Editor’s note: Doug Coldiron wrote this article for his hometown paper in Bristol, Va., and it also appeared in Guidepost, a national magazine of inspiring stories. He also posted the story on his Facebook page. We share the story with our readers because we know how much pets mean to truckers who face days alone on the road.
I am an OTR owner-operator truck driver leased to Schneider National Carriers. I have been driving for over 20 years. I bought my own truck in 2002. As an owner-operator, I was now allowed to have pets in the truck, which had been against policy in the company-owned truck. That is when I got a small Jack Russell Terrier, named her Dee Dee and hit the road. She has been with me on every run since. She has been coast-to-coast many times and has traveled as many miles as the truck has, almost 1 million. She has made a lot of friends, and seen a lot of things that most folks would never get to see. A real traveling companion and friend for me.
On Sunday Feb. 21, it was a beautiful day in Atlanta, sunny, about 65. We had spent the night at my company’s “Operating Center” there. This is a large facility with offices, truck shops and fuel bays, completely surrounded by a chain link, and electric fence for high security as this location is not in the best part of town.
About noon, I had Dee Dee out playing with her tennis ball, running and fetching, etc., our usual exercise routine. I was talking with a fellow driver, and watching her run around, on the lower end of the lot which was quiet with not much traffic. Dee Dee was over sniffing around as usual, and got a little too close to the electric security fence, and got a shock on her nose. It must have hurt, and it scared her so, that she ran over into a wooded area, with heavy briar thickets. The other driver and I walked over to where she went in and could not see, or hear any trace of her. I said she will come back out after she shakes it off and be ready to play again as usual. Not the case. We waited and no sign of her. We yelled her name, walked the property all through the afternoon. I thought she couldn’t have gone far, because this place is sealed tight with all the security fencing. She had to be somewhere on the yard. Now I’m really worried, because this is not like her. Other drivers came around to help me look, but to no avail. One suggested the shock from the fence may have triggered a heart attack, and she may be in those woods dead. I just knew that if she was inside the compound, and able, she would come to me.
It is dark now, and I’m very distraught. It is the same feeling as if your child is missing. Also, I am under a load that has to deliver 350 miles away, near my home, to Abingdon, Va., Monday at 5 p.m.
It’s now Sunday midnight and no sign of her. I can’t sleep, and haven’t eaten since the morning. I am hoping she will make her way back to my truck during the night, since I hadn’t moved it from the same spot. During the night, the rain started, and a severe thunderstorm occurred. I was devastated just knowing she was out there somewhere.
Monday Feb. 22
It’s now Monday morning, almost 24 hours have passed, and nothing. I have to get on the road by 10 in order to make my appointment at 5 pm. I went into the offices and made copies of a missing poster with all the information on it. I posted them all around the facility. I also notified the Dekalb County Animal Control and made a post on Lostandpound.com. With a heavy heart, I had to leave, praying that someone would see the posters and call me if they found her. But I just knew that if she was nearby and able, she would have come out by now. So I just had to accept the worst. It was over.
I knew I wasn’t the first one to lose a pet, but it sure is heart-breaking. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was leave out of there without my dog, not knowing where or how she is. I'm still praying for her safety as I hit the north bound I-75, with Atlanta in my rear-view mirrors.
It is now Monday evening. I made it to Abingdon on time. I am 350 miles from the last place I saw my dog. I am so distraught now; I still haven’t had anything to eat. No appetite. I’m sitting in my truck in the unloading dock at Mid-Mountain Foods, looking on the computer at my Facebook page, noticing the many friends that are all praying for Dee Dee’s safe return. My wife had posted earlier about what had happened, and everyone had sympathy and concern. The prayer warriors were in action. I had been praying all day too. My wife kept telling me, “Don’t worry, you’ll get her back. Just have faith.” I told her that it would take a miracle if I ever got her back, considering where she was.
I get the loads I haul from my company’s website. I pick and choose where I want to go to. While I was talking to her on the phone, I looked on the site to see what loads were coming out of my area the next day. The first load I saw was a pick-up in Bristol, Tenn., going to Atlanta.
I couldn’t believe it. She told me “There, you see? It was meant for you to get right back down there to look for her.” Thus began a series of events that just seemed to fall into place.
