Loss of dog leads to lessons in community

After being missing for six weeks, our dog Mauer came home -- but not in the manner we had hoped. While we have closure on Mauer's whereabouts, the lessons during his disappearance and discovery won't be forgotten anytime soon.

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The remains of Mauer, the Pinke family dog were found on May 2, 2017. (Katie Pinke/Agweek)

After being missing for six weeks, our dog Mauer came home - but not in the manner we had hoped. While we have closure on Mauer's whereabouts, the lessons during his disappearance and discovery won't be forgotten anytime soon.

How can losing a dog teach you about character and community? Losing Mauer reminded me of the strength of community and character around us.

One night this past week, our home phone rang while I was making supper. (Yes, we still use landline telephones in rural North Dakota.) A young, apprehensive voice said, "Hi. I don't know how to tell you this but I think I found your dog. And it's not good."

While riding bikes around our small town, five kids saw what they thought was a big rock floating in the lagoon. Upon closer inspection, they realized it was a dead animal. One of them mentioned it might be the Pinke's dog.

They pulled Mauer's heavy body out of the terribly stinky spring lagoon and took off his collar to bring it to me. (As a city council member and mom, I realize the ideal first step for safety reasons in a situation like this is to call local police, but I'm grateful these kids took the initiative to further investigate.) After pulling Mauer's body up on land, they got back on their bikes to find a phone book and call me.


Let me pause right here and celebrate kids who still ride bikes in the evenings instead of play video games and who use phone books to call landline telephones. As a child of the 1980s, it's iconic for me.

Three of the five kids are new to our community, recently moving to Wishek from another state, and this was my first time to meet them. I know the other two kids and their families. As they directed me to the lagoon and Mauer's body, I held back my emotions and made small talk, asking questions not related to the dog. Where did they move from? How did they like our little town? What grades are they in? Where did their parents work?

My takeaway from our conversation was just the reminder I needed in that moment. These kids, whether new or established in our community, cared enough to do the right thing. Their character shines.

Pulling a dead dog from a lagoon, calling me, then showing me Mauer's location took character that we should take the time to notice in people of any age in our community. The kids cared about our family finding Mauer.

I needed to be reminded that I live in a slice of America I'm intensely proud to call home and raise my kids. Rural life isn't the lifestyle choice for everyone, but seeing those kids ride away on their bikes after helping me find Mauer reminded me it's the best life for our family.

The fact I knew two of the kids and will likely see more of the other three points to yet another benefit of living in a small town. These kids awakened me to the kind and compassionate kids in our community, and the parents and adult examples in their lives who are clearly instilling noble values in them.

Within minutes after the kids left on their bikes and I gave one a ride back to her bike, our friend showed up with his pickup to bring Mauer to our house. When my husband called him, our friend thought my husband's phone was cutting out. Then he realized it was the emotion because of the news.

I'm proud to be firmly planted in a community of young, old and in-between who rally around one another to help in any circumstance. Character counts. I'm grateful when experiencing the loss of a family pet that we live, work and raise our kids in a community with strong character.


My family delivered thank you notes with a gift as a token of our appreciation to each of the kids who made an impact on us that evening. I met the mom of the kids who are new to town. She said she told her kids they did what they would want anyone to do for their dogs and family. Character counts.

There are hundreds of other people who are deserving of a thank you in my community. I'm guessing it's the same in your community too. Most people rarely receive even a simple acknowledgement of appreciation.

Moving forward, I plan to focus more on the people around me. I need to recognize their positive attributes and contributions, which might be different than mine. I need to figure out a way to combine our likes, dislikes and skill sets to make our community better.

Find what you can be proud of in your community and encourage others around you to get involved. Mauer was more than a dog and beloved family pet. He represents a life lesson of character and community that will impact my actions for years to come.

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