For 53-year-old Harry Brown, a homeless veteran with terminal pancreatic cancer, life has dealt some difficult blows. But a trip to Long Beach to say goodbye to family and friends proved especially devastating when his beloved service dog, Olivia, wandered away while he napped in a park 10 days ago.
As soon as he realized she was gone, Brown began searching for Olivia high and low, and even walked from Long Beach to Orange County to search animal shelters after being told the city didn’t have one of its own.
Brown posted a lost dog ad on Craigslist, but after days of searching for Olivia with no luck, said he began to give up hope.
"We spent as long as we could trying to find her," Brown said. "I’d just gotten rid of all her stuff because I didn’t think I’d see her again."
Having been given a year to live, Brown had traveled from Phoenix to Long Beach to see family and friends there one last time, something he plans to do across the country in coming months.
Once it seemed his beloved brown-and-white pitbull was nowhere to be found, Brown had no choice but to take the bus back to Arizona as originally planned.
"I just kept praying she would be with someone who would take care of her," Brown said.
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Fortunately, Olivia was eventually found wandering the streets of Long Beach, and was taken to the local animal shelter where she was looked after while staff searched for her owner.
Meanwhile, Brown’s Craigslist ad caught the attention of an animal rescue group called Captain Care, and soon volunteers and donors from across Southern California rallied to reunite the veteran with his service dog.
"I got an email back, it says 'Your girl is in L.A. County, go get her,'" Brown said.
The nonprofit used donations to pay for Brown's bus ticket back to Long Beach, and to bail Olivia out of the shelter, too.
Brown arrived in Los Angeles Wednesday and was tearfully reunited with Olivia, who he described as more than just man's best friend.
"She’s my life," he said.
Now that Brown and Olivia have been reunited, Captain Care volunteers plan to use the extra donations to help spay and feed Olivia, and make Brown's cross-country journey to say goodbye to family and friends just a little easier.
Donations for Brown and Olivia can be made to Captain Care Intervention at mycaptaincare.org.