RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Laura Williams, who owns two dogs, will be the first to tell you that the family pet certainly becomes part of the family. And when one passes away, it can be devastating.
That’s why when she saw a 65-pound Rottweiler/German Sheppard/Chow mix roaming a back road in her Durham neighborhood this week, she knew she had to help.
“He was looking all lethargic and out of it and not really too well,” Williams said. “He let me put a collar and a leash on him, and he jumped into my car.”
Williams took the dog to the veterinarian’s office where the vet scanned his microchip, and they officially met Zeus. Aside from a case of fleas, he appeared to be in good shape.
Williams also learned that Zeus’ owners – the Harworths – now live in Washington state, so she called them.
“When I said, ‘We found your dog Zeus’ – because he was listed as lost — they said their dog was dead,” Williams remembered.
Ben and Melody Harworth, along with their two teenage sons, are a military family. In 2012, they lived in Georgia, but they got reassigned to South Korea. Zeus had to stay home.
“A family friend in North Carolina took care of him,” Williams said. But the Harworths told her that a few months later, that same friend told the family their beloved Zeus had died.
“We all got chills,” Williams remembered of the phone call. “The girl from the vet got chills. I got goosebumps, and I almost started crying because for the past three years, they thought their dog was dead.”
For now, Zeus is staying at Williams’ father’s house in north Raleigh, bounding around the spacious backyard with her 4-year-old nephew. At one point, Zeus stops to gingerly lick the boy’s eight-month-old brother on his face, his tail wagging non-stop.
“We’ve been trying to figure out all week how to get him home,” Williams said. “He’s just a super gentle, sweet dog, and we don’t know where he’s been the past few years.”
Williams reached out to WNCN’s Sean Maroney on Facebook with her dilemma, and they explored her options. But first – WNCN organized a face-to-face reunion via Skype.
“Zeusy!” Melody and her two sons exclaimed Thursday as they saw Zeus for the first time in years through the iPad screen. “Hi, Zeusy!”
“His tail is going nuts,” Williams laughed.
“He looks great,” Melody Harworth said. “My husband is going to be so excited, he has no idea, he’s going to be coming home from training.”
“I’m going to cry,” Williams said. “This is great. I’m so excited.”
In the hopes of bringing Zeus home by the weekend, WNCN took him to the vet to get him cleared to fly. (Full disclosure: WNCN general manager – and avid dog aficionado — Doug Hamilton paid for the bill.)
Because he has heartworms, Zeus can’t fly for six months. Now – we turn to exploring driving options.
And after Zeus “being dead” for the past three years, both the Harworths and Williams agree that another few weeks before the family reunites doesn’t matter.
“Thank you so much,” Williams said. “If this had happened to either one of my dogs, I’d be devastated if I had thought they had died and they were still alive.”
Check back for updates on Zeus’ journey home. #GetZeusHome