buster aid lori welbourne jim huntOn March 23, our beloved dog of five years vanished without a trace and we’ve been looking for him ever since.

Charlie was a 30-pound white cockapoo that looked similar to many other dogs, so there have been several false sightings that had us running around the first few months. There were also many pictures of look-alike pups sent to us from nice people through social media that never ended up being him. It happened again on Sept. 10 when a dog identified as a Wheaton terrier was posted to the Selkirk Veterinary Hospital’s Facebook page and people started asking if it was ours.

He looked so much like Charlie my heart raced when I first saw the photo. It was late at night, but I immediately sent messages and left voicemails with the vet clinic and the Nelson SPCA where he had been turned in.

The next morning at 7:30 a.m. I received a call from Rob at the SPCA who said the well-groomed dog did not have an ear tattoo so it likely wasn’t ours. His height and weight seemed significantly smaller as well.

I wanted to go to Nelson and check him out for myself, but it was a four-and-a-half hour drive away. Instead I stayed in contact with Rob as well as the vet clinic and regularly checked his post online for further developments.

A couple of men who brought him in said he’d been abandoned on the side of the highway. It appeared he’d been tethered around his neck and hung or swung from it, causing bloody lacerations and bulging eyes from the apparent choking. The little guy was in very rough shape and was understandably despondent.

Rob tried to phone the guys that dropped him off to ask more questions but the number they left didn’t work.

“It’s very unusual a dog like this wouldn’t be claimed within the hour,” Rob said. “Maybe someone doesn’t want him anymore.” Or maybe he’s been stolen from another city, I suggested. Without a tattoo or microchip it’s almost impossible to find pets that have been taken out of town like most stolen dogs seem to be.

Despite thousands of shares of his online posts, no one claimed him and I excitedly drove out to Nelson to meet him on Sept. 19, hoping to adopt him since he was in need of a loving family.

When I arrived at the foster home and saw him for the first time, any high hopes I had that it might be Charlie were dashed in an instant, as the much smaller, bandaged version of him limped towards me with his tail between his legs. But my heart also melted.

I sat on the couch with him in my arms and I wanted to take care of him forever. The wonderful retired nurse who had been tending to him showed me all his medications and thought it best he stay with her for another week until he was better, but I knew I could handle his schedule of pills, ointments and eye drops and convinced her and the SPCA I was a responsible caregiver.

Wendy and her husband had given him the temporary name of Buster, which astounded me since that’s exactly the name we had chosen for him. Our dogs Charlie and Lola had been given the runner-up names we’d picked out for our children, and since I tried hard to convince my husband to name our son Buster when Sam was in my belly, it only made sense to all of us that our new pup should get that moniker.

Wendy teared up saying goodbye to him and I teared up signing the adoption papers. I took pictures of Buster and sent them to my husband and kids. “He’s very sad,” I texted, to which our 15-year-old son responded with “he won’t be for long!”

When I arrived home it was love at first sight for them, too. Even our dog Lola was wagging her tail, eager to play with her new brother. Buster was so zoned out on medication he just laid around not reacting to much for the first week. He’d hobble about briefly with two of his legs looking double-jointed and a crooked spine that had us all wondering what could have happened. His bones jutted out from being malnourished, but our veterinarian Dr. Oz checked him out and predicted he’d regain his appetite and be wagging his tail soon enough. He was right.

As he’s become healthier and happier, he still acts like he’s missing someone and I can’t help but wonder if there’s a family out there longing for him the way we still long for our lost Charlie. But regardless of the past or the future, sweet little Buster has helped mend our broken hearts in the present with all the joy and love he’s brought into our home.

We’ll never stop looking for Charlie Brown, but we’re so grateful to now have Buster Brown. Hopefully a miracle has them meeting one day soon.

Here’s Charlie’s ad and Buster cozied up with his new big sister, Lola:

charlie welbourne missing dog