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  • Robert Lathers

Community Life: The Lost Dogs of Portland

Early last Monday as Sarah Fries was leaving for work she saw a small dog laying in the road. It had likely been hit by a car. Sarah gently picked up the lifeless “Yorkie” and put it on the grass nearby so that it would not continue to be run over. The little dog had on a black collar, but it did not have a tag. Next, Sarah posted on the Portland Michigan Community Face Book Page that she had found the dog and that she left it laying in the grass next to Divine Highway just past Grand River Ave.

This little dog was no doubt loved by its owners, who were eventually found and came to recover their dog. If you have a family dog or ever lost a dog, you are no doubt saddened by this story but grateful for Sarah’s act of kindness and concern that it be found by its owner.

This story reminded me of the only time I lost a dog, over 50 yrs. ago now. He was a beautiful Irish Setter. I was just a boy, but we hung out together all day and he slept with me at night. He was my friend and protector. Even when my younger brothers were able to start tagging along, I preferred to play with my dog. Then one day my father inexplicably loaded us all up in the car and drove to Bob Maynard’s Gun Shop in Pentwater, where he traded my dog for a used hunting rifle. As we drove away, my dog was chained to a tree and barking at us. I screamed, “we forgot my dog! We forgot my dog!” Then we were gone. I never saw my dog again. From that point on I hated dogs, all dogs. I refused to have anything to do with them. Deep down it was just a sense of unresolved and profound loss. But, I vowed never to own another dog. Ever.

When my son, Dan was a small boy, I held firm and refused to get a dog. “They’re a lot to take care of”, I told him. “Some of them are mean” I said. “Besides, you might get too attached and the dog will run off and then we’ll have to deal with that.” So, Dan never got a dog. When he turned 18 he joined the Marine Corp and went off to war. I wished then that he would have had a dog, so I could of said, “You can’t go off to war. Who’ll take care of your dog?” But, off to the Marines he went. He lives in Kyle, Texas now and has two great dogs. A little one and a really big one. His first dog, who did not have a collar or tags, ran off and he never found it. He looked for her for a long time, going door to door in his subdivision and driving throughout the area. But, he never found her. He’s convinced himself that someone found her and took her home because, well because it is really hard to lose a dog that you love and loves you back.

When my daughter who came along, just about the time Dan was headed off to the Marines, my wife declared that we were going to get a dog and I’d just have to deal with it. So, we got a little Shiatzu/ Bichon. His name is Henri. He is an absolute part of our family. His exuberant affection and constant companionship help reduce the daily stresses of life and he quietly reminds us to be present and not to worry too much cause in the end if you love and are loved…. you get treats.

I am retired now, and it seems like Henri makes it a point that I don’t get too lonely while the rest of the family is at school or work. I tease him and say to him, “Henri, you are just a dog!” He looks at me, wags his tail, and then I find myself taking him for a walk. I have since learned that there are lots of health benefits of owning a dog. Check out

I’d like to thank Sarah for her kindness to the owners of the little Yorkie and for the confidence she gives me that if Henri decides to take an unauthorized trip about town, that somebody will scoop him up and get him back home. He has a collar and a tag with our family phone number on it. Call me. I’ll come and get him right away and I promise you he won’t get a treat either. Likewise, if I find your dog on an unauthorized tour of Portland I’ll do the same. Lost dogs in Portland have owners and as a community we can follow Sarah’s example and help get them home.

Robert Lathers is a regular contributor to The Portland Beacon. You can reach him at

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