When Hurricane Irma struck last month, it caused devastating damage, especially in Florida.
But in the wake of all the chaos and destruction, one Fort Myers Beach resident received an unexpected miracle, proving that even the worst storm clouds have silver linings.
It all started in 2012. Pete Mayher was living with his two beloved dogs—Max and Wizzer. The dogs were known to break out of his yard once in a while, but it was never too much of a concern.
“I live on an island so they couldn’t go too far,” Mayher told the Weather Channel. “They’d usually come back within an hour.”
Until one day, the dogs didn’t come back.
The pair of dogs went missing far longer than usual. Max was found and returned a few days later—but Wizzer was not with him.
Mayher was devastated by the loss of his faithful pet, and afraid of what might’ve happened to him.
Days and weeks passed, and no sign of Wizzer. People began to fear for the worst—but Mayher had faith.
“A lot of people figured he was dead, washed up,” Mayher told WBBH.
“But there was a glimmer of hope that I’d see him again.”
Still, that was five years ago. And as much as he hated to think it, Wizzer was gone for good.
So it was the last thing on his mind last month, as Hurricane Irma battered down on his neighborhood and his community began recovery.
In the wake of the storm, animal services worked to track down escaped pets and return them to their owners.
Mayher received a call from a local animal shelter—asking him if he had a missing dog.
Mayher was confused—he said he didn’t, both his dogs were at his side, they had made it through the storm just fine.
But then, he realized—could it be?
“Is it Wizzer?” he asked.
“Yep, that’s the name on the tag,” they replied.
After five years, Wizzer was found—and all it took was a hurricane to find him.
Mayher couldn’t believe what was happening. “It was a shocker,” Mayher told the Weather Channel. “They said if I could get there within an hour I could come in and pick him up.”
“I really couldn’t even talk I was so choked up,” he told WBBH.
Wizzer was found lying in a puddle on the beach, and thanks to a micro-chip, they were able to identify Mayher as the owner.
Mayher was finally reunited with his long-gone pet—but he was sad to find Wizzer in poor condition. After five years, the dog was older—he was now 14—but more troublingly, he was extremely thin and malnourished.
“He couldn’t even lift his head. He had gone from 90 pounds down to 55 pounds,” Mayher told WBBH.
“I don’t think anyone thought he’d last more than a day or two.”
And it wasn’t from being alone on the streets all these years—it was from poor treatment from a new owner.
“More than likely someone took him,” Mayher explained to the Weather Channel. “He’s obviously been with someone for five years but it looks like they were using him for a guard dog.”
At least for this dog, the hurricane was a blessing—it freed Wizzer from his cruel abductor and back to the safety of his loving owner.
And back at home, Wizzer has gained 15 pounds and is acting like his old self again.
“He’s old but he’s up and walking and eating,” Mayher told the Weather Channel.
“For a 14-year-old dog, he’s fine.”
Mayher says he’s hoping his story inspires others to get their pets microchipped.
“There’s no way either dog would have been returned if they weren’t chipped,” Mayher told the Weather Channel. “I mean they had the collars with the name and address and phone number but it was totally the chips that did it.”