Family searches for Panda

Courtesy<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Panda, a poodle mix, has been missing since the day before Mother’s Day.

Courtesy<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Panda, a poodle mix, has been missing since the day before Mother’s Day.

KINGMAN - A very special boy is missing a very special puppy.

Panda, a year-and-a-half old poodle mix with a Shih Tzu face, went missing from her backyard in the 3000 block of N. Brook Street the morning of May 9.

Her owners, Christina Hendrickson and Barton Gibson, say they aren't sure how Panda escaped while a second dog, a terrier, stayed behind. Neighbors who saw the running puppy tried to catch her but she eluded capture.

Panda was last seen the next day, Mother's Day, in the area of Eastern Avenue and Calumet Avenue.

Panda is the companion of 22-month-old Christian, who was recently diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. His parents also believe he might have a form of autism.

When Hendrickson's sister's dog gave birth to a litter of puppies, Panda was the only one that Christian would play with.

His parents decided to adopt the dog for their son.

Panda is fiercely protective of Christian. She'll tip off his parents before the toddler has a seizure, a quirk common to many dogs with epileptic owners for which science has yet to find a definitive explanation.

Panda would stay by Christian's side and lay her head on him when she sensed a seizure. Hendrickson said Panda watched with concern when firefighters responded to the home to treat Christian after one episode.

Christian, who has a vocabulary of less than a dozen words and doesn't often verbally express himself, would often be found sitting with the dog and making sounds as though the pair were having a conversation. And Panda seemed to almost talk back.

"They could communicate," Hendrickson said. "It's like they knew what each other wanted."

Since Panda has gone missing, Christian's behavior has changed dramatically. He no longer sleeps through the night, his eating habits have changed and he's grown angrier. His therapists noticed the changes at his last appointment.

Panda's owners have put up flyers and canvassed their neighborhood looking for the puppy, to no avail. They've also filed a report with Animal Control and check the animal shelter daily.

"I'm hoping someone has her and will give her back when they hear about my son," Hendrickson said.

Anyone with information should contact reporter Erin Taylor at (928) 753-6397, ext. 226, to be put in contact with the family.