A TALE OF A TATTOO DOG
An elderly man in Blairsville was disturbed and deeply saddened for many days as he watched his neighbors throw rocks and shoot at a stray dog near his home in the North Georgia Mountains. One day, as the dog was running for its life, it collapsed from exhaustion in the road in front of him. He is old and frail with numerous health problems, yet he took her home and cared for her as best he could. But it was obvious she needed medical care that he could not afford to provide. He called the local humane society and was told there was no roomthere were lots of dogs needing help. Next he called the animal control officer and explained the situation, but nobody from that office showed up to help him.
This dear man was frustrated and didn't know what else to do but to make her a bed and feed her. She growled and carried on, but he followed her with a pan of food trying to get her to trust him enough to eat. She was fearful and suspicious, and for good reason, considering her prior reception in the neighborhood. Day after day he trailed her trying to help. He said he bet he walked 100 miles toting that food pan trying to help her get well and regain her strength.
A year and a half later, I was walking my dogs a few miles from my house in Blairsville, when I saw a little dead-end road with a "house for sale" sign stuck in the weeds. A friend was hoping to move to this area, so I set off down the road to check out the house on her behalf. Partway there, I heard a ferocious growl and turned to see a large black and white dog crawling out from under a car and coming toward us. Her ears were grotesquely swollen, cracked open and oozing sticky fluid onto her fur. She had deep scars down her front leg. What an intimidating sight! Fearing for my safety, I started yelling and shooing the dog away from my pets.
Hearing the commotion, this very old man came out of his nearby cabin, called her away from us and calmed her. He explained that the dog was a stray, but that he seemed to be stuck with her for the time being. In the course of our conversation, he laughed and mentioned that he had never seen a dog with a tattoo before. I said, "A tattoo? Oh, goodness, I bet that is her identification number! Let me see!" Sure enough, once we were able to roll her on her back and push back the fur, there was her ID plus some unusual tattoo pictures on her tummy. My heart started thumping. I knew somebody had spent money on this animal and was probably searching and grieving for her.
I went straight home and looked up dog tattoo registries on the Internet and e-mailed many of them asking what to do. A few responded and ran the ID number through their national databases. The next day a registry called and told me the search was narrowed to the Broward Co. Humane Society (BCHS), near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I called there numerous times hoping for good news. A couple of days later I received notice that the ID number had been matched with an owner, but that woman had claimed that her dog was with her at that moment. I was so disappointed and puzzled. How could that be? Could two dogs have the same ID numbers? Was it a computer error? Was the owner lying because she no longer wanted the dog? We were at a dead end it seemed. The dog needed medical care, and neither of us could afford to pick up the tab. With her ears so infected, we were afraid she would be euthanized if we took her to an animal shelter, because nobody would adopt a dog looking like that. We decided to keep trying a little bit longer though, because she was wearing the mark of ownership. It became our mission to find her family. I fear I just about wore out my welcome with the good folks at the BCHS with all my calls and e-mails.
Finally, one of the employees there suggested wetting the tattoo to make the numbers appear more distinct. They wanted me to recheck to make sure I hadn't copied the numbers incorrectly. Out to the bushes the old man and I tromped, armed with our pencil and paper. The dog knew we were up to something and holed up growling, shaking like a leaf. We called and whistled and coaxed with good things to eat. After the longest time, we were finally able to drag her out, roll her over, and wet her tummy. To our surprise, what looked like an 8 the week before, now looked like a 3.
I ran back home and called Broward and asked them to run the new ID number through their computer. Bingo! We hit pay dirt! The description I had given them matched the one in their computer, and the nice lady told me she would contact the owner. The next day the old man and I were so disappointed to learn that the owner had moved since adopting the dog three years earlier. The shelter records noted that the owner said she was moving to a farm in North Carolina, which is an awfully big state. We were faced with what appeared to be another dead end. I went back to the old gentleman's house and sat in the grass and petted that poor dog. Her ears were such a mess, and we knew they must be very painful. I was so sad for her. I looked at the man a long time and then asked, "Well? What are we going to do now?" He said, "A lot of folks would probably shoot her, but I can't find it in my heart to do that. She is smart, and has become real protective of my house and me. I just can't hurt her. I won't."
I came home troubled. I told a friend about our predicament, and she offered to help transport the dog to a clinic, but told me she didn't have the money to pay the medical bills, either. It is humiliating to have to go begging free services from a vet for somebody else's dog whose owner may or may not be willing to reimburse, so we decided that would be done only as a last resort. I collapsed into my chair and wailed, "Oh, God!" Suddenly I sat up, and thought GOD. In all the hullabaloo, we hadn't even talked to God about this problem. How could we have forgotten? I quickly logged on to two Internet prayer sites- Guideposts, and "God, Bless the Animals". I typed the entire story of the stray, and asked the people to pray for one of two things to happen. Either we needed to find the owner quickly, or we somehow had to be able to get money to get medical care for the dog. One way or another, her suffering had to end. It just wasn't right. I told God that the old man and I had done everything humanly possible to care for the dog and to get her back home where she belonged. If He wanted her reunited with her family, He would have to step in and make a way where there didn't seem to be one.
