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His dog ran away while he was hospitalized for emergency surgery. Now the Climax man is reunited with his beloved Pearl.

Keith Robertson and his dog, Pearl, see each other again Sunday for the first time in over a month at Guilford Health Care Center in Greensboro, where he is recuperating from emergency surgery in May. His sister luckily spotted Pearl, who had run away while he was gone, on Facebook when she was put up for adoption.

While Keith Robertson lay heavily sedated in Moses Cone Hospital after emergency surgery, his beloved dog — who had run away — was being put up for adoption.

Don’t fret, the story has a happy ending, although it probably caused a few gray hairs for Robertson’s sister and his neighbors, who had been taking care of the Lhasa apso named Pearl before she vanished.

It began May 15, when Robertson was admitted to Moses Cone Hospital with a blockage to his intestine. He doesn’t recall this, but he was kept sedated in the intensive care unit to allow time for the wound from the surgery to heal, his sister Judy Mabe said.

While he recovered, Robertson’s neighbors took care of Pearl.

Robertson lives in a building with four apartments in Climax, where the close-knit neighbors look out for each other and whose dogs often hang out together.

Pearl “was coming into my apartment on a regular basis anyway,” said Dennis Wehmeyer, Robertson’s next-door neighbor.

“Everybody has a dog,” said another neighbor, Kathy Mounts.

And the neighbors have doggie doors, so Pearl had a habit of visiting everyone, Robertson said.

Then Pearl disappeared.

“We were so scared for him to come home and she’s not there,” Mounts said. “I looked for her for a week.”

Mabe said she was hesitant to tell Robertson that Pearl was missing while he was recovering in the hospital.

“I was not going to tell him that, because that’s the only thing he’s got,” she said.

Still worrying about how she would eventually break the news to her brother, Mabe looked at her Facebook feed on a Friday night in June and saw a Pet of the Week feature posted by a WFMY meteorologist.

“There is Ed Matthews with a Pet of the Week dog to be adopted on Saturday and it was her, Pearl. I just panicked,” Mabe said.

She quickly sent Matthews a message and called the SPCA of the Triad, which was closed, but left a message. “I said ‘Don’t adopt that dog. That’s my brother’s.’ ”

The SPCA called her the next morning and told her they had called the number associated with the microchip implanted in Pearl, but it wasn’t working.

“I said, ‘No, it’s not, because he’s in the hospital,’” Mabe said.

Pearl’s adoption was stopped and she’s now back with Robertson’s neighbors while he continues to recover.

On Sunday, they took Pearl to Guilford Health Care Center, where Robertson is now recuperating, for a reunion.

“It was just like a gift from heaven,” said Robertson, 67. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

He adopted Pearl as a puppy in South Carolina, naming her after his grandmother.

“She’s a sweetheart,” he said. “She’s stayed with me for 11 years — this is the only home she’s ever known.”

Lori Cummings of the SPCA said the group will hold an animal for 72 hours if it is unable to locate the owner. They also contact the Guilford County Animal Shelter to see if anyone has reported the dog missing.

“We absolutely love happy endings like this,” Cummings said.

She said the incident is a good reminder for people to update their information associated with their pet’s microchip.

And alternate numbers can be added, so if the owner is incapacitated, a relative or friend can be contacted, said Tom Shad, a spokesman for Merck Animal Health. The company operates HomeAgain, a pet recovery service that includes pet microchipping and was used by the SPCA to check Pearl’s ownership records.

Robertson was all smiles during his reunion with Pearl, noting that she looks great with the grooming she got at the SPCA in preparation for her adoption. He is looking forward to going home, possibly in another month, and getting back to spoiling her.

“It’s just like one of those deals on TV,” Robertson said, “like ‘Lassie Come Home.’ ”

Photos: Man reunited with dog

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An interesting article in today's paper

Reality bites: Scared of sharks (and who isn’t)? You might want to check out this new report. Page A4


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AP
Settlement expands transgender restroom rights in North Carolina

RALEIGH — A federal judge approved a legal settlement Tuesday affirming transgender people’s right to use restrooms matching their gender identity in many North Carolina public buildings.

