinic for about 90 minutes — much longer than she’d planned. When she came out, she found the flip-up window in the back of her SUV open, realized it had been ransacked and LJ was missing.
Besides the poodle, the only thing missing was an iPod dock.
Police were alerted and messages appealing for the dog’s safe return were distributed.
A taxi driver recognized the dog after seeing a poster. He called with a tip, saying he saw a woman pick up the dog in traffic on Monday.
Brandon and Area Lost Animals, a program created by Funds for Furry Friends, helped get the word out to search for the pup.
Hermary Fortune said after some investigation, they found out that the woman who picked up LJ gave him to a family who lives out of town.
After many hours, some luck and perseverance, Hermary Fortune said they were able to track down the family.
"Once we explained to them the situation of the dog, they immediately drove him in and met us in Brandon," she said.
They were reunited on Friday evening.
Hermary Fortune said she was ecstatic and had tears of joy when she saw her dog again.
Looking back, she thinks she must have inadvertently hit the button for the back SUV window while she was in the waiting room.
Hermary Fortune says after this ordeal, she’ll cease taking LJ out for errands.
"We’re going to reserve car rides for car rides, and errands aren’t going to be his car rides anymore. I will never go through this again," she said.
As for LJ, Hermary Fortune said he’s not quite himself. But they have gotten back to their exercise and play routine, and she expects him to be back to normal in no time.
Hermary Fortune had a message to anyone who might find an animal.
"One thing that I would really like people to be aware of is when they do see an animal ... not to think right away that it’s a stray," she said. "Take a moment to contact authorities, because most of the time, the authorities are aware of the situation and they could get the dog or cat, or any pet back to their owner."
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