LUMBERTON — “You don’t give up on a dog,” said Clay Rozier.
After a six-month dog rescue story came to a happy end last weekend, he made good on that statement.
The rescue began near Cox Pond, which was particularly hard hit by flooding from Hurricane Matthew. People who did not get out early were rescued by boat, and some of their pets were left behind as they headed to shelters.
“My grandparents (Mildred and Nathan Hunt) came out by boat,” Rozier said. “They live on Cox Road. Every house on their street was destroyed by the flood.”
The Cox Pond area is on the river side of the Jacob Swamp Dike and Interstate 95 — a stone’s throw from the Lumber River, and has flooded many times, but never like the historic flooding following Matthew.
Rozier returned to his grandparents’ home in the days after the hurricane. From a canoe, he saw a pit bull on the roof of a neighbor’s garage. Leaving it behind was not an option.
“It was shivering and terrified,” he said. “It would not respond to anything, but we got him in the boat.”
Back on dry land, the big dog was a handful, and Rozier could not find anyone to foster the dog. There were more than 100 dogs displaced by the hurricane at the Robeson County Animal Shelter.
“It was suffering from what I would call PTSD,” he said, referring to post traumatic stress disorder. “I couldn’t keep him at home, so I boarded him at the vet.”
Rozier put the dog at Southeastern Veterinarian, then began a months-long search for its owner. Some families who could not return to their homes just seemed to have disappeared.
“I thought I would never find a home for the dog,” he said. Meanwhile, boarding fees were piling up at the vet, and the dog was hurting from the stress of being caged for so long. Rozier was told that the dog may be suitable for adoption.
“The dog was suffering from cage rage,” he said. Time was working against Rozier and the dog.
With a little luck and considerable determination, Rozier tracked down the dog’s owner, who had relocated to Florence, S.C. A reunion was planned.
Last Saturday, owner and dog — John Murr and Heavy — were back together. The recognition between dog and owner was instant.
The reunion, which was captured on video by Woodberry Bowen and uploaded to Facebook, shows a very happy and excited dog who couldn’t get enough love and tummy rubs.
For Rozier, the good Samaritan of this story, there was one issue remaining. He had already paid a considerable sum, but he owed more.
Dr. Curt Locklear, owner of Southeastern Veterinary waived a remaining balance.
“I was not aware that Clay had rescued this dog,” Dr. Locklear said. “We try to help when we can.”
As for Rozier, he is greatly relieved that all is well that ends well.
“A lot of people lost a lot during the hurricane,” Rozier said. “This is a story about getting something back.”