Overland, Mo. Bob and Tammy Young of Overland started a high-tech search when their sheltie Sophie ran away in December, but an old-fashioned dog tag is what reunited them nearly three months later.
The 2-year-old dog darted out the front door in December when the Youngs and other family members were decorating for Christmas. The timid dog apparently didn’t like all the commotion, and she ran outside when the Youngs’ adult son was leaving. After he chased Sophie for four blocks, she was out of sight.
Bob Young, 48, said he was beside himself. “I love my dogs; they’re my world, and Sophie was my baby,” he said.
The Youngs posted signs, checked regularly with local animal shelters and handed out fliers, but they also posted ads on the Internet and used an online service to send out 2,500 automated phone calls to people living in the area.
They contacted the Overland Business Association, and officials sent out a mass e-mail to members, asking them to pass the information along to everyone in their computer address books. They used Facebook to alert their friends about their plight.
The Youngs bundled up and went out looking for Sophie at all hours of the night, and they worried every time it snowed, sleeted or the temperature dipped near zero. Sophie had a microchip identification implant, so at first the Youngs were confident someone would find her and a vet or animal control office would scan the chip and notify them.
“As the weeks went by, we thought she was either dead someplace or somebody had found her and decided to keep her or take her to breed her,” said Young.
Then on Feb. 28, a man called to ask if they owned a dog named Sophie. He said he was putting out his trash cans when he noticed her, collapsed in his driveway and called the number listed on her heart-shaped dog tag.
The man lived in Olivette, just three miles from the Youngs, but it was across busy Page Avenue and Olive Street and a set of active railroad tracks from their home. The caller told them to hurry because Sophie was in bad shape.
Young and his son got her and sped to an animal hospital in Bridgeton. “I knew she was alive because she was breathing shallowly, but I was scared to death that we found her only for her to die in our arms,” he said. “As time went on, we prayed; we prayed a lot.”
Sophie got basic care there and then was referred to a 24-hour animal hospital for hypothermia and malnutrition. While there she also got a transfusion with blood donated by a Great Dane.
Sophie had weighed 27 pounds when she ran away, but now her weight was just 11 pounds.
Dr. Anne Wood, a veterinarian who coordinates the emergency clinic at Midwest Veterinary Referral Center in Chesterfield, said, “Initially, I gave her a 50-50 chance of surviving, but I’ve never seen a dog as emaciated as she was survive.”
Niki Prunty, a vet technician at the clinic, said said Sophie’s prognosis now is very good she is back up to 20 pounds and she should have no lasting side effects from her time on the street.
Young is grateful for all the care Sophie got, and recently he and his wife went back to the animal hospital and donated blankets, towels and toys for the other dogs.
“There were a couple of weeks after we found her that I couldn’t even talk about her or look at her without crying,” Young said. “I would tell people in similar circumstances to never give up because there’s always hope.”