I grew up with dogs in my family. Little dogs, big dogs, yappy dogs and a dog who never barked. Because we had no less than 1/2 a dozen dogs throughout my childhood, I'm familiar with having a lost dog. One who got off of the leash, one who got out of the yard and ran away, one who disappeared from the backyard (likely at the hands of someone else who wanted that dog).... And while we never had it happen to us, I know from friends that sometimes these lost dogs magically appear days or even weeks later on your doorstep. What I didn't know was that the return story applied to stuffed dogs too.
Several years ago, six to be exact, Eli received a stuffed dog as a gift. Maddux had joined our family that week and Grandma Cathie bought Eli a little token. He named the dog "Sam" and of all the stuffed animals that have cycled through the house, he has been the only one to 'stick'. Eli adored him, but somewhere around two years ago, Sam went missing. We searched high and low, in and out, but no trace of Sam. Eli was old enough to not be inconsolable about his lost dog, but he was sad. When we found out that Ruby would be joining our family, I went in an all-out online search for a stuffed dog that looked similar enough to Sam; Ruby would give her brother a replacement dog. (Maddux also misplaced Knuffle Bunny on an airplane about a year ago and Ruby brought her a new one too.) Eli's replacement Sam, while cute, is not the same, but Eli loves his new Sam. End of story, right?
This morning, while the kids and Lehr were away, Ruby and I went outside to work in the yard. As we walked back towards the house from the mailbox, I saw something nestled up on the front door stoop. Upon further inspection, I saw that the item was, amazingly, Eli's lost Sam. I kept flipping him over and over, sure that this was an impostor...there was no way. But while he was a bit tattered, and covered in dog (or something) hair, he was definitely Sam. (And actually, considering the two-ish years he's been without a home or owner, he looks darn good.) The evidence was clear: when Eli was about four, he found a black sharpie and branded Sam with "Eli" across the dog's midsection. Those letters were faded, but still visible. Welcome home, Sam...we've missed you!