A three-week search for the companion dog of an Oregon man battling depression has ended happily in Wyoming, more than 700 miles from where the dog went missing in Nebraska.
Melody, a 12-year-old border collie mix, was found huddled under a pickup in Sheridan, Wyo. She had been inside a car when it was stolen in York, Neb.
The search for Melody had extended from the small Nebraska city across the western U.S., all the way back to her owner's home in Myrtle Creek, Ore.
The companion dog has been Bliss Green's remedy for the last 11 years, after he went to a hospital for being depressed and suicidal, Green said.
"I brought her old bed from the house," Green said Monday from Idaho, while driving to reunite with Melody at an animal shelter in Sheridan. "There's enough room for her to sit right next to me when we go home."
A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs nurse practitioner wrote a prescription in February 2003, medically requiring the border collie mix to stay with the 75-year-old veteran at all times.
"If she was with me and knew I was upset about something, her head would come on my lap," Green said. "I haven't been depressed since I've had her."
Health providers at the Roseburg VA Health Care System don't normally assign companion dogs to mental health patients, but a nurse gave Green a handwritten prescription, spokeswoman Sharon Carlson said Monday.
Green's car was stolen while he was inside a York gas station early Nov. 3. He was heading home to Oregon after visiting his daughter in Chicago. Melody was inside the car with Green's cell phone and his belongings.
York police said the stolen cell phone was tracked as it was used through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. It led authorities to the car and a suspect who was arrested in Oregon, Green said.
While authorities tracked down the car, Green and Gail Nordlund, the president of York Adopt-a-Pet, e-mailed shelters across the western U.S. where they thought Melody might turn up.
A Dayton, Wyo., couple found the dog huddled underneath their pickup, said spokeswoman Sandy Litle of the Sheridan County (Wyo.) sheriff's office. The couple fed Melody and gave her water for a week, thinking she belonged to someone else in the neighborhood, Litle said.
Litle and a deputy retrieved the dog about a week later and took her to a shelter.
"She was scared," Litle said. "Once we put her in my vehicle, we could pet her and love her."
Authorities connected the dog to Green after some of his personal belongings from the car were found in the area.
"I've been doing this for many years, and very seldom do we get a happy ending like this," Nordlund said. "When a car's stolen like that, it's usually tough to end it like this. What a Thanksgiving for Bliss."
Green said he's worried about Melody's condition. The two haven't been separated for so long since he adopted her from a shelter, he said.
"I'm worried, but I have no reason to believe it won't be perfect," he said. "This is just like a person-to-person relationship. I'll handle it gently."