- Associated Press - Sunday, January 8, 2017

LIZANA, Miss. (AP) - Dixson is a bright Schnauzer with expressive eyes and a gray beard that matches his coat. He can be uncertain about strangers, but if they’re friends of his people, they’re his friends, too.

For Toni Lizana of the Lizana community in Harrison County, he was a furry little godsend. But what she didn’t know was it wasn’t the first time he had shown up unexpectedly in a family’s time of need. And after discovering his backstory, she now calls him “angel dog.”

Dixson showed up at her house one Sunday in late October.

“I came home from church that Sunday and he had gotten in the dog pen outside,” said Lizana, who keeps hunting dogs outdoors. She’s never been a fan of having a dog in the house, but there was something about this little fellow that was different. Maybe it was those expressive, concerned eyes. He managed to make the inside his home very quickly.

Her husband, Kimmy, sometimes has to go out of town for several days, which Toni Lizana doesn’t like. It’s hard for her to sleep if he isn’t there; that feeling of protection is missing. But Dixson changed that.

“My husband had to go to Atlanta around Thanksgiving, and that’s when I knew why God brought Dixson to me; his timing is perfect,” she said.

Dixson got his name after a good friend mentioned a relative with a female dog named Dixie, and Dixson came to mind.

Meanwhile, Lizana had tried to contact the number on the little dog’s collar but it was not a working number. Dixson seemed to have found his home.

Where’d he go?

Then Dec. 4, Dixson disappeared. Lizana made a “missing” flyer and placed it around the neighborhood, including nearby Jackie’s Grocery on Mississippi 53.

Days passed, then the phone rang Dec. 12. Here is what Lizana posted on her Facebook page the next day:

“So let me tell you what God did for me. Many of you know about my little dog Dixson who has been missing for 8 days now. Last night when I got home and looked at my phone I had a message from an unknown number. A woman had seen my flier and had called about my dog! I dropped everything and called her immediately.”

It turned out Dixson’s previous name was Toby. The woman who called, Jaime Evans, said he was one of two dogs that belonged to her father, Tony Seymour. He was Lizana’s neighbor, only a few houses away.

But by then, Seymour had died after battling an illness. Toby disappeared about two weeks before he died at the end of October, and Evans said she was so busy taking care of her dad and moving into the house that she couldn’t devote time to search for the dog.

“I am such an animal lover,” Evans said, then looked at her husband. “If he’d let me, I’d pick up every stray I saw. So I felt really bad I couldn’t give (Toby) the attention he needed at that time.”

It was Evans‘ husband, Thomas, and their daughter, Jada, who’d seen the flier at Jackie’s Grocery.

“Dixson?” Thomas Evans recalled saying, perplexed. “That’s Toby!” They took a photo of the flier and sent it to Jaime Evans, who agreed it looked like Toby. She called Lizana that night.

“When he disappeared from here he actually went ‘home,’” Lizana continued in her Facebook post. “She was very gracious and I’m looking forward to meeting her and seeing Dixson (um - Toby). I am overwhelmed with joy to know that he is well and in good hands. Thank you, Lord. You let me have him for a little while and he was a great comfort to me - then you sent him home.”

Christmas Eve

Lizana was heartbroken but gave Dixson/Toby back to the Evanses, glad he was safe with a family who loved him. Then came Christmas Eve.

She got a phone call from a neighbor that the dog was their house, apparently upset over fireworks booming nearby. She texted Jaime Evans to let her know the dog was safely at the Lizana home. “He can stay if you don’t mind. You can come get him if you want or I will drop him off to you tomorrow.”

A few minutes later she got a very unexpected reply.

“We were going to get him washed up and bring him to you for Christmas,” Evans texted back. “We talked it over and decided that you could have him. He must have broke off the chain. You will take good care of him and we know that you love him very much.”

Her eyes filling with tears, Lizana replied, “I love y’all for that. You just made my Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

It was a difficult decision for the Evanses, especially for 13-year-old Jada. As it turns out, this little dog had been comforting people for some time.

“My dad died Oct. 27,” Jaime Evans said, “and Toby went missing about a week before his death. Daddy had him and Abby, the other dog, for a while. My mom passed away Sept. 24 three years ago, and about two weeks before that, Toby had come to his house. He was a great comfort to Daddy after my mom passed, and Daddy took good care of Toby. They would sit on the front porch together. He was a big comfort for Jada; he was a coping mechanism when my mom passed and then my dad.”

Gift from the heart

The Evans family had talked it over. Thomas and Jaime agreed the Lizanas should have the dog, but Jada was struggling.

“We told her he came to us at a time we needed him,” Jaime Evans said, “and maybe it’s meant for (Lizana) to have him at this time, now. I told her to pray about it, about what we needed to do. The next day, she came to me and said, ‘You know, Mom, that’s the right thing to do.’”

When Lizana got the text saying she could have the dog, “I just sat right here and cried and said, ‘Thank you, Lord!’”

Don’t worry. Jada said her family has five cats and two dogs, and Lizana encouraged her to visit Dixson any time she likes.

“He has such a large personality,” Thomas Evans said of the Schnauzer.

The Evanses and Tony Seymour never knew where Toby came from when he appeared at Seymour’s house three years ago. They asked around the neighborhood but nobody had ever seen the dog before.

“I’ve always called him an angel dog because he was such a comfort to Daddy and Jada, and at just the right time. And it was like he just appeared out of nowhere,” Jaime Evans said, then looked at Lizana. “And now he can be a comfort to you.”

That’s not all Dixson has done. Turns out, Toni Lizana “is married to one of my cousins,” Jaime Evans said laughing, about five minutes after the two met in person. He’s bringing kinfolk together, too.

___

Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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