Shelter Fights To Find A Stray Dog’s Home After Uncovering His Long-Held Secret

It can be hard to believe that, in some parts of the world, there are just packs of dogs running around the city streets. While this, on the surface, sounds like a beautiful thing city officials could be exploiting for tourism dollars, the reality is less thrilling: these dogs are often starving, displaced victims of humanity’s poor decisions.

When one such pooch wandered into a Ukrainian animal shelter, workers didn’t think the old ragamuffin stood much of a chance at finding a home. But, when they shared his picture online, they unwittingly set off a wild chain of events that left people across the planet in tears.

In 2014, war erupted in Ukraine. Pro-Russia forces clashed with Ukranian troops in a battle for the heart and soul of the nation. Citizens were displaced, and, unfortunately, pets were abandoned.

CBC

With nowhere to turn, dogs took to the streets, scavenging what they could and avoiding the ever-growing wolf populations. While the humans fought with firepower, the animals were left fighting for survival.

Radio Free Europe

In June 2019, rescue workers for “Happy Animals,” a Ukrainian non-profit located in the city Mariupol, which sits along the Sea of Azov just a stone’s throw from Russia, came across a dog that’d seen his fair share of street-based horrors.

Happy Animals

There was no way to identify him — he had no tags or microchip — and if rescuers were being honest, he looked terrible. Emaciated and covered in mange, they figured this pooch’s best days were most definitely behind him.

Happy Animals / Facebook

But the organization called itself Happy Animals for a reason. Determined to make him feel like a champ, workers considered putting the pooch’s photo on Facebook and seeing if someone might claim him. They had doubts, though.

For one, he was really old. The organization knew geezer dogs don’t get adopted as easily as the strapping young pups, and this guy’s rough condition didn’t exactly forecast a lifetime of backyard fun time.

Nevertheless, they threw the dog’s picture up on Facebook with a few details about him. It couldn’t hurt. However, once the post had a few hours to marinate online, rescue workers were stunned by the results.

Thousands of people shared his photo! Perhaps Ukrainians, so fed up with war and fighting, connected with the battered dog on a subconscious level. Sympathetic Facebook users noted they were drawn to the dog’s pain-filled eyes.

IRIN News

Incredibly, the Facebook message reached users all the way in Australia, one of which thought the dog looked oddly familiar to a family friend’s in Ukraine. Not one to let homeless dogs lie, the Australian contacted her friend in Europe.

Tourism Australia

When the message reached the Ukrainian woman, it must’ve dug up some long-buried emotions like an old bone. Because, two years earlier in 2017, she’d had a dog that looked like the one in the photo. But she hadn’t seen him since.

See, back then, someone had stolen her beloved dog named Lord right out of her backyard. She posted photos of her lost dog in every Facebook group that would allow it. She never received one response.

So in 2019, she was dumbfounded when she saw a dog that looked awfully familiar on her computer screen. But after two years, she figured there was no way this could be Lord. She’d already made peace with his absence.

Happy Animals / Facebook

Hope finally got the best of her, however, so she reached out to Happy Animals. The organization, stunned that their Facebook message actually found traction, set up a meeting between the possible former friends at the shelter.

Happy Animals

The next morning, the woman headed over to the shelter, and when she stepped into the facilities, she saw the dog chained up in the yard. But when the dog shied away from her as she approached, she grew concerned this wasn’t Lord.

Happy Animals / Facebook

Moments later, though, it seemed memories and familiar smells came flooding back to the pooch because he started taking happy steps. Then, he started prancing and shaking. Then, he went absolutely nuts.

Happy Animals / Facebook

After two years’ absence, a fatigued Lord found the strength to jump into the waiting arms of the woman who’d taken care of him for so long. He let his tongue fly, indiscriminately licking whatever part of his best friend’s face that he could.

Happy Animals / Facebook

And at the reunion’s crescendo, Lord and his friend embraced in a very human, very real hug. Lord’s owner wept, relieved and elated her dog was finally coming home where he belonged. There wasn’t a dry eye in the shelter.

Happy Animals / Facebook

The reunion, the shelter later wrote, was nothing short of a “miracle,” and the entire staff embraced “tears of joy” as they watched Lord get crazy happy. Just two days before, they’d all but written the dog off as a lost cause, destined to stay in the kennels forever.

Happy Animals

“We thank everyone who shared our post,” the shelter wrote on Facebook. It’s “thanks to you that the dog’s life was saved, and peace returned to his owner’s soul!” Rescuers knew finding a lost pet’s home was usually a team effort.

Happy Animals / Facebook

This actually tends to be the case for most lost animals — communities must come together to find their homes. In fact, a watchful neighbor helped a young man thousands of miles from Lord get one step closer to reuniting with his beloved kitten.

See, Jon Gulla was craving both responsibility and love one day in 2012, so he followed in the footsteps of so many young adults before him and went searching for the perfect pet.

Jon Gulla / Facebook

When he saw two cats — Julie and her brother, Jack — Jon knew he’d found the perfect pair. He brought the two home and let ’em run hog wild around his place. The kittens cuddled together. They played together. They were a delight.

This made it particularly painful when, shortly after the adoption, Jon had to leave Julie and Jack with his mother. He was off to college and wasn’t into the idea of hiding cats in his dorm room.

Concordia College

Jon’s mother, Lorinda, welcomed the kittens into her abode because, c’mon, who wouldn’t? Julie had a little white spot on her fur that made her just so darn cute. But Lorinda’s joy in living with the two kittens was unexpectedly cut short.

