The story below is based on a Courageous K-9 and his Human Companion Ralph living on a peninsula surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
Todd, a neighbor of Ralph went to the same school as him. He was a quiet boy, perhaps too quiet. One day Ralph noticed Todd sitting on a tree stump overlooking the point at which Nabbs Creek and Stony Creek came together, and continuing to the Chesapeake Bay. He was speaking to Socky, Ralph’s dog, and hugging him. Ralph made no attempt to interfere with the communication going on between Todd and Socky. He knew the value of speaking to Socky as a friend who could be relied upon to keep everything confidential. Ralph walked up to Todd and offered one of Socky’s favorite throw sticks for him to throw and for Socky to fetch. Todd smiled and didn’t say or do anything.
Ralph stopped by Todd’s house and asked his mother if Todd could come out and join in a sandlot softball game. She said, “Todd is busy with homework and is unavailable.” He thought that to be strange, since he saw Todd staring out through a window, directly at him as he walked by. The next day Ralph again noticed Todd speaking to Socky. He said to Todd, “Socky likes hide and seek. Ralph asked Todd to let Socky smell him and then hide behind a big tree. He gave Socky the command to find Todd. It of course didn’t take long for Socky to find him.
Ralph couldn’t help but notice how sometimes Todd would be just sitting on an old stump on a hill overlooking Stony Creek for hours, he appeared to be in deep thought. Then one May evening, Todd’s mother came knocking on the front door. She was in a panic, as she asked Ralph’s mother if perhaps Ralph had seen Todd. Ralph told her he hadn’t seen him. Ralph called Max a boyhood friend on the peninsula to find out if he had seen Todd, he said no he hadn’t. Ralph knew that Todd would occasionally swim out into the dangerous part of Stony Creek where it combined with Nabbs creek to become a fast moving river headed for the Chesapeake Bay. A couple of times Max would yell out to Todd to warn him of the danger, with no response from Todd.
The search went on for Todd for three days. Socky was missing his new friend and would wander over to Todd’s house looking for him. When Ralph would walk Socky with a leash he would sometimes walk by the tree stump where he had seen Todd sitting. Socky seemed especially nervous when they approached the area where the two creeks combine into one. Reports came in about seeing Todd in many places, some of which were several miles away. Police were notified of Todd’s disappearance. Police dogs were brought in and covered a lot of ground and came up with nothing.
On the third day of Todd’s disappearance, Ralph was walking Socky, when they came upon a culvert that led from where Ralph previously observed Todd just sitting and staring out over the merging creeks and out to the area where Todd was warned by Max not to swim. As they approached the area, Ralph noticed a pair of shoes stuffed with socks lying in some weeds, that only three days earlier had been covered with a foot of water. He was sure they looked like the same shoes belonging to Todd. When the police dogs searched, it was apparent the shoes must have still been submerged under water. Ralph held the shoes and socks up to Socky and said, “Find Todd!” Socky took off at full gallop, running as fast as he could through briers, over riprap boulders and through wetlands caused by the high tide the night of Todd’s disappearance. It must have taken forty-five minutes to finally come upon a wooden shed. As they approached the shed, shear terror went through Ralph’s mind. Socky was digging at the door of the shed as hard as he could. The lock on the door had been broken. Ralph couldn’t help but notice the bloodstained threshold.
When Ralph opened the door, there was Todd lying on the floor, his lower left leg covered in blood. Relying on the first aid Ralph had in the United Boys Brigade, he checked Todd’s pulse and found it to be steady; he then looked for where all of the blood came from. In the meantime Todd was totally unconscious. Ralph tried waking him, but got only a few groans. The bottom of Todd’s heal was covered with dried blood. He saw some brochures and old envelopes that once contained letters. He recognized the name to be that of a farmer that once owned the eight hundred acres of which he now found himself. He wet the papers with a little standing water and wiped away the blood just enough to clearly see the injury. Ralph took off his socks and wrapped one around the wound and used the other to tie it in place, thus preventing further bleeding. Then the idea hit him. He would tie a shoe around Socky’s collar and stuff it with an envelope with the address of the farmer who had long since moved. The only trick was to make it clear to Socky that he had to go home. The question seemed to be, would Socky make it back to his house and would the message be received? With great trust in Socky, Ralph sent him on his way in a strong tone saying, “Go Home! Socky! Go Home!”
It had been ten minutes since Socky left that a thunderstorm was now brewing outside. It began thundering and raining very hard. Ralph was not only concerned with the predicament in which he now found himself, but also the fact he is relying on a dog that is not particularly fond of storms to find his way home. Todd finally started to stir and looking up at Ralph said, “How did you find me.” Ralph said, “It was Socky that found you.” Todd asked, “What’s the plan for getting us out of here.” Ralph said, “Our buddy is going for help, it’s going to be a while, it’s bad out there right now and I’m certain Socky will make it to my house soon.”
In the meantime, Socky was running for his life in spite of fierce lightning and deafening thunder. He knew his mission and was not about to break from it. Finally, he knew he was home when he smelled Ralph’s chicken coup. At midnight they heard sirens from the Volunteer Fire Company, about three miles away. Soon there was the sound of fire engines and ambulances. Todd asked Ralph, “Could it be for us or could it be for a fire or accident somewhere else.” A few minutes later they were able to hear voices through the wind and rain. Ralph stood outside of the shed and yelled out as loud as he could, “Over here, we’re over here.” Four firemen appeared through the rain. The ride home was quick for Ralph in the fire chief’s station wagon. The fire chief said, “As soon as we got the message that a dog appeared with a shoe tied to his collar and an address, we just had to check it out.” Todd’s injury was not deep and he was soon released from the hospital. He did however, have a slight concussion. The next day, Todd and his family were gone. It turned out they were only renting the house and therefore, not only did they not leave any forwarding address, but left no trace of them ever living there.
Socky was honored by the Fire Department, however with no one to thank him except for Ralph and the Fire Chief, the whole ordeal seemed to just fade into lost memories. Socky however, will be remembered always as Ralph’s number one hero.
It was many years later when Todd got in touch with Ralph by telephone. He invited Todd to drop by. He really wanted his wife Kathy, to be able to put a face to the stories he told her. He decided to let Todd do all of the talking. It was quite obvious Todd was delighted to lighten the load. It turned out Todd’s parents were in a government witness protection program. Until his parent’s deaths he was unable to come forward with his life’s story. He was most interested in Socky and wanted to know if he lived a full and happy life. Todd said, “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him.” Ralph assured him by saying, “Socky not only lived a great life, but lives on in the memories of so many.”