For The Love of Harley

by John Dunia

I got a knock on the door one day and it was a group of neighborhood children who found a lost dog roaming the streets. It was a hot summer day and I got a bowl of water to cool it down. Arielle, one of the children, had run home to get a leash. Not long after, the owner drove down our street and was so relieved that the children had found her dog.

A few months later, Arielle told me Harley, her large gray cat, had escaped and was missing for a few days. Arielle loved Harley. I had previously seen her holding him and although she carried him like an oversized sack of flour, he didn’t mind being in those loving arms. After seven weeks, there was still no sign of him. His absence was more upsetting to her than she was showing.

One day, my girlfriend spotted him running out of a bush and we both pursued him but being on the streets so long, he was easily able to evade our efforts.

That night we put some food in our backyard hoping by some chance to entice him. In the morning, we noticed a little bit of the food was eaten. Although we weren’t certain it was Harley, the next few days showed this cat was eating more.

One evening, I peered out the blinds just out of curiosity and looking at me from a patio chair was a large, gray cat. In a matter of seconds, it was off into the darkness. My girlfriend spotted him two days later and came up with a plan.

The next evening, accompanied by her grandmother, Arielle came to our house. After the food was put in place, she would sit in the chair and wait for Harley. Not having a clue how long she’d wait, we hoped that if Harley were to spot her, he would somehow want to return to those loving arms.

What seemed as short as two minutes, a familiar meow began calling in our backyard. Arielle waited patiently.

“It’s Harley,” she said while trying to hold back tears of anticipation. He came right up to her and she slowly petted him. Not long after, she picked him up and we quickly slid the patio door opened but as she tried to throw him into the room, his instinct was to flee and among all the confusion, off he ran.

That didn’t stop her determination. “It’s him, it’s really him,” she excitedly shouted followed by tears of joy. “It’s really Harley!”

Fortunately for me, the lights were still off in the kitchen because I began to tear up at her exhilaration.

Not knowing whether he’d return, we told Arielle to be sure to come all the way inside before she let him go and she returned to the cold chair outside. It wasn’t more than a couple of minutes and that same “meow” was heard again. She petted him a bit longer and strategically picked him up and ran into the house holding her beloved cat.

We got Harley home safe that night and I’m glad to report that other than losing a few pounds, the vet gave Harley a clean bill of health. I will never forget this episode for as long as I live and am sure Arielle feels the same. What an empowering lesson for such a remarkable young girl that love and working together with your neighbors can overcome many seemingly impossible challenges.

Since 2007, John Dunia has written for many local Las Vegas publications. In 2013, he began blogging and sharing his thoughts on overcoming adversities with his unique approach in assisting the reader towards better self-awareness. In 2015 he completed his first self-help-style book, “Shame On Me – Healing a Life of Shame-Based Thinking” which was a semi-autobiographical account of how he overcame and heal difficulties from his past. It inspired him to branch out in other directions. He now consults with people one-on-one to help them find their own breakthroughs. He also is a guest speaker on the topic of shame and effective ways to heal. To find out more, visit


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