In 1999 my oldest son Stephen had a “Cinderella” opportunity to work at the prestigious Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester County, New York, as Equipment Manager. It meant relocating from his childhood home in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. While he was an adult, it also meant leaving friends and family. Even though he wasn’t really that far away, his heavy schedule meant infrequent visits.
The second year he spent at Winged Foot he found a beautiful little Border Collie puppy he named Jessica. She was just an eight-week-old ball of fur, and she grew up in Steve’s studio apartment in Scarsdale and at the golf course, where she eventually learned to herd geese … the bane of every golf course. Of course, she always accompanied him on his visits home, so we all grew to love her (everyone except my cat Josey who joined the family in 2008).
Steve was single, and Jessica was his closest companion for many years. After a biblical seven years at Winged Foot (which included the 2006 U.S. Open), he returned home and established a soil treatment company, often traveling to New York, Connecticut and beyond to work on playing fields, and faithful Jessica was always with him.
Eventually Steve found the woman who completed his life, and Jessica retired not long after that to become a happy house pet to Steve's new-found family, which included two children. By now she was getting up there in doggy years and began to have not unexpected health issues: a bad back, increasing blindness, loss of hearing. But she never lost her love for life and her master.
This year, two days before Thanksgiving, Jessica went outside to answer the call of nature, and she didn’t return. We don’t really know what happened: something perhaps startled her, and being blind she became disoriented and wandered off. Steve and his family … all of us, in fact … were distraught.
Hours turned into days, and at the age of nearly16 we all wondered just how long Jessica could survive. Notices were posted on Facebook, veterinarians and shelters were contacted, searches ensued. No sign of Jess.
Twelve days later I had a phone call from our local animal shelter, AWSOM (Animal Welfare Society of Monroe). “We think we have your dog.” Steve had been there a couple of times and they were aware she’d been missing. I immediately called him (AWSOM called me because my phone number was on the Facebook “missing” notice) and he immediately went to the shelter. Sure enough, it was Jessica. She was found near water (a stream or a creek), and while she was disoriented, she certainly knew her daddy. She had lost weight but seemed none the worse for wear, and continues to do well.
The best possible outcome, and the concern expressed by so many people (my “missing” notice on Facebook received over 800 shares and many prayers and helpful suggestions) were also a heartwarming part of this story. People do care. There are good people in the world, including the couple who found Jessica and brought her to our animal shelter, where many local people volunteer. A whole network of people who love animals, and love the people who love them.
Borders are almost scarily smart dogs. Jessica, even at her age (she'll be 16 on January 14) and with infirmities, had the will to somehow manage to reunite with the people who love her.