Foothills Animal Shelter via Facebook
Foothills Animal Shelter via Facebook

15 Amazing Animal Reunions

Foothills Animal Shelter via Facebook
Foothills Animal Shelter via Facebook

If these long-lost animals could talk, they’d have quite a story to tell. As it is, their adventures remain a mystery. But one thing their missing years and glorious reunions highlight is the importance of microchipping your pets so they can be accurately identified in case something goes wrong.


Kennelgate Pet Superstores via Facebook

A Norwegian forest cat named Clive lived in Toton, Nottinghamshire, UK, with Tanya Irons and her family. That is, until he went missing in October 2014.

More than a year later, employees at the Kennelgate Pet Superstores warehouse started experiencing intruder alarms that seemed to trigger themselves. The workers began to suspect that a cat had gotten into the warehouse and was helping himself to the pet food. Even after they spotted Clive, it took some time to catch him. When they finally did, he was returned to his family after having been gone 16 months. They said he “smelled a bit” and had gained weight from his time in the warehouse.


Riverside County Department of Animal Services

A tabby named Kevin didn’t come home to Cheryl Walls of Anderson, South Carolina, one night in 2013. She waited for the cat, then searched, but eventually assumed he was gone for good. Two years later, a truck with a U-Haul trailer was stopped at the Arizona-California border for a routine agriculture check when the inspector heard a muffled meow from among the boxes. A cat had apparently stowed away in the trailer, and the driver had no clue how long he had been in there.

The trailer had traveled 2500 miles without being opened. The cat was taken to a shelter, where his microchip identified him. Walls was delighted to receive a call that Kevin had been found, but astonished that it was from southern California. Two animal organizations raised money to fund Kevin’s flight home to South Carolina.


Debi Petranck was heartbroken when her terrier Zeus escaped from her Ocala, Florida, backyard in August of 2014. She searched for him, posted flyers, and checked social media for leads, to no avail. In April of 2016, she got a call from the animal shelter in Dearborn, Michigan, who said they had Zeus. Petranck immediately drove over a thousand miles to fetch the dog.

It turns out that a man in Florida found Zeus on the street and took him in without checking for a microchip. The man eventually moved to Detroit and took the dog with him. Zeus escaped again there, and was picked up and taken to the shelter as a stray (where they, thankfully, checked the chip). “Everything’s just the way we left it," Petranck told CBS Detroit. "We’ve just picked right up where we were.”


Woosie the cat went missing from Helen and Phillip Johns' home in Gover, Cornwall, UK, in 2011. As time went by, they thought they’d never see their cat again. But Woosie had just found greener pastures.

Three years after the cat had gone missing, the couple got a call from a vet who had found them using Woosie's microchip. The cat had been living in a pasty factory three miles away the entire time. The factory workers had been feeding him pasties and sandwiches, and had even renamed him George. Woosie was reunited with the Johns, who found him bedraggled and quite fat from his food factory years.


Sharon Johnson of Mackay, Queensland, Australia, lost her Marbles. Marbles, her white chinchilla cat, didn’t come home one day in 2013, and was not microchipped. Johnson posted flyers in the neighborhood and notices on social media, but got nowhere. That is, until 2016, when the local pound brought in a cat that resembled Marbles’s picture.

The cat was so dirty and matted that the family wasn’t completely sure it was him when they saw the picture on the local lost and found pets Facebook page. But the cat was found only a couple of streets away from their home, so they went to see it. It was indeed Marbles, who looked like himself again after a trip to the vet and the groomer. While his appearance led the Johnsons to believe he may have been a stray the entire three years, they also believe someone was feeding him, since he was in decent health.


Ricardo Dominguez of Santa Teresa, New Mexico, loved his dog Brownie. The chocolate Lab went missing while under the care of others in 2013. Dominguez looked everywhere, and even suspected that someone had stolen the dog. That suspicion was bolstered when he spotted Brownie in a vehicle four months after going missing, but couldn’t turn his truck and trailer around fast enough to catch up to the other car.

Three years later, Brownie was picked up in Otay Mesa, California, and identified by the staff at San Diego County Animal Services. How Brownie ended up 720 miles away is anyone’s guess, but Dominguez wasted no time in driving to the city as soon as he heard the news. Brownie was reportedly ecstatic at seeing Dominguez again after so long.


Chicago Police Department via Facebook

Chiquito the Chicago Chihuahua got lost on June 16, 2012. “It was just devastating for all of us, especially my daughter. It's her dog and she was really sad,” Gloria Martinez told WGN.

Fortunately, this past June, a stray dog was brought to the attention of Chicago policemen Eric Taylor and Nicholas Spacek. They took the dog to the police station, and the Animal Welfare League found Chiquito had a microchip. The Martinez family was notified, and they rushed down to the police station to fetch him. They will probably never know what he was up to during those four long years.


