Family hopes billboard will bring lost lab home

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Toby" may be the most sought-after canine in Storm Lake history.

With posters, lost-pet announcements in the media and now a towering billboard on Lakeshore Drive, the Rettinger family of Storm Lake still holds onto hope that someone will see and return the beloved pet.

Three weeks ago, Len Rettinger let his two dogs out into the yard at South Shore Drive, as he does each morning. When he was ready to leave for work, and went to let the dogs in, there was only one.

The four-year-old yellow lab had escaped the yard a few times before, but always found its way home within an hour.

With the rest of the family away on vacation, Len became frantic. He made calls, walked the road ditches, and anything else he could think of.

"We maybe have gone through some motions that other people wouldn't have for a dog, but to us, Toby is a member of the family. He sleeps on our bed, my daughter has literally grown up with the dog and loves him like crazy.

"I even checked the spoil site in case he had drowned in there - we just want to know."

When wife Micki returned home, she was just as broken-hearted. She was the one who suggested the billboard. "I was basically exhausted from the search by the time she came up with the idea. I called, thinking the cost would be way too much, but the company was fantastic and came up with a non-profit rate for us, so we did the billboard. They had it up within a week of the time we called them," Len said.

With so much time passed, the family's only hope is that someone has found the dog and taken it in. They are offering a reward for anyone who is able to return Toby. "We put it as high as we could," Len said.

The public has sympathized with the family's plight. So much so, in fact, that they are turning in the wrong dogs in trying to help.

"We have had a number of calls and several leads. Four different times we have gone out and found that someone has found a dog that isn't Toby. So we've taken them to the police or the veterinarian, and at least hope that some other family is able to be reunited with their pet out of this," Len said.

Anyone who has seen Toby, or knows what has happened to him, may contact the family any time at 732-1210.

In the meantime, little Libbie, who just turned 3, is convinced that her lifelong friend is not gone, Len said. "When we get down, she's the one that says, 'Don't worry, Daddy. Toby will come home.' That keeps us looking and hoping."

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