When a Kentucky woman saw a dog in a bad spot, she and her family did what they’d done so many times with stray animals before: offered help. But what should’ve been a simple pick-up-and-return mission turned into a heartbreaking predicament that forced her to make some tough decisions…
Melissa Ringstaff and her family have a motto: “We can’t save the world, but we can do something about the one in front of us.” And when it comes to animals, that’s truly the motto they live by.
The philosophy regularly encouraged the family to help animals. They often scooped up lost animals wandering around Harlan, Kentucky, fed them, and found them homes. Such was the case with a certain Great Pyrenees…
Early on a Saturday morning, the Ringstaff family cruised down the highway, a 2-hour drive ahead. But in the opposite lane, they noticed a great, hulking dog, lying still in the road. Cars swerved to avoid him.
The Ringstaffs were concerned that the dog had been hit by a car. Melissa’s husband Mykal, a pastor, flipped on the car’s hazards lights and pulled the truck over. They got out of the vehicle to inspect the canine.
But as soon as Melissa and her gang stepped into the road the dog stood up and walked over to them, curiously showing no sign of injury. It was then Melissa saw the heartbreaking reason the dog was staying so still…
Off in the ditch lining the highway, another dog had been hit by a car. Tragically, he didn’t live to tell the tale. By the looks of it, the dog in the road had been guarding his fallen friend. The sight “broke my heart,” Melissa wrote.
The Ringstaffs tried luring the dog into their truck, but he refused to leave his friend behind. Heartbroken, the family left the stubborn pooch for the moment (they were, after all, on a day trip). But ten hours later, they returned.
The dog hadn’t left, though he’d moved out of the road. So, committed to saving the world in front of them, the Ringstaffs hoisted the massive dog into their truck. Like so many other lost dogs, they’d find his home, too.
But as the Ringstaffs drove with the dog in their truck, searching for the collarless dog’s home, local after local told the same story—one as tragic as the lost dog’s situation.
Those dogs, the locals explained, belonged to someone who moved away. They left the dogs behind to fend for themselves, leading to one’s demise. The abandoned and lonely Great Pyrenees had no home to return to.
Worse, the dogs had apparently been living on the side of the highway for a couple of days. So, hearts broken once more, the animal-loving Melissa and her family knew what they had to do: make this dog’s world a better place.
The Ringstaffs brought the dog home, fed him, bathed him, and gave him a haircut. When night fell, she led him to a brand new kennel. But the dog didn’t sleep.
Instead, he broke from the kennel in the dead of night and disappeared from the Ringstaff home. The second Melissa spotted the kennel with a now-broken door, the family went out searching for him. It should’ve been easy. It’s not like the big dog was in disguise…
All day, the Ringstaffs searched, asking everyone they passed if they’d seen an enormous dog teetering along. They drove to the Humane Society and police stations. They couldn’t find the Great Pyrenees anywhere.
In fact, the Ringstaffs spent three days looking for the dog, putting over 100 miles on their car driving around the small Kentucky town. Finally, they spotted the pooch.
Just a few miles from the Ringstaff home, the pooch sat on a stranger’s porch, happy to see Melissa and her kids! The next day, Melissa bought him dog tags—with his new name.
At first inspired by the 2009 film Hachi: A Dog’s Tale they called him Hachi. Like the dog in the film, Melissa wrote, “we’d found him loyally staying with his buddy who died.” But they ultimately chose a happier name.
“In the end,” Melissa wrote, “we named him Tucker.” Though simple, the name somehow perfectly fit the dog’s personality. “He’s incredibly sweet, very gentle, and we’ve yet to hear him bark.” He’s Tucker. And really, from the moment they first spotted him on the side of the road, he was a Ringstaff.
And even though Tucker had taken them on a wild goose chase, they instantly loved him because he’d shown such dedication standing by his fallen friend. Not long after, the Ringstaffs probably heard about a heroic dog whose loyalty was the key factor in someone’s survival.
The dog in question was searching on the streets when he came across Junrell Fuentes Revilla riding his motorcycle in Sibonga, the Cebu providence of the Philippines. As Junrell drove, he noticed the dog running alongside his bike. Junrell’s canine companion started barking at him as he drove along a remote section of the road.
The dog wouldn’t stop following Junrell. They were in the mountains, away from busy streets and other people. The only sign of life, Junrell realized, was the dog’s insistent barking. So, Junrell hit the breaks. When he did, the dog ran right over to him.
Junrell didn’t see anyone else around. It was just him and this weird dog who, no matter what Junrell did, refused to stop barking. For all he knew, the animal was sick or crazy. But there was something about the fierce look in the dog’s eye that piqued Junrell’s curiosity.
