A seven-year-old Rottweiler mix named Zeus is back with his family after a microchip miracle. For years, the Harworths, a military family, thought their dog was dead, but a tiny piece of technology recently reunited them with the pup they never wanted to leave behind.
Their story began back in 2011, when Ben and Melody Harworth adopted the then one-year-old pup from the Fort Gordon Veterinary Clinic, intending for the young dog to grow up with their two sons. Unfortunately, the family’s plan for Zeus was put on hold when they found out Ben was being transferred to South Korea and that Zeus couldn’t come.
“It was the one spot where we were stationed at that wouldn’t allow pets. All the other places did, but the one place we were going did not,” explains Ben Harworth. “When we found out we couldn’t take him with us, it was heart-wrenching to try to figure out what we were going to do.”
Eventually a friend of the family offered to take care of Zeus while the Harworths were gone.
“We would get him back when we got back stateside,” Harworth remembers.
The family of four traveled to South Korea, leaving their beloved pup behind but believing that he was in trusted hands. For more than a year, the Harworths got long-distance updates on their dog, but all that changed in November of 2012 when the family was told their dog had died on Thanksgiving Day after receiving a cancer diagnosis.
“When we got that call, it killed us — the thought that our dog was dead — but we knew deep down inside that something just didn’t seem right,” says Harworth, who never again spoke with the people he had trusted to care for Zeus.
“Deep down inside we knew that he was out there somewhere. I did a little bit of research and looking into it when we got back to the states in May of ’13, but I was running into dead ends.”
By the summer of 2015, Harworth figured he would never know exactly what happened to his dog. Now living in Lacey, Washington, the family had adopted a Chihuahua, but the Harworths and their two teenage sons still fondly remembered their happy boy Zeus. Those memories were all they had left until one summer day when Harworth got the call that brought his dog back to life.
“They were like, ‘We have your dog Zeus here,’ and in my head I’m going, ‘Is this a prank, is this a joke?’ I told them I was told my dog died in 2012, and they said, ‘Well, he’s here,’” says Harworth.
That call came after Zeus was brought to the Banfield Pet Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, just a couple towns over from where the pup was supposed to stay back in 2011. Harworth was told a woman had found Zeus out walking around town and brought him into the vet office.
“They scanned his chip, and it was registered to me. They sent me pictures, and sure enough it was my dog.”
Harworth was happy to hear that Zeus seemed to be in good health, although a little lethargic. He immediately called his wife to share the unexpected good news.
“Initially we were mad because we’d been lied to, but I think that lasted for about a split second because after that, we didn’t care anymore and we were just so excited that our dog was in fact alive, and the next step was to figure out how we were going to get him home.”
The woman who found Zeus, Laura Williams, contacted local TV station WNCN with Zeus’ story in the hopes of finding a way to get him back to his family. Soon it was discovered that Zeus was suffering heartworms, and therefore couldn’t fly safely.
“That’s when Rachel [Overby, a practice manager at Banfield Pet Hospital] stepped in and volunteered to drive him the three thousand miles to get him home,” explains Harworth.
“It blew us away, because it’s one of those things — these are people who don’t know us, don’t know our dog, but are willing to do all this stuff to help us out. It was really amazing.”
Zeus and his new pal Overby set out on their cross-country drive on Aug. 9, 2015. The pair made plenty of pit stops to check in with vets and pick up dog treats, and on Aug. 14, Overby pulled into the Banfield Pet Hospital in Lacey, Washington, for the much-anticipated reunion, which was caught on camera.
“It’s almost like he was never gone,” says Harworth, who greeted Zeus — now seven years old — with open arms.
Looking at video from that day, it’s easy to see that tail-wagging Zeus was just as happy to see his family as they were to see him.
Harworth says his wife and sons will always be grateful to Overby and Banfield for all their help in arranging this reunion.
“We all became a really big family out of all of this,” he says. “Banfield has been ever so gracious to cover his treatment and get him a clean bill of health in the next few months. In about three months, he should be heartworm free.”
If everything goes as planned, Zeus should have a clean bill of health just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family, who are very thankful for kind strangers and microchips.
“When it comes to your pets, have them chipped and never lose hope — they’re part of the family,” says Harworth.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.