LAKE PARK -- After returning from vacation July 2 to find that her brother had been injured in a car accident, and her dog was nowhere to be found, Kamie Kaeck received a little good news Tuesday.

River, her beloved dog, had been found by a family living not a block from the intersection of U.S. Highway 84 and Perimeter Road where the accident had occurred a week earlier.

"I was just thrilled ... I started crying," said Kaeck, moving her hands through a patch of white fur where she had to cut some tar off River's coat.

River had spent a week away from home in the woods, and seemed to be enjoying the air conditioning and furniture in Kaeck's Lake Park home Wednesday.

"That's all she's been doing really is sleeping -- she seems pretty tired," said Kaeck.

After nearly a week of stuffing mailboxes with posters, searching through the woods and fielding calls, Kaeck said she had nearly given up on ever seeing River again.

But Eddie Roberson had other plans.

Roberson lives just beyond the intersection where the Ford Explorer that Kaeck's brother was driving collided with a semitrailer, and actually witnessed the aftermath.

Roberson said she was afraid to look at the wreckage. The Explorer had flipped several times and came to rest by the railroad tracks, a cruel reminder for Roberson, who lost her grandson in a car accident in North Carolina in 1996.

After hearing of Kaeck's having to search for her lost dog and worry over her brother's condition at the same time, Roberson said she realized the dog she had spotted a few times last weekend near her house was River.

"This was not luck, this was a blessing," said Roberson.

Roberson said that some people would have kept the dog or not cared about its owner. But for her, locating River and contacting Kaeck was a way for her to bring joy to someone worried for a loved one.

"Wouldn't your heart go out to the family if it would add joy?" said Roberson.

River had been playing with Roberson's dog, Booger, from time to time near the woods behind her home, but would never let anyone approach. Roberson had fed River and let her sleep under a shed in the back yard.

Kaeck had said that River was wary of strangers. River had been a foundling, rescued from a river bank as a puppy.

Kaeck had traveled to Gainesville, Fla., for the night to take her mind off her troubles for a while, but at around noon Tuesday she received the call from her mother who said River had been found. She was already home.

"River had bolted right out of the woods and ran right up to her," said Kaeck.

Kaeck said she wants to thank Roberson and everyone else who has helped to find her dog.

She said her brother is home from the hospital, although his condition is still a bit uncertain due to head injuries sustained in the wreck. All and all, she said things are a lot better than they were last week.

"It feels like things are getting back to normal," she said.

To contact reporter Peter Failor, please call 244-3400, ext. 247.

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