MADISON — Jamie Cyrway and her three children weren’t going to let a 13-hour, seven-state drive in sporadic snow keep them from their dog, Dempsey.
And Dempsey wasn’t going to let a lengthy surgery Friday morning and a broken leg keep him from his family.
When the Cyrway family of Severn, Md., pulled up at Madison Animal Hospital Friday night shortly before 6, Cyrway jumped from her car and ran to her dog.
And Dempsey — dragging his injured leg and just hours after a surgery extensive enough that the veterinarian feared the reunion would have to be put off — ran to his mom.
Cyrway, 34, and her three kids sobbed as they hugged the year-old boxer.
When they took a breather, Dempsey headed for the door. He’d had enough and wanted to go home.
Dempsey, who was missing for nine days in North Anson before he was found Monday, will be on his way back to Maryland Sunday.
When Dempsey arrived at the animal hospital earlier this week, he had a broken leg, most of his bones were showing and he was having seizures from being in temperatures that dipped below zero for more than a week.
Veterinarian Darren Richards said he had never seen a dog in such rough condition.
Friday morning, after Dempsey underwent three hours of surgery to extract a broken tooth and fix his broken leg, Richards thought Dempsey would be too stressed and exhausted to reunite with his family Friday night.
But Dempsey rebounded and Cyrway and kids Vivian, 2, Jaden, 8, and Tyrr, 12, drove straight to the hospital, which stayed open for them an hour after it was set to close.
Dempsey’s head perked up from his blanket as soon as he heard the car outside.
Also at the reunion was Christine Pierce, an animal lover with two boxers of her own, who got involved in the search after reading about it on Facebook, even though she had never met the Cyrway family.
Pierce, of North Anson, wiped away tears as the children brought Dempsey his toys and collar from home.
“Christine is Dempsey’s guardian angel on earth,” Cyrway said. “It’s been so great to have her support for us the whole time.
“I’m so thankful. I promised my mom we would continue to look for him and not give up because I just knew he would be found. There were definitely discouraging moments, but I just kept pushing negative thoughts away,” she said.
After Dempsey jumped a fence at Cyerway’s mother’s house on Madison Street in North Anson on Dec. 28, the family searched for three days before heading to their home 700 miles away, distraught that Dempsey wasn’t with them.
Monday, Pierce found him in an abandoned warehouse in North Anson, shivering, injured, emaciated and soaking wet, but alive.
While Dempsey was missing, Cyrway’s mother, Janet Boothby, continued to search as neighbors reported seeing him, but none were able to catch him.
The driver who hit Dempsey, breaking the dog’s leg, went to a nearby home to call for help, but by the time he returned Dempsey was gone.
The weather over the period included freezing rain, sub-zero temperatures and snow.
Cyrway wouldn’t give up. When the family returned home to Maryland, she called the Morning Sentinel to place an ad for a missing dog.
According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 93 percent of lost dogs are reunited with their owners.
Pat Nelson, an animal control officer who works in Anson, North Anson and Solon, and helped search for Dempsey, said lost pets and owners reuniting often depends on the conditions under which they are lost.
In a rural area like North Anson, she said, it is not uncommon for lost pets to be on a farm or found by hunters in the woods.
Found animals that are taken to shelters are also more likely to be reunited with owners, she said.
No matter what the situation is, Nelson said it is important for owners to report a missing pet to animal control right away.
In Dempsey’s case, Nelson said the Somerset County animal control had received a report of a big brown dog looking lost on U.S. Route 201A, but since his owners had not yet reported him missing, there was nothing animal control could do.
“We had information about this dog a couple hours after it was lost, but we didn’t know whose dog it was,” she said.
A good strategy in a search for a missing pet is to have one person out looking for the missing pet and to designate another person to make phone calls, said Nelson. Good contacts are local animal control, local shelters, veterinary offices and the sheriff’s department or police department as well as local media including television and radio, she said.
Winter weather can make it harder for pets to survive, especially animals like Dempsey, who does not have long hair and is not used to Maine winters, said Nelson.
“It was really amazing that he did live that long. Because of the weather and he’s not used to being out,” said Nelson. Dogs that are used to being outside have longer coats, fur between their toes and have thicker pads on their paws, she said. “He’s a house dog from out of state, so he obviously wasn’t used to the cold and since he wouldn’t come to anybody, he wasn’t getting shelter.”
Her final advice for owners of missing pets is to never give up.
“Get the word out there. That person that kept looking for Dempsey just kept going. Get the word out there,” she said.
Dempsey will have a cast on his right hind leg for six weeks and he will require more X-rays to check the progress of how his bone is healing, but Richards, the veterinarian, said he is expected to fully recover.
He has shown no signs of frostbite, but is very underweight, said Richards.
He also has a new microchip in case he gets lost again.
Richards said Dempsey is ready to go home and be with his family.
“He should heal fine. He’s a young dog and his appetite has definitely returned.”
Rachel Ohm— 612-2368 firstname.lastname@example.org