Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Yorkshire terrier, a dog the size of a rabbit, walked down a winding suburban street near 38th Street and Post Road the Tuesday before last. The dog was flea-bitten, its fur was matted, its teeth were decayed and its gums infected.
The dog had fallen a long way. Once it had been so loved, so prized, it was the ring-bearer at its owner's wedding. It had trotted down the aisle, in a tuxedo, to the sounds of "Pachelbel's Canon."
And now the dog was alone and had nothing but a porkchop bone, which it held in its tiny jaws. There was no meat on it.
But the dog happened to pass the house of Pam Hardy, and Hardy, a dog lover, happened to be looking out the window. And that was the beginning of the end of an incredible journey — actually, more like a grand misadventure.
It began six years and 1,100 miles ago, The Indianapolis Star reports (http://indy.st/1DIvxub).
In Austin, Texas, Grisel Jaramillo was beside herself. The front door had been left open, and the Yorkie — named Bailey — had slipped out. She yelled for him. She ran door to door, asking neighbors if they had seen the dog. Grisel had named her first-born Hailey partly because it rhymed with Bailey, and now Grisel was growing frantic over her missing dog. Later, a jogger told her he had seen Bailey, had seen somebody in a maroon car stop and scoop up the dog and drive away.
Bailey was 4 years old. Grisel had him since he was a puppy. He was gone.
She and her husband, Jason, posted photos of Bailey on lamp posts and called the shelters. They called the police. For years, wherever they saw a Yorkie, even if they were 600 miles away in El Paso, they'd call "Bailey!" just in case. "We never forgot about him," Grisel said.
Then, earlier this month, a startling phone call. Bailey had been found, alive and reasonably well, in Indianapolis.
"My dad called," said Grisel, now a 29-year-old nursing student, "but I was in the middle of a lecture, and I don't pick up. He texted, 'Call now.' My dad is a cop, and he's always real calm. So I was shaking. I thought, 'Who died'?
"'Hold on to your horses,' he said. "'They found Bailey.' My adrenalin, my sympathetic nervous center, was just racing."
Hardy had wanted to keep Bailey. "A Yorkie is my dream dog," she says.
But she already had a dog, a chihuahua/Jack Russell mix named Tyson. She had a cat, too, Miss Kitty.
Her husband had nixed the Yorkie, so she took it to her veterinarian at Post Pet Hospital. Staffers there cleaned up the dog, gave him antibiotics and scanned him for a microchip. They found one. The chip record revealed the pet's owner.
Bailey was a puppy when Grisel had a chip inserted in him. It's a simple procedure and costs about $45. The chip is delivered through a needle inserted between the animal's shoulder blades. It's like getting a shot.
Lost pet homecomings are a touching story. In 1993 Walt Disney Pictures grossed $42 million with "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey," a remake of the 1963 classic about two dogs and a cat that survive a mountain lion, bears and a rapids in the ultimately successful search for their owners.
And, thanks to microchipping, they are becoming more common.
"You're seeing this same story all across the country," said Randall Grosser, the Post Pet veterinarian who treated Bailey. "There's that dog that got loose in Kentucky, got picked up, wound up in a shelter in West Virginia. Someone rescued him, a rescue organization in Pennsylvania, then they adopted him out, and the new owner took him to a veterinarian who discovered a chip. The dog goes back to Kentucky.
"And there was that cat from Denver that ended up in New York City and that Jack Russell terrier that hitched a ride from Tennessee to Michigan."
It's unclear what Bailey's life was like the past six years.
But it probably wasn't horrible, in Grosser's opinion. Which may seem surprising considering the dog was stolen, swiped by what had to be a callous opportunist. Dogs not only can be "part of the family," but they also have cash value. A Yorkie was for sale last week at the Uncle Bill's pet store in Fishers for $1,500.
Bailey "has had decent care, adequate care," Grosser said. "He was in good flesh, not emaciated."
And his friendly, outgoing behavior in Grosser's clinic indicates he was not abused.
"But," Grosser said, "Bailey had a lot of fleas, he was in need of a haircut, and his major health problem was his teeth — a lot of tartar, gingivitis, gum recession, loose teeth. He's in need of a dental procedure. He will lose several or all of his teeth."
Bailey will have the work done in Texas. A crowd-funding campaign staged by the website Indy Lost Pet Alert raised more than $1,200 to help pay for it. That will cover his vet bills and his flight home, which is a relief to Grisel. Since Bailey's disappearance six years ago Grisel and her husband have had two more children.
Grisel was bursting with excitement to see her little lost dog, for whom she once bought sunglasses and whom she used to take to movie theaters and restaurants.
But would Bailey remember Grisel?
"I've been so nervous about that," she said. "But I loved him so much, how can he not? He will."
Or he won't.
"Dogs don't have great long-term memory," said Greg Magnusson, a veterinarian at Leo's Pet Care in Carmel. "It's not likely he'll remember her in any way. But over time the dog and owner could still develop a relationship similar to what they had."
Another vet said he thought Bailey would recognize Grisel.
"I would be surprised if he didn't," said Rod Duncan of Michigan Road Animal Hospital. But then again, Duncan admitted, "I like happy endings."
Of course, this story would end up happily however the reunion went down.
This is how it went down:
The dog was delivered to a weeping Grisel at the Austin airport late Thursday night. It was a hectic scene. While travelers looked for cabs, TV news people, tipped off to the reunion, trained their cameras.
Grisel reached for Bailey, and he came to her. He licked her face enthusiastically. But that's what dogs do.
Later, however, after she got Bailey home, Grisel knew for sure that the little dog did indeed remember his past.
She showed him his bed. She had saved it all these years. And in a moment, just like the Bailey of old, he started humping it.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com
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