It was the saddest, most heartbreaking task any dog owner can experience.
William Leong was certain the remains he had found in the woods in North Reading, Mass., and buried in a makeshift ceremony were that of his beloved Japanese Kai Ken, Kona, who had slipped free of her harness on a walk Dec. 19 and run away.
Leong searched the nearby woods and discovered remains on Dec. 22, which he sadly concluded were the 35-pound Kona, who he thought likely had been attacked by wild animals and killed. Leong buried the remains, and his family and other dog, a Shiba Inu named Yoshi, grieved as Christmas approached.
But you know this story will have a happy ending, don’t you?
Kona was not only alive, she was well and in the custody of a North Reading police officer, whose yard the dog had wandered into shortly after running away. And the morning after Christmas, Leong was headed from his home in New York to North Reading, where he and the dogs had been visiting relatives, for the reunion of a lifetime.
“It was a roller coaster of emotion,” Leong said at a news conference at the North Reading police station, Kona and Yoshi at his side. “Now I feel like I have to put 10 leashes on her.”
That Kona had chosen the backyard of a police officer was fortuitous, as the police were already on the lookout. Leong had contacted the North Reading police department to report Kona missing. Soon the police told Leong of a report of a dog hit by a car in town. Leong then found the remains three days later and assumed it was Kona, who he thought must have fallen prey to wild animals after being hit by the car.
But on Dec. 26, off-duty officer Greg Connolly discovered an unleashed black dog in his fenced-in yard, contacted headquarters, and sent in photos to make a positive ID with photos Leong had supplied the day Kona went missing.
The pictures indeed matched, and Connolly took the dog to a local groomer. The police then called Leong and asked him to make the five-and-a-half-hour drive to confirm their hopeful suspicions, which the grateful Leong did later that day.
“It was the happiest day of my life,” Leong said. “I actually dropped to the ground. I was so shocked. I can’t imagine what I’d do without my dogs.”
North Reading police Lieutenant Thomas Romeo said the happy outcome was a rarity.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Romeo said. “This is a very unique case, because the dog actually found us.”
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About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).