Later, about 10 p.m., my cell rang. A voice on the other end said “I saw your dog awhile ago; she was crawling under the front gate, going in and out of the O.C.” I couldn’t believe it. She was still alive, and nearby down there. He said they tried to catch her, but she was very shy and scared. Later, another call came in from Cindy Kirkland, the Driver Services Representative. She saw her about 11:30 p.m. and couldn’t catch her either. Now I had hope.
Tuesday Feb. 23
I pick up my load, and head out of Bristol, non-stop for Atlanta. Another call comes in from Russ Transue, the building maintenance supervisor at the O.C. He is a dog owner, and had much sympathy for my ordeal. He said “I saw that dog on my way to work about 7:30 this morning over a couple blocks from the yard.” So now I know she’s still alive, but is wandering away. Lots of fast traffic around there. Now I’m praying to just keep her safe until I can get there.
I roll about 75 all the way, and never had any slow downs along the way. As I approach the O.C., I blow the air horn, because I know she knows the sound of it. I want her to know I’m near. Meanwhile I’m getting a lot text messages from friends wanting updates, and to tell me they are praying for us.
When I get on the yard it‘s 2 p.m., and I am met by Russ, who says “Let’s get in my car and we’ll drive around and look.” He would show me the spot where he saw her that morning. We drove around, got out and called her name, drove some more. Nothing. Stopped and asked folks as we saw them. I was starting to get discouraged again. After about an hour, he had to get back to finish his work.
I went to driver services to get a company car. They provide them for us drivers to use to go get supplies, etc. so we don’t have to drive our big trucks to the stores.
Driver Services rep Cindy Kirkland, who had also called me earlier, and who is also a dog owner, told me to take the car and keep it as long as I needed to find my dog. I said “Bless you.”
So now I take off to scour the mean streets of that area, stopping to get out and call her name, over and over. Still not a trace. It is starting to get colder and windy now. It would be dark soon. I feared by now she had been hit by a car, or picked up by someone. I was really devastated now. It was close to 6 p.m. and getting dark.
It had been over two days since I last saw my dog. I had decided I would not leave Atlanta again until I had answers.
I continued to drive the area, and saw this Baptist church that I had driven by several times, but didn’t stop, and there were woods in the back. I stopped the car along the street out front, walked to the back area and called her name. I just stood there listening to the silence. While I was walking back to the car, I looked over at the church and then I looked up into the sky and said, “Lord, just show her to me, please just show her to me.”
I got back into the loaner car, looked over my shoulder for traffic, and just glanced across the street. There was a small, modest brick house, and on the front door step was my dog,
Dee Dee. I said aloud, “Is that her? IT IS!” I sped the car immediately across and into the driveway. Got out slowly as not to startle her, and said softly, “Dee Dee, let’s go home.”
Her tail started wagging, and she trotted over to me and licked my hand. I picked her up and put her in the car, got in and cried like a baby. “I found you, you’re here! Praise the Lord, Dee Dee, Praise the Lord!”
She was in good condition, except for the Georgia clay she was wearing. I immediately called my wife to tell her the good news. I was so excited I could hardly use the phone. She said, “See, I told you that you would have her back by tonight.” She was right. She was my rock through all of this.
Then I noticed a lady in the window of the house looking out. I went to the door to ask her if she had been taking care of my lost dog. She said she hadn’t seen any dog around there. I told her I had just found my lost dog on her front steps. She was surprised.
I now had a lot of calls and texts to make. Everyone was relieved, and told me how they had been praying. I thanked them all and told the story. A little dog, lost in a bad area of Atlanta for two and a half days.
We went back to the yard, and turned the car back in. I thanked Cindy very much for letting me use the car as long as I needed, for I wouldn’t have been able to search easily without it.
I put Dee Dee in the shower and cleaned her up. She ate and drank a lot of water. Then soon she was asleep on the floor under the heater, back where she belongs. I just sat and stared at her for a while, thanking the Lord. A person can really become attached to these little animals.
We stayed there on the yard that night, as I hadn’t slept well in two nights and needed the rest. Wednesday morning I took down the posters and let Dee Dee meet some of the folks that were looking for her there. I picked up my next load, and headed back up towards home, this time with my dog beside me. All I have thought about since is what I went through, and the power of prayer.
How at the lowest point, I prayed for the Lord to ‘show her to me‘, and in less than a minute,
I was looking at her.
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