Paula Heckathorn had nearly given up hope of ever seeing her service dog Cody again.
The certified dog rehabilitator was in the process of moving into her new Pleasant Plain home on June 30 when the 9-year-old Australian Shepherd darted in the street, was struck by a vehicle and ran off.
Heckathorn checked the shelters daily and saturated the area with flyers. Dozens of volunteers organized searches and a family friend even consulted a pet psychic, but Cody remained elusive.
And then came a startling phone call Thursday afternoon.
“I had gotten so many phone calls that I thought this was another well-meaning person who had found my dog,” said Heckathorn.
“Then they said, ‘The number we’re calling is the number on the collar.’ That’s when I shot up and my adrenaline rushed and I said, ‘This has to be my dog.’”
The caller, Jonathon Simonson, lives 22 miles away in Wilmington. He’d seen Cody hanging around his dog and lured him with a can of sausages.
“When he saw me, he stared at me like he’d seen a ghost. They let him off the leash and he ran to me and he was whimpering and crying. We pretty much collapsed on the ground together. He didn’t take his eyes off me and hasn’t since then unless he’s asleep,” said Heckathorn.
Heckathorn adopted Cody after his previous owner could no longer afford to keep him. After she attended Zen4K9s, a California-based dog rehabilitation and training facility endorsed by “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan, Cody became a valuable tool in her behavioral work with dogs.
Heckathorn works with local animal rescues and shelters to rehabilitate and train abused, abandoned and untrained dogs that would otherwise be euthanized.
A veterinarian removed 25 ticks from Cody, who’d lost six pounds and suffered a laceration. For Heckathorn, having him home is the best housewarming present she could receive.
“He’s very happy to be home and I can’t tell you how happy I am. It’s a miracle and an answered prayer,” she said.