This tale has a happy ending

‘That Iowa nice really exists here’

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Ben Acree, left, Tabitha Acree, and Boston Gordon, pose with Murphy, a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix, Thursday. Murphy belongs to the Acrees, and Gordon found the dog after it went missing.

Boston Gordon slammed on the brakes of his car Wednesday at about noon when he spotted a dog he hoped was Murphy.

Gordon, a senior at Fort Dodge Senior High, was just beginning his search for Murphy, a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix that had been missing since Sunday.

Murphy is owned by Tabitha and Ben Acree, of Fort Dodge.

Tabitha Acree, the principal at Riverside Early Learning Center, left her house near 21st Avenue North to get some groceries at about 11 a.m. when the dog made the escape.

“I left through the garage and got in my car and left,” Tabitha Acree said. “I thought he was inside, and he must have snuck by me and got away.”

The family didn’t realize Murphy was missing until about 1 p.m.

“We searched the whole house and rode around on our bikes looking for him,” Tabitha Acree said.

“We canvassed the neighborhood,” Ben Acree added. “We searched all night.”

The next day the family ramped up their efforts.

“I printed out flyers,” Tabitha Acree said.

Periodically, the family received reports that Murphy was spotted by the cornfield along 29th Street.

“We assumed he was somewhere in the cornfield,” Ben Acree said.

The search started with family and friends, but quickly expanded to dozens of others in the community.

“We posted on Facebook and it kind of took off,” Tabitha Acree said. “Staff members and friends walked the whole cornfield by Knollcrest.”

She added, “We were amazed. We thought a few people would help us look, but it was the whole community. People wanted updates.”

At one point, a drone was deployed to find the family’s furry friend, but to no avail.

“He flew over the whole field and didn’t see anything,” Ben Acree said.

Ben Acree finally spotted Murphy, but he ran away again.

“That little stinker,” Ben Acree said. “He was spotted numerous times Tuesday.”

After it rained that afternoon, more people showed up — this time with squeaker toys.

Tuesday night people drove by and used spotlights in the area where Murphy was seen.

The Iowa Central Community College softball team and Fort Dodge police officers helped too.

Eventually, through advice from AHeinz57 Pet Rescue and Transport, the family backed off.

“They said ‘stop what you’re doing,'” Tabitha Acree said. “They said he will leave the location if people kept searching there.”

“We got concerned with rain coming in,” Ben Acree said. “He was so small. We were worried about him.”

Then on Wednesday the family caught a break.

Once Gordon was done with his classes he got in his car and drove near Diversified Storage, 2451 N 32nd St.

“I was heading down Badger blacktop to turn on 25th and there he was sitting under a tree inside the fenced area,” Gordon said. “I slammed on my brakes and turned on 25th and parked and ran down the ditch. There was an opening, where he was standing when I got there. He ran to the other side of the storage unit into a gated corner and got trapped there. Then I picked him up.”

He added, “He wasn’t even at the spot I was going to start looking. It was just by chance.”

Gordon wrapped Murphy up in a blanket and placed him in the car.

At a stop light on the way back into town, Gordon said he had to make sure he had the right dog.

“I called my mom at Duncombe and said there was an emergency,” he said. “I told my mom, ‘you know that dog Tabitha was looking for? I have him.'”

Gordon’s mom teaches at Duncombe Elementary School.

Tabitha Acree was at her office at Riverside.

“I got a call and then when I got off the phone Boston was carrying him into my office, and we just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “All of us were crying and the teachers came in crying — happiness.”

Tabitha Acree said the search efforts from everyone involved is a testament to Fort Dodge.

“It made me realize that people cannot say anything negative about Fort Dodge because that Iowa nice really exists here,” she said. “This is why we moved here to raise our family when we did.”

For Murphy, he was just happy to be back at home Wednesday night to play with a toy.

“The first thing he did when we got back was grab his ball and play in the backyard,” Tabitha Acree said. “I thought are you kidding? You already did all that running.”