By LINNEA KENNEDY
Wandering alone through the forest at night is scary enough for a dog, but especially so for Simon, who isn’t an ordinary pup. Simon is deaf and blind, meaning that when he wandered away from his family on a camping trip over Thanksgiving, he was unable to hear their calls and find his way back. Simon was found on the Vandegrift campus on Nov. 28 in a drainage ditch when a photography class stumbled upon him.
“Evidently, the cross country team saw the dog and they thought it was injured on Monday,” said Tara Stewart, assistant principal at VHS. “Animal control was called out, but they didn’t find any dog. Then on Tuesday (Nov. 29), a photography class went out to take pictures and they saw the dog, so a couple of people came up to the office and because when I hear ‘dog’ I come running, I went out there with them. I have two rescue dogs of my own – one with only three legs – at home.”
All of the photography students were standing around Simon and refused to leave until he was taken care of.
“l went to the dog and he wasn’t really moving,” Stewart said. “His eyes were open, but he barely lifted his head when I got next to him. I let him sniff me, pet his head, but he could hardly stand because he was so weak. I think he had been there for quite a few days and hadn’t had anything to eat or drink. He looked emaciated.”
Because Simon, which the photography students quickly renamed “Simon Viper,” was so frightened, Stewart simply picked him up and carried him out of the ditch he was in. Simon actually got to ride the campus golf cart up to the front of the school, which many people found amusing.
“We tweeted pictures of Simon and kids started calling their parents and one student’s mom decided to take the dog,” Stewart said. “Animal control was actually on the way at this time and we were hoping that she would get there first to claim it as her dog and she did. So we got a leash and some food and water from the agriculture department and he lapped up water like crazy and was so excited about the food. Ms. Sanders even got turkey out of her own sandwich to give to the dog.”
Once the mom arrived at the school, she took Simon straight to the vet. There, she found out what his name was and that he was chipped, allowing them to contact the owner. Stewart explained how the sympathy she felt for the owners inspired her to keep him from animal control.
“You could tell that he had been taken care of,” she said. “The fur on the back of his head and back was soft, so it wasn’t like he had been without nutrition for a really long time. You could tell his nails had been clipped and he did have some sort of collar on, so I was just afraid that someone was loving and missing him and I would much rather him go to his rightful owners because I don’t know what happens to dogs at animal control. You could tell he was older and I didn’t want him to be put down or something horrible like that.”
After Simon was taken from the school, students and teachers alike were eager to hear about what happened to him. Karen Smith, the parent that took Simon, shared her side of the story.
“This story has the greatest ending,” Smith said. “Simon was microchipped, but we were only able to get limited information on him. The phone numbers associated with his microchip were all disconnected and it looked like Simon wasn’t going to find his way home. After calling several animal clinics in the Austin area and asking if they had any patient matching Simon’s microchip number, we found a match. I got Simon’s family’s phone number and 16-year-old Simon was reunited with his family on Tuesday night (. Simon, being deaf and blind, was very depressed but as soon as his family came for him he was like a whole new dog.”
Smith is very grateful for the opportunity to take Simon home and take the necessary steps to take care of him.
“We have given the gift of Simon back to his family for Christmas,” Smith said. “Hits you right in the feels doesn’t it? His family has since sent me pictures of him, at home with the kids, enjoying himself in his favorite bed.”