The consent decree between the Gov. Roy Cooper and transgender plaintiffs covers numerous state-owned buildings, including facilities run by executive branch agencies that oversee the environment, transportation and Medicaid, among others. In return, the plaintiffs have agreed to drop pending legal action against the governor and other defendants.

The agreement was signed by U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder in Winston-Salem after a three-year legal battle challenging North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill and the law that replaced it.

“The importance of this cannot be understated — it is about nothing less than the ability to enter public spaces as an equal member of society,” said Lambda Legal lawyer Tara Borelli, who represents the plaintiffs. “Nationally, this decree sends an important signal that targeting transgender people for discrimination is unacceptable.”

The agreement between the plaintiffs and Cooper says that nothing in the current state law can be interpreted to “prevent transgender people from lawfully using public facilities in accordance with their gender identity” in buildings controlled by the state’s executive branch.

The agreement further says executive branch officials, such as the current and future governors, as well their employees at state agencies, are forbidden from using the current law “to bar, prohibit, block, deter, or impede any transgender individuals from using public facilities ... in accordance with the transgender individual’s gender identity.”

North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders, who passed the “bathroom bill” and its replacement, had opposed the consent decree.

The 2016 law, also known as House Bill 2, required transgender people to use restrooms matching the gender listed on their birth certificates in state government buildings and other publicly owned structures, including highway rest stops, schools and universities. While that requirement was later rescinded, a replacement law prevents local government from adopting new antidiscrimination ordinances until 2020.

Transgender plaintiffs who had challenged the original law amended their lawsuit to fight the replacement law, arguing that it continued to harm them by creating uncertainty over bathroom rules. They also challenged the moratorium on new local laws to protect LGBT people.

Joaquin Carcano, the lead plaintiff and a transgender employee at UNC-Chapel Hill, hailed the judge’s decision in a statement.

After so many years of managing the anxiety of H.B.2 and fighting so hard, I am relieved that we finally have a court order to protect transgender people from being punished under these laws,” Carcano said.

Still, he said the current law’s moratorium on new local anti-discrimination laws “remains devastating.”

Schroeder had ruled in late 2018 that the replacement law couldn’t be interpreted as preventing transgender people from using restrooms in line with their gender identity. Plaintiffs incorporated similar language into their consent decree. The mixed ruling last year, however, rejected some of the transgender people’s arguments while letting other parts of the case proceed.

The consent decree was first proposed in late 2017 by the plaintiffs and Cooper, a Democrat, who inherited a role as a defendant in the case from his predecessor, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who had signed HB 2 into law.

Saying North Carolina is “welcoming to all people,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said in an email Tuesday that “today’s decision is an important step to putting the harmful impacts of HB 2 in the rear view mirror for good.”

Republican N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and Republican N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger of Eden, who intervened in the case as defendants, had urged the federal court to reject the consent decree. Their attorneys argued that the plaintiffs were using the latest version of the consent decree to essentially resurrect arguments already rejected by the court.

They also argued the agreement overstepped the proper role of the court because it “purports to bind North Carolina State officers and agencies, in perpetuity, to a temporary political settlement.”

Speaking to the legislative leaders’ concerns in a written order Tuesday, Schroeder noted that nothing in the agreement limits the legislature’s ability amend the replacement law “or pass any law it wishes.”

Moore spokesman Joseph Kyzer said House lawmakers were reviewing the ruling and assessing options.

Bill D’Elia, a Berger spokesman, said the consent decree essentially confirms executive branch antidiscrimination policies instituted under a 2017 Cooper executive order, while also “putting this lawsuit to bed.”

“Hopefully we can finally put this years-old issue behind us and move forward,” D’Elia said in an email.


Jonathan Drew/The Associated Press  

Plaintiff Joaquin Carcano (center), here during a news conference in Winston-Salem last month, hailed the judge’s decision. “I am relieved that we finally have a court order to protect transgender people from being punished under these laws,” Carcano said in a statement.