The dog met Junrell’s eyes before turning around and walking in a totally different direction. He walked with such intent that Junrell knew he was supposed to follow the canine. The strange duo walked through the rocky, deserted mountains, the dog’s steps quickening by the second.
Finally, Junrell saw something in the distance. The dog got more excited the closer they got to the weird lump on the ground. But when Junrell was finally able to make out the object, he couldn’t help but feel disappointed: it was just a bundle of rags laying in the dirt.
Well, he thought the lump was just a bundle of rags…until it moved. Junrell could tell that something was twisted inside of the blankets, but he wasn’t sure what it was. It wasn’t until a loud cry sounded from inside the pile of rags that Junrell knew the dog had led him to something extraordinary.
“To Revilla’s surprise, he found a baby wrapped in a brown towel,” Gea Ybarita, a staff member at the rescue organization Hope for Strays in the Philippines, said in an interview. “The location where the baby was found is isolated since it’s on the top of the mountain.”
Junrell picked up the baby boy. There was no one around besides him and the dog, so he took the screaming infant with him. He sped to the police station and the Department of Social Welfare took charge of the situation. When the doctors removed the rags, what they saw was jaw-dropping.
They knew immediately that this baby was a newborn. In fact, he was so new to the world that when the doctors removed the rags, the baby still had his umbilical cord attached! While Junrell and the world waited for news about the baby’s condition, however, the spotlight turned to his four-legged savior.
Some nearby animal rescue organizations, including Hope for Strays and the PAWssion Project, learned about the brave mountain dog and decided to try to save him. Hope for Strays is an independent nonprofit group that focuses on immediate rescue, though this would be a challenge unlike any other.
The PAWssion Project is a nonprofit founded by a single woman, Malou Perez. She and her growing volunteer group rehabilitate and rehome dogs. You can get into many stressful situations in this line of work, but none of them had every heard of such an extraordinary case.
Domesticated animals are kept as pets in the Philippines, but the government’s animal control organization isn’t doing its part to save animals. Filipino actress and animal rights advocate Carla Abellana recently shed light on this issue. Carla wanted her Instagram followers to understand a dog or cat’s fate in the city pound.
“There’s a pound at pretty much every city in the Philippines. Each pound has hundreds of cats and dogs,” Carla wrote. “It is our government’s duty to capture strays and bring them to these city pounds to control the stray population.” But the sobering reality that befalls all these stray animals fuels rescue groups to keep going.
Because of the difficult situation, the work that Filipino dog rescue organizations do is incredibly important, like searching for a hero dog in the mountains. Because the dog was alone, the volunteers believed he was a stray. They eventually found the dog, who led the team to a surprising spot.
The dog took the rescuers to his home. He was one of ten dogs that Kuya Lyndon Olingay cares for. Kuya called the hero dog, who was a little more than a year old, Blacky. “We’ve confirmed he is not a stray at all,” Gea said. Blacky may not be a stray, but Kuya himself was in need.
“[Kuya] stated, ‘No matter how hard life is, even though I’m poor, I feed all of my dogs and take care of them well,’” Gea said. The volunteers took to social media and local news outlets to ask for donations for Kuya’s family and dogs.
“We will also tap a vet who can go onsite to check the dogs, have them vaccinated and spayed and neutered. We also wish to send 2 sacks of rice, groceries, and milk for the family and dog food for the dogs,” the PAWssion Project wrote on Instagram.
“Should you wish to help honor hero dog by making his loving family happy, you may donate to our fundraising drive,” the PAWssion Project wrote. This brought international attention to the heartwarming story, and empathetic people sent a sea of donations. Meanwhile, they eagerly awaited an update on the little baby…
Thankfully, the little boy was pronounced healthy! Because Blacky did his best to notify Junrell of the baby left on the mountain, the baby didn’t sustain any injuries. The Women and Children’s Protection Desk within the local police department listened to Junrell’s report and immediately investigated the incident.
Social services have since begun caring for the baby. They’re trying to find the boy’s parents or anyone who might have information about who abandoned the child. Until then, Junrell and Blacky are their star witnesses, and thankfully, they’re being rewarded as such by the public.
The volunteers returned to the mountains with their sea of donations. “Kuya Lyndon was teary-eyed and could not express how grateful he is,” the PAWssion Project wrote on Facebook. Blacky’s altruistic actions ended up helping both his family and a baby boy, but not every dog’s unexpected behavior gets the same reaction.
