Former KSL sportscaster and BYU game announcer Paul James lost his wife of 60 years, Annette, two and a half years ago. Five weeks later, he bought a 5-week-old black toy poodle that has been his constant companion since and has slept cuddled against James’ back every night.
Until about two weeks ago.
The dog, Nikko, thinks James is his mother. If James gets up in the middle of the night, Nikko gets up, too. Nikko hasn’t left the back yard except when accompanied by a 10-year-old boy whom James pays $5 to walk the dog twice a week.
As the lad was walking Nikko recently, the chain around his neck broke and the dog raced into the maze and warren of streets and patches of scrub that make up the Olympus Cove area where James lives.
The first day he disappeared, a Thursday, James searched for four hours with no sighting of Nikko. He finally stopped looking at 10 p.m. That was the first since he was weeks old that Nikko did not sleep in James’ bed.
James resumed his search all day Friday and Saturday, with no results, after driving the 50 or so streets that make up the Cove area.
On Saturday, James, who took up painting after he retired, made a large cardboard sign with his watercolors and placed it at the bottom of Oakview Drive, a main entrance into the Cove.
On Sunday morning, he made another large sign for the top of the Cove at the intersection that leads to Neff’s Canyon.
He searched all day Sunday and Monday and finally realized the poodle that had become such a valued companion was not coming home.
James became depressed at the thought he would not see his little companion again. Then, at 7:30 p.m. on Labor Day, he got a call. The man on the line asked if he was Paul James. He then said: “I’ve found your dog.”
The man and his wife were from California and were in Salt Lake City visiting his in-laws. On their last night in Utah, they decided to take a drive through Olympus Cove.
Going up Oakview, they saw the signs to Neff’s Canyon, so they decided to take a look. Then they saw James’ sign offering a $100 reward for the retrieval of Nikko.
Five minutes later, on their way back down Oakview, a black poodle full of burrs in his fur ran across the road.
The man said to his wife: “I’ll bet that’s the dog on the sign.” He stopped the car and chased the dog and, with the help of other motorists and neighbors, finally pinned him down.
The reunion of the two companions took place shortly thereafter.
James found it impossible to get the more than 100 burrs out of Nikko’s fur. The poodle’s face was so covered he could barely see. James finally took him to Pet Smart where they shaved off all the fur to rid the rescued dog of that final misery.
But, James said, Nikko seems thrilled to be back home, snuggling with his companion in that comfortable bed.
And he seems a bit paranoid to go outside for a walk.