Lost and Found Dog Saves Life of Boy with Down Syndrome
Photo: St. Petersburg Times / ZUMA Press
Do you believe in canine guardian angels and the kindness of strangers? You just might after reading this story.
Early one morning, Yolanda Segovia's neighbor, Stacey Savige, knocked on her door and asked her to temporarily take in a stray dog she had found. The scruffy terrier mix had no collar or microchip. Segovia eyed the pooch -- burrs sticking to his belly and mud caking his fur -- and reluctantly agreed to foster him for the day.
An erstwhile hairdresser, Segovia hasn't worked since 2006. At 47, she is a survivor of breast cancer and cervical cancer. A divorced single mother of two, Segovia shares her Port Tampa, Florida home with her 10 year-old son Azaiah and 21 year-old son Christian. Her elder son has Down Syndrome; he cannot speak or bathe himself, and he has had heart surgery and a kidney transplant, reports the St. Petersburg Times.
Azaiah immediately took to the dog, whom he named RaeLee (pronounced "Riley"). Segovia and her sons bought the dog a collar, leash, ball and brown bed from the dollar store, and all that day, Azaiah played with the dog, laughing gleefully whenever RaeLee licked his face. "Don't fall in love with him," Segovia warned.
Segovia and Savige made 4,000 FOUND flyers with the dog's picture, stuffed mailboxes and put an ad on Craigslist. When no one called, RaeLee stayed the night at the Segovias' house. His dog bed was placed in the living room, but when the boys climbed into their twin beds, RaeLee dragged his bed down the long hallway and bunked with the boys in their room.
By Saturday -- four days later -- no one had called to claim RaeLee, and he was still living with the Segovias. The honey-colored terrier had started responding to his new name. He almost never barked, loved playing rambunctiously with Azaiah, and was tender with Christian.
One afternoon, the dog settled himself on the floor near Christian as he watched a "Barney" video in his room. Segovia was outside watering the plants when the placid moment was shattered by the sound of RaeLee crashing into the screen door and barking crazily. Alarmed, Segovia opened the door, only to have the dog race back through the house towards the boys' room. Segovia followed, screaming when she caught sight of her son. Christian was "slumped over, his body writhing in a seizure, blood streaming from his nose and mouth." RaeLee stood next to him yelping, but suddenly went quiet when Yolanda reached down to hold her son.
"If he hadn't come to get me," Segovia said, "the neurologist said Christian would have choked on his own blood and died." The dog, she decided, was a keeper.
But the next day, Segovia and her sons were heartbroken when someone called to claim the dog they had come to love. Randy Cliff, 34, who lived six blocks away said he had been searching for his dog -- real name Odie -- for over a week. Odie had lived with Cliff, his wife, their four children and infant granddaughter. Savige cried, telling Cliff, "That dog saved my friend's son."
When Cliff came to collect his dog, RaeLee a.k.a. Odie, leapt off the Segovias' porch and into his arms. Christian watched from a window. Azaiah stood on the porch watching the man hug the dog he knew as RaeLee. "We're going to miss you," he said, tearfully.
Looking up, Cliff took in the scene -- Christian looking scared, Azaiah looking downtrodden -- and asked, "Is that your brother?" Azaiah nodded yes.
With a sudden change of heart, Cliff put the dog back down. "Maybe Odie was supposed to find you," Cliff told a stunned and delighted Azaiah. "Maybe you should keep him."
And that is how the kindness of strangers -- Savige for rescuing a lost dog, Segovia for taking him in, and Cliff for giving up his pet to a pair of brothers who needed the dog more -- brought RaeLee to live with Azaiah, Christian and their mother.