Our family Labrador, Bruce, went missing in July of 2016. The emotional toll it took, specifically on our son Nixson, was devastating. He spent those two-and-a-half years praying for Bruce every single night; and in February 2019, his prayers were finally answered.
One day, Nixson stood in my bedroom reminiscing of Bruce and insisted he was coming home soon. Little did I know, we would find him a week later. This is our story, our real life Homeward Bound.
Bruce belonged to Nixson, who begged Santa to bring him a puppy for Christmas. So in 2014, Santa left a clumsy, little brown ball of sweetness under our tree. There was a debate on what to name him, and in my five year old’s mind, Batman was the only name worthy for his puppy. No one else was too fond of the name “Batman” so we met in the middle with Bruce . . . reasoning that it was actually Batman’s real name.
Like the “boy and his dog“ stories go, Bruce and Nixson became inseparable, playing ball in the yard, swimming in blowup pools that always ended in a deflated mess. When one was in trouble, the other was not far behind, leaving trails of mischief everywhere they went. They truly were best friends. It was devastating when Bruce vanished. I held Nixson at night while he cried himself to sleep, and I watched his heart break over and over. Through the tears and heartaches he prayed, Keep him safe, and bring him home.
My entire family pitched in to help us find Bruce. After discovering his discarded tags on the road, we began to believe he was stolen. So, we posted “missing dog” photos on social media, called vets and humane societies, went door-to-door giving out his description in desperate search of a Lab wearing an old red collar.
Bruce had complete strangers on the lookout for him. I had daily calls, messages, and Facebook tags when chocolate Labs were found. Always careful not to get the kids’ hopes up, my dad and I would discretely slip away to see if the found Lab was ours. Months had passed and still no sign of Bruce, yet every night Nixson prayed, Keep him safe, and bring him home.
The calls eventually stopped, and Lab sightings became fewer. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Bruce was seemingly forgotten; but, Nixson never forgot. Convinced his best friend would come home, he continued to pray. It was because of his prayers and unwavering faith that I couldn’t stop searching. My dad and I spent the next two years looking for him. We traveled all over with no luck, and in October 2018, after another disappointing lead, we both decided it was time to let go of Bruce.
Four months later, I received a notification about a chocolate Lab someone found. “Is this your Bruce?” Oddly enough this dog was only a few miles away from where we lived, so I commented on the photo with no expectations. The next morning my phone was ringing, and the caller said, “I think I’ve found your dog; there is no way he’s not your dog.”
The family calling were concerned neighbors of the dog and happened to see my comment. They explained to me their neighbor stole, abused, and mistreated this Lab who showed up wearing an old red collar. I quickly called my dad and, despite our previous agreement, we both rushed to the family’s house. We pulled up and there he was. All that time had passed, yet I could still see the clumsy, little brown ball of sweetness, wagging his tail at me. Though some may disagree, I venture to say, he knew exactly who we were. After a visit to the vet, confirming it was him and he was in good health, it was time to check Nixson out of school.
Walking into the garage, Nixson saw him and stopped in his tracks. He turned to me in shock asking, “Is that . . . him?” No longer able to formulate words, so overwhelmed, he began to weep. He buried his face in Bruce’s fur and just cried. He looked up at me with tearful joy and said, “God definitely heard me and answered my prayer.”
These two-and-a-half years have been long, and often Nixson’s prayers were heavy-hearted. But, he remained unwavering and never gave up. Bruce was missing for 956 days and surrounded with 956 prayers to bring him home. Our miraculous Homeward Bound story will always be a sweet reminder to never give up hope.