The next morning, I was shocked to find my e-mail full of letters from all over the country from pet lovers and people of faith who had read the story and believed in the power of prayer. They sent good wishes and said they were praying and believing that the owner would be found. One kind stranger from Nashville, TN blew me out of the water when she volunteered to send money so the dog could go to the vet. I thought this was the answer to our prayersmoney to get the ears fixed, but there was a much better surprise just around the corner. In two hours my phone rang and a bewildered young lady named Kim was on the line. "Uh, I was told to call this number about a dog you found." She proceeded to tell me she didn't think this dog could be her Ocoee because she had been missing for 2 1/2 years. She had run newspaper and radio ads for many months after the disappearance, but had never seen her pet again. One man had called during that time and told her he had found a pile of black and white fur in the woods with an orange collar near it. She had assumed that since her dog was wearing an orange collar, it was her pet. I asked her what her dog looked like, and she perfectly described our stray.
I could hear my heart whooshing in my ears as I asked the clincher: "Did your dog have any tattoos? She said, "Oh, she sure did! She had a smiley face and flower on her tummy. It was right beside her tattoo ID number." I thought my heart would beat out of my chest. I told her to come and get her dog. Just before she hung up, I said, "Whoa! Wait a minute! Who told you to call me? Your last known address in the Broward Co. computer was no longer valid. Who in the world found you??"
She said, "Ma'am, you are not going to believe this, but you know that humane society in Florida that you called to help you with the ID number? Well, MY BIG SISTER WORKS THERE, and even though I had moved twice, she knew right where I live now!" At that instant every hair on my body stood up. It was without a doubt a goose bumps moment! Out of all the millions of people in the USA, what were the odds for the mystery woman's sister to be sitting in the very building where I called? I knew right then that all the prayers going up from all the animal lovers on the web sites had been heard. Ocoee was going home!
The girl was at work, but said her parents from south Florida were vacationing in Murphy, NC, and would leave immediately to come see the dog. I accompanied the couple to the old man's house, and we all could feel the excitement in the air like electricity. We walked to the back porch, and there lay the dog resting under the porch swing. The gentleman was stunned, his mouth fell open, and he said, "That's her! I can't believe it! That's HER!" Then he started laughing. He called her name, "OCOEE! COME!" That dog looked up, and she remembered. Her tail started thumping, and we had us one more happy reunion! No more rocks, no more gunshots, no more hunger, no more fear. After 30 months of being lost, Ocoee, the Florida shelter mutt, was found!
We all stood there with tears and chills and big silly grins, and Ocoee got in the back of her "Grandpa's" truck for an immediate trip to the vet to get something done about those ears. The old man was given a monetary reward, which I thought was very much deserved. The gentleman kept saying, "I know I can never repay you for all you have done. I cannot believe you went so far above and beyond for such a very long time for this animal."
I looked at Ocee's humble rescuer stroking her face and telling her goodbye, and thought that he was proof positive that angels still walk among us. Thank you, God, for Good Samaritans who show mercy and compassion and are not afraid to get dirty to help a pitiful lost dog when everybody else is throwing rocks.
I hope you have enjoyed this story of Ocoee's miraculous homecoming. If it will help one more lost animal find its way back home, it will have been worth it all. The next time you see an animal in distress, before you pick up your broom or a shotgun, please stop and take a few minutes to check for ID information first. Just because you don't see a collar doesn't necessarily mean it is homeless. Check the tummy for tattoo ID numbers. In some of the larger cities, the tattooing is done at the time of spaying or neutering and is permanent in case the collar and tags are lost. The Internet lists many tattoo pet registries that will be happy to run the number through the national computers to find the owner. In any case, please call the humane society and file a quick report for their lost and found book. Heartbroken folks call there all the time hoping somebody has seen their beloved animal. Almost all vets' offices have lost and found bulletin boards. Please make the effort. It could make all the difference in the world.
Tammy Floyd Blairsville, GA
story came to TBAB from http://www.godblesstheanimals.com
where you can see a photo of Tammy, Ocoee, Ocoee's angel and Grandpa :-)
GBTA is a Nondenominational Internet Prayer Ministry of Reverend Lauren
McLaughlin, who is also the Co-Minister of Unity Now, A Spiritual Learning
Center in Clearwater Florida http://www.unitynow.info
This story was covered on Animal Miracles on Pax TV. Tammy Floyd can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org