LOS ANGELES—The day before Thanksgiving, James Galley pulled off the soggy highway leading to Oregon so he could drop to his knee and propose to his girlfriend of two years.
And bearing witness to this moment was Theo, the couple’s snaggle-toothed Brussels Griffon dog.
“He was sitting right there when I proposed,” Galley, 37, told The Daily Beast in a phone interview. “I thought about bringing him into it but it was risky losing the ring and stuff.”
His new 34-year-old fiancée Trendee King remembered afterward the dog licking “the happy tears off both our faces.”
Two weeks ago on Feb. 13, King hopped a plane to L.A. and spent the afternoon at a Beverly Hills bridal boutique with her mother and sister.
It was a glorious day because the bride-to-be found the dress.
“It is my dream wedding dress,” King admitted. “I love it.”
But the joy was short-lived: Theo went missing.
The couple hired a dog sitter to watch the pup while King was in L.A. and Galley was also away on a business trip. Theo was nursing an abscess on his hind leg.
“I could hear the panic in his voice and I knew something was wrong,” King confided through tears.
“I just spoke to the dog sitter and Theo got loose,” Galley told her.
The idea of life without her puppy was daunting.
So when Galley told her the dog was missing and that “we don’t know where he is” King had to be there to find him.
“OK, I’m coming home right now.”
The San Francisco nuptials they planned for on Aug. 26 had to be postponed.
“We picked out a venue,” King lamented. “It was our dream wedding venue.”
The couple were under tight deadline at the very same moment that Theo was in the wind on whether or not they would secure the venue.
“We had to confirm that day if we were going to take the venue or they were going to put it back up for someone else to take.”
They had to forfeit.
“We decided not to take it,” she said.
Hours earlier the dog sitter watching over their puppy and had put his red harness on him for a walk.
Then the dog sitter told King she was called to the door to receive a package. The woman claims Theo bolted.
“He ran through six lanes of traffic,” King said.
Apparently the last known sighting of her precious #BabyBeard was behind a Home Depot store at a nearby mall where the dog sitter had given up on her chase and a good samaritan tried to follow him until there was no sign of the dog anywhere.
Soon King’s plane landed and she says she scoured the same neighborhood nonstop until midnight, but came up short.
The couple remain on a tear to find Theo and refuse to give up until he’s accounted for.
“He’s my first dog,” King says, again drifting into a crying fit. “I had dogs growing up but this is my first dog, you know, that’s been mine.”
And they were the best of buds.
King had quit Hollywood as a successful makeup artist to support her fiancé’s career. The puppy they added to establish their trio in Florida not even a year ago had made life in the foreign Bay Area town bearable.
“He’s like my child,” she admitted. “It’s been absolute torture for these past two weeks searching day and night.”
She’d always wanted a Brussels Griffon ever since she watched the film As Good As It Gets. The Academy Award winning picture follows a New York City curmudgeon played by Jack Nicholson who finds humanity after bonding with a neighbor’s Brussels Griffon dog.
“I always had this dream of getting one ever since I saw that movie,” she said. “I just fell in love with that dog.”
And when they met with a Florida breeder Theo stuck out.
“He has the little snaggle tooth which I love so much,” she said of the breed who are known as velcro dogs because they stick by their owner. “I just knew he was mine. I just knew it.”
Mom and her pup went and did everything together. From grocery store runs to the hardware store to flying on airplanes and sharing the bed.
“We spent every moment together when I didn’t know anybody and knew nothing about this city. [crying] We just had a very, very special connection. We literally slept nose to nose every night.”
Both Galley and King are careful to not refer to Theo in the past-tense and press upon the idea that they have an army of volunteers and sentimental citizens who have created the hashtag #PaintItYellow and #BringTheoHome.
“The entire town of San Jose is yellow,” King said.
But Galley is also feeling the bite of reality.
He mentioned how he took time off work to find Theo and fielded a promising lead by a patron at a Taco Bell 13 miles away from the dog sitter’s home: A homeless couple had been accompanied by a “Chewbacca-looking” dog.
“The man said he wasn’t wearing anything, just off leash,” Galley said. “There was definitely a small black and tan dog.”
But was it Theo?
Then he spoke to another man who borrowed a stranger’s phone to inform him of a mangled dog’s corpse he buried. He’d seen the dog’s yellow missing signs and told Galley he might be able to find closure.
By this point the couple had begun sending out a photo array (like a police version of a lineup of various dogs, including Theo, in order to weed out the tips).
Galley decided to trace the location of the buried dog.
“I let an hour go by and drove by the location that he told me,” Galley said. “I didn’t know if he was trying to rob me or just a prank call.”
Galley made it over to the location which was one block south of the Taco Bell, across from a Mexican restaurant and marked with a stick in front of a vacant lot.
“Sure enough we drove by the location and there was a stick in the ground,” he recalled. “We dug up this shallow grave and found a dog that was so mangled from being hit by a car that we couldn’t tell if it was our Theo or not.”
They sought expertise from two different veterinarians who took DNA swabs and scanned the deceased dog’s chip and Galley gratefully sighed “luckily it wasn’t our dog.”
Determined to overcome all the time that’s ticked away, the loving couple say they will find Theo at all costs.
“We’re not going to quit unless we find out for sure he’s not alive. We’re not going to quit,” Galley said.
King isn’t quitting either.
“My only focus is finding this dog,” she said. “It is now my full time job. It is all I can do. It is all I can think of.”
To make that reunion happen she’s relying on the loads of continued goodwill.
“I know he’s safe,” she said. “I know someone has him and I think [it’s] someone who is old and lonely and they just need to see the news… it has to reach them.”
The wedding is also very much still going to happen, just not in a San Francisco location.
“The wedding is 100 percent still on,” she said. “We just don’t have a plan for when until God brings Theo home.”