By Lauren Linahan
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - In October of this year, Hurricane Michael made landfall as the strongest storm to ever hit the Florida panhandle.
But as recovery is continuing more than two months, some people lost more than just their homes.
Panama City residents Chuck and Bobbie Cayce rode out Hurricane Michael with their dog Merlin in Marianna, FL while the powerful category 4 storm hit the panhandle.
“The next morning we saw how ravaged Marianna was, but we wanted to head back to the house to see what kind of damage had been done," said Bobbie.
While traffic was at a standstill on Hwy. 231 southbound, the Cayces got out to stretch their legs when something frightened Merlin.
“Merlin had gotten spooked by all the sounds and traffic, and he ran across 4 lanes of highway, and I jumped out of the car and ran after him,” said Bobbie. “We called and called for Merlin, until he said ‘We’ve got to go.’ We were really tired and weary.”
When they found the roads blocked to Panama City, Chuck and Bobbie evacuated north to Columbus to stay with their son and daughter-in-law until they could get back home and see the destruction firsthand.
Their Panama City home had $40,000 worth of damage. Almost 3 weeks after Michael made landfall, more tragedy struck: Chuck passed away after suffering heart complications.
“His heart gave out. And umm… I know he was heartbroken because of losing Merlin," said Bobbie.
With back-to-back tragedies, Bobbie felt defeated. “I held out hope, but it was dwindling,” until “I got the news he was found.”
Bobbie received a call that some Panama City locals found Merlin and located her through the American Kennel Association tag on his collar.
“This has been a very sad time this last couple of months, but day before yesterday, getting that news, it was such a ray of joy," said Bobbie.
Reuniting with Merlin was not just a bit of luck; Bobbie believes it was divine intervention.
“I’ve had so many people, loved ones telling me that they believe my husband guided this. Because he loved his dog so much," said Bobbie. “I can’t get my husband back, but I’ve got my dog and that is a real comfort.”
Merlin is excited to be spending Christmas with his mama, and maybe even indulge in a well-deserved day at the spa.
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