My father, Alfred Kennedy, has been around German shepherds for as long as he has been alive. There is a classic black-and-white photograph of young Alfred looking directly at the camera with a handsome shepherd right next to him staring off into the distance. The photograph was taken in Thomaston at his grandparents’ house.
In what proved to be a seismic event, my father and his husband, Bill Kenny, bought a German shepherd named Bruno from a breeder in Dunwoody. Their house has been occupied by several shepherds since. There was Bruno and then Lilly, who were the parents of Hans. Next was Bacchus after Bruno and Hans died. Then Bridget arrived following Lilly. Earlier this year Baucus died.
Three weeks ago, Dad and Bill drove with Bridget to a farm in South Carolina to meet a young male dog in need of a home. He came home with them that day. His name was Hitman, a 1½-year-old with a sweet disposition and soft brown eyes. Hitman’s home in Spartanburg was a farm, with acres and acres of space for the puppy to run with abandon.
That Saturday he arrived at his new home on 28th Street, about a block and a half away from Peachtree Road. Just as Hitman — whose name has been changed to Helmut — was settling in his new backyard, a friend opened the back gate. Without warning Helmut bolted through the gate past the guest, up the driveway, out into 28th Street and was gone.
The guest and a friend jumped in their car and gave chase. He was spotted all over south Buckhead over the course of the next hour. He crossed Collier Road. He crossed Peachtree twice. Reports were coming in from all over of the dog on the loose.
Ironically Bill was not at home. He had gone to the pet store to get a collar for the new dog. So Helmut, without a collar, without a clue as to where he was, was lost forever, or so Dad and Bill thought.
Bill happens to be the chief of respiratory care at Piedmont Hospital, which is a stone’s throw from their house. One of the early calls was to the chief of security at the hospital just in case the dog turned up there.
That proved to be a prescient call.
After about an hour of frantic searching, Bill got a call from the hospital.
Helmut had bolted through the emergency room doors. He was now in the care of several nurses who had fashioned a collar and a leash out of supplies. They also tended to a cut on his paw.
When they arrived to pick him up, he was panting wildly but seemed none the worse for his adventure save the now patched up paw. He was lucky. Helmut winding up in the ER is what makes this story unique, but lost or missing pets is an all too frequent occurrence as evidenced by the “Have you seen me?” signs on telephone poles throughout our neighborhoods.
The Atlanta Humane Society has a few common-sense tips if your pet goes missing, to which I am going to add. Of course you have to get out there and search. Drive around, walk, talk to your neighbors and keep them on alert. Take advantage of the neighborhood associations and those of the surrounding neighborhoods. Most neighborhoods are connected by some type of email alert system. It is fast, it is efficient and it yields instant feedback. In the same vein, use social media.
Contact animal control — in Buckhead and Sandy Springs, that is Fulton County Animal Control; in Vinings, Cobb County Animal Control. It can take some time to process the animals so check back periodically until the pet turns up.
Talk to the people in and around your neighborhood, like the security team or the mailperson. They are covering more ground. When all else fails the tried and true pet flyer gives people an idea of what your pet looks like and a number to call. Making sure your dog or cat has a collar, an electronic chip and a recent, high-quality photograph is critical as well.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and is a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.