One year, one month and eight days after my four-year-old cocker spaniel, Archie, was stolen from my dog trainer?s car on a shoot in East Sussex (Tracking down a stolen dog, 30 December 2009), I received a call from someone uttering the words I had longed to hear for so long. ?We have taken in two stray dogs and one of them has a microchip registered to you,? said the RSCPA?s Jo Davis, calmly. After answering a string of questions to ensure that the stray was indeed my dog, Jo confirmed what I had hoped ? Archie had been found.
The next morning, I arrived at the charity?s branch at Godstone, in Surrey, to be reunited with my beloved dog. My mind was full of questions. Would Archie recognise me? Would he need to be rehabilitated in some way? Would he still behave like the dog I remembered?
After I produced photographic evidence that Archie was mine, Jo brought him through to the reception. To my horror, Archie walked straight past me. Through my tears, I managed to say his name. At that point, he turned around and looked directly at me with a confused expression. A second later, he leaped into my arms and frantically licked my face. It might sound dramatic, but it really was one of the happiest days of my life.
Physically, Archie is very different to how he was. Back in 2009, he was a lean, athletic-looking dog. He now weighs 18kg, which according to my vet is verging on obese. His muzzle and nose are covered in deep scars and many of his teeth are broken. I can easily fix most of these war wounds, but the thing I was really concerned about was his emotional well-being. Would he cower in the corner of my kitchen in terror when I took him home? How would he interact with my three other dogs?
To my surprise, he seems absolutely fine. He can remember all his gundog training and he is just as biddable as before. He plays in the same way, has all the same mannerisms and will not leave my side. In short, he is still my Archie.
I?ll probably never know what happened to him over the past 13 months, but he has adjusted to life back with me quickly. The help and support I received when he was stolen was remarkable. DogLost said that one of the most effective ways of finding a stolen dog was to make it ?too hot to handle?. To help me to achieve this, the national, local and shooting press ran stories about his theft and a Facebook group attracted more than 7,000 members ? many people seemed to follow the story. People I?d never met were handing out flyers and doing whatever they could to help me to find Archie and I made several new friends as a result of our mutual understanding of our emotional bond with dogs.
Since Archie?s reappearance, the generosity of friends and strangers has continued to be overwhelming. I have received dozens of messages from around the world conveying their happiness at his safe return. Robert Marshall, from Trans K9, which sells kennels and dog transit products, has even given me a lockable dog crate for my truck. I cannot thank everyone enough for their help.
Archie was found with a young Jack Russell bitch that the RSPCA dubbed ?his girlfriend?. Jo told me that the pair had become inseparable, sharing their food and bed. Sadly, as the terrier is not microchipped, there is no way of telling who she belongs to. As I now have four dogs at home, I do not feel that I can take her on. If no-one comes forward to claim her, I will make sure that she goes to a good home. It just goes to show how important it is to microchip your dog. As well as a microchip, Archie has a tattoo in his ear displaying a unique registration number. This appears to have been tampered with, as it is now barely legible.
Make time to microchipM
If your dog is not microchipped or tattooed, clear time in your diary to do it this weekend ? you never know when thieves will strike. When thieves are prepared to smash their way into vehicles to get at an animal, owners need to take every precaution available to them. I hope other dog owners take heed from my experience and that those with lost dogs find some comfort in my story. I never thought I?d see my canine buddy again, but thanks to his microchip he is asleep on my feet as I write this.
Selena is splitting her fee for this article between DogLost and the RSPCA.