Fathers Day Miracle - A Story of Hope, Survival and Love


Finley, our ten year old, black & White Shetland Sheep dog and my Step-Daughter Shana have always had such a great relationship, so Stephanie and I decided that it was time that Finley should live with her in Ladera Ranch. So, as an Easter present, Finley was just as excited as Shana. 

May 19th - It was a typical afternoon in Ladera Ranch, California. My step-kids Shana and Mark were at school and their dad had left for work. Finley and their little Chihuahua (Ian) were home alone with the house cleaner. Leaving a door open, the house cleaner didn't realize that Finley went outside. About an hour had passed before she noticed that Finley was no were to be found. Shana called Stephanie and I and was completely in a panic. We dropped everything that we were doing and raced to join our family and friends to search for Finley. You could here all of us yelling and whistling for Finley all night long. We searched Ladera Ranch until 2a.m. with no success. It was as though he just vanished. This was so devastating, as Finley is such a huge part of our family. 

May 20th - The next day, Shana began putting posters of Finley on every post that she could find.  Stephanie and I contacted every dog pound and shelter possible. Since Finley was properly registered with tags, name and phone number on his collar, if found, he would be tracked back to us. Later that day, Shana received two phone calls. One from someone who saw Finley at 24 Hour Fitness and one who saw him at Founders park. Once again, we concentrated our search in these two areas with no success.  With Ladera Ranch bordering a vast wilderness area and several major highways, we had deep concerns for his safety from cars, coyotes, rattle snakes, mountain lions and lack of food. Another concern was that if someone saw him, they would have a hard time catching him because he is extremely frightened of strangers. Every day, Shana would wake up, put out flyers and search the areas were Finley was last seen. Stephanie and I spent every day with our Border Collie, hiking the wilderness area calling, whistling and looking for any clues. 

May 23rd - Four days after Finley's disappearance. We had just got out of bed when the phone rang. It was Shana and she said that a family just saw Finley running up Oso Parkway by the toll road. We were on scene within 15 minutes of the call. Shana and her boyfriend were already there and they said that they saw Finley run up and over a cactus and brush covered hill. With my Border Collie by my side, I scoured the hills for miles, while Stephanie, Shana and the rest of our search party combed through the surrounding neighborhoods. Once again, no trace of Finley.  Later that evening after Stephanie treated me for poison oak, I put the word out on all of my social media channels to be on the look out for Finley. Many good friends and clients put the word out to their network of friends. We had so much positive support and encouragement from so many wonderful people. We also heard amazing personal survival stories from others which gave us hope. 

May 24th - Stephanie and I were at our computers editing images when we received the worst phone call. Completely upset, Shana told us that someone had called her and told her that they just witnessed Finley being hit by a car. They told her that she could find his body on Antonio Parkway near San Juan Hills High School. We all raced to that location expecting to see our beloved dog dead on the side of the road. We couldn't find Finley anywhere. We later found out that the call Shana received was a cruel hoax. Every day after that was spent again putting up flyers, talking to people and searching neighborhoods/wilderness areas. 

June 7th - Nineteen days after Finley's disappearance. Stephanie and I were searching a part of the wilderness that was in proximity to were Finley was spotted in the past when we came across some bones. The more we searched, the more bones we found. We pieced them together and they resembled our Finley. We put the bones in a bag and brought them home. We decided that if there was no further trace of Finley after a month had passed by, the bones are most likely his and we need to bury him and say our goodbyes. Not wanting to accept the fact that we could have found Finley's bones, we all continued our daily routine in searching. 

June 21st - Fathers Day. Thirty three days after Finley's disappearance. Even though it has been over a month since his disappearance, we still hadn't buried our Finley's bones. My parents and my oldest son were just about ready to sit down for our Fathers Day dinner when my cell phone rang. A sweet girl's voice on the other end of the phone said, "Hi my name is Mel and I have your dog Finley, I think he got out and we were able to get him"! Not wanting to get everyone's hopes up, I hurriedly asked Stephanie to keep my family entertained while I raced out of the house and headed towards the address that Mel said they were at. My map took me to the edge of the wilderness area to a Mission Viejo neighborhood on top of Oso Parkway. Three women (Mel, Kristine and Lori) were waiting in front of their home with Finley! I could not believe my eyes. They told me that Finley went into their backyard and was crying. Mel and Kristine were able to lure Finley to them with food and that is how they were able to catch him. I couldn't thank these beautiful heroic women enough as I explained to them that Finley had been missing since May 19th. I spent the next ten minutes just loving and squeezing a very excitable Finley. Their wasn't a dry eye amongst all of us.  

On the way home, I called Stephanie and told her that I had Finley in the car. She started crying and asked if he was alive. I told her that other than being skin and bones, he looked incredible. I then called Shana, I told her the news, she could not stop crying and said that she would be over just as soon as she got off work. We are so grateful and we are all perplexed on how Finley could have survived unsurvivable conditions. Our entire family, friends, community and our new beautiful super heroes have given Finley such a loving welcome home.

Needless to say, it's been a very emotional reunion with a very special dog and we want to thank everyone who helped in the search and the prayers.