- Associated Press - Friday, December 1, 2017

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Larry Schmidt has a sense of peace now that his dog is home.

“Come on, baby,” he called to 2-year-old Rhett Michael Schmidt, a black Labrador mix that was running around a large fenced-in yard.

Rhett escaped from a fenced-in area on July 28 at the Schmidts’ dog groomer, Critter Cleaners. As time went on, Larry and his wife, Anita, started to give up hope. That was until Anita followed one last tip that led her to Rhett on Nov. 18.

“It’s just a crazy story, it’s such a miracle,” Anita said, adding she was thankful for all the tips and donations people made in the rescue effort.

The Hutchinson News reports that donations allowed the Schmidts to put up flyers with a $550 reward. Critter Cleaners; Teresa Schoenhofer, who was a stranger that responded to a post on Facebook; their veterinarian, Dr. Ron Keeler; and a friend, Janice Knapp, all chipped in.

Anita said she was turning over leaves to find Rhett. The Schmidts put a classified ad in The News, posted on Facebook and put up 200 flyers around town.

“I even laminated them so the rain wouldn’t destroy them,” Anita said.

They got tip after tip, but nothing panned out. That’s when Bobbie Jo Oneal, Anita’s daughter, mentioned a Facebook post by her former boss, Weston Tallman, who posted pictures of a black Labrador that he saw a few times that week, always around 5 p.m.

“Will not come when called or for treats,” the post said.

Anita was baking cinnamon rolls the next day. She was not planning on going there. But as it got closer to 5 p.m., she could hear a voice inside her head.

“I put my rolls on hold and ran out there,” she said.

Anita walked around the nearby open field with her friend, Knapp. It was cold and starting to get late. Anita told her friend to go home. The two talked on the phone while Anita waited inside her warm car.

Anita said that’s when she spotted a black dot in her mirror moving toward the car. She soon realized it was a dog, a black Lab mix. She called out “Rhett,” and he jumped into the front seat of the car.

“He was crying and licking my face and I was crying and Jan was crying,” she said.

At roughly 48 pounds, Rhett was about 22 pounds lighter than the last time she saw him. Rhett finally made it home, and now he has a new sibling to deal with - a rambunctious black Labrador named Bubby Dale Schmidt.

The 7-month-old puppy is a bit high strung for Rhett and the 10-year-old Shih Tzu, Sadie Lucille Schmidt. But Rhett has no problem letting Bubby know he is being too rough with Sadie.

Terri Foulk, the owner of Critter Cleaners, paid the $200 Wichita Animal Shelter fee for Bubby. The Schmidts said they know it was an accident and plan to continue taking their dogs to Critter Cleaners.

Along the way, the Schmidts followed various tips: One about a black Labrador being spotted with two strays in Rice Park; another about him being spotted near the fire station on Avenue B. The Schmidts will never really know what Rhett has been through, and for Larry, it doesn’t matter.

He is just happy to have Rhett back in his old spot near the fireplace, in arm’s reach of Larry’s rocking chair. Whenever Larry moves, Rhett follows.

“He’s Dad’s dog and Mommy’s boy,” Anita said.


Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com

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