Murphy, who was separated from his Texas family in Minnesota, proves you can always find your way back home.

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vacation photo of Murphy before getting lost
Credit: Courtesy of Brooklyn Richardson

Losing a beloved pet is defeating, but it's even worse when you lose them far away from home—1,200 to be exact in the case of the Richardson family in Arlington, Texas. They lost their foster dog, Murphy, while vacationing in Minnesota. But thanks to the kindness of strangers and a little luck, they reunited against long odds. 

Brooklyn Richardson was hiking with Murphy and her family July 13 at Carlton's Peak in Superior National Forest when disaster struck. They thought taking him out on the trails would be a good way to socialize him, but when they passed other hikers, a startled Murphy ran off into the wilderness.

"He literally had disappeared," Richardson tells Daily Paws. "I couldn't tell you if he went left or right. He was gone."

The Richardsons spent the next three days searching for their lost pup. They even cut up their dirty socks and created a trail leading back to his kennel in hopes that Murphy would follow the scent, but nothing worked. Murphy was gone, and the heartbroken Richardsons needed to go home. 

"I felt like I wasn't going home with my heart complete because part of it was still there in Minnesota," Richardson says. "And then not knowing where he was the absolute worst part." It was especially difficult for her two young children to accept that their dog wouldn't be coming back with them.

Richardson felt especially saddened because Murphy was a foster dog from Little Dog Rescue North of Texas, a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing and rehoming small dogs in the Lone Star state. The organization had saved Murphy the day before he was supposed to be euthanized because of his status as a heartworm positive dog, and instead, opted to pay for his $400 treatment and place him in the care of the Richardsons on April 4. Murphy finished his heartworm treatment on June 30... and ran away just 13 days later. 

That's why Richardson was nervous to break the news to the nonprofit. "How do you call a rescue organization and say 'I lost your dog in Minnesota?'" But instead of giving her grief, Gail Bennison, director of Little Dog Rescue, cried on the phone with her before they sprung into action. In collaboration with The Retrievers, a volunteer lost dog search team based in Minneapolis, the teams raised over $1,200 within a day to print and distribute mailers with Murphy's information to zip codes nearby the park where the pup had bolted on the trail.

Richardson says that when Gail and Amy with The Retrievers joined forces, "they just made all the stars align. It was cool to see two organizations in two different states that had nothing to do with each other work together like this." 

The Richardsons also told Little Dog Rescue that if Murphy was found, they would happily adopt him.

It took a few weeks, but on Aug. 13, an 11-year-old-girl in Tofte, Minn. spotted a small dog on the side of a highway that matched Murphy's photo. Then Louise, a 78-year-old neighbor, laid in a ditch for over an hour to gain Murphy's trust and help coax him toward her, Richardson says. Soon, the pup was being cared for by veterinarians as the Richardson family received the good news. Murphy had lost 3 pounds and had sustained some minor injuries during his time alone, but otherwise, the pooch was safe and finally coming back home. 

Richardson traveled back to Minnesota that very same day to pick up Murphy herself. She was quickly overwhelmed by the kindness of those who made the reunion possible. The little dog had become a bit of a local celebrity in Tofte, a small town with a population just under 300 people. Many residents wanted to meet the famous dog from the fliers and welcome his mom to their town. Louise, the woman who convinced Murphy to trust her in the ditch, hosted Richardson at her home, providing her dinner and breakfast as well as a warm bed. Another couple who had helped with the search invited Richardson over for a glass of wine. 

"These strangers just opened their homes to us. We talk about Texas being the friendly state … but I'm telling you, 'Minnesota nice' is a very real thing."

Little Dog Rescue generously paid the dog's veterinary bills. And as promised, the Richardsons officially adopted Murphy as soon as he'd been found. He was so attached to their family from the start, Richardson now says she doesn't know how they could have ever given him up to another adopter. After spending three weeks on his own, she says he's even more attached to her now, and even woke up to him sharing her pillow in her bed the morning after they reunited.

Together, Murphy and his now-official dog mom flew back to Arlington on Aug. 18. She had missed her children's first day back at school to retrieve their lost pup, but she says her kids were overjoyed to know Murphy was coming home.

family reunion at airport with Murphy
Credit: Courtesy of Brooklyn Richardson

"In a world when things are going wrong, sometimes you just have to look for the helpers. Because there are such good people out there if you look for them, and that's what we found," she says.

Today, Murphy is happy and healthy as a newly adopted dog who finally found his forever home, and all thanks to the kindness of strangers who were willing to help a little dog find his way home.

The original version of this story mistakenly reported the cost of Murphy's heartworm treatment and who paid the veterinarian bills. It has been corrected.