On May 27, Sheila Salazar of Fayetteville, North Carolina, welcomed a pit bull mix named Nigel into her home. He’d made it to a local shelter after being rescued from his life as a bait dog, and Salazar was ready to turn his life around.
Hardship wasn’t over for the poor pup, though. As it turned out, a few months after his adoption, on Aug. 28, the dog was allegedly stolen — and once again, his fate was uncertain.
On Sept. 1, a woman found the gray dog after he followed her son home. Leah Biddinger, a local rescuer, was contacted and scanned the dog for a chip the next morning.
Thankfully, he had one, so Biddinger texted the number the chip company gave her and started walking the dog in the area he was found in case someone recognized him.
Salazar called her back, but as the two talked, they realized that returning the dog to his home was going to be tricky.
“I answer the phone and Shelia (Nigel’s owner) says you texted and said you have my dog,” Biddinger posted on Facebook. “I responded I DO!! Sheila tells me that Nigel had been STOLEN on August 28.
“I assure her he is safe and tell her to give me her address and I will bring him home. She responds I live in NC.
“I said ohhhh honey, I can’t bring him home. She said why not and I replied with because I live [in] MD.”
It was definitely Nigel: The chip was registered to Salazar, but somehow he had made it all the way to Dundalk, Maryland, in just a few days. The people who took him must have lost him at some point, dropped him off or otherwise transported him to that location.
Biddinger started contacting other rescue groups and trying to figure out how to get Nigel home. In the meantime, Nigel was boarded to keep him safe.
Amelia Air, a group that often flies at-risk dogs to places where they can be adopted, heard the pup’s story and agreed to help. Pilots Jordan Mccarthy and Jared Miller from Virginia donated their services to get Nigel home.
“They get animals out of bad situations back into good situations,” Biddinger said, according to WMAR-TV. “They are an amazing organization.”
“When they showed up at the airport to meet us, Nigel instantly gave his seal of approval,” Biddinger’s post continued. “He loved them both. Soon it was time to say goodbye to Nigel as he boarded the plane and headed back home to NC. The sadness of seeing him leave was soon replaced with the thoughts of the joyful reunion he would soon have with his family!!”
The pilots shared a photo of Nigel looking very content to be flying with his new best friends, and Amelia Air posted their story on Facebook.
“No rest for the Amelia Air Force, even on Labor Day Weekend!” the post read. “Today, our amazing volunteer pilots Jared and Jordan flew their second mission for Amelia Air — and helped a stolen dog avoid an uncertain fate. On August 28th, animal rescuer Leah Biddinger of Dundalk, Maryland found pitbull mix Nigel, who luckily had a microchip.
“After tracking down the dog’s owner to an address in Fayetteville, North Carolina, it was discovered that Nigel had likely been stolen and transported to Maryland for nefarious purposes.” the post continued.
“In an effort to get Nigel home to his mom Sheila, the animal rescue community reached out to Amelia Air –and we were so happy to help get Nigel [home]. Thank you Jared and Jordan for giving your time and your plane to help get Nigel back to the loving home where he is now once again safe from harm.”
Mccarthy, who also has dogs, said he was happy to be involved in the endeavor.
“It was good to see him go home,” he told the news outlet.” He was happy, you know, he — he snuggled in my lap the whole flight. I know I would be devastated if one of my fur babies disappeared so it was definitely a moving thing to help.”
“I’m grateful,” Salazar said at the return of her dog. “Like, yeah, no words can even…”
“Knowing the rescue community was able to come together and make this happen is overwhelming,” Biddinger added. “I’m still in awe of what happened.”
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