Story by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ’04
Frank Story and Laurie Boukas with Melle
A few days after the New Year in 2014, Laurie Boukas of Richland, Wash. was walking her two Border Collies, Lucy and Connor, when she saw a Pontiac Trans Am drive by. Laurie, who had just moved to Richland a few weeks before with her husband, Nick, saw the car turn around and drive by again. On the third pass, Laurie was understandably alarmed. Then the car pulled over.
“I saw this older gentleman waving at me to come to the car,” she said. She moved slightly closer when he called out to her. Then the conversation turned curious. “He asked me if I wanted another Border Collie and that he’d found one that has two broken legs.”
Two days earlier on January 2, Frank Story and his son, Franklin, Jr., were on their way back to Richland from Seattle on Interstate 82 just east of Yakima, Wash. when they saw a dog running across the highway. Just as Frank was thinking to himself that there was not enough time for the dog to get to the other side, it was struck by a car.
“It was hit at full freeway speed,” says Frank.
His son Franklin insisted they stop and look for the dog. Driving an all-terrain Jeep, Franklin knew the car could handle the terrain. They couldn’t find her right away, but Franklin did not want to give up. They kept looking and Franklin finally spotted her in a drainage ditch.
“She had such courage and calmness,” says Frank, who added that he’d never seen anything like that in his 75 years. “She didn’t act like most injured animals.” Frank held her in the back of a car to make sure she didn’t panic.
It was about 45 minutes to Richland and the Tri-Cities, and they knew they need to get her to a veterinarian right away. Frank had never taken a pet to Dr. Jim Benson (’69 DVM), but he’d met him in the community. Dr. Benson had impressed Frank on many levels, so as they were driving Frank knew that’s where he would take her.
Dr. Benson called the next day to tell Frank that the dog’s injuries were severe. She had two badly broken legs. They could do the surgery locally, but Dr. Benson thought it would be better to take her to Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The only trouble was, she didn’t have an owner to pay for the care. Frank went to work to find the dog’s owner.
“I made several hundred phone calls over several days,” says Frank. He made calls around the state to police, animal shelters, humane societies, rescue facilities, radio stations, and newspapers.
One of the shelters told him that WSU had a program that offered financial assistance to ownerless dogs. Frank applied to the Good Samaritan Fund* and received the good news the next day.
“Hearing we got the grant re-energized me,” says Frank. “I was very impressed by how quickly they got back to me.”
But, he was losing hope about finding the owner and felt he’d exhausted all his options. That’s when he got a call from Dr. Debra Sellon, director of the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
“She told me time was of the essence,” says Frank. It was then he made the decision to stop looking for the dog’s original owner, and decided to find her a new one.
On that lucky day when Frank saw Laurie and her two Border Collies, everything changed.
“I tried to explain the situation to Laurie without alarming her,” says Frank. He had a couple of Dr. Benson’s business cards and handed one to her. Dr. Benson just happened to also be Laurie’s veterinarian.
Laurie took the card and went to visit the dog at Dr. Benson’s office. She fell in love with her immediately.
“When I saw her she was so sweet,” says Laurie. “Her legs were in splints, she was in pain, but she just kept wagging her tail.”
Laurie’s husband Nick wasn’t as enthusiastic about adding another dog to the mix. He agreed to come see the dog, but said it wouldn’t matter because they couldn’t keep her. He even tried not to look at her, says Laurie. Although they had just made an expensive move from Colorado, Laurie knew they needed to help this dog, even if they couldn’t keep her. So she decided to call WSU.
By the time Laurie called the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Dr. Deb Sellon already knew their story from Frank.
“Dr. Sellon came out and greeted us when we arrived in Pullman,” says Laurie. And that made them feel right at home. “We were so impressed with the facility and how we were treated. It is a wonderful school and hospital.”
Surgery was scheduled for that day, January 8. Nick, who was also still determined to find this dog a home, offered to pick her up a few days later.
When they brought her back to Richland, Laurie and Nick’s two other dogs were not so sure about the new guest. During her rehabilitation they kept her separated with a pen system, so the dogs could see each other, but weren’t able to interact. That was until the smart little dog started escaping.
“We couldn’t figure out how she was doing it, but she would be at the door wagging her tail,” says Laurie, who works from home so she could be there whenever the dog needed her.
Over the next couple of months, Laurie made two more trips back to Pullman for follow up appointments after the surgery. Once the bandages were off about eight weeks later, they introduced her to the other dogs.
“They all got along beautifully,” says Laurie. “I wasn’t ready to let go of her.”
So they named her Melle, which rhymes with Nellie, and means honey in Greek. Because she was so sweet, says Laurie.
Frank kept in touch and sent Melle a Valentine’s Day card and Laurie a thank you card. “He didn’t want to be intrusive, so he only called about once every 6 weeks to find out how she was doing,” says Laurie.
Early that next summer, Frank met Laurie and Melle at a park so she should show him how Melle could run and jump. Today Melle is playful, enjoys hiking 6 or 7 miles, and can catch a tennis ball four feet in the air. “You wouldn’t know she had surgery,” says Laurie.
Since then, Frank, Laurie and Melle meet and go for a walk once a week. Frank brings Melle treats. Frank says, he cannot conceive of a more loving home than the one Melle is in now. And side benefits, he says, is that he got to meet Laurie and Nick.
“It has been just super knowing them,” says Frank. “The dog is a wonderful miracle that has enriched so many lives.”
But Frank says that it was the Good Samaritan program that made it all possible.
“The larger miracle is that so many things had to happen and none would have happened without the WSU program,” says Frank. “It was a miracle situation every step of the way.”
*Funds received from the Good Samaritan Fund helped pay for about one-third of Melle’s medical expenses.