Who doesn’t love a good owner reunification? This story/video in the New York Post certainly tugs at all the heartstrings. Jose and Chaos were separated for several years, but thanks to a microchip and staff at the Winnebago County Animal Services (Illinois), they found each other—and you can clearly see neither of them forgot their strong bond and friendship.
My reunion story: Not a dry eye in the house
I have a similar shelter story, and I’m betting a lot of you do, too. Mine dates back to before microchips, when I was the E.D. of the Humane Society of Huron Valley. A purebred Kuvasz got out of his owner’s backyard when a repairman didn’t properly latch the gate. Thor (a most fitting name) was wearing a collar and ID, but somehow went missing. His owner immediately called in a lost report and came in every single day, seven days a week, to look for Thor. After a couple of months, my staff begged me to talk to him. It was heart wrenching to see him walk through all the kennels every day. I assured him we knew what a Kuvasz was, and we had a large photo of Thor on our bulletin board. So, he cut his visits down to once a week. And finally, about six months later, stopped coming altogether.
Flash forward over a year and one day. A staff member came running into my office exclaiming, “I think Thor is here!” I raced over with a bunch of other people in hot pursuit, and we were convinced it was Thor. He was definitely a Kuvasz, with a marking described by his owner. Who knows where he had been, but he was in good condition. I had the honor of calling his owner, who immediately dropped everything and told me he was on his way.
Next, all hell broke loose. As soon as his owner came around the corner, the dog began doing flips and screaming and going just totally bonkers (technical sheltering term). The gentleman sank to his knees and started sobbing. Thor was jumping all over him, screaming in delight, and our entire staff was crying. Not a dry eye in the house.
"As soon as his owner came around the corner, the dog began doing flips and screaming and going just totally bonkers (technical sheltering term). "
Despite every precaution, pets can get away
Despite every precaution—collar and ID, secure backyard fence (normally) and a well-trained dog—accidents happen. We all know the number-one step to getting your lost pet back is proper ID, but even so, pets can get away.
I remember well when my beloved dog, Keisa, pictured here, somehow got out of her pen (only used for quick potty breaks). I took a shower and came out, and she was gone. I remember it like it was yesterday—it was Easter, and a friend had planned a big get-together at her farm.
But once Keisa was missing, the whole day went to ruins. Everyone mobilized, made fliers, scouted the neighborhood, talked to just about anyone we could, and the Easter dinner went uneaten. A friend volunteered to stay overnight and we slept on my pull-out coach in the living room with the front door wide open (just the screen door closed). And then my friend, who apparently has supersonic hearing, heard a jingle—Keisa’s tags. She was missing less than 24 hours, but it was probably one of the worst days of my life.
When I read or hear about miraculous reunifications like the one featured in the NY Post, it makes me well up every time. Who remembers the story about Manuela, the red-footed tortoise, missing for 30 years and discovered in the house where the owners used to live? Or Turner the cat? One of my favorites was the story of Titan, missing for almost three years and reunited thanks to a microchip and the Kansas City Pet Project.
What I like best about these stories is the joy evident on the part of both the pet and the owner, the bond that was forged and never forgotten. Although, I’ll admit I doubt Manuela did any turtle backflips when she was discovered… more likely just hungry for a good meal and pretty cranky.
What’s your best reunification story? When has bringing a person and their pet back together brought tears to your eyes?
ASPCA Senior Vice President, Community Outreach
In her current role at the ASPCA, Julie Morris heads the program group working primarily to ensure dogs and cats are valued and well cared-for by society, in particular focusing on our short-term outcome of high-functioning shelter and safety net systems. With more than 39 years of animal sheltering experience, Morris joined the ASPCA in 1990, previously holding the positions of Executive Director of the Humane Society of Huron Valley, Ann Arbor, MI, and Director of Operations at the Michigan Humane Society in Detroit.
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