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This is the photo Steven and Anna Tawyea posted on their Facebook page to locate the missing and injured dog. (Submitted photo)

Laporte Guardsman rescues AWOL dog

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Park Rapids Enterprise
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Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Thanks to a blizzard of weekend Facebook posts and a community of animal lovers, a missing and injured pooch has been reunited with her family.

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Cassie even has an odd connection with her rescuer. This melodrama had a cast of thousands by the time it ended happily.

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Late Saturday afternoon the Akita-German Shepherd mix disappeared from her rural Bemidji home.

Michael and Kerri Dinkel and family were frantic and spent the night combing through the woods looking for two-year-old Cassie.

"She's never been outside of our yard before," said owner Kerri Dinkel.

Meanwhile, at an intersection near U.S. Highway 2 and Hubbard County 45, a Laporte National Guardsman was heading to Bemidji when he saw a crowd of people surrounding an injured dog in the highway.

The dog was so stressed she wouldn't let anyone near her. Her foot was turned the opposite way it should have been and the dog was howling in pain.

Steven Tawyea pulled over and like the rest of the crowd, gathered around the dog, tried to lure her to him. He sat patiently in the cold when the others left and the dog finally limped over to him.

He took her home after buying some First Aid Supplies and cleaned and splinted her leg.

His wife, Anna, said the dog whimpered in pain and loneliness, so the couple shut their three dogs away and Steven slept with the Akita in the family mudroom.

Just before turning in exhausted, Steven and Anna photographed the dog and posted it on their Facebook page, asking people to share it.

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Overnight the picture went viral. Hundreds shared it. It was shared with the Enterprise via Facebook by early Sunday. The hunt and the story were on.

Meanwhile, other Good Samaritans e-mailed the newspaper about the story and shared the Facebook postings, which also went to the page of a Colorado woman with Nevis ties.

She alerted the Headwaters Animal Shelter, which in turn arranged for medical care for the dog.

The dog's groomer eventually recognized her customer on Facebook and contacted the Dinkel family, who then contacted Steven and Anna Tawyea.

Unknown to the Dinkels, Steven Tawyea had returned to the scene, knocked on doors and distributed flyers thinking the dog lived around the area he'd found it. No luck.

Rik and Lyn Meyers, who are on the Headwaters board and were in on the chain of e-mails, arranged for Cassie to be taken to the Ark Animal Hospital.

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Cassie, as it turned out, was 17 miles from home. Her exhausted family reunited with her, to see a neatly splinted leg. Steven, in his initial Facebook posting, said the couple are expecting their first baby and didn't think they could afford to take Cassie to a vet in the middle of the night for an emergency visit.

Steven, who is currently job hunting, has taken First Aid in the military and broken many bones himself, so he knew just what to do.

He splinted Cassie's leg and wrapped it expertly. By the time she got to the Ark Sunday, the vet there thought Cassie had been to see another doctor. There he met the Dinkels.

By Sunday night Cassie been reunited with her family and a distraught little girl who'd been up all night looking for her lost doggie.

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"They are such amazing people," Kerri Dinkel said of the Tawyeas.

"We think somebody took her from our driveway," Kerri Dinkel said. "She's never been off our property before. She doesn't go to the road; she doesn't leave our property. We think somebody picked her up and put her in the back of a pickup truck."

Steven Tawyea found her a couple hours after she went missing, when the couples exchanged time frames. The Dinkels and the vet believe Cassie injured herself jumping out of the bed of the truck trying to escape.

"She's in surgery right now," Kerri Dinkel said Monday noon. "Her leg is broken and they're putting a pin in it."

The family had reported her missing in Beltrami County, never believing she'd made it to adjoining Hubbard County.

"He spent time making flyers, went to houses looking for people," an amazed Kerri Dinkel said of Steven. "They're great people."

By Monday, the surgery was a success and the Facebook pages were resounding with the good news. Cassie was refitted with a splint and her usual collar, complete with tags, phone number and ID. She'd been wearing a Halloween collar when she went AWOL. One wonders if her soldier-rescuer had an innate sense about her.

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Anna Tawyea said her husband is originally from Hibbing. So, too is Cassie. She was obtained by the Dinkels from a shelter run by an aunt of Steven Tawyea's.

Cassie knew a kindred spirit when she saw one on the roadway offering help.

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Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.
(218) 732-3364
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