My mother’s black and white rat terrier, Winston, has had a history of being lost and found.

She adopted him from a local animal shelter almost five years ago. He had been turned in by a man who said he had found him running along a busy road. When the shelter personnel checked for a microchip, they found he had one and were able to contact his owner. As it turned out, the owner was the wife of the man who brought him in. I’m not sure how that marriage was going, but the wife did agree to release him for adoption. Winston became my mother’s friend and protector. She loved him very, very much.


In the last couple of years, my mother’s health began declining and she spent several long stays in the hospital. During these times, my mom’s wonderful neighbor, my sister, and I would take care of Winston in her home. I installed a doggy door and one of us would go by each day to feed him and refill his water. The neighbor checked on him several times a day and would take him for walks. He became used to the idea that his “Mom” might be gone for several days (sometimes weeks) at a time, but that she always came back. Unfortunately, this was not true when she entered the hospital last August. She passed away in November with her family present and a picture of Winston at her bedside.

During her hospitalization, we had the opportunity to take Winston to visit her. We sat in a grassy courtyard on a warm fall evening while my mom and Winston got caught up. They both were very happy to see each other and Winston spent most of his time in her lap.

After she passed away, we could not bear the thought of finding a home for Winston, so my family and I brought him to live with us and our ten year old beagle mix, Crash. We introduced them gradually, at a neutral location (the park down the street from my mom’s house) because they had both been only-dogs and we weren’t sure how they would react. Thankfully very soon they were best buddies. It’s play time all the time at my house now and they never seem to get tired of it. We all wonder how they ever got along without each other.

We usually eat Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s house which is about two blocks away from our house. We share in preparing all the dishes so no one is overburdened. On Thanksgiving day, with all the hustle and bustle going on at my house, we forgot to let the dogs in before going to my sister’s. When we arrived home that evening, Crash was in the dog house in the back yard but Winston was nowhere to be found. I called my sister and all of us (five kids and three adults) searched until after midnight. When I went home, I couldn’t sleep so I went out looking again and didn’t come back until morning.I even went back to my mom’s house about five miles away. A large black and white cat jumped out from behind a car near her driveway and of course my first thought was “There he is!”

I posted an ad on Craigslist, called all of the SPCAs, animal shelters, and veterinary offices in the area, took a quick nap and then we went looking again. I know the people in my neighborhood were wondering about this crazy woman cruising up and down the streets hollering “Winston” and rattling a bag of dog treats out of the car window. I was just distraught at the thought of my mom looking down from heaven and seeing that I had lost her beloved Winston.

Then, I got a call Saturday morning from a lady who had seen Winston on Friday night just a few hundred feet from my home, crossing a busy intersection. There was another sighting in the same vicinity on Saturday afternoon, then another that evening. It was so frustrating to know that he was so close yet we couldn’t find him. My fantastic husband and kids spent the entire holiday weekend walking the neighborhood streets, calling for Winston, posting over 300 lost dog fliers, and talking to anyone outside who would listen. We put an ad in the local paper and got a couple more calls, one from a woman who tried to put a leash on him when he was in her backyard, but he jumped the fence and got away.

Then, on the afternoon of Thursday, December 4, 2008 my son received a phone call from a lady who lived a few blocks from where Winston had been last seen. He was in her garage! Her husband was out of town and she had decided to get out the Christmas decorations that were stored in the upstairs of her detached garage. When she went up the stairs, she saw that some boxes had been knocked over and she heard something move. When she got to the top, she saw what she first thought was a cat curled up on her daughter’s beanbag chair in a play area upstairs. Then Winston raised his head and looked at her. When she spoke to him, he jumped up and onto a toy box next to a window and growled. She just told him he looked hungry and she was going to get him some food. She went back downstairs and into her house and brought back a big bowl of dog food and slid it across the floor to him and left him alone. A little while later, she went back upstairs and he immediately came to her like she was his best buddy, which I guess at the time she was, and she was able to pick him up and wrap him in a blanket. Her neighbor told her about the ad in the paper and she called our number.

Her garage is in her back yard and the bottom floor was pretty much set up as a comfy den for her two beautiful black Labrador retrievers, complete with plants, blankets, pillows, and a heater. There was a doggy door installed in the walk-through garage door. Winston must have jumped the fence into her yard, recognized a doggy door, and gone on in. I think his “Mom” led him there, to the perfect guardian angel who would keep him safe and help him find his way home. Winston is home now and has not been interested in any more ‘adventures’ and appears perfectly content to be a homebody from now on.

Jodi, VA