On April 17, 2014, in Tampa, Florida, U.S. Army veteran Luke Macner was driving home with his new dog, Nina. The vet served in the Army from 1975 to 1982 and also spent some time with the Air Force. Macner was able to find his new canine friend with the help of Pets for Patriots, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization which assists veterans with finding suitable dogs at area shelters. The adult dog is a shepherd mix with warm brown eyes and had her picture taken with her new owner while sporting a new lime green leash-and-collar set.
Nina was discovered by Macner and Pets for Patriots at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB), an independent shelter not associated with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). HSTB has a rich, century-long history and a no-kill-for-space policy for dogs unless they are truly too ill or dangerous for adoption. They will not euthanize an animal just because a dog is elderly or an empty kennel is needed.
Sadly, there was a serious accident at Causeway Blvd. and U.S. 41 on April 17, 2014, when Macner, who has a right above-the-knee amputation, accidentally pressed the gas instead of the brake. His amputation was the result of what has been described as “health complications” after his military service ended. The metal platforms used to transform a car’s pedals for amputees are actually quite easy to confuse and one can see how the accident occurred. Macner was taken to the hospital with a broken collarbone and lacerations, but Nina, terrified, climbed out the passenger side window and ran away.
Over Easter weekend, the call went out for dog lovers nationwide to keep an eye out for the sweet-faced shepherd mix. Nina has a microchip, making it possible to positively identify her, but her fear after the accident most likely kept her away from people. Not just dozens but hundreds, even thousands, of print and television media pieces spread like wildfire, and the hunt for Nina was on.
Luke Macner lost his cell phone in the crash and his car was totaled, but the loss did not stop there. He also suffered damage to his prosthetic leg, wheelchair, and, of course, he lost his new best friend. Nina was meant to serve as his new wheelchair service dog, and Macner tearfully told news crews “I’m lost without [her].”
And so it was cause for celebration when an HSTB representative informed this author that Nina appears to have been found. Apparently a woman found a dog fitting her description just one half-mile from the crash site on Saturday night, April 19, 2014. It wasn’t until the woman saw the news on Monday, April 21, 2014, that she realized who the four-legged girl in her home must be and called with the good news. Nina will be transported to HSTB to be checked for injuries tomorrow morning, April 22, 2014. Although the final verification has not yet come in, all indications are that Nina has been found. No word yet on whether the woman will be collecting the one thousand dollar reward HSTB began offering over the weekend for Nina’s safe return.
According to a source at HSTB, the shelter has agreed to watch over Nina until Macner is released from the hospital and well enough to take her home once again. It is a happy ending in a world where such joyful closure seems to be a rarity.
Author’s Note: Thank you to Pets for Patriots for your work assisting veterans in finding adult shelter dogs to help them through tough times. To find out how you can help Pets for Patriots, visit their website at www.petsforpatriots.org. Also, thank you to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay for their commitment to operating as a no-kill-for-space shelter as well as their putting up the $1,000 reward for Nina. Their dedication is clear in their actions, including their willingness to care for Nina until Macner heals from his accident.
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