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New furry friend will stand in for girl's lost stuffed dog

April 20, 2001

New furry friend will stand in for girl's lost stuffed dog



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY

andreabh@herald-mail.com

MYERSVILLE, Md. - Kiley Slimmer's hopes raced when she saw the brown fur peeking through the crack in the box.

Had her best friend come home?

As it turned out, he hadn't. Someone who heard about Kiley's loss had sent a replacement.

Kiley, 4, of Myersville, Md., lost her constant companion - a stuffed dog named Rusty - on March 11 at the Family Skating Center in Hagerstown. Kiley set Rusty down to watch her skate, and when she returned for him he was gone.

Her parents, Chris and Patti Slimmer, searched the rink and its garbage containers without success. Kiley and her grandmother, Sue Slimmer, then appealed for help finding the lost friend in a story that ran March 23 in The Herald-Mail.

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The response has been "unbelievable," Sue Slimmer said.

Many concerned strangers have asked Kiley if she's found her friend. She has received phone calls at home and caring inquiries from people at restaurants and shopping malls, Slimmer said.

Kiley's friendship with Rusty was a sermon topic at a church near Wolfsville, Md., Slimmer said.

Three ladies from Chambersburg, Pa., sent Kiley a Rusty-like puppy named Floppy in a box covered with dog stickers and bones.

A young girl who also lost her stuffed companion mailed Kiley two small pooches with a note telling her to "remember all the good times" she and Rusty shared and to "be happy and enjoy life" because that's what Rusty would want, Slimmer said.

Her granddaughter said "people must love her because everyone is so nice and worried about Rusty."

Kiley loved her new pets, but Rusty was still on her mind, she said.

Then her parents said another package had arrived in the mail. Kiley's heart told her it would be Rusty, she said.

She saw the brown hair through the crack in the box. The fur was identical to Rusty's.

The dog in the box was just like Rusty - except it had its original tail. The toy, originally named Riley, was sent to Kiley by a woman in Hagerstown, Slimmer said.

"He's not the real Rusty, but we've got a collar on him," Kiley said. "I think the real Rusty's not going to come back because he would've come back already."

Kiley has adopted Riley as her new Rusty. She said she took him to the pet store Friday and he "hid his eyes" when he saw the snakes.

The two are reading, going to the library, walking in the woods and sleeping together, Slimmer said.

She said Kiley has sent thank-you notes to "all the folks with big hearts and the love of a child."

Kiley also asked if she could give a gift of happiness to someone else who lost a furry friend by sending them a replacement, Slimmer said.

She told Kiley, "You bet!"

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