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December 11, 2002

Deaf woman seeks lost dog

From: Canton Repository, OH - 11 Dec 2002

By JAN H. KENNEDY Repository staff writer

NORTH CANTON – The fear is back for Julie Harper.

The 54-year-old Friendly, W.Va., resident has been deaf since birth. Two years ago, she lost her husband, Richard Beam, to a massive heart attack. He was everything to her. He protected her against a world she could not hear. He taught her how to use a computer and the Internet, something unbeknownst to her before she met and married him in Georgia seven years ago.

Now she has lost the dog she has relied on since her husband died.

"When you're deaf and can't hear what is going on around you, it's very scary," she said. "My husband was my ears for five years, and I never felt afraid. Chocolate (her dog) has made me feel safe since then."

Now, Chocolate is missing, and that fear has returned.

On Nov. 20, Harper - visiting a friend in the area - went to the North Canton Public Library to check her e-mail messages. Not knowing she could bring a service dog inside the library, she left him on a leash in the rear cab of her pickup truck at 7:17 p.m. When she came out at 9 p.m., the dog was gone. The chain and collar remained.

"He would give me 20 minutes, and if I didn't return, then he'd come looking for me," she said. "He was able to slip his collar, and he had a way he could get out of the truck."

"I had hoped he came looking for me, but I'm wondering now if someone took him and sold him," she said. "I've been looking around the Internet and I found a place where people are advertising for lost dogs, or that they want a certain kind of dog."

Harper is using computers to try to find her dog, a Chihuahua-poodle-cocker spaniel-Yorkshire terrier-mix.

Heather Rooney of North Canton saw one of the hundreds of notices Harper posted over the area with a picture of her lost dog, and called up her Internet address to see if it had been found. She decided to help Harper in her search.

"When I lived in Columbus, I was part of an animal rescue group, but I haven't been involved since I moved here last year," she said. "I called all of the animal rescue groups in the area I could find, all the police forces and street departments, the dog pound, sheriff, everyone, to see if they found a dog or if one had been hit on the road. Nothing. It"s like the dog just vanished."

Harper, a recovering alcoholic and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, is supported by Social Security disability payments. She travels the country handing out cards to let others with addiction problems know they can defeat it. She doesn't get paid. No one asked her to do it. She does it because AA saved her. She has been sober since 1971. The advent of her soberness formed the basis of her e-mail address:

She had been visiting a friend in the area when the dog was lost. She then went to the Warren area to visit her mother. She left Tuesday to return to West Virginia, making one last stop at the library to check her e-mail and see if her dog had been found.

Tucked inside her coat was a tiny Chihuahua dog named Dawn.

"She is my daytime dog, and Chocolate was my nighttime dog," she said. "They won't let anyone get closer than three feet to me, and if someone comes on the property, they jump around and bark so I know. When I go out, I always took Chocolate, because he was bigger."

Although the dog's fate is unknown, it already survived one scrape with death. Harper saw a woman drowning puppies in a washtub in Georgia. The woman told her she didn't want all the puppies.

"She was down to the last one, and I told her she wasn't going to kill that dog, that I would take him," she said.

The dog is about a foot tall and weighs 15 to 20 pounds. Anyone who has seen the dog, or may be holding it, can get it back to Harper by sending an e-mail to her address or contacting the reporter at the phone or e-mail address below.

You can reach Repository writer Jan H. Kennedy at (330) 580-8325 or e-mail: