Her name is Gay Joye and at age 77 she does not waste time or mince words.
“You gotta find this dog for these people,” Joye said, loudly, into my ear. “I saw it myself on Eden Terrace across from the Kentucky Fried Chicken headed straight for the Bi-Lo parking lot, but I couldn’t stop in time to catch it. Cars behind me woulda smashed me.
“I bought a leash and dog biscuits and I am looking for this dog. I am going to lure this dog named Ready and get him home to where he belongs. Do something.”
I have little use for dogs but a lot of use for tough ladies, so I asked Joye what this was all about. It turns out this demand was not about dogs, but love.
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Love by people for each other – even when the people are strangers. Love when a crying senior citizen couple has spent more than a thousand bucks to find a lost dog to no avail. Love when they needed somebody to care, and found them in Rock Hill where the couple, “didn’t know a breathing soul.”
Saturday morning, after an overnight motel stop off Interstate 77 at the Baymont Inn on Rock Hill’s North Anderson Road, a motel that allows dogs, 65-year-old Anita Back and her 72 year-old stroke-surviving husband, Ron, loaded up the car for the rest of the drive to a rural place in Appalachian Virginia called Hot Springs.
The couple had been in Georgia for three months because the last time they spent the winter in Hot Springs, it was not so hot. So cold and icy it was in Hot Springs that the Backs were snowed in for almost two weeks with nothing but themselves and three dogs.
“We had to get the last stage outta Dodge before the glaciers hit,” said Anita Back, who somehow laughed after five straight days of heartache over a lost dog named Ready.
So Saturday, in the middle of travel from winter spot to home, one of those dogs, something called a Brittany Spaniel which apparently is a bird dog, stuck a nose into the motel room sliding glass door as the couple loaded the car and U-Haul trailer for the last leg home.
Ready – which is actually a nickname for Rhett because this was a Georgia dog and all Georgia dogs must be named for losing heroes in Gone With the Wind – was ready all right.
Ready ran like Yankees fleeing artillery.
“Ready was running,” said Anita Back. “It was the last trip with the last bag. He bounced out that door.”
Anita Back rushed after Ready like a moonshiner sliding through a curve with revenuers on her tail. She rambled through an apartment complex and businesses and streets until the dog disappeared into nearby woods – the closest thing to the 30-plus mountain acres Ready usually romps in.
“A country dog, Ready,” said Anita Back. “A missing country dog.”
A lady at Clayton Homes, a nearby business on Anderson Road, saw the distraught woman and did not lock the door and go inside and giggle. No, Camille Schofield saw Anita Back and offered to help look for the dog.
Before long, Schofield had printed up flyers and offered to keep the dog’s crate on the porch, with food and water. She and friends put the information on Facebook and put up flyers all over the area.
Schofield was asked why she would do such a thing for a dog belonging to a stranger.
“Because I have a dog and I have a heart and this person clearly loves her dog like family,” Schofield said, after which she certainly added to herself, under her breath, toward me, “Ya dummy.”
The Backs stayed three extra days in Rock Hill searching fruitlessly for the dog. The Backs went to vets and talked to the Humane Society and the York County Animal Shelter and looked all over and hung up flyers.
The Backs placed a classified ad in The Herald and bought a bigger ad, and contracted with a dog-finding website that cold calls people in area codes. The couple has offered a $500 reward for finding the dog.
I know plenty of wives who would not offer $50 to find a lost husband. And even more who would pay $500 to keep him lost.
“It has to be way over a thousand dollars by now,” Anita Back said of how much has been spent. “Ready needs us. We need him. We have to find him. It costs what it costs.”
In the days since Saturday the dog, maybe, was spotted near Eden Terrace and University Drive, then tearing along Cherry Road near Mount Gallant Road.
Reports of a neutered male dog, micro-chipped for identification, with wavy reddish-brown fur on his back, a white belly and legs and bobbed tail, have turned out to be other dogs.
“We won’t stop, though,” said Camille Schofield, the stranger.
“I am still looking,” said Gay Joye, the other stranger.
“With their help, and others, Ready cannot be a missing dog anymore, but a found dog,” said Anita Back.
By mid-week the couple had to head home to Hot Springs.
Why all this expense and effort over a dog?
Ready is believed to have been abused before adoption by a generous kind-hearted uncle – name of Uncle Sam, of course – the Backs said, and is skittish and nervous.
But Ready has become family as close as any maiden aunt with red lipstick, and likely far less messy – plus aunts never leave. Ready likes to climb fences and is shy – so he is clearly not a political dog either.
“Dogs love, dogs are loyal, dogs are friendly,” said Ron Back, who made his living selling Beanie Babies throughout Virginia before retirement.
Rotten people without those qualities of love and loyalty and friendliness can even be found to change with help from a fine dog, said Ron Back. He thankfully did not add: “People like you.”
Anita Back has received many calls from people who read the flyers and ads, but Ready is still lost somewhere.
Yet this lady who has helped people her whole life in Virginia has made these friends from strangers in a strange state and city in person, over the telephone, and on the Internet because of the still-lost dog named Ready.
Anita Back said Rock Hill and York County are filled with great people.
“Find Ready, you’ll make a friend,” she said over the phone from Hot Springs. “Ready likes everybody. I bet Ready even likes you.”
Want to help?
A $500 reward has been offered for the safe return of Ready – a Brittany Spaniel from Hot Springs, Va., lost in Rock Hill. If found, call 540-968-000 or 803-627-2250.