Every time Tim Flynn pulls out of his driveway, his heart breaks.
This same pain overcomes him when he returns home.
His dog Junior is gone.
He is never coming back.
Flynn knows this.
But the large white signs he posted at the entrance of his home on S.C. 170 in Okatie about four weeks ago — the ones that beg neighbors and passersby in large emphatic script for information about his missing great Dane — continue to give him a brief moment of hope.
I’m still looking for you, Junior.
I have not given up on you, Junior.
Somebody knows where you are.
Then the grief and anger return.
Again and again and again.
“I’m taking them down,” Flynn said of the signs. “It’s probably time.”
Flynn thinks he knows what happened to Junior, but he doesn’t have proof, and without it there is nothing he can do.
He knows, though.
And he sort of knew it the day he took old doors, painted them and planted them at the foot of his driveway so that drivers on 170 could help him find his friend.
He just didn’t want to believe it then.
“Someone murdered my dog,” he said. “Someone murdered my dog. Everyone knows, and no one will talk.”
I hold myself responsible as the pack leader. I didn’t take the precautions necessary to protect him.”
Tim Flynn, whose dog Junior went missing nearly a month ago
Flynn and his girlfriend, Carmen Palmer, had three dogs, Junior, Junior’s “girlfriend” Leelo and a new puppy, Bella.
On some days, they’d let the dogs off-leash so that they could play in the woods behind their house.
For 30 minutes, Junior and Leelo would sniff and run and, one can assume, sniff some more and then return home to rest.
Bella, the little one, would never venture too far.
“They would take their little tour and come back,” Flynn said.
Flynn and Palmer didn’t know it at the time but their dogs were roaming into an adjacent neighborhood.
“It’s my fault,” Flynn said. “I hold myself responsible as the pack leader. I didn’t take the precautions necessary to protect him.”
On the last day they saw their great Dane, they heard gunshots.
Leelo came back.
Junior did not.
Later they saw a bonfire.
From that, they put two and two together.
“I think someone shot him,” Flynn said. “And I think someone burned his carcass.”
Now Leelo and Bella won’t go back to the woods — not that Flynn and Palmer would let them do so out of their sight, anyway.
In the days after Junior went missing, Flynn knocked on every door in the neighborhood.
Have you seen my dog? Do you know what happened to him?
He built a sign. Then he built another with reward information on it. He posted fliers throughout the area. He posted on Facebook. He checked with rescue groups.
“I searched and I searched for miles and miles to see if we could find his body,” Flynn said.
Have you seen my dog?
Some said they had.
“I’ll give you $500 if you can help me find him or find the person who knows what happened to him,” Flynn told some teenagers in a convenient store one day.
“How do we know you’ll give us the reward money?” they demanded to know.
They did not accept his assurances that he would.
There were calls: We think we’ve seen your dog.
“Every time I’d get a phone call, I’d get excited,” Flynn said.
But it was never Junior.
Flynn and Palmer rescued Junior, who was 8, a year ago.
He was weak, malnourished, in pain and not doing well at all. He could barely walk.
“Literally you could see every vertebrae and rib,” Flynn said.
The couple nursed the dog back to health, putting neck bones in with his food to get him to eat.
Over time, Junior gained weight and became more playful.
Shortly before he disappeared, he did a running leap onto the couple’s king-sized bed.
This show of enthusiastic athleticism was a first for Junior. Usually Flynn had to help him up on the bed, where everyone slept together.
“I love animals,” Flynn said. “Whether it’s a bird, a dog … I get emotional when I see squirrels dead on the road.”
In the wake of Junior’s disappearance, Flynn has begun working with Chris Olson of Beaufort, who runs A Better Tomorrow for the Animals rescue group. Olson saw his signs and reached out to him to see what she could do to help.
“I’ve made a new commitment to saving dogs,” he said. “I’m going to build kennels (for Olson).”
For her part, Olson has been getting out the word about Junior. “We are not going to give up until we find him or until we have an answer,” she said.
Flynn, though, is slowly coming to terms with his loss, the one he feels when he gets in a less-crowded bed, when he looks behind him and sees two dogs instead of three … when he leaves his house.
“It’s really hard for me to continue driving by those signs every day,” he said.
They will come down soon. When he’s ready. And even then, he will feel like he has let Junior down.
“We gave (Junior) the best ending to his life he could,” Flynn said. “He went out in his prime. He’s my buddy.
“He’ll always be my buddy.”