Huckleberry is Home!

Last Saturday, while my wife and kids were at a baby shower, my friends Marcel and Mike came over to keep me company and watch a movie (High Rise, which, by the way, is amazing). I was depressed and needed to not be alone. At one point in the evening, I told them both, “It doesn’t really matter if Huck comes home. I mean, I want him to, more than anything, but I’ve got too many other good things happening in my life to be depressed. My youngest turns five in a week, my eldest will be seven a month later, and between the two I will have a newborn son. Bad things happen but I need to keep my chin up. I’ve got too much good in my life to stay this way – to stay so sad.”

Thankfully I had help: Huckleberry is home.

At this point, I assume most of you are familiar with my story. Huckleberry was gone and I asked for help finding him. If you don’t know that I’m talking about, and want to know more, you can read my other blogs where I describe how we lost Huckleberry after a woman driving on her cellphone almost ran us over while we were riding our bikes, and my plead to all to help by hanging our flyers all over the city.

Caught up? Carry on.

Around 2pm yesterday, a saint named Shawn found Huckleberry not a quarter-mile from our apartment in the parking lot of a massage parlor at Chapman and Flower — exactly where we last saw him. I have personally been to that exact parking lot three times since Huck’s disappearance with no luck, but yesterday at 2pm, that’s where he was.

Shawn picked Huckleberry up. Before taking him home, he decided to drive around a bit and see if anyone was missing a dog. Saint Shawn found one of our flyers (the ones with the chip company’s number) and called immediately. While the chip company processed the information and contacted us, Shawn went several steps further: he took Huckleberry home to his family, bathed him, bought him a collar and leash, and continued searching for Huck’s owners online. He found our Craigslist posts and contacted me directly via email.

This is not the first time we thought we had found Huckleberry. Joy was not our go-to emotion. The girls and I were at a birthday party waiting for Kyleen to get off work and pick us up so we could go to San Diego for the night. I spoke to Kyleen before she met with Shawn and she was a wreck, full of tears, scared this wasn’t going to be our boy again. I called Shawn and asked if he could send me a picture before meeting up with my wife and this was his response: “This is your dog. I promise. Don’t worry. I found him. I’m bringing Huckleberry home.”

I then tried to offer Shawn and his family a reward. Shawn wouldn’t have it. “My reward is reuniting this dog with his family.” And that’s what he did.

Shawn met with my wife and, lo and behold, it was Huck. Kyleen and Huckleberry reunited with Lady (our other dog) before the three of them came to get the girls and I. This picture was taken moments later:


You’ve probably heard it said that dogs become part of the family they’re in. That’s true. You’ve also probably heard it said that dogs become as important as children to parents. In my experience as a father of humans and animals, that’s less true. The reality lies somewhere between those two statements.

Here’s another truth: people suck. Over the last two weeks I’ve received two types of email responses from my craigslist posts: (1) tips for finding my lost dog, and (2) trolling assholery. One of the latter told me that my dog would probably be gone forever because the homeless ate him. Another let me know that most animals that are lost end up chopped up by Satanists and dropped in dumpsters. Still another lovely individual promised me that if he or she saw Huckleberry they would be sure to hit him with their car.

To say that my faith in humanity has been tested over the last few weeks is an understatement. Saint Shawn, however, has made every ugly comment endured worth the pain a thousand times over. Shawn brought my boy home, treated him with undeserved kindness, and refused compensation. There are not enough Shawns in the world. I cannot express how grateful I am to this man and the love he shared with my dog and my family. He made us whole again. I am forever grateful.

So, how’s Huckleberry doing?

Well, it appears as though he spent two weeks on his own. He’s down about eight pounds. His bones — all of them — are very visible. His skin sort of hangs at this point. His poops are oddly cohesive (we expected worse). He’s going to the vet Monday morning for an evaluation, but Kyleen (a vet tech) seems to think he’ll be okay.

Huckleberry has certainly been through…something. He’s nervous and unsure. He plays and loves and licks, but there’s an understandable weariness to him. When he slept with me last night, he would jump awake, scared, and lick my face before going back to sleep. I felt him rise multiple times and every time he would inch closer and put his paw on me as though he was making sure I was really there and then let himself go back to sleep.

Last night’s cuddles

This is all fine. We can get through this. He’s home. We’ll make him better. We’ll do whatever it takes. All of this is small in the face of the utter loss we were experiencing yesterday morning.

That joy is in no small part thanks to you. The outpouring of love and support we have received from friends and strangers alike over the last two weeks has overwhelmed my family and I. Some of you shared our social posts. Many of you reached out personally to offer condolences and any aid we may need. A large portion of you fine folks got in your cars, on your bikes, or in you walking shoes, and canvassed neighborhoods, hung signs, talked to locals, and called shelters/animals care facilities across all of Orange County. To all of you: I offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks…

Even that feels too small.

The support we’ve received has brought both Kyleen and I to tears more than once. “Thank you” doesn’t really cover it. Your graciousness has had a profound impact in my life. Whether or not we had found Huck, you have changed me for the better.

So, despite how small it feels, thank you. Thank you so very much.

We’ll never really know what happened to Huckleberry over the last two weeks. It doesn’t matter to me. All that matters now is getting him healthy again.

The next thing on my list of to-dos is fixing my bike. My back should be back to normal in a couple weeks. Now that Huck is home, we’ve got riding to do.


A video posted by James Ninness (@jamesninness) on