Charlie, the German shorthaired pointer, has been found after going AWOL for 10 years, and owner Tracy Dove, whose heart was broken by his disappearance as a one-year-old puppy from their Alabama home, is getting him back again. While it might never be known where he’s been all these years, the reality is he’s alive, some 250 miles away from the yard he played in while little.
According to Toronto Sun, Tracy Dove’s phone rang last week, and she learned from the person at the other end that Charlie had been found after being presumed dead for a decade, near the south Alabama town of Brewton. A microchip that Dove had implanted in Charlie when he was young was instrumental in the veterinary clinic tracking her down.
Dove shared her initial reaction with an interviewer on Thursday, April 28, 2016.
“I was shocked, overwhelmed. I cried. It’s amazing.”
Dove was living in Cullman with her then 8-year-old son at the time of Charlie’s disappearance in the late spring of 2005. A pointer breed favoured by hunters, Charlie was an ideal target for theft, and Dove found him missing after the lock on her yard enclosure was broken. She hoped someone would return him, and it’s taken 10 years.
Her son Trey was equally upset because, while Charlie was an expensive hunting dog, he was the family pet and spoiled rotten as a pup. On account of Charlie’s having a microchip, Dove kept the chip information current, even after they moved to a Jefferson County area called Corner. But nobody called to say he was found, and after 10 years, she’d given up hope. She even believed her Charlie was dead.
According to AL.com, Charlie’s fortune turned last Wednesday, April 27, when some Brewton residents reported a dog that had been lying on the porch of the Damascus Assembly of God for three days. They contacted Renee Jones, the rescue director of Souls On Board Rescue Ride, formerly serving as the area’s animal control, but now rescuing and finding homes for lost animals.
Jones saw a Charlie visibly sick, dehydrated, and malnourished, with a large growth near his chest. She took him to Spring Hill Animal Clinic in Mobile, where the staff found his microchip and gave Dove the call she’d stopped waiting for after 10 years. Jones recounted the circumstances around the call.
“We often get dogs with microchips, but often the information hasn’t been updated and the phone numbers don’t work. When the number worked, it was pretty wild.”
Dove was stunned at first, thinking it had to be a scam for Charlie to be found after 10 years. But when the animal clinic people sent her a picture, and she talked to them, she was convinced it was really Charlie. She shared her thoughts.
“It was very shocking. We were shocked and overwhelmed all at once. All this time he’s been alive. There was lots of excitement and tears and joy. I just wish he was well.”
According to ABC News, everyone familiar with Charlie’s story seems elated that he was found in front of the church after 10 long years, but the downside is that he has a gray muzzle now and a cancerous tumor in his chest. He will have to undergo surgery at the veterinary clinic by next week, before Dove can bring him home.
Dove who works as a dental assistant, said she and son Trey, now 18, plan to go out to see Charlie. She is also aware that even if he’s been found after the 10 lost years, there is that awful chance he won’t live much longer and may not come home with her after all. But she voiced her optimism.
“I hope he remembers me. It will be a lengthy road for him, but he’ll be home.”
The ABC News report indicated that an online fundraiser is bringing in donations to cover the cost of Charlie’s surgery. Dove, who plans to be in the clinic when he goes under the knife, sounded unfazed by the prospect.
“He’s too weak and sick to make the trip home, so I am going to stay down there with him until he’s well enough to come home. And then he’ll be my dog again.”
Brewton resident Melissa McMillan, who has provided Charlie with foster care from the time he was found, has agreed with Jones and the veterinarian that Charlie avoid travel until the likely cancerous growth is removed. The procedure was supposed to have been done on Wednesday, but was delayed for another week because of Charlie’s frail condition after being gone 10 years.
Experienced with lost animal cases, Jones admits that having found one after 10 years is a rarity. A theory she shares with Dove is that Charlie was sold to someone who may not have known he was stolen. He may have been in a kennel or used for hunting before getting discarded as his health bottomed out.
On hindsight, Dove did the right thing to put a microchip in Charlie and keep the information current. That he was found after being gone for 10 years speaks volumes.
[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]