Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lost Dog Reunited With Family Is 'Christmas Miracle'

WASHINGTON - Andi Vanko starts her mornings with a prayer: "I say, 'Please don't let me see a little stray on the side of the road.'"

Because if Vanko sees one, she'll stop for it.

And that's exactly what happened on Christmas Day.

She, her boyfriend and her mom were in the car driving along Route 140 in Carroll County when she saw it - a little Golden Retriever dashing in and out of traffic.

Vanko and her boyfriend were chatting and laughing while her mom slept in the back seat.

"I started screaming and he says the next thing he knows, we're flying across the turn lane and two lanes of traffic."

Vanko got out of the car and called to the little dog.

"And she came bounding to me and jumped on me like, 'Please! Help me!'" Vanko says.

Vanko hustled the dog into her already-full car, and drove on to her sister's house for Christmas dinner.

When she got there, she explained the situation. Soft hearts seem to run in the family.

Her sister had one question: "Does she bite?" When Vanko told her no, she added "Okay, let's get a leash. Bring her in, we'll feed her."

They checked her collar and found three tags, one with the word "GRREAT" on it.

Vanko thought that was odd.

"I looked at her and I said "GRREAT! What a funny name for you!'"

GRREAT wasn't the dog's name. It was an acronym for Golden Retriever Rescue Education And Training.

A call to the organization was returned quickly: The dog had been microchipped, the GRREAT volunteer was able to crosscheck a database and within hours, the dog's owners were on the way to pick up their wayward pup "Jazzy."

Vanko says a couple from Silver Spring had been in the area for a hike when Jazzy bolted and took off. They had no luck trying to catch her.

Vanko says she could see why. When she stopped to get the dog, two men approached the dog and she initially thought they were the owners. Like, her, they stopped to try to catch the dog, who had been dodging traffic on Route 140 for about 15 minutes when Vanko stopped.

Vanko says that's one reason she says that little prayer each morning.

"For some reason, stray animals have always been drawn to me."

When the dog's owners showed up, Vanko was thrilled for them, but admits she was a bit sad.

She lost her own dog about a year and a half ago and had already given the dog a new name, "Holly."

"She spent the day with us and she was the perfect little creature! And I thought, I hope no one calls me back about this little dog!"

But being able to reunite the dog with her owners was its own reward.

"When she saw her daddy, she was over the moon. And they were so thankful. They gave me a big, big hug. It was like a little Christmas miracle."

GRREAT is a local rescue group that offers all kinds of help and advice to those looking for a dog, and those who feel they have to surrender their dogs. Learn more about the organization by clicking here.

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