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A Heavenly Reunion in the Wake of Disaster

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Chased from their homes, people fleeing disaster often face quick decisions about what to do with their pets. Choices that seem spur-of-the-moment can have long-lasting consequences.

As this season’s storms approach, people might consider the story of the Guiden family. It is a tale of good-intentions, honest mistakes and, ultimately, the triumph of reunion – a happy ending made possible, as Kathy Guiden tells it, by the grace of an angel.

When the storm hit

Kathy and Mike Guiden and their 16-year-old son, Jacob, fled their home in New Orleans three days after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Thinking they wouldn’t be gone long, they left behind their dogs, Raven, a black Labrador, and Touro, a rat terrier. They had arranged for a neighbor to check on them.

“It seemed like a good decision at the time,” Kathy said. “It wasn’t.”

The Guidens wound up with relatives in Indiana, a stay that stretched from days to weeks to months. The dogs, meanwhile, were taken into custody by animal control authorities, who checked the Guiden’s home at a time when the friend wasn’t around. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but the dogs ended up being taken to a holding facility in La Place, La.

“When we found out, I was hysterical,” Kathy said. “I felt so guilty. We should have made arrangements to take them somewhere. But we weren’t prepared.”

The long drive home

Anxious to rescue the dogs, Jacob, not yet a junior at Holy Cross High School, drove all the way back to Louisiana from Indiana to find them. He found only the black lab, but not the terrier.

As it turned out, there was a problem with the black lab he brought home.

It was the wrong dog.

When Mike and Kathy returned to New Orleans, it didn’t take long around the lab to discover that it wasn’t Raven. “We had a very embarrassed son,” said Kathy, “not to mention somewhat panicked because he knew somebody else was missing their dog.”

Through an Internet search on Petfinder.com, a family friend found pictures of Raven and Touro. When she saw the picture, Kathy exulted, “Those are my babies!”

By then, the dogs had been given away. They were living in Ohio with a young man named Brian Strunk. He had fallen in love with the dogs. He called the lab “Big Girl” and the terrier “Little Girl.”

The reunion

Brian, reached on the telephone by the Guidens, was happy for the family, but confessed to being a bit sad, too, since he had come to cherish the dogs. The Guidens offered to pay for the dogs to be flown home, but Brian would do better than that. He offered to drive them all the way home.

When Brian arrived, there were plenty of tears of joy in the Guiden home. The dogs were thrilled to be home, of course. The family was so grateful to the 28-year-old man.

It seemed like a miracle – in more ways than one.

Some 28 years earlier, Kathy had lost a baby boy. His name was Brian, too. Now this young man – the same name, the same age as their lost boy – had come into their lives to heal them during a time of deep struggle. He was even born on the 11th day of the month, just like the lost Brian.

“He is the most wonderful young man,” said Kathy, the tears starting to well. “It seems like an angel had been sent to us.”

Maybe it’s no miracle, but just a coincidence.

Call it what you may. But every Christmas, the Guidens and Brian share gifts, and give thanks.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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