PILLAGER -- He was a scrappy little dog who loved people. But above all, Alex loved the burgers at the Northwoods Cafe in Pillager.
He refused to eat dog food, preferring instead to spend his days begging for hot burgers and sandwich meats outside of the cafe.
The lovable, 4-year-old pooch began coming to the cafe about three years ago. Customers and cafe employees would feed the dog, so he'd keep coming back. The Pomeranian/terrier mix lived only a block away from the cafe until about two years ago when his owner Maureen Alt and her family, moved about a mile or two away, out in the country. Even with that distance, Alex would continue to walk to the cafe and Alt would have to come up and retrieve the dog many nights. Other times, Northwoods cook Cindy Collison would bring him home with her for the night. Employees would leave their car windows open so Alex could jump in and have a soft place to sleep during the day out in the parking lot.
Alex would mostly sit contentedly on the front stoop at the cafe all day long, waiting for a patron to pat him on the head and hopefully, save a bite of a burger or sandwich for him. Even in the winter, Alex would remain on that stoop, sleeping with a layer of snow covering his little body. Often, cafe owner Janice Allen would bring the dog into the restaurant and let him warm up in the basement. Alex had his own bucket of doggie treats there.
"He was the cutest little dog," said Allen, who co-owns the cafe with her husband, Jim. "I've never seen a nicer dog in my life."
Everyone in town loved that dog. Many people wanted to take him home, said Allen. And one day, somebody did.
Six weeks ago, Alex disappeared.
Allen figured something like this would happen some day. After all, Alex liked to jump into people's cars. Someone probably just took him home, she reasoned. But it was not knowing what happened to Alex that bothered not only the Allens, but their employees and customers, as well.
The Alts were devastated that Alex disappeared. Maureen Alt maintains that Alex had a good home and was well cared for. But since people kept feeding Alex and he loved the attention he received at the Northwoods Cafe, he would always go up town to visit each day.
Last Monday, a typed letter arrived in the mail, addressed to the Friends of the Northwoods Cafe. It was a letter from Alex. Instead of a signature, there was a big paw print. The envelope was postmarked from St. Cloud.
In that letter, Alex explained how he had jumped into the car of a family who had stopped to eat at the cafe. He was so cute and loving, they felt he had to come home with them. He wrote the letter to let them know that he was safe and living in a good home. He'd been given several baths, had a trip to the veterinarian and even had his teeth cleaned.
"All in all, it's not so bad here," wrote Alex. "They let me sleep on the beds, feed me as much as I want to eat, sit on their laps to watch T.V., let me in the house as soon as I bark and gave me my own fenced in yard and a girlfriend to play with...Thanks for all the help when I needed it."
The Allens and their employees were initially angered that someone would just take the dog, but softened after reading the letter. They all miss Alex, including many patrons who ask about him, but are happy to know he's in a good home.
"He was a real people dog," said Allen. "He'd get attention wherever he could."
The Alts are glad that Alex is somewhere where he's being taken care of, but they want their dog back. They are actively looking for Alex and hope that the people who took Alex, who didn't sign their names on the letter, will have a change of heart and return him.
"In that letter, it says that they have another dog, a basset hound," said Maureen. "How would they feel if the same thing happened to their dog?"
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