Triumph turned to tragedy for Dave Mercer’s family, with harrowing and touching scenes worthy of a movie, but they got their Hollywood ending.
Mercer spent much of the weekend hobnobbing with fishing luminaries at the Spring Fishing and Boat Show in Mississauga, Ontario. That’s where on Friday he was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame, at 44 its youngest member.
Back home Sunday, things went awry. The Mercers surprised their 14-year-old autistic daughter, Cadance, with the early arrival of a service dog that would help calm her. The family had waited six years to get one, and within 10 minutes, Luna bolted from their backyard, most likely from the stress of a first-ever car ride, and four hours at that.
Dave said he began a frenzied search, and the rest of the day played out like a script from a movie:
- Girl gets dog, loves it dearly
- Dog goes missing, family heartbroken
- Dad hysterically chases after dog
- Odd occurrences hit during search
- Mom enlists social media group to help
- Girl, dog reunited for happy ending
- Huge response touches girl, family
Script takes ugly turn
The waiting list for a service dog is long, and the Mercers were thrilled to be assigned Luna a year and half ago. Cadance met several times with the white shepherd, which was being trained by Elizabeth Baker at Thames Centre for Service Dogs to react specifically to her needs.
The surprise arrival thrilled Cadance, who took Luna outside within the first 10 minutes. Dave said he went out to get a photo of their joy together, and the leash came free of Cadance’s hand and off Luna ran. Terror reigned.
“Imagine the emotional state I was in at the time. I was terrified,” Mercer said. “I don’t think I could have been any more scared.
“It felt like it was the middle of a movie. How does this amazing moment become the worst? This would have shattered our family. How do I even go to the Classic if this dog doesn’t come back?”
Mercer immediately pursued on foot, although the trainer later told him that might have spooked the dog more, that it would have come back on its own. Still in his slippers, Dave rambled through the crunchy ice, cutting his feet before returning home to get his vehicle.
Luna was not seen for two hours. Mercer posted a plea for help on Facebook, and his wife, Sarah, remembered a well-advertised lost dog in the area two years ago. Area citizens banded together and created a search group, Team Chelsea, for the name of the dog. The reach of volunteers grew to include people an hour and a half away in Toronto. She posted to their group, and they came en masse.
“There were like 60 cars looking for her. All volunteers, leaving dinners, their lives, and they were super prepared, with backpacks full of equipment,” Mercer said. “We had people driving from more than an hour to help. We all complain about the horrible things that happen online in social media, but thank God for Team Chelsea.”