By Ron Watson, Jr.
Tyler Keller is grateful to be alive. Headed to a college visit last March, he lost control of his car on wet pavement and plunged down a cliff in Douglas Pass, CO, resulting in a broken back, brain trauma, and a punctured lung. Waking up in a hospital ICU, he recognized his mom and dad, but had no recollection of the accident. As Tyler began to piece together what happened, it dawned on him: Addie, his Blue Heeler puppy who rode shotgun on the trip, was nowhere to be found.
Tyler’s family tried to contact those who’d worked the accident, but there was no word of Addie. His extensive injuries and the damage to the car led everyone to assume the worst, that Addie didn’t make it. But the third day in the hospital brought welcome news to the hurting 19-year-old – Addie was found by a truck driver near the location of the accident. Tyron Lofton had spotted her miles away the previous day and estimated she walked a 10-mile circuit looking for Tyler before returning to where she last saw him.
Lofton called the phone number on Addie’s collar tags and delivered her to Tyler’s hospital, where the man and his dog were reunited.
“It was awesome seeing her in my room,” Tyler said. “And it was a miracle that a little puppy survived the wilderness, and then Tyron happened to see her two days in a row. I figured she was gone.”
Tyler was in a good position to make the best possible recovery. Growing up in New Boston, MI, he was a four-sport high school athlete and a rodeo rider since boyhood, so he was in solid physical shape. But having Addie by his side provided a spark that helped him move to Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Denver, where he stayed two more months. There, he learned the extent of his injuries: although his spinal cord wasn’t severed, he would struggle to walk again and regain feeling below his sternum.
Addie also made it to Denver under the care of Tyler’s aunt, who lives nearby. The puppy was able to visit a handful of times, but couldn’t travel with Tyler for 1,200-mile trip to his parents’ home in Michigan. After a month of attempting to arrange transportation, a family friend contacted online shipping company CitizenShipper, which then put out a call for drivers willing to donate their services to get Addie home safely. CitizenShipper, which provided fuel expenses for the trip, soon located a pet shipper and arrangements were made for Tyler and Addie to be reunited once again.
Addie arrived in New Boston, MI on June 6, almost a month after Tyler’s accident. Now six months old, she’s free to roam the 14-acre Keller family farm, but she’d rather be right next to Tyler, offering comfort and canine companionship.
“She’s always with me every day, all day,” he said. “She just a little lover dog, and loves to give affection.”
“We’re a lot closer now. She always wants to cuddle up, and she wasn’t like that before. If I have a bad day and my back is hurting, she’s right here in my bed, sleeping with her head on my shoulder. Addie can tell when I’m not feeling well.”
Of course, Tyler’s mom, Donna Keller, is thankful her son survived the accident. But she’s also grateful for a host of unconnected people that came together to help a young man find hope in a dire circumstance.
“It’s incredible to think of everyone that reached out to support us and get our family through this,” she said. “We’d like to thank everyone, from the truck driver that found Addie to CitizenShipper, which provided transportation when we didn’t have a way to get her home.”
“We would never have envisioned ourselves to be on the receiving end of all of this love and support, and we now have an amazing family of old and new friends. It certainly is a shock to get that phone call, but everyday there seems to be more things to be grateful for, and there are more blessings than sadness for us.”
Tyler and his family are facing growing medical bills, and are trying to put together funds to buy a power wheelchair and other equipment. A gofundme page has been set up in his name. To donate, please click here.