It was a typical day and we were all at the front counter when the phone rang. Heidi answered the phone, and Missy and I continued talking with a client. When Heidi hung up the phone, she looked at us and said, "That was Dietrich's Mom."
We kept looking at her waiting for more information. Dietrich had been adopted out only a few days ago to a wonderful woman who loved German Shepherds. Was she calling with an update? Was Dietrich getting along well with her dog?
Heidi noticed we were not reacting the way she had expected and clarified, "No. I mean that was Dietrich's original owner. She is looking for a nine month old German Shepherd that is missing."
If you have not read Dietrich's story, please do so here: http://vetrescue.blogspot.com/2011/02/ill-be-right-back.html .
We were dumbfounded. Unsure of what to do or say, my mouth hesitantly regurgitated, "What do you mean?" Heidi couldn't be right. Who would leave a dog on the side of a road to fend for himself, and then call to get him back? How would that be explained? Dietrich came to join us two weeks ago. Why want him back now, after all this time?
Heidi wisely had the woman forward us photographs of the dog she was missing, wrote down her contact information, and asked for her veterinary reference. Heidi had not yet mentioned whether we had a dog fitting that description. We were still unsure as to whether it was the same dog. We were also unsure as to whether this woman had been the one who abandoned the dog.
We called the veterinarian who gave the woman a wonderful reference. The vet had stated the woman even brought the dog into the vet office just to socialize the dog. All of his veterinary care had been provided as recommended by this veterinarian, with the unfortunate exception of a microchip. We were now less inclined to believe that this woman was the one who had dumped this dog. We just had to confirm that the dog she was looking for was the dog we had taken into our rescue.
Shortly after the phone conversation, we ran to the computer to await the email. It was not there. We clicked refresh. Still not there. Refresh. Nope. Refresh, refresh, refresh. Then the email arrived. The sender's name matched the woman's name. We all looked at each other with anticipation. We were excited to open it, yet we were also hesitant. Click. The email was opened. Attached to the email was this:
We pulled up my blog about Dietrich, and compared her photograph to ours.
We really had no doubt that this dog was the same dog. Crap. Dietrich had been adopted just days ago to a wonderful woman. It was up to us to call the adoptive Mom and let her know what was happening. But not until we were absolutely certain that Dietrich was the same dog as the one in the poster.
I emailed a copy of my blog back to the woman and asked her if the photos in the blog looked like her dog. The phone rang almost immediately after sending the blog. Through the handset, the woman could be heard sobbing. "I am 99% certain that is my Kimber," she squeaked out between the tears. I made her repeat it, because I could not understand what she said the first time.
The plan was to have the woman who adopted Dietrich drop him off at the clinic, allowing the previous owner to confirm whether he is her missing dog, Kimber. But it was not going to be that simple. The woman who was looking for her dog, was making sporadic phone calls while on vacation in Virginia. She would not be back in Iowa for several days. We were all going to have to sit in limbo, wondering what the fate of this wonderful dog would be.
She would be back in Iowa hoping to meet the dog on Friday. I told her we open at 9 am. She said she would be there at 8 am. She was half joking.
One of my assistants had already given Dietrich's adoptive owner a heads up on the situation, and said that she had immediately broken down into tears upon hearing the news. In just a few days time, the bond between her dog and Dietrich was strong, and equally strong between Dietrich and her. She was devastated.
I called the adoptive Mom to discuss it further. I gave her the option of dropping him off immediately, so she could cut ties quickly rather than dwell on it for days, or she could keep him with her until Thursday or very early Friday. She said she would call us back with her decision. When she did, she chose to keep him with her where he is comfortable until Thursday evening. She knew that if it was her dog that had been missing, that she would want him back desperately. She asked me to promise to call her once they were reunited, to let her know if it went well. I promised and she tearfully hung up the phone.
Many things ran through our heads awaiting the possible reunion. The dog was not found anywhere near where this lady lived. Who was it that dropped him off that day? How did they get him? Why did it take so long for this owner to call us? Many of the questions were answered as we continued phone conversations with the possible owner.
Kimber's owner had contacted all of her "local" agencies about her dog's disappearance, including police, veterinarians, boarding kennels, animal control, etc. What she neglected to do was to broaden her search. She had all but given up on finding him when her sister helped her to make the poster. The poster and her sister inspired her to renew and broaden the search for her missing dog. While on vacation visiting her sister, she made more phone calls, one of them was that fateful one to our clinic.
Thursday came and Dietrich came back to us, tearfully. I am certain he wondered why he was back. Friday morning, the reunion was anxiously awaited by my entire staff.
The door opened, and in came a woman.
"Are you here to meet Dietrich?" I asked, hopefully. "Yes." We talked for a few minutes, I asked permission to use my video camera, and she thoughtfully agreed. Missy went in back and got Dietrich.
I was anxious. What if Dietrich seemed hesitant to go back with her? What if he wasn't her dog and we were all disappointed? What if...what if...
Missy approached the front desk with Dietrich on the leash, and here is the reunion video:
Dietrich was Kimber. Kimber was happy. End of story...or is it?
As it turns out, Kimber had chased their cat out the door and into the yard before he had been clipped onto his leash. By the time they threw their winter clothes on to go look for him, he had disappeared. Perhaps he wandered further off the property than usual, but the family was looking for him almost immediately. It seems someone must have picked him up, then dumped him the same day out in the country. They left him on the side of the road with a few bites of kibble and a chewed up pet-unfriendly toy. No one knows why they did what they did. I am grateful for the remaining events that led to a happy ending.
Kimber is now microchipped, and can be quickly identified if he goes missing again. Even in my practice, people opt against microchipping their dog or cat, even after we discuss with them how important a microchip can be. "He never leaves the house." "She is always with me." These reasons are not good enough. Things happen, period. A microchip is the only form of easily recogizable permanent identification. Tags fall off. Collars can be removed. Opt for the microchip. It is an invaluable resource, and can help save your pet's life!
I am so grateful that we were able to participate in this reunion. I am grateful that a family was reunited. I am grateful that Kimber's Mom did not give up her search. I am grateful that the adoptive Mom was so understanding in a situation that was heartwarming for others, yet so heartbreaking for her and for her dog.
Thank you, adoptive Mom, for being so understanding. Although you cannot be Kimber's Mom, you will always be Dietrich's Mom.
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