How Finding Their Childhood Dog Became The Perfect Reunion

Thanks to an old T-shirt and God they were able to reunite with the small, white canine.

Posted in , Sep 24, 2021

A red dog collar that reads TIKI; Illustration by HENNIE HAWORTH

“Tiki!” I yelled frantically.

Our little white poodle mix, Tiki, had slipped out the door earlier that evening while I was carrying groceries into the house. Now I was scouring the neighborhood trying to find him. My seven-year-old son, Jordan, and my three-year-old daughter, Julia, were in tow.

Please, God, I prayed. Bring Tiki home. The kids have lost so much already.

The last few months had been difficult. After getting divorced, I could no longer afford our house in Indianapolis. The kids and I moved in with my parents in northern Indiana, 150 miles away from the city. Change was easier for Julia at her age, but Jordan missed his friends and his old school. Losing his childhood dog was the last thing he needed.

We called out Tiki’s name and knocked on neighbors’ doors until it was too dark to see. We were forced to return home empty-handed.

“Mom, it’s all new here. What if Tiki can’t find Grandma’s house?” asked Jordan.

“It’s okay, bud,” I said. “He’s wearing his collar and dog tags, so if someone finds him, they’ll call me, and we’ll get him back.” It was in that moment that I realized with horror that Tiki’s tags listed our address and phone number in Indianapolis. He wasn’t microchipped. If someone found him, they’d have no way to reach me. I felt sick to my stomach.

The next day, I hung LOST DOG signs all over the neighborhood. I kept asking around to see if anyone had spotted him. Called the Humane Society daily. I constantly prayed that we would find him, but after two weeks, I was beginning to lose hope.

The kids were devastated, especially Jordan. One afternoon, I found him crying in his room. “At school, we had to write about our wishes,” he said. “I wrote, ‘I wish my dog would come home.’ Mrs. Rush hung our papers in the hallway. Every time I see my paper, I feel sad.” My heart broke for him.

So later that week, when he put on a ratty, stained T-shirt from his old school back in Indianapolis, something told me to just let it slide. If it helped him get through the school day, that was more important than looking put-together.

When he got home that afternoon, he told me the school custodian had asked him about his shirt. “I told him that we just moved here from Indianapolis,” said Jordan.

How nice of the custodian, I thought. He’d probably noticed Jordan was down and tried to cheer him up with a chat.

The next day, I got a call from Jordan’s teacher. “I’m calling on behalf of our school custodian,” she began. “His grown daughter found a dog a few weeks ago, and he thinks it might be yours.”

The teacher didn’t know the details, but she passed on the daughter’s phone number and address, which was more than two miles from my parents’ house. An impossibly long distance for a small dog like Tiki. I dialed the number anyway, feeling sorry that there was another family out there that had been separated from their pet just like us.

“He’s a small white dog and his tag says TIKI,” the lady on the phone said. The kids and I piled into the car and rushed over. Minutes later, my kids were sitting on the floor in the custodian’s daughter’s kitchen, laughing while Tiki licked their faces.

“Thank you for taking care of him, but I’m curious,” I said. “What made your dad think he was ours?”

She told me she’d mentioned to him that she’d found a little dog. A few weeks later, he was mopping the hallway when he spotted the kids’ latest essays. He paused to read Jordan’s. Could it be the same dog? His daughter said no, the dog had Indianapolis tags with a disconnected phone number.

“But then he noticed Jordan’s Indianapolis T-shirt and put two and two together?” I said, connecting the dots. She nodded.

That night, Jordan thanked God for bringing Tiki home. And I thanked God for prompting me to let Jordan wear the ratty old T-shirt that made the reunion possible.

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