Hearing Blacky’s story Jack Jokinen was touched, but he never thought he’d have an encounter like that with a stray dog in America — until one actually appeared out of thin air right in the middle of his living room. At first, it all seemed like something out of a dream, then Jack and his family discovered the shocking truth about the strange pup.
No one would be thrilled to be jarred awake in the middle of the night, but as Jack’s wife roused him from sleep with a look of concern in her eyes, his mind immediately turned to one thing: their one-month-old daughter. Was she hurt? Had she gotten sick in the night?
Fortunately, the baby was fine, though that only conjured up another fear of Jack’s: an intruder. But before he could even process this thought, his wife shared her discovery — and it was one that just didn’t make sense.
She said: “There’s a puppy in our house.” A puppy? Jack thought he must’ve heard her wrong. The Jokinens did already have a dog, a two-year old pup named George — maybe she had groggily mistaken him for another dog? It was, after all, around 4 AM.
But as Jack descended the stairs and entered his living room, he couldn’t believe his eyes — it was a puppy alright. The frightened yellow Lab mix cowered in the corner as Jack and his family inched toward her, though it was clear by the look of the dog that she was more than just afraid.
The puppy’s body was thin, her fur was wet, and she couldn’t stop shivering. Seeing the dog’s poor state, Jack rushed to grab George’s kennel and quickly swaddled the puppy inside. As the Jokinens’ mystery guest slowly began to relax, there was still one glaring question that needed answering: how did this puppy get inside?
There was no sign of a broken window or any other entry point, and both the front and back doors were closed and locked — it was almost as if the dog had appeared out of thin air. Fortunately, Jack knew just how he was going to get to the bottom of this mystery.
The Jokinens had a security camera mounted above their front door, which had been rolling all throughout the night. As Jack played back the footage, he spotted something that made his blood run cold.
After returning from a walk with George just a few hours prior, Jack had apparently failed to completely shut the front door. The doorknob had been locked, but with the door not all the way closed, a gust of wind could’ve easily pushed it open — and that’s exactly what happened. Jack looked on in horror as his front door hung completely open in the dead of night.
Jack continued watching, and at a little under an hour before his wife woke him, a small shape entered the frame. Was it the puppy, or could this have been yet another stray? Jack believed it was the latter, as the small creature passed the house without a second thought… at first.
Just before the shape exited the frame, it stopped. Noticing the open door, the creature decided to turn around and headed straight inside to seek shelter. Jack had gotten his answer, and he was just about to shut the footage when he noticed another shape — only this time, it was human.
Terrified, Jack watched as the stranger climbed his front steps and headed for the open door… only to shut it in place. A wave of relief washed over him, but now everything came full circle: with the door closed, there was no way for the puppy to get back outside. What were they supposed to do with her now?
First, the Jokinens knew the poor pup had to get some rest, so they decided to let her spend the night in George’s kennel to recuperate. The next day, they gently eased the dog — who they now called “Suzy” — into the car and headed for the vet.
Here, they hoped to find out whatever they could about the strange stray, including weather or not she was microchipped — if she was, maybe her owners were out looking for her. But as soon as the vet placed Suzy on the table, he dropped a totally unexpected bombshell.
Suzy wasn’t a puppy! In fact, she wasn’t even that young either, as the vet put her age anywhere between 7 and 9 years old. Her poor health and hygiene had made her seem far younger than she really was. Getting Suzy the help she needed wasn’t going to be an easy task.
“She was emaciated, teeth all over the place, only walking on three legs with no collar,” Jack told The Dodo. Suzy clearly needed some intense TLC, though with a young dog and month-old baby to care for, Jack and his wife didn’t know if they were up to the task. “[But] we thought, ‘If we just drop this dog off, who knows what will happen?'”
Older dogs like Suzy don’t tend to do very well when given over to shelters. The young, Instagram-worthy pups are usually the favorites to be adopted, and older dogs tend to have a harder time adjusting to new homes. Bringing Suzy into the family would definitely require some work, though the Jokinens also considered the ways she could enrich their lives, too.
Because Suzy was an adult dog, she wouldn’t require the kind of training that’d make it difficult to also care for George and their daughter. Come to think of it, having a mature, well-behaved pet around the house in desperate need of love and cuddles really didn’t sound like much of a burden at all.
And so, despite the challenges that would come with nursing her back to health, the Jokinens decided that the Philadelphia abode Suzy wandered into that fateful night would become her forever home. Shortly after, this “magic” dog’s story went viral — and led to something incredible.
Hundreds of donations from Suzy supporters began pouring in, with the Jokinens raising a whopping $15,000 toward her medical bills. With a loving family and the entire Internet behind her, it wasn’t long before Suzy’s health began to improve.