Traveler reunited with dog following accident

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Jaisent Patel and his dog, Sarge, a 3-year-old therapy dog-in-training, were reunited despite a series of unfortunate events thanks largely to the kindness of complete strangers.

Jaisent Patel and his dog, Sarge, a 3-year-old therapy dog-in-training, were reunited despite a series of unfortunate events thanks largely to the kindness of complete strangers.

This is the story of a traveler and his dog and the connection between humans and their animals; a story about being in the right place at the right time. A story of kindness, determination and love.

Jaisent Patel from Houston, Texas, was on I-65 southbound Monday morning, Jan. 3. near Greenville.

He and his dog Sarge, a three-and-a-half-year-old Lab, were headed home from Georgia to Texas when it happened.

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“Shortly after 7 a.m., I was in an accident and my car flipped . . . I was OK but Sarge–Sarge was so scared, he ran away. Just disappeared,” Patel recalls. “I didn’t know where he’d gone or if he was injured.”

He knew one thing. He could not leave town without the dog. “I couldn’t imagine not getting him back; I was broken at the thought.”

And so Jaisent checked into a local motel, made calls, posted on social media and did his best to get the word out about Sarge.

You see, he’s not just any dog, Jaisent’s Sarge.

He has had Sarge since he was a pup of just seven weeks old, a fluffy blond baby in a litter of beautiful pups.

Make no mistake. It was Sarge who picked Jaisent.

“I actually had my eye on a couple of other pups in the litter, but Sarge would not leave my arms. He chose me,” Jaisent says.

And when a dog chooses you, it’s the beginning of something pretty special.

“He’s just the nicest dog, laid-back and caring—there’s not a mean bone in his body. He’s never barked or growled at anybody except in play,” Jaisent says. “The doggie daycare he goes to will sometimes use him to get a more nervous dog feeling more comfortable. And he’s so great with children and babies as well as puppies and smaller dogs.”

So great, in fact, that Sarge is currently in training to become a certified therapy dog, the kind used at places like MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to visit with young cancer patients and make their hospital stays less stressful ones.

Sarge has already made a tremendous difference in his own life,  says Jaisent, who is on his own self-improvement journey.

“Sarge has been with me at my absolute worst, and now he’s with me as my life is getting together. Heck, he ran my first 5k with me—and yes, we both jogged the entire way,” his owner explains. “He’s had such a tremendous positive impact on my life.”

So he just had to find Sarge. And Jaisent soon discovered a lot of people were rooting for that reunion, too.

The post about Sarge was ultimately shared more than 1.3k times on The Greenville Advocate Facebook page and almost 350 times when posted on the Butler County Humane Society’s FB page.

“The community just blew me away . . . the way they posted our flyers and responded to our FB posts and called me with sightings,” Jaisent says. “In fact we almost caught him Tuesday morning due to one of those calls . . . the second time I tried to get him, he ran through an opening along the fencing of north-bound I-65.”

And this is when another traveler comes into the story—actually two travelers, a woman, Celia Turner, and her son-in-law Bobby, who had traveled north from Mobile on Tuesday for the visitation of an old friend, Reeford Whittington, here in Butler County.

Celia has a home place on Bolling Road, and it just so happened she and Bobby stopped by that house to freshen up after paying a visit to check on property in Honoraville and visit the graves of loved ones there earlier in the day.

“There was this big handsome dog on the porch of the Bolling Road house and he looked very much at home,” Celia recalls. “We contacted neighbors who said they knew nothing about a dog missing in the area, but promised to take him food.”

Later, Celia got a phone call from a grandson who had left something at the Bolling Road house on a previous visit, so they had to make an unexpected trip back to retrieve the item.

“We went to visitation and dinner and when we stopped back by the house, the dog was still there. He’d just moved to the back porch,” Celia says. “I told Bobby I really didn’t think he’d been put out by someone; he was still wearing a collar with a tag and he looked so well cared for. Someone was missing that dog.”

The big handsome canine was also clearly skittish, but with some effort, Bobby was able to get his collar removed.

“We found out his name was ‘Sarge,’ so I started talking to him gently and calling him by name and that seemed to calm him,” Celia says.

In the meantime, Bobby dialed the number on the tag.

“I heard Bobby say, ‘Hey, buddy, did you lose a dog? . . . well, we are 12 miles from you . . .’”

Celia says she didn’t want to put trust in GPS, fearing Jaisent would never find the house at night out in the unfamiliar countryside.

“And I was afraid if we left the house, the dog might leave, too. So I told Bobby we just had to take Sarge to Jaisent at the Holiday Inn Express. And Bobby was caught up in it all by then, too.”

An old blanket was found at the house for the seats of Bobby’s truck. The trick was to get Sarge inside it (“Sarge dug in. He would not move and he is big”).

“We were still on the phone with Jaisent, so Bobby turned the speakers on and held out the phone and Jaisent called to Sarge . . . and Sarge followed the phone right into the truck,” explains Celia.

A few minutes later, Sarge and Jaisent were reunited in the parking lot of the motel where he had been waiting for these good Samaritans and Sarge to arrive.

“The first thing I got was a big bear hug,” Celia says. “And then Jaisent got Sarge out of the truck. Honestly, I don’t know which one was happier, Jaisent or Sarge!”

It turns out Sarge had walked at least five miles from that last sighting to her old home place on Bolling Road.

“I’ve always felt safe there; I think Sarge must have felt that, too,” says Celia.

She doesn’t believe it all happened by chance, either.

“I tell you, that dog was so beautiful and he turned out to be so special, that I do believe God had a hand in it. He had a hand in us being there at the right time. We are so glad we got to be a part of this wonderful reunion.”

And as for the $500 reward being offered by Jaisent for Sarge’s safe return, “we just couldn’t take that,” Celia insists.

It was a long, exhausting, but joyous day.

“It was after nine when we reunited them. We were tired and still had a two-hour drive home. But we couldn’t stop talking about Sarge and Jaisent all the way back to Mobile,” Celia says. “It was worth all the effort to be a part of a happy ending.”

As for Sarge, other than a scrape behind one ear, he was pronounced in good health by the vet. He and Jaisent are back home in Houston; Sarge is now wearing a cone to keep from re-opening the healing wound (“he wasn’t too happy about it, but he’s been eating and playing, so he’s fine”).

Jaisent promises he will never forget all the people in the area who made an effort to reunite him with Sarge, especially those two “amazing people,” Bobby and Celia.

“Words can’t begin to describe how grateful and blessed I am,” Jaisent says.