07/10/11 — Grantham firefighters reunite dog and family

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Grantham firefighters reunite dog and family

By Gary Popp
Published in News on July 10, 2011 1:50 AM

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Jana happily greets her family, best friend, Lucas, 9, and his sisters, Andrea, 4, and Elena, 2, after being reunited with them after a July 4 accident. Grantham firefighters brought her back to her family.

It all started with a crash and ended with blinding lights and sirens blaring.

In an instant, Clarence Miller, 66, and his grandson, Lucas Miller, 9, were trapped in their pickup truck, waiting for help after a July 4 accident on U.S. 13 South.

Scared by the noise, the trauma and the strangers who rushed to help, the third member of the entourage, and Lucas's best buddy, his dog, Jana, escaped into the surrounding weeds.

Miller would later tell a state Highway Patrol trooper that he had fallen asleep as he and his son, Brett, who was following in another car, moved the family to New Bern from Arizona.

As his attention waned, he drove his Ford F-150, with a trailer in tow, across the oncoming traffic lane of U.S. 13 South, striking a mailbox and several trees before his vehicle came to a stop.

He was taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital, and then Pitt Memorial in Greenville, for treatment of severe injuries.

The accident left young Lucas more scared than scathed, with only a few scrapes and scratches.

But, the young man was concerned.

"I was really worried about my grandpa and Jana," Lucas said.

He said the last time he saw Jana she was moving through the tall grass next to the highway as a firefighter lifted him from the wrecked pick-up truck.

"She just ran away 'cause she was so frightened," Lucas said.

While at Wayne Memorial Hospital, Lucas told Grantham Volunteer Fire Department Chief Richard Proctor about Jana.

"We got the name and description," Proctor said.

First, he called the firefighters on the scene and had them search for the dog that night, but Jana was nowhere to be found.

Proctor returned to the scene the next morning to find Jana in front of Grantham Airfield about 250 yards from where the pick-up truck left the road.

It would take nearly 24 hours before the rest of the Miller family, which included Lucas' mother, Alejandra Miller, and his sisters, Andrea, 4, and Elena, 2, could come from New Bern to pick up the dog. They had been traveling by airplane to the family's new home, while Brett, Lucas and Clarence traveled across the country.

So, Jana was the house guest of Proctor's parents while she waited for the reunion.

The firefighter said seeing the family complete was worth the effort it took to capture the frightened dog.

"When you see those kids with that dog, well ... ," Proctor said. "We are happy for them."

And Jana was pretty happy, too.

"The dog was tickled to death," Proctor said.

"She recognized the family immediately."

It turns out Jana has a story of her own. Lucas picked her up as a stray in Okinawa, Japan, where his dad was stationed as a U.S. Marine.

So, she and her "best boy" had already been through a lot together.

Proctor said it came natural for him and his crew to help Brett and his family that scary night.

After all, Brett Miller is a hero, too.

"He is military, his dad is in the hospital and the rest of his family is across the country. It was what we could do," Proctor said.