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When Dee Dee went missing, prayer—and prayers from so many others—helped me carry on.
Dee Dee, my Jack Russell Terrier, raced after her tennis ball, her legs pumping. I’m a long-haul trucker and Dee Dee rides shotgun on my road trips. We’d been playing fetch for half an hour, relaxing midday at my company’s trucking center outside of Atlanta while we waited for my next load. It had everything a trucker could need—fuel bays, shops, a lounge, even a wooded area near the edge of the property. The entire complex was bordered by an electric fence, then a chain-link barrier beyond, protection from the rough neighborhood. That’s why I was comfortable having my dog off leash.
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It felt good to stretch our legs near the woods. Some days Dee Dee and I never got much beyond the inside of my cab. She’d been my traveling companion ever since my wife and daughter gave her to me seven years ago. She was good company, always there for me to talk to, her tail constantly wagging. All those miles on the road never seemed that long with Dee Dee beside me.
Jack Russells are smart, curious, high-energy dogs. Intense. Something caught Dee Dee’s eye by the fence. Before I could react, she let out a yelp and shot into the woods. I rushed over, but a briar thicket kept me from following. She must have been spooked to run in there! She wasn’t normally skittish. “Dee Dee!” I called. No answering bark. Outside the fences, I could see cars hurtling down the road. At least there was no way Dee Dee could have gotten beyond the barriers. I’ll find her, if I have to search every inch of the complex, I thought. She has to be close.
I paced the perimeter of the trees calling her name. Nothing. I alerted some of the other truckers. They volunteered to help. We searched until it was pitch black. One by one the other truckers left. “I’ll pray for you,” some of them said. I wasn’t so sure God was listening. I’d been praying for hours and hadn’t been rewarded with even a faint bark. I was exhausted. But when I collapsed onto the bed in my cab I couldn’t sleep. All I could think about was my little dog: hungry, scared, maybe hurt. Alone.
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The next morning the first thing I saw was the empty spot at the foot of the bed where Dee Dee usually slept. My heart ached. I wanted to spend the day looking for her, but there was no time. I had to load the truck and be on the road by 10 to get to Virginia. Saying goodbye was part of being a trucker. But I’d never had to say goodbye to Dee Dee.
I called my wife, Rena. I’d been delaying the call, hoping to have better news. “Why don’t you put up posters and I’ll get something on your Facebook page? You and Dee Dee have so many people who care about you,” she said. I hung up, sad. Dee Dee needed people on the ground searching for her, not somewhere off in cyberspace. Besides, it’s not like I’d friended 1,000 people. I used Facebook to stay connected to a few friends while Dee Dee and I were on the road. She probably had more friends than I did.
I pulled up a picture of Dee Dee on the laptop in my cab and quickly made a “Lost Dog” poster, with my phone number. I went to the office to print it and plastered copies on the walls, by the fuel bays, everywhere I could think of. As I was leaving, I spied Russ, the maintenance supervisor. “I’ll keep an eye out,” he said.
“I appreciate it,” I said. But I knew he had his own busy job to do. We all had our hands full. Who had time for a lost dog?
I drove up I-75, the interstate rolling by in a gray haze, and reached my destination, Abingdon, Virginia, just before 5:00 p.m. After everything was unloaded, I sat alone in my truck and stared out into the empty parking lot, wishing I were 350 miles south of there. Usually Dee Dee would be sitting in my lap, licking my hand. I’d scratch her behind the ears and…. I couldn’t bear to think about it.