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A wedding, a runaway dog: Our beloved Charlie's improbable journey home

Rick Montgomery, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

"If Charlie is within 5 miles, I'm going to find him," Cawiezell pledged. She's known by neighbors as a lost-animal sleuth who keeps leashes in her car.

Over the next few days, my family posted notices around Washington County. We bought ads in two local newspapers.

But after day four, we had to drive five hours back to Kansas City and return to our jobs.

That drive was torture. We feared we were leaving Charlie to die.

He was spotted two days later -- Friday morning rush -- limping up an entrance ramp to U.S. 218.

Julie Lang was the first to pull over. She explained later: "Charlie was confused, and I thought he might be hurt. As I reached out, he seemed to be thinking, 'Look, I'm scared. I don't know who you are. So I feel I just have to nip you a little.' "

That's a nice way of saying that our dog bit Lang on the hand.

The next to pull over was Cawiezell. "Charlie," she shouted. And he lay down, pressing his burr-covered belly to the roadside.

Turns out that no two persons in Washington County could have been better suited to rescue a confused, gimpy and bedraggled dog.

Lang is a registered nurse who loves animals. Cawiezell works at the Iowa Hygienic Laboratory, where Charlie's brain tissue could have wound up if authorities destroyed him to test for rabies.

Both begged officers not to put Charlie down. Brother Bill and wife Jo dropped everything to rush him to the pet hospital.

A Washington County sheriff's deputy called with the news. He wanted to know when Charlie was last vaccinated.

"Er ... ," I stammered, "our vet advised against that last spring because Charlie was undergoing chemotherapy."

It's in writing, I assured him. And though euthanasia deserved consideration here, please let us drive up and assess the situation.

The deputy: "Rules on dog bites are to protect people, not pets. ... But we'll wait. You have a safe drive."

Before that first reunion in the Iowa City hospital, my family wondered if Charlie would be angry. Or sickly sad? Turns out he was just Charlie -- licking our chins, whimpering a bit, twirling that tail.

I later made one last 600-mile round trip to retrieve him after a 10-day mandatory quarantine.

Rescuers Lang and Cawiezell split our $200 reward. Both gave the money to a local animal shelter.

Now two weeks back with the family, Charlie's spirits are high. A sprained front paw has healed enough so he can once again grab Sue's stocking cap from a hallway basket, signaling it's time for his morning run.

Nobody can say how many mornings are ahead. Could be weeks, months or years.

But Charlie has proven himself a survivor. Right now, he must be thinking years.

(c)2017 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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