Homeward Bound

Lost dog returns to Texas after seven years

Back in 2016, a small chihuahua named Greta got loose from her home in rural Texas. Her owners worried about the danger of coyotes and stray dogs, and when Greta didn't come back home as the years went by, they assumed she probably didn't make it.

But Greta was a survivor. If she could talk, she could share her adventures over the past seven years and explain how she ended up over a thousand miles away from home. However she got there, Greta was found wandering around the TA travel center outside of Evanston. A concerned stranger picked her up and drove her to Green River, where Animal Control took her in and started trying to figure out who she belonged to.

As they do with all the animals who come in to the shelter, the Animal Control Officers checked Greta for a microchip. Thankfully, she had one. It had been issued in Texas and registered 11 years ago. The phone number given for the owner no longer worked, so GRAC reached out to an Animal Control shelter in Texas. With the help of a Texas Animal Control Officer, Greta's owner was found and contacted.

"She couldn't believe that I was calling her from Green River about a dog she lost seven years ago," Jade Winters, one of Green River's Animal Control Officers, said.

"She thought her dog was dead, and come to find out, she just went on a trip," Lydia Holmes, another ACO who was closely involved with Greta's case, said.

After connecting with the owner, the next step was to send Greta on another trip - this time to go back home.

Holmes has spent much of the past decade at Animal Control working on building a rescue network and making connections to be able to transport animals. She got in touch with one such connection, a woman named Joan Nickum who also works extensively with animal transports, in order to make arrangements for Greta's trip.

"People stepped up," Holmes said. "It's all volunteers that are getting her down to Texas, which is pretty awesome."

The journey from Green River, Wyoming to Euless, Texas, is over 1,100 miles and takes over 17 hours to drive without stopping. The trip was broken up into 13 legs for each volunteer to drive, handing off Greta from one town to the next.

Greta was transported from Green River to Rawlins, Rawlins to Laramie, and Laramie to Fort Collins, Colorado. In Colorado she went through Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Walsenberg. From there she went through New Mexico, stopping in Raton and Clayton, before making it to Texas. Her Texas checkpoints included Dalhart, Amarillo, Clarendon, Childress, Wichita Falls, and finally Decatur, where her owner picked her up.

This trip took place last weekend, getting the dog who was missing for so many years back home in a matter of days.

"The network of people that are involved in just this one dog is pretty extraordinary," Holmes said, noting there were over 20 people involved just between the ACOs and volunteer transport drivers. "It's pretty amazing how people have stepped up for a chihuahua, and an old chihuahua." 

While Greta survived for a long time, Holmes noted that she may not have survived much longer if she'd been left at the travel stop, especially with the recent snow storm. Holmes also said she thinks Greta will like the weather in Texas better.

While reuniting a dog with their owner in another state after seven years is on the extreme end of success stories, it's not the first time Green River Animal Control has been able to get an animal back home. That success often comes from animals having a microchip.

"There's no way we would have been able to do it without a microchip," Holmes said.

"Without the chip we wouldn't have learned a name, we wouldn't have learned the location, we wouldn't have been able to do that," Winters said of Greta's case.

Winters also pointed out that, while they did find the owner for Greta's microchip, it would have been even easier if the chip had been kept updated. Holmes added that in order for microchips to work, they need to be registered, and ideally kept updated.

Holmes also explained that getting an animal microchipped is an easy process. The chip itself is smaller than a grain of rice and goes under the skin. Putting the microchip in essentially involves giving the animal a shot, and lots of them don't even notice when it happens. Having a microchip is easy and cheap, it can't be lost, it doesn't negatively affect the animal, and it provides proof of ownership and contact information.

Green River Animal Control can microchip an animal any time an officer is at the shelter, and the microchip costs $20. Animal Control also offers other services that come with the microchip, including lookup services and things like $500 return flight travel insurance for lost pets.

"There's just not any cons to having them and there is so much good that they do," Winters said.

While Greta thankfully had a microchip that eventually got her home, the other side of her story that needs to be considered is the possibility that other people picked her up and kept her during those seven years.

Tracy Wyant, the Animal Control Community Services Supervisor, pointed out that people who may have wanted to help Greta actually kept her from her owners by not reporting her. She said it's important for people to realize that just because you find an animal doesn't mean it's yours to keep, and it should be taken to Animal Control so it can be checked for a microchip.

In Wyoming, it's actually illegal and considered larceny to take someone else's pet since animals are considered property. If someone finds an animal and wants to keep it, they can go through the five-day waiting period after the animal goes to Animal Control, after which they can adopt it and keep it legally. However, people shouldn't just keep a stray animal that may have an owner.

"The right thing to do legally is to report it," Wyant said.

Thanks to Animal Control, microchips, and people willling to help, animals like Greta can get back home.

"All the things that had to happen for her to get to this point and back to her owner, it's amazing," Winters said.

 

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