A Dog Lost in California Turns Up in Florida Three Years Later
Have you ever let your contact information on your dog's microchip lapse? Have you ever worried about what would happen if your dog got lost?
Well, you'd be surprised. There are people out there cracking the cases of lapsed microchip info, and they're making a lot of people very happy. One of those happy people is Eric Hough, a professional BMX rider who lives in Huntington Beach, California.
His Pit Bull Smoke was lost for three years -- and then turned up in Florida. Smoke had a microchip, but both phone numbers for Hough were out of date. Fortunately, the people who had Smoke didn't give up. A team of strangers got together to find Hough and return his dog.
Let's start at the beginning. Hough adopted Smoke three years ago. He already had a little dog. The Pit Bull came along and made the family whole. But just four months after he arrived, Smoke disappeared.
"For whatever reason, that dog and me bonded real fast, and it was our family. It was the little dog, the big dog, and me; and it was a more well-rounded family, at that point," Hough told ABCNews.com. "Suddenly, I was just some guy with a Chihuahua."
Hough suspects a tenant he had to evict might have taken his dog, but despite calling the police and even following the woman, he never found Smoke.
Three years later, on June 6, authorities in Cocoa, Florida, found Smoke on the streets and took him to a shelter. Workers pulled up the dog's microchip info, but Hough's contact info was out of date. The dog was put up for adoption.
That's when a batch of Good Samaritans went to work. First, a woman who runs a site about lost pets posted a photo of Smoke. Then, Ryan Gamache, a Seattle-based "pet detective" who volunteers for the Missing Pet Partnership, saw the listing and took on the case.
"I love those hard cases, so I picked it up," Gamache told ABCNews.com. "It took quite a bit of effort to find Eric, and then it was even harder to get him to sit down and listen."
Why? Well, as a professional BMX rider, Hough lives in the public eye.
"When they started contacting me, it was through my sponsors and friends," Hough said. "I'm, like, immediately thinking they're trying to get information for identity theft."
Finally, Gamache got through to Hough, "I was like, 'Oh, wow. This is about me. Wait, is this about the Pit Bull?' And it suddenly just came back," he said. "I was, like, two seconds away from losing the opportunity to ever get him back again."
As for getting Smoke home, a nonprofit volunteer transport group called Kindred Hearts quickly stepped in after seeing the story on Facebook. The group has volunteers across the country to help transport adopted and missing pets to their homes. Hough offered to pay, but the group told him to keep his money.
Kindred Hearts divided the trip into four days, with about 30 volunteers driving about an hour or two each.
"It's almost addicting," said Kindred Hearts' Heather McNally. "Once you do it once, you just want to do another. It feels so good to be able to help a dog."
Even Gamache, the pet detective, chipped in for a leg.
"This is amazing how people have come together all the way across the United States, and I didn't expect it to be like this," he said. "It's inspiring to watch. A lot of our cases don't always have happy endings."