LUMBERTON — From the heartbreak of a best friend being taken away to the joy of his return, the past three weeks have been a roller-coaster ride for the McKenzie family and its newest member — Nick the puppy dog.
Nearly three weeks ago the McKenzie’s family home in Dillon, South Carolina, was broken into and electronics and firearms were stolen. The burglars also took the new family pet, a Boston terrier pup named Nick. He was named after St. Nicholas because he was a Christmas gift from Kevin McKenzie to his son Chandler and daughter Presley.
Savvy detective work by the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office helped extricate Nick from his captors and the power of social media reunited family and dog.
“I’m so very happy with them. I was so impressed with the police officers who, I think, went above and beyond on this,” said Tanya McKenzie, Kevin’s wife and the mother of the two children.
Robeson County sheriff’s deputies and probation and parole officers were serving warrants earlier this week when they came upon a dog that did not seem to fit his surroundings. When the detained suspects were questioned about the puppy, deputies became suspicious because the stories didn’t add up. To keep the animal safe, Lt. Darryl McPhatter, a detective, took the dog back to his office and put a post on social media in an attempt to find the owners.
“Please share this puppy’s photo,” the message read. “This puppy was inside the suspect residence and there were different stories on how the puppy got there … The puppy could be from N.C. or S.C.”
By morning the responses were pouring in, and two days later the post had gathered more than 100 comments and had been shared nearly 1,000 times.
The detective had included his cellphone number on the Facebook post.
“In the morning my phone started ringing and then it just blew up,” McPhatter said.
Before he had a chance to check the Facebook posting, the puppy had been identified, the owners located and then came a phone call from Dillon.
“I think you’ve got my dog,” McPhatter recalls Kevin McKenzie saying.
Tanya McKenzie had been losing hope they would see the now 16-week-old dog again. But on Tuesday at 3 a.m., after she had finished her third-shift work as a nurse, she received a message asking her if the posted picture was of her puppy. Nick was identified easily because of a red spot next to an eye.
“Thank you guys so much!” Tanya McKenzie wrote on McPhatter’s post. “I’m going to have two happy kids this morning!”
Later that day the two children celebrated when McPhatter drove Nick home on the eve of 9-year-old Presley’s birthday.
“To see my babies faces yesterday. It’s the best present ever,” Tanya said. “He’s doing great, he’s back to jumping around like a jackrabbit.”
The McKenzie family was overwhelmed by the social media support and the efforts of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, where deputies, by all accounts, enjoyed having the little visitor.
A member of the Sheriff’s Office staff with a fenced yard fostered Nick while the search for his owners was being conducted. Other deputies and detectives hand-fed the puppy, who was hungry and thirsty when rescued.
“They laid on the floor with him and fed him a granola bar out of their hand. You don’t expect a cop to do that,” Tanya said. “They fell in love with him, I think. I’m so very appreciative of everything they did. They took the time to do what I don’t think many people would.”
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly