“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.” – Charles Darwin

In my mind, I imagined going to the biggest parade the town of Greene had ever seen. 

People would have carried brightly colored signs with exuberant messages scribbled upon them. Creative types might have fashioned dog costumes out of old afghan blankets and gone dancing right down the middle of Sawyer Road. 

Songs written for the joyous event would have been sung at full volume in the town center, the crowd joining in with glee on the easy parts. 

And there at the center of it would have been ol’ Ghost himself, barking at our antics and smiling in that way that dogs have when the humans around them are acting goofy. 

Good ol’ Ghost, we all would have said, swiping happy tears from our eyes. I’m so glad I got to meet you on this jubilant occasion. Here let me pet you on the head and sneak you a slice of bacon I smuggled in just for you. 


And everywhere Ghost went, James Ember would have been right there behind him, smiling so broadly you’d think his face would crack. Good ol’ James, we would have said. Who in the world has ever worked so hard and so passionately to bring a lost pet home? 

There would have been fireworks and noisemakers and little kids playing all over the place. Folks would have come from miles around to be a part of this celebration. In the more fanciful fits of my imagination, I imagine someone teaching Ghost to sign autographs, because God knows a lot of us would want one. 

What a day. What a satisfying and happy day for man and dog, both so deserving of heaps of such bliss. 

Alas, as we all know now, it wasn’t meant to be. The living Ghost was never to return, although he did come home with love and dignity, thanks to the stranger who pointed out his final resting place. 

And yet, though the story is closed now with some consolations to be had, I can’t help but feel that we’ve all been cheated out of a glorious and satisfying climax. 

I’ll say it now as I’ve said it before: All stories that involve animals or children ought to have happy endings. It ought to be a cosmic law. 


Covering the story of James Ember and his beloved Ghost was sheer delight for me until the very end. To me, the story was never so much about the missing dog as it was about the crazy number of people who stepped up to rally around Ember in his dark hours. 

Here for once, thousands of people could gather and talk about a single issue without any trace of hostility or vitriol. What was there to argue about? For the folks who followed this drama, the objective was crystal clear: James Ember was a man who had been through too much pain and woe already. Let us use our collective will to buttress the fellow during his struggles and to bring that poor dog out of the cold. 

There was a point during those weird days that I began to genuinely believe that with so many people praying so hard for Ember and his Ghost, there was just no WAY that things could end badly. 

Of course, I’ve been doing this too long to have believed that all the way. If I were to tally up all the weird stories I’ve covered over the decades, I wonder how many could truly be said to have ended happily. Twenty five percent? Fifteen? 

When it comes to galvanizing stories about lost animals, old folks or kids in peril, we can’t always get what we want. The happy ending is a rare and elusive creature. 

Covering the plight of Ghost reminded me a lot of a different dog named Abby who, in 2016, was abandoned in the cold along Strawberry Avenue in Lewiston. 


You remember Abby. She was the yellow lab mix who was unceremoniously dumped by her owner and left to wander the winter world alone. 

Oh, how the saga of Abby captivated our community, and especially after the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society released video footage of the dog being dumped. 

In that terrible video, we see Abby jumping out of the minivan and running around in the snow with apparent glee. In those moments, the dog seemed to think that her family was just letting her out to play. Surely they wouldn’t leave without her. 

Then the van moves away and we all watched in horror, realizing that at some point, poor abandoned Abby must have begun to grasp what was happening to her. 

“Watching the now-infamous video,” I wrote at the time, “one wonders at what point grim reality occurred to the dog we know as Abby. Was it when the brake lights faded to dim red eyes in the distance? Was it when the van turned that final corner and disappeared forever from view? 

“It’s impossible to know, of course — but surely that time came. Surely, there was one horrible moment when the heartbreaking truth revealed itself — her people were gone — and they were never coming back.” 


Something like 2 million people watched that video on Facebook alone, and those 2 million people instinctively reacted with sympathy for the dog and with rage for the woman who had dumped her. 

In the days that followed, it’s all anybody was talking about on social media, in bars and at the corner store where you waited in line to pay for your beer and smokes. Sightings of Abby were reported and investigated all over the place. Prayers were offered and those prayers were earnest and desperate — everyone in our corner of the world, it seemed, was pulling for Abby to make it through. 

But of course, we can’t always get what we want. 

Three days after Abby was abandoned, she ran into traffic and was found dead on the on-ramp to the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Bridge. For those who had been hoping upon hope that Abby would survive, it was a gut punch and somehow it was also a shock. 

How could Abby have died, we wondered, when so many people wanted her to live? 

As it was with Abby in 2016 and again with Ghost in 2024, we didn’t get what we wanted, and yet there’s still the consolation of having witnessed the immense compassion and limitless generosity of our neighbors, and that’s not nothing. 

Not every story has a happy ending, as the saying goes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth telling. 

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