Melissa Todd gives Cooper a nuzzle while her husband Bill Dillman, center, and Kim Kubicek, right, stand near the gate from where Cooper escaped. Mrs. Kubicek, a Toledo water employee, rescued Cooper from traffic on the Anthony Wyane Trail.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
A wandering, elderly dog found a savior Monday morning in the form of a city of Toledo water distribution employee who rescued him from the middle of rush-hour traffic on the Anthony Wayne Trail.
Bill Dillman, who lives near Walbridge Park on the city’s south side, started his morning as usual at about 6 a.m. by letting out Cooper, an 11-year-old Collie who is half blind and almost completely deaf. The family’s fenced back yard normally keeps the canine safe and sound.
Mr. Dillman took a shower while the dog was outside. About 15 minutes later and clad only in a towel, Mr. Dillman went to let Cooper back inside. Instead, he found an empty yard.
“It was pretty cold this morning, maybe 10 degrees,” Mr. Dillman said. “It was a little embarrassing, but I did run down the driveway to see if I'd get lucky and catch him.”
The fence gate, which had appeared closed when Mr. Dillman looked, hadn’t latched properly the night before because of the snow-covered ground. Cooper took advantage. He has a habit of taking himself for a walk if the opportunity presents itself.
“I call it ‘ambling,’ ” Mr. Dillman said. “If a gate is open, he’ll just go and walk around. He doesn’t even run; he just walks and he doesn’t go far.”
Mr. Dillman dressed quickly and woke his 5-year-old son, Greyson.
“He said, ‘Get up! Get up! Cooper’s missing!’” Greyson said. “I was about 100 percent tired.”
But Greyson quickly stuffed boots on his feet over his pajamas and went with his dad in the family car to search for Cooper. They didn't wait to let the car warm up.
“Seconds matter with this kind of thing,” Mr. Dillman said. “Part of the time I was driving with my head out the window because the windshield was frosted.”
The duo spent about 40 minutes searching for their dog. Greyson watched one side of the street while his dad watched the other.
“We looked all around,” Greyson said. “I was scared. I was worried he could run out in the street and get ran over.”
Mr. Dillman soon realized he had left his phone at home and returned to find he had missed three phone calls from a strange number. He immediately called back, and found Kim Kubicek on the other end.
“The first word out of my mouth was, ‘Dog?’ ” Mr. Dillman said. “She said, ‘That’s the first time I've ever been called ‘dog.’ ”
Mrs. Kubicek had been on her way to work at about 6:45 a.m. when she noticed traffic backed up along the Anthony Wayne Trail near the Toledo Zoo.
“As I came up, I saw this dog in the road,” she said. “He was just standing there like, ‘I don’t know where I’m at. I don’t know what to do.’ I was thinking that if I didn’t get him out of the road he would get hit and I didn't want that to happen.”
Another motorist helped Mrs. Kubicek put Cooper into her car. She was a little nervous about having an unknown dog in her vehicle.
“I was driving and was kind of like, ‘Aw, man, I don’t know if this is a good idea or not,’ ” she said. “But he laid down, and I figured he was OK with me.”
When she reached the water department on South Erie Street, she took Cooper inside with her. Cooper had a identification tag with a phone number, with which she was able to reach Mr. Dillman.
“I was relieved,” he said. “I knew he was there. Then at that point, I was concerned about getting Greyson to school on time.”
While Cooper waited, Mrs. Kubicek got a blanket out of her car for him to lay on. She fed him a peanut butter granola bar, which “he was thrilled to death to eat,” she said. Visitors to the office got a surprise when they were greeted by the friendly old collie.
“People would walk in and he’d run right up to go see them and they’d pet him, then he’d come running back to me,” Mrs. Kubicek said. “He was really a good boy.”
When Mr. Dillman arrived to collect the wayward dog, Cooper acted like nothing unusual had happened.
“He just looked at me like, ‘Hi,’ ” Mr. Dillman said.
When they finally returned home at about 8:10 a.m., Mr. Dillman’s wife, Melissa Todd, had gotten home from her night shift as an emergency room physician.
“She was curious why we weren’t home,” Mr. Dillman said. “We told her what had happened and she kind of went, ‘Oh, my God,’ and went to bed. We had quite an adventure this morning.”
The Dillmans adopted Cooper about a year ago from a collie rescue in Nashville. He has been a well-loved member of the family since. Greyson said he hugs Cooper about 10 times a day and enjoys the dog’s fluffy fur.
“I like to shake it all around when I hug him,” the boy said.
And little Greyson had very specific instructions for his father to keep Cooper from having a similar adventure in the future.
“My son said, ‘My eyes are much better than your old eyes. So I can tell when that gate’s open, so next time let me check,’ ” Mr. Dillman said.