Heartbroken Husky mix follows owner to hospital

When an employee of the Good Samaritan Medical Center in Islip, N.Y., stepped outside last Thursday for some air, he was greeted by an unexpected visitor.

John Dolan and his faithful dog, Zander. (Photo credit: ABC News)

There, near the entrance to the hospital, stood a striking 70-pound white dog with ice blue eyes.

The hospital employee, identified as “Rick,” approached the dog, who seemed friendly, and checked the dog’s identification tags. It turned out that the dog’s name was Zander, and Rick used his cell phone to contact Zander’s owner at the number listed on the tags.

Meanwhile, John Dolan’s cell phone buzzed from the side table of his hospital bed. Dolan, 46, had checked himself into the Good Samaritan Medical Center due to a serious skin condition. He knew that his wife was at home asleep, and he wondered who would be calling him at that hour. It turns out that hospital worker Rick was on the other end of the line, explaining that he’d found a large white dog belonging to a John Dolan. Rick asked that Dolan come pick up his dog as soon as possible, as Rick was already late for his next shift.

Shocked, Dolan explained that he was Zander’s owner, but that he would not be able to retrieve his dog right away because he was a patient at that same hospital. He said that his wife, Priscilla, was still asleep at the couple’s home two miles away. Both men marveled that Zander made the trip, which would have involved crossing a stream, a nature reserve, and a busy highway.

“It’s no nonsense that he was at the hospital,” John Dolan said of Zander in an ABC News interview. “He was moping around for the days I was already at the hospital, sitting in my seat and rolled up depressed.”

Dolan believes that Zander must have somehow escaped early that morning from his backyard and then tracked Dolan’s scent all the way to the hospital.

Veterinarian Dr. John Charos told CBS News that dogs are excellent at tracking because they are equipped with 200 million to 300 million scent glands; humans, on the other hand, have only 5 million.

“Some of them seem to have a special human-animal bond that leads them that way, whether it’s a sixth sense,” Dr. Charos explained. He believes that Zander has that unbreakable bond with John Dolan.

The Dolans adopted Zander, a 7-year-old Siberian HuskySamoyed mix, five years ago from a local shelter. When they first met him, Zander was in terrible shape, thin and frightened, and the Dolans nursed him back from the brink of starvation. The shelter staff explained that Zander had a reputation as an escape artist, which was one of the big reasons that he had ended up on their doorstep. With John and Priscilla Dolan’s love and care, Zander became the sweet, adoring, and, above all, loyal dog that he is today.

Since they adopted him, Dolan said, Zander has been like a son.

“He’s my boy,” Dolan told FOX News, “we don’t have any children, we have three beautiful dogs, so he’s my buddy.”

While the Dolans’ chocolate Labrador Retriever, Penny, and their red German Shepherd, Sheba missed John, too, it was Zander who seemed to take it especially hard.

“My wife said he had water in his eyes and looked like he was really said,” Dolan said of his devoted Husky mix, who spent his days moping and sulking while Dolan was being treated in the hospital.

“For all I know he was on his way to Jersey,” Dolan joked. “He’s gotten out in the past, but never gone to [the hospital] or anywhere near it,” he said.

Sources: ABCNews.go.com, MyFOXNy.com, CBSNews.com