AURORA — Jeanie Harmon's Christmas gift arrived early this year.
In fact, the delivery was so special that her daughter Loralee Vaught believes a higher power had a hand in it.
"I think we get too busy in life to notice the miracles we see and experience every day. We too often discount (them) as coincidence. I think we were witness to the power of God and a little help from our guardian angel, my dad," she said.
It started Nov. 1, when the family German shepherd, Sadie, disappeared.
Sadie was a gift from Dennis Harmon, Jeanie's husband of 46 years.
After a long battle with cancer, Dennis died last December. Before his death, he bought Sadie for his wife because he wanted her to have a guard dog.
Jeanie shakes her head and laughs at the idea of Sadie being a guard dog because she's just a loving, friendly dog and everyone's "buddy."
Sadie usually hangs around the family business, Dennis Harmon Welding, all day, but around 3 p.m. Nov. 1, Jeanie noticed she was gone.
They live in the country immediately off a highway, and Sadie never chases cars or leaves the property.
For the next few days, family members searched for the dog, looking in ditches, driving back roads, calling the pound and even alerting post office workers to keep an eye out for her.
Sadie doesn't wear tags.
"After three days, I thought she was gone permanently and I missed her a whole lot," Jeanie said.
Her daughter Loralee assumed Sadie was dead.
Ten days later, Loralee — who is the school nurse at Aurora Junior High School — logged on to Facebook and noticed a post from social studies teacher Christi Thomas.
"Soooo glad I found a great home for the sweetest German shepherd stray dog that called our home her home for the last week. She will have a happy life!," the post read.
Loralee and Christi have known each other "forever." They work together at the school, grew up in the same church, and Christi's dad, a doctor, was supposed to deliver Loralee (though he was in church when she was born, so he missed the delivery).
Loralee immediately called Christi. After a few minutes, she was pretty sure that the German shepherd was Sadie.
The crazy thing, Loralee found out later, is that Christi had talked about the dog in the break room at school, but Loralee wasn't around at the time.
The day Christi posted on Facebook, it just so happened that she had gone to the beauty shop that morning and ran into Josette Schnaufer. Christi taught Josette's daughter and their kids graduated together.
Christi told the ladies at the beauty shop about the gentle German shepherd that showed up at her house (located three to four miles from Jeanie's property), the week before. Christi was mowing her yard when the dog peered around the corner and then followed her around.
Josette's dog of 12 years, a German shepherd mix, died last summer. When she heard Christi talking about the stray, Josette offered to take her in.
Come by the house and meet her, suggested Christi.
Josette did and took to Sadie right away.
Christi would have kept the dog herself, but she already owns three, so off Sadie went with Josette.
It was a natural fit.
"(The dog) got out of the car and walked in the house like she'd been here. It was like she'd been gone and just come home. It was really interesting," Josette recalled.
Within hours of talking to her friend Christi, Loralee called Josette. The two are strangers, but Loralee explained the story and told Josette the dog she had just adopted might be her mom Jeanie's dog.
Josette told her to come by and see.
"Soon as her and her son opened the door, Loralee was already crying," Josette said. "As soon as they stepped out, I heard them say 'Sadie.' I started bawling instantly and Loralee started bawling more because she (Sadie) ran to her instantly and starting jumping and playing."
Before they knew it, Loralee and Josette were hugging and crying and Sadie was bouncing around. Sadie jumped in the car and was ready to go home.
Josette was sorry to see her go but said she was happy to return the dog to her rightful owner.
"I only got to spend a couple of hours with her, but I knew from those few hours she was going to be an awesome dog," Josette said.
Loralee wanted to surprise her mom with the discovery. She and her son, Gage, 13, took Sadie and hid in her mom's house until Jeanie came home.
"I wish I could explain the look on my mom's face. They were both so excited to see each other, it was truly amazing," said Loralee. "She yelled 'My dog, my dog. You found my dog.' "
Jeanie is happy to have her companion home again.
"I missed you. I sure missed you. I hope you missed me," Jeanie said, cupping Sadie's face in her hand. Sadie's tail wagged as she looked up at her owner.
Loralee believes it was her dad's spirit that reunited her mom with Sadie.
"I just think there were too many things that fell into place that day," Loralee said, her eyes welling up with tears.
Ask anybody and they'll tell you Christi never posts on Facebook, but that day she felt good about finding the lost dog a home and decided to post it — a decision that led to the reunion.
"What is the likelihood of one of my friends, few Facebook friends, being related to the owner of the dog? It was meant to be. It really was. It had to be meant to be. It's a really neat story," Christi said.
And in a way, it was canine karma.
In 2003, Christi's dad — the doctor — owned a farm just west of Jeanie and Dennis Harmon's property. It was hit by a tornado and during the storm, his dogs got out and scattered everywhere. Dennis found one of the dogs and returned it to Christi's dad.
"That was kind of neat because, you know, our family was able to return the favor," Christi said.