This is how Rusty's owners posted the news of happy ending after he ran away on Christmas Day.
Tom Hemingway/Special to AFN

As many of our families and friends know, we have a 16-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, too smart and ornery for his own good, but we love him.  

He is suffering from old age maladies and sleeps most of the time.

On Christmas night after a lovely time at the kids’ house with family, my wife Lee Ann spotted a prowling lone coyote on the way home, saying it gave her an ominous feeling.

We came home to the house at 10:30 p.m. to no dog. Gone, the side gate ajar.  It was 40 degrees outside and there was no sign of him.

We searched the neighborhood with flashlights, calling like sirens in the quiet dark neighborhood. After an hour with the kids and granddaughter’s help, nothing.  Despair set it. Never before had this happened.

Lee Ann said “I told you I wanted to take Rusty to Norene’s with the family for Christmas.”

“He knew where we were going and it’s a special day,” I retorted. “The dog can’t comprehend occasions and know plans.”

“He’s an animal. He’s smart and he felt left out,” Lee Ann cried. “He feels lonely.”

Then a real shocker hit us: there on the kitchen counter was Rusty’s collar and tags.

Oh my God, I trimmed Rusty’s coat and forgot to put his collar on. He’s doomed. We were pretty devastated and tears welled up in us. He’s lost and no way to ID him.

Don’t worry, Grandma, Leah said, someone has found him and he’ll be okay.  Lee Ann and I looked at each other and thought the same thing: probably a coyote or a car found him first.

It was a long night. We went to bed in silence both feeling the gravity of the situation and dreading the outcome. Fitful sleep and praying and wishing to hear the slap-plap of the doggie door.

Nothing.

A cold bright morning arose. I imagined the horror of a partial carcass on the golf course adjoining us and went to the golf course manager first thing and explained the situation.

I said we want him back in any condition. The manager was cordial and said he hoped we would be feeding him by day’s end. I said that is overly optimistic, but thank you.

We have a neighborhood internet website that posts news, events and neighborly things, as lost dogs.

I logged on and the first thing I saw was a post for a found dog, 48th and Elliot Roads, right up the street. My heart skipped a beat as I read it.

Nope. Black and white Boston Terrier mix. I scrolled down several more lost animal headings, then I saw a caption: “Lost pup found on abandoned golf course on Christmas Day, scared and skittish. Band aid on left ear, well groomed.”

Then, two pictures of Rusty in someone’s lap in a car.

“Lee Ann, come here. I found Rusty”

She cried.  

Two of the rescuers were Deb Lusk and Tiffany Hawkins.

A half-hour later, Rusty was back with us, no worse for wear. The lady who found him said he was wandering her street and when she went for him he ran to the old golf course and then she spotted the coyote nearby.

She called her neighbors to corral Rusty, who was not interested in being captured. Rusty was 11/2 miles from home, across two very busy streets, exactly half the distance to Norene’s house, where the family celebrated Christmas.

Best Christmas present ever.

-Tom Hemingway is an Ahwatukee resident who wanted to share his Christmas moment with AFN readers.

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