Allison Hinton

Allison and Bill Hinton lived in Hunt, Texas, in 2010 when their two dogs took off together. The other dog eventually came home, but their terrier mix, Leo, went missing. After several years of looking, the Hintons lost hope of ever seeing Leo again, especially after moving 1400 miles away to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2014.

But this summer, Allison’s mother received a call from Kerr County (Texas) Animal Services informing her that they had picked up a stray with a microchip identifying him as Leo. The dog was infested with fleas and had a skin condition. Allison, who traveled back to Texas to get Leo, told Michigan Live: "He was one of our favorite little dogs, he had a funny personality and was really sweet," before heading to the store to buy his favorite treat: cherries.


Jimmy Montez and his family lived in Boyd, Texas, in 2009 when they lost their young dog Corky. They searched for him for six months. This July, they got a call from the Humane Society in Fort Worth that they’d picked up two dogs; they had found the Montez family through Corky’s microchip. The Montez family had moved 30 miles to Fort Worth while Corky was missing, so they went right to the shelter. They were overjoyed to see Corky again.

However, Corky was obviously bonded to the other dog he was picked up with. That dog, who the shelter named Captain, did not have a microchip, so the Montezes decided to adopt him. Now Corky and his friend have a permanent home together.


Marna Gillian

A cat name Moon Unit not only left home but fled the country as well. Marna Gillian and Sean Purdy rang in 2008 with a New Year's Eve party at their home in London. Sometime during the night, Moon Unit slipped away from the house and wasn’t seen again for over eight years.

This summer, the cat was picked up as a stray in the streets of Paris. The French animal rescue group ADAD took the cat in and identified her as a UK pet, thanks to her microchip. Gillian was shocked to receive an email from ADAD about Moon Unit, speculating that the cat must have arrived in France as a stowaway—if she had been taken there legally, her microchip would have been scanned as she entered the country. Gillian and Purdy, who no longer live together, reunited for a trip to Paris to collect Moon Unit.


Kathleen Crichton of Orlando, Florida, lost her 8-year-old cat Smelly in 2008. At the time, she had three cats and a dog. By 2016, Crichton had three sons and a fish. Just last month, she got a phone call from a veterinarian in Gainesville who identified Smelly by his microchip. Crichton made the two-hour trip to get the cat, and found him as feisty as ever at 16 years old. The clinic told her someone had brought him in as a stray, but no one knows how he got to Gainesville.


Foothills Animal Shelter via Facebook

In 2006, Lloyd Goldston and his family moved from Tennessee to Alabama, and in the process lost their one-year-old boxer named Boozer. In August of last year, a family in Colorado turned their dog in to a shelter because they could no longer care for him. They had adopted the dog from a boxer rescue group in Tennessee years earlier.

The Foothills Animal Shelter in Golden said that the Tennessee rescue should have checked for a microchip, but they scanned the dog anyway to make sure. They found him registered to Goldston, who drove 18 hours to Colorado along with his children Megan and Will for a joyous reunion. Boozer is a naturally friendly dog, but after about 15 seconds, he became more excited than ever as he recognized his family after nine years, according to shelter representative Jennifer Strickland. That’s a good dog.


Tracey Dove of Cullman, Alabama, found her dog enclosure had been broken into one day in 2006, and her one-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer named Charlie was gone. Ten years later, an animal shelter received a report of a stray dog that had been hanging around the Damascus Assembly of God church in Brewton, Alabama, for three days. The shelter's Rescue director Renee Jones took the dog to a veterinarian, who found his microchip.

Even microchipped animals can be hard to identify after so many years, but Dove had updated her address with the microchip company when the family moved, on the off chance Charlie would be found. And he was, almost 250 miles away. Dove was speechless when she heard the news. Charlie was in poor health, and had a mass on his side that needed to be removed before he could travel, which led Dove to think that someone discarded the dog because of his illness. 

14. MISTY // 11 YEARS

Multnomah County Animal Services via Facebook

Misty was only two years old when she didn’t come home to her family in Portland, Oregon, in 2005. Dean McCrea and Meredith Warren had heard about a coyote in the neighborhood that had killed a cat, and over time assumed that Misty had been its victim. But this past summer, they got a call from the Multnomah County Animal Shelter that their cat had been identified by her microchip. Misty was reunited with her family after 11 years, and recognized everyone right off. Warren said she doesn’t seem stressed and appears well-fed, so they think she may have been living with another family all that time.

15. SHELBY // 13 YEARS

Paula Harper-Adams

Shelby the cat went missing from her home in Geelong, Australia, in 2001. In 2014, Paula Harper-Adams found a stray cat at her front doorstep that had dirty, matted fur and was covered in lice. The more Harper-Adams looked at the cat, the more it reminded her of the cat she lost 13 years earlier. She took the stray to the vet's office, along with a picture of Shelby, and the veterinarian confirmed that yes, this was Shelby, much older, but still the same cat. No one knows where Shelby went for 13 years, but she knew where to find her home more than a decade after being away.

Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London

Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.


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