By Ron Watson Jr.
She’d helped reunite estranged pets with owners before, but when CitizenShipper Customer Service Manager Jennifer Buchanan learned of Tyler Keller and his puppy Addie’s plight, she knew the situation was unique. The pair were separated after a car accident in Colorado resulted in Tyler being transported to hospitals in Colorado and eventually near his home in New Boston, MI. Addie had an odyssey of her own, first found near the accident site by a truck driver and brought to the hospital where Tyler was recovering, and passed to a family friend in Denver when he had to be transported 1,200 miles away to Michigan.
Buchanan first heard about the situation when a Keller family friend posted a listing searching for pet transporters online at CitizenShipper.com, a company that connects independent drivers with customers needing delivery services. At that point, it became clear that this was not an ordinary transport, Buchanan said.
“After hearing the story, I thought it was a great chance to ‘pay it forward’, and started doing my best to get this job done,” she said. “We don’t get many shipments like this, so when you get the chance to reach out and help it’s a great feeling, especially to bring some joy and happiness to Tyler and Addie, who had been through so much.”
Buchanan set up a listing under a company account, and reached out to select drivers who had been vetted by CitizenShipper, which provided fuel costs for the trip. Beeline Pet Transport was the first to step up, donating its services to get Addie home. Then came the process of connecting one of Beeline’s owners, Todd Lillard with Tyler’s aunt, Janet Roberts, who had been caring for Addie at her home in Denver, CO.
“I had Addie for three months, and when she first got here she settled in nicely,” said Roberts. “She was a real sweet pea and became a neighborhood favorite on the bike path where we live.”
“She’s a smart dog and became comfortable here, but you could tell she had been through a lot and was missing Tyler.”
So although she’d become a bit attached, Roberts was glad when Todd Lillard arrived to transport Addie home. And she was equally pleased when Lillard first met Addie.
“Todd was fabulous,” she said. “He was very compassionate and made sure Addie was comfortable and happy before she got in the vehicle. I was very impressed with him.”
That wasn’t the whole story, however. Tyler and Addie’s story also resulted in charity and goodwill in the Michigan rodeo community in which he’d grown up. Rodeo producer Kevin Peck, who’d learned to rope calves from Tyler’s dad, Don Keller, quickly organized a benefit that raised $10,000 for medical expenses. For Peck, it was the least he could do.
“All of the rodeo people around here are just like a regular family, everyone helps everyone else,” said Peck. “You don’t hesitate when you hear there’s a need, you just start working to see what you can do to help. The Kellers started me out in rodeo, and it was time to help them out.”
Although Tyler will struggle to walk again, having Addie back in his arms has boosted his spirits and inspired his recovery. He attends physical therapy sessions every weekday and wants to get a specialized wheelchair that will allow him to travel his family’s 14-acre farm. Looking back at the collection of friends and strangers that were touched by his story and came to his aid, his feelings are a blend of gratitude and wonder.
“It’s really something to think about how Addie survived for two days in the wilderness and was somehow found by a truck driver and brought to my hospital,” he said. “Then we were separated again and more people I didn’t know just donated their time and money to get her home.”
“It just restores your faith that people do care about others. And to have Addie home, it makes everything I’m going through so much better.”
A gofundme page has been set up to help with Tyler’s medical costs and equipment needs. If you’d like to donate, please click here.