Local News

October 8, 2012

‘A wild story’

Owner reunites with lost dog after four years

Heather Jackson was ecstatic, laughing and crying at the same time, as she petted and played with her Siberian Husky “Shakira” when the two were reunited in Illinois over the weekend after having been separated for four years.

Jackson is a Chatsworth resident and real estate agent who also works at a local business that performs quality tests on carpet. She had bought Shakira at the Dalton Petland in December 2007 when the dog was three months old. Jackson said her children fell in love with the dog, and, being a dog lover herself, she forked over close to $1,200 for the animal that would become her constant companion.

Shakira went nearly everywhere with Jackson.

“Ever since we had her, once a week we would take her to the Biscuit Box and she would get her own plate,” Jackson added. “I have never been that attached to a dog.”

Sometime near the end of 2008, though, Shakira went missing. Jackson said Shakira was inside a fenced area outside her house, and when she came home from work one day, the dog was gone. Jackson said they never found out what happened. She put up posters and called local shelters to try to find the dog, but to no avail. Finally, she assumed a neighbor might have mistaken Shakira for a wolf and killed her.

Jackson cried for months and finally acquiesced to her husband’s urging to get another dog. She eventually acquired a Shih Tzu, a Pekepoo and an Akita. Still, she missed Shakira.

Jackson said she didn’t hear any more about the dog until a couple of months ago when a shelter for Siberian Huskies in McHenry County, Illinois — north of Chicago — contacted her to say they had her pet. She found out later that the Murray County Animal Shelter had sent the dog there to avoid euthanization after someone dropped Shakira off.

Director Tauline Davis said the husky came to the shelter in July through a person — not Jackson — who claimed to be the animal’s owner and wanted to surrender the dog. Davis said Shakira was scanned to see if she had a microchip that would help workers identify her owner.

“For whatever reason, I’m not sure why, this chip was not picked up,” she said. “And of course we sent it to a rescue versus putting it to sleep.”

Once the Illinois agency had the dog, officials there located someone to adopt her. Jackson said a worker there said they were only calling her to get information on the dog’s health records before the adoption. Jackson said the agency didn’t want to give the dog back at first unless she paid an adoption fee, which she refused to do. She said she contacted law enforcement authorities in Illinois, where an officer had the dog removed to another shelter until Jackson arrived.

“Heather was a little apprehensive about it because she thought the dog was dead, and this was four years later, so she didn’t really believe it at first,” said Matt Asbury, Jackson’s brother.

Finally, they were able to confirm through the microchip that this was really Shakira. Jackson and Asbury made the 13-hour drive over the weekend to get the dog, driving 700 miles from Friday evening to Saturday morning, they said.

Asbury took a video of Shakira bounding happily toward Jackson when they saw each other, tail wagging and body wiggling. Jackson said Shakira had adjusted well and seemed to recognize her old surroundings once they got back to Georgia.

“All we can figure is somebody had had her for those four years,” Asbury said. “She doesn’t appear to have been abused in any way.”

Asbury said he isn’t pleased with the Murray shelter. He said that while he’s happy the agency found a rescue to place Shakira in rather than putting her down, he believes workers there should have picked up the microchip.

State law requires shelters to scan animals believed to be pets for microchips soon after their arrival if shelter personnel don’t know who the owner is, and again before euthanizing them. The same law specifies that the facility won’t be held liable for failing to detect a microchip or failing to contact the animal’s owner.

Davis didn’t speculate why Shakira’s microchip wasn’t found.

Several pet and animal shelter websites that offer information about microchips say the devices are very accurate and have a low failure rate. However, there are times when a chip isn’t picked up because of improper scanning techniques, interference from a metal collar, because the chip migrated to another part of the animal’s body, or for other reasons.

Still, some in the community claim the shelter doesn’t regularly scan animals for microchips, a charge Davis said is false. Davis suggests that people who have lost animals contact local shelters immediately and provide information about the animal.

“We’ve got a board here so we can post the pictures (of lost pets),” she said.

Jackson urged people to get their pets microchipped, a service she said costs about $15. It could mean the difference between being reunited with your pet or not, she said.

“I’m just so happy,” she said Monday. “It’s a wild story. I know it’s very rare (to find a lost dog), especially after that many years to get her back.”

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