Zelda Comes Home

In these dark days of the pandemic, we all need hope. Here’s a story that will warm your hearts, offer you some hope, and maybe even make you believe in miracles.

My daughter Seneca has always opened her heart to the wounded in our world, both human and non-human. She is a marriage and family therapist by vocation, but she also fosters dogs waiting for adoption. Zelda came to her in this way.

Zelda is a mutt. From her skittish behavior when Seneca first took her in, it was clear that the poor dog had been badly mistreated. Seneca worked patiently, over seven months, to win Zelda’s trust, to help her become a dog a family might want to adopt. And that’s exactly what happened.

Seneca drove Zelda thirty miles away, to her new home on the far west side of the Twin Cities, and reluctantly and with great sadness bid her goodbye. Within a week, Zelda had slipped her collar and run away from her new family.

She disappeared on February 6, as we approached our coldest period of the entire winter. Seneca was frantic. She drove the thirty miles out west every day to search for Zelda. She enlisted the aid of a group who call themselves START (Search, Track, and Retrieve), volunteers who help find lost pets. There were sightings, but Zelda eluded all attempts at recovery. Then the trail grew as cold as the weather.

Seneca never gave up hope. She posted pleas for help on the Internet, asking anyone who glimpsed a dog that looked like Zelda to contact her, but she heard nothing—until a month ago. A dog looking very much like Zelda had been seen in south Minneapolis, a good fifteen miles from where she’d vanished. But this was fifteen miles closer to Seneca’s house in Saint Paul. Could the dog be making her way home?

Seneca tacked 127 posters in conspicuous places in the area, and Zelda was seen again, this time in a cemetery a bit nearer to Saint Paul.

The trail grew cold for several more weeks, but one evening in early May, Seneca received a call from a friend who believed that she’d spotted Zelda in an area only three miles away from my daughter’s house. Zelda was indeed making her way home.

The search began once again in earnest, with Seneca and my grandson and I and the START team all involved in trying to find Zelda. Reports came in—she was at this corner or that corner; she was in the Target parking lot; she was near the soccer stadium. All the sightings led us up maddeningly blind alleys.

At last, a woman who also fosters dogs contacted Seneca saying that she believed she’d been feeding Zelda for the past several days. She would put out food, and the dog, skittish and without a collar, would slip into the yard and eat.

The START team set a live trap, and at 4:30 the next morning, my daughter received a call: “We think we have Zelda.”

When Seneca arrived in the dim light of dawn and saw the animal they’d captured, it looked nothing like Zelda. Emaciated, with a lackluster coat and smelling of dead raccoon and dumpsters, she was a pitiful sight. Seneca told the team she believed they had the wrong animal. But Zelda was a dog with an implanted chip, and when the START team read the number to Seneca, she burst into tears. It was indeed Zelda, who, over the course of three months, had made her way thirty miles across a complex metropolis, to the place where she’d known love, the place she thought of as home. And it is home to Zelda now. Seneca has officially adopted her.

While my daughter had been searching for Zelda, Zelda had been searching for her. Love is a blessing shared by all creation, a blessing that makes possible miracles both large and small, a blessing that offers hope, even in the darkest of times.