SIOUX CITY | Joe Murdock rumbles across Interstate 80 hauling wood pallets to central Iowa. The conversation breaks the monotony of sunny central Nebraska, turning him to thoughts of his dog, Zooey, and their surreal two-day stay in Sioux City last month.
Murdock cruised in a semi north along Interstate 29 and crossed the Floyd River channel on Oct. 23 when something broke loose in the rig's power steering. He careened off the roadway.
"It shook me up, but no one was hurt," Murdock says.
The truck, in need of mechanical help, was hauled to a repair firm. The company transported Murdock to a motel for the night. He took along his faithful companion, Zooey, an 18-month-old chihuahua/miniature Doberman-pincher mix who, like the driver, emerged from the accident unharmed.
"She's protective of me," says Murdock, who resides with his wife, Cheryl Murdock, in the panhandle town of Morrill, Neb., near the Wyoming border. "If I'm in the truck, she might bite somebody if she thought they were threatening me."
After spending that night in a motel, a courtesy driver was sent to pick up Murdock and his dog on Oct. 24. They were to be moved to a different motel while they waited for Murdock's wife to pick him up in Sioux City.
While being shuttled, the pickup truck they occupied was rear-ended at a stoplight on Singing Hills Boulevard. Murdock was injured and transported to a Sioux City hospital. X-rays proved negative.
What was more negative? The impact of the crash broke the kennel in the back of the truck. Zooey, who was likely scared in her second crash in two days, ran from the kennel and hasn't been found.
"I didn't have a vehicle in Sioux City, so I couldn't go look for her," Murdock says. "We sent a picture to the (Siouxland) Humane Society and Noah's Hope Animal Rescue, and people there have helped look for her."
Murdock left Sioux City shortly after, but has contacted the Sioux City Animal Adoption & Rescue Center, and has stopped back to look a couple of times as he's transported goods through town.
Sioux Cityan Ran Newberg, a claims adjuster assigned the truck case, became involved. An animal lover himself, Newberg put up posters and attached a photo of Zooey on Facebook, and assisted Noah's Hope Animal Rescue.
"We had people scouring the area looking for Zooey," Newberg says. "It's not like this dog was abused and got out. We're trying to do a good deed for a fellow dog owner."
"She was spotted twice in our search early on, but since then we've had no luck," says Deanna Jarvis of Noah's Hope, noting the dog was seen in and around Sergeant Bluff. "I think someone may have picked her up."
Had Zooey been hit or run over and killed, Jarvis says, officials would likely have found her and removed her body from the roadway.
If somebody did pick her up, they should notice her collar and its green heart-shaped tag. It has Murdock's phone number on it. If you have Zooey, Joe Murdock asks you call him at (308) 641-9413 or his wife, Cheryl, at (308) 641-5532.
Jarvis hopes for a break in this strange case. Her number is (712) 253-8394. "My heart tells me someone picked her up," she says.
Joe Murdock speeds east toward Iowa, his thoughts on a 10-pound dog shivering, alone in the November night.
"I would love to find her," he says. "I'm attached to her. If nothing else, I hope someone took her in so she's not out in the cold."