When a devastating tornado ripped through Joplin, Mo., last May, one of its victims was Johnnie Richey, who was killed in the collapse of an Elks Lodge, where the 52-year-old was a trustee.
Adding to his grieving family’s pain was the disappearance of Richey’s beloved pooch, a 9-year-old Cocker Spaniel named Sugar.
The Joplin Globe reports that Richey’s sister, Kerri Simms, spent weeks trying to find Sugar. She created missing dog posters and started a Facebook page, hoping the dog would turn up. As the months passed, Simms began to wonder if Sugar would ever be found.
But then last Friday night, taxi driver Chris Ruport saw a stray dog on the sidewalk and picked it up. “My husband doesn’t usually pick up stray animals, so there must have been something about her that said ‘help me,’” his wife, Courtney, told the Joplin Globe. She said the dog looked pretty beat up.
Ruport drove to the taxi shop, where his wife said the dog “drank bowl after bowl of water.” That night Ruport posted the dog’s picture on Craigslist, where someone saw it and recognized Sugar. They informed Simms, who immediately went and claimed her brother’s dog.
Richey’s mother, Joyce Richey, told the Joplin Globe, “When we first saw her, she was shaking real bad like she didn’t have the energy to stand, but they put her on (intravenous fluids) and kept her overnight, and she was better.”
Sugar now lives with Simms, along with six other dogs and five cats, and spends most of her time sleeping and eating.
Simms told the Joplin Globe that Sugar connects her with her brother.
“It means having part of my brother back,” she said. “We can’t bring him back, but we can at least have her. Now we don’t have to wonder. ”
Simms encourages everyone who lost a pet in the tornado not to give up their searches.
“I know there are a lot of pets still out there, and there may be people keeping them not realizing that the owners are looking for them,” she told the Joplin Globe. “All I can say to them is start with the fliers and keep looking.”
More than 400 pets lost during the tornado have been reunited with their families. In June, the ASPCA and PetSmart Charities held an Adopt-a-thon at the Joplin Humane Society to find new furever homes for hundreds of still-unclaimed dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. More than 745 of them were adopted during the two-day event.