MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. - On Dec. 14 one La Porte family got a very special message from Santa Claus.

It was a letter regarding their little lost dog Lizzy, a blind rat terrier missing since mid-November.

"I was checking my naughty and nice list in your neighborhood," Santa said in the note, "and I saw a little dog who was lost. It was very cold so I took her with me in my sleigh to keep her warm.

"Because I'm so busy I brought the dog to the Michiana Humane Society," he continued, "maybe you can go check and see if it is Lizzy."

And that Saturday morning, Dayna Young took her children, Emma and Tyler, and her fiance, Cory Hannan to the animal shelter in Michigan City, and there they were reunited with their long lost pet, who scampered and begged and jumped in their arms for kisses.

A dog still alive thanks to the efforts of a surgeon who donated his time to operate on her, a bus driver who found her and brought her to the shelter and the Humane Society staff who refused to give up on her, The LaPorte County Herald-Argus reported (http://bit.ly/Twsk9r ).

The story of Lizzy's ordeal began shortly before Thanksgiving when, taken out for a walk by Emma one night, she bolted. Dayna ran up and down the streets calling for her to no avail.

And Dayna held out little hope the lost dog would find her way back since she was blind.

Dayna had brought Lizzy to her household in early September when the dog's previous owner sold her. Dayna said she and Emma fell in love with her at first sight. Lizzy seemed completely normal at her first home, excitedly chasing after balls and running all over the place. The only thing odd was a haziness over one eye, which her owner assured Dayna was no big deal and common to Lizzy's breed.

But Dayna realized something was seriously wrong when Lizzy was brought to her new home and kept running into furniture and walls. Then it came to her: Lizzy was blind.

Two weeks later Lizzy's other eye started clouding over.

"I didn't mind (about the blindness)," Dayna said in a letter. "We loved her so much and she was part of our family,"

Then Lizzy went missing and the family was grief stricken.

It was a bus driver who ended up finding Lizzy. The dog was alone, without a collar, wandering the streets. The bus driver brought her to the Michiana Humane Society on Nov. 27 where the staff immediately noticed one of her eyes was bulging from its socket and obviously infected.

Two veterinarians said the eyes would have to be removed, at a cost of roughly $1,000. They said the dog was also in pain because of the infection. Shelter co-manager Karen Edwards said the society had to make a decision: Could it justify spending that much money on a dog who most likely could not be adopted? The answer was no, originally.

"And we took her into the back room," she said, "but she started giving us kisses and we just couldn't."

So they started posting on Facebook, asking for donations to cover the costs. Then an anonymous surgeon volunteered to do the work himself at no charge.

He removed Lizzy's eyes and sewed the sockets shut to prevent any further infections.

Then the Humane Society staff started advertising Lizzy's availability for adoption. That's when La Porte County Convention & Visitors Bureau Community Relations Manager Jane Daley wrote an article about her, which was printed the week of Dec. 10 in The Herald-Argus.

"From the moment she came in here, her personality was so warm and loving," said communications coordinator Simpson O'Brien, "we just had to help her."

Eventually Dayna got a call from her mother, who saw the newspaper article, and Dayna went Friday morning to ascertain whether the dog was indeed Lizzy.

"And she came out of the door and I couldn't believe my eyes," Dayna said. "I wanted to just come in and pet her."

When she did, the staff there developed the Santa letter and sent it off to the Young family, where it was presented to the children. They picked Lizzy up Saturday morning where doggy treats, hugs and kisses, and plenty of attention were given freely to the pet.

Staff members noted that hazy eyes are not necessarily an indicator of infection. They said the dog could easily have gotten her eye infected by bumping into objects when she was lost.


Information from: The La Porte Herald-Argus, http://www.heraldargus.com