Stories pop up all the time about lost pets overcoming the odds and making it back to their homes and family weeks, months or even years after first going missing.
Many pets are reunited with their families thanks to the dedication and work of volunteer rescue teams that love animals so much they are willing to go the extra mile — or miles — to bring the pets home.
In this particular tale, it was two women — Karen Rogers and Mary Dennard — and the Lost Pet Recovery Team who worked tirelessly over a 135-day period to bring a 10-year-old dog named Leo back to his owner, Danielle.
Leo, a collie/shepherd mix, had been traveling with Danielle and her family — who live in Chicago — when they stopped at a hotel in Dalton, Georgia, on Oct. 30. Leaving Leo in their hotel room, they went to get food at a restaurant across the parking lot, and that’s when everything started to go downhill.
“Suddenly Leo was spotted across Walnut Ave at the Bojangles,” a post from the Lost Pet Recovery Team (LPRT) shared on Facebook. “He had opened the lever of their hotel room door and escaped!”
Initially, Danielle and her mom stayed behind to try to find Leo. They even had a family member travel with one of Leo’s dog friends, hoping Leo would come out of hiding if he spotted his buddy — but no dice.
After weeks of searching, the family had no choice but to return home to Chicago. Meanwhile, the LPRT kept putting out the word, and locals Rogers and Dennard came forward and pledged to help find the dog.
“Karen and Mary spent the next few months putting out signs, flyers, more signs, following up on sightings, canvassing, putting out trail cameras and feeding stations,” LPRT shared. “Danielle even put Leo’s story out to a local news channel, WRCB-TV to continue raising/maintaining awareness. Still no Leo!”
They were given breadcrumbs along the way, sightings that fizzled almost as soon as they stoked hope.
The first one came in on Dec. 3, when a homeowner spotted the dog thanks to a security camera. Danielle came, and Rogers and Dennard set up a trail camera, feeding station and items with Danielle’s scent to lure the dog — but it amounted to nothing.
On Feb. 12, another resident saw him in the woods behind their home and was able to take a photo. Sure enough, it was Leo, and Rogers and Dennard went through the same routine — this time placing eight cameras in the area.
On Feb. 19, one of the trail cameras caught Leo eating food they’d set out, and everyone was elated. Danielle came, but again he vanished.
On Feb. 27, another trail camera spotted him, a mountain over from the most recent spot he’d been. The rescue group reconvened, and Danielle hiked through the area, searched for him and went home empty-handed again.
The next time Leo appeared on a camera was March 11. This time the group wasn’t going to take any chances, and it set a trap cage for the stubborn dog.
Three days later, on March 14 at 8:24 a.m., after months on the run, Leo was safely trapped. After a check-up with a vet, he was reunited with Danielle, and the photo shows both of them beaming.
“Leo turned 10 years old out in those woods, alone,” the LPRT concluded. “He survived the winter, a snowstorm in January. Rain. Storms. He was someone’s beloved family member his whole life! This case was an emotional roller coaster. The terrain was unforgiving. He was truly a needle in a HUGE haystack.
“The lows of this case were devastating, but today made every second worth it. Through it all, Karen and Mary remained PERSISTENT. Without the kind hearts and dedication of these two ladies, Danielle would not be making another 10-hour trip to pick up her baby!
“As unfortunate as Leo’s escape has been, he is so lucky to have had his angels, Karen Treadwell Rogers, Mary Dennard, and LPRT volunteer Michelle Jenkins for NEVER GIVING UP ON HIM, LPRT for supporting his case and seeing it through, Lovy Myers for her wisdom and advice, and ALL THE AMAZING PEOPLE of DALTON and ROCKY FACE ROOTING FOR HIM!!!”
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