Utah Jazz player Kelly Olynyk and wife found dog then found her owner

Utah Jazz forward-center Kelly Olynyk and his wife, Jackie, were driving through San Antonio in a rental car when they noticed a gray dog wandering alone in a fast-food parking lot.

It was Christmas Day and the Olynyks were in town for a game the next day with the San Antonio Spurs. They’d been looking for an open restaurant for lunch when they spotted the dog and pulled over.

“We opened the door and were looking to see if the dog had any tags, when it suddenly jumped in, right into Jackie’s lap,” Kelly Olynyk recalled.

At that moment, he knew they wouldn’t be going out to lunch, he said. Their mission had changed.

“Jackie loves dogs — all dogs,” said Kelly Olynyk, 32, who first told his story to the Salt Lake Tribune.“There were no tags on the dog, and she said, ‘If it was our dog missing or lost, we’d want someone to help out.’”

The couple, who has a pair of dachshunds at home, looked up animal shelters in the area to see if the friendly mixed breed pup had a microchip. But when they drove to the shelters, all of them were closed.

“A friend suggested we try an emergency vet, so that was our next move,” Jackie said. “Finally, we found one.”

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The Olynyks learned from the emergency vet that the dog had a microchip and her name was Harley. The phone number listed on the microchip had been disconnected, but the owner’s address was not far from where they were.

“We were feeling pretty good, thinking, ‘Okay, we’re going to get this dog home,’” Jackie said. She and Kelly drove to the house and rang the doorbell. The person who answered gave them a puzzled look.

“They were like, ‘Um, that’s not my dog, and I’ve lived here four years,’” Kelly said.

The Olynyks decided to enlist help from friends to help track down the owner, since they had her name and located her on social media.

“She hadn’t responded, so we were emailing her employer and asking her friends on social media to call us,” Jackie said.

While they waited for a response, she and Kelly stopped at a drugstore to pick up dog food and treats for Harley.

“She wasn’t famished, but she really seemed to enjoy eating the treats,” Kelly said.

He and Jackie were hungry, too, so they returned to their hotel downtown and took Harley to their room so they could grab dinner at the hotel restaurant, he said.

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“When we closed the door [to the room], she started whining and we’re such suckers we decided, ‘Okay, she’s coming to dinner with us,’” Jackie said.

“Even though it was cold, we asked to sit outside so the dog could be with us,” she said. “Everyone thought we were crazy, but the three of us sat outside and ordered appetizers and had our little Christmas dinner together.”

Harley was particularly fond of the bread Kelly fed her under the table, Jackie said, noting that her 6-foot-11 husband “is a softy in that way.”

While they were eating, one of Jackie’s friends, Tina Meksavanh, texted and said she had connected with someone in San Antonio who could take the dog in for a night until the shelters reopened the next day.

“Lots of people had been trying to figure out where the dog could go,” Meksavanh said. “But almost everyone was out of town for Christmas.”

She knew the Olynyks weren’t giving up.

“They’re both the kind of people who would do anything for anyone,” Meksavanh said.

The person who could take the dog for the night was headed out to see a movie, but she texted Jackie to leave the dog in the backyard, Jackie said.

“We got there and put her in the backyard, but when we drove off, we turned around after like 30 seconds because I was feeling bad and started crying,” she said.

When they returned to the house, they saw that Harley had already escaped the backyard, Kelly said.

“We opened the door, and she jumped back into Jackie’s lap again,” he said, estimating it was 8:30 p.m, about nine hours after they’d started looking for the dog’s owner.

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“Kelly knew then we had to keep trying or we were going to have to keep her,” Jackie said with a laugh. “I think that’s what kept him going.”

She said that she and Kelly met at Gonzaga University about 15 years ago when he played basketball there and led the Bulldogs to their first No. 1 national ranking. They each graduated from the university with accounting degrees.

While the Olynyks were deciding what to do next, Jackie’s phone rang.

“It was Harley’s mom — one of her friends had seen our messages and gotten in touch with her,” Jackie said.

“When I talked to her, I didn’t mention the dog’s name, but she did,” Jackie said. “That’s how we knew we’d found the right person. And everything had become connected.”

So after a 10-hour day, she and Kelly then drove 10 minutes to the woman’s home.

“She opened the door and the dog jumped into her arms,” Kelly said. “It was awesome.”

“Harley recognized her right away and was giving her kisses,” Jackie added. “The mom was in disbelief and shock, just so happy. It was like a little Christmas miracle.”

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The Olynyks were stunned when the dog’s owner told them about the day Harley went missing.

“She said Harley had been stolen from her four years ago,” Jackie said.

The dog’s owner declined to be interviewed by The Washington Post, but she told the Olynyks she’s had a hard year and that getting her dog back has given her hope for the future, Jackie said.

The next day, the the Utah Jazz beat the Spurs, 130-118.

“We’re now texting back and forth, and we plan to stay in touch,” Jackie said. “It was her birthday the other day, and I sent her and Harley some presents.”

The dog’s owner still doesn’t know that Kelly plays for the Utah Jazz, he said, and he’s fine keeping it that way.

“It was just one of those ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again things,’” Kelly said. “There were so many dead ends, and if we had stopped at any one of those, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we did.”

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