People

Being that she was a cat and prone to bizarre fits of panic, Julie took off running one day. She just scooted out the door and headed down the street. “I couldn’t find her,” Lorinda recalled. “I was just beside myself.”

Devastated by the breakup of his dynamic kitten duo, Jon teamed up with his mom to find the missing feline. They wandered the neighborhood, hanging up posters, jingling bags of cat treats, and calling Julie!

Frantic searches for the cat halted, however, when doctors diagnosed Jon with lymphoma. With a fight for his life now ahead of him, he could no longer focus on the cat he so dearly loved.

The Good Doctor

Six years passed. Jon beat cancer, married his long-time girlfriend, found a new job, and set-up shop in Indianapolis, 25 miles away from his old home in Carmel. Things were looking up. But he never stopped thinking about Julie.

Xu Chen Yang / Facebook

Perhaps it was for that reason his mother was browsing PawBoost Lost & Found Pets, a page on Facebook dedicated to reuniting pet owners with, well, their lost pets. A certain post on it piqued her interest.

The Star

A woman named Christine McKeon wrote that she’d recently seen a cat under a shed in her backyard. The cat, she noted, was skittish, and just a little bit mean. It didn’t sound anything like Julie.

DeviantArt

Most concerning of all was that the post didn’t mention the white spot on Julie’s belly, which would’ve been a good detail to include, Lorinda thought, were someone trying to find this cat’s owner.

Still, even after six years, she, like Jon, was drawn to the idea that Julie was definitely still out there, looking for them. She knew they’d be kicking themselves for the rest of their lives if they didn’t follow up with Christine.

NBC 4

So, Jon made the drive, white-knuckle clenching the steering wheel in anticipation. In less than half-an-hour, he arrived at Christine’s house and stood before the shed a mean, stray, black cat called home.

Marketplace Homes / Flickr

With every ounce of love he could muster, just as he and his mother had done six years before in the streets of suburbia, Jon called Julie’s name. And nothing happened.

Jon Gulla / Facebook

But understanding that cats are cats and don’t really come when you call them, Jon gave it another go. Julieeeee, he called. Julieeee. Then, two glowing eyes peaked out at Jon from the darkness beneath the shed.

Jon in her sights, the cat once called mean and skittish emerged. “She came out running from under the shed,” Christine recalled, “like ‘Oh hey, I know this guy.” Soon, she was face-to-face with Jon.

And then she started purring like a lawnmower engine! She rubbed against Jon’s legs, and, after he bent down to pick her up, she crawled right up on to his shoulders! Still, Jon needed to be convinced this was his Julie.

NBC 4

“I turned her around…and I said ‘does she have a white spot?'” Jon explained. The folks gathered around confirmed: “She has a white spot on her stomach!” Jon couldn’t believe it. After six years, he finally found his cat!

In that moment of reunion, Jon pet Julie and noticed her fur was surprisingly well-kept. To him, it meant that she only recently moved in under the shed. Someone had been taking care of her over the years.

Delighted to have his cat back, Jon looked forward to another reunion — Julie and Jack’s. Would the siblings even remember the short time they spent together? Would they get along?

All of Jon’s anxieties melted away, however, when he put Julie down beside Jack for the first time. The two went right back to their old tricks, running around and playing together. Jon was overwhelmed.

“It’s almost like seeing a ghost or something,” he said of seeing Julie in his home. Still, this was one ghost Jon was happy to have haunt his house!

Jon couldn’t help but be thankful to whoever cared for Julie over those six years. There wasn’t a chance in the world she would’ve made it on her own over that time. Oddly, though, some animals do prove surprisingly self-sufficient on their own.

In November of 2018, for instance, when one of the most destructive wildfires in California history ripped through the Golden State, people were forced to make tough choices. Animals were, too.

The Drinks Business

For Andrea Gaylord, the decision to abandon the home that had been in her family for ten generations was one of the hardest she’d ever made. But even as she watched as the century-old home went up in flames, something else made her heart ache more.

Today

As the Camp Fire made its way through Paradise, Andrea’s guard dogs, Madison and Miguel, had taken off and vanished without a trace. Though she and her husband had searched tirelessly for their beloved pets, the encroaching blaze forced the couple to flee, leaving the fate of the dogs unknown.

Shared

Andrea and her husband fled to a nearby shelter, where, alongside hundreds of other evacuees, they waited for the fire to be extinguished. All the while, thoughts of Madison and Miguel never left her mind.

NSPR

Finally, after 17 days of non-stop firefighting, the raging Camp Fire blaze was contained. Like her fellow Paradise residents, Andrea was eager to return home, hoping somehow her dogs had survived. But when she and her husband attempted to leave the shelter, they were told that Paradise was still too unsafe to return to.

NPR

That’s when she contacted Shayla Sullivan of K9 Paw Print Rescue, who had actively been rescuing lost pets from areas affected by the Camp Fire. After learning of the situation, Shayla vowed to do whatever she could to reunite Andrea with Madison and Miguel.

Shayla Sullivan / Facebook

However, as soon as Shayla began her search, she received word of a dog matching Madison’s and Miguel’s descriptions wandering through the small city of Citrus Heights near Sacramento. The city was 85 miles south of Paradise.

Trover

Shayla drove down there, and when she arrived, she was stunned to find the dog described to her was, in fact, Miguel! Unbelievably, the dog had traveled from Andrea’s home in Paradise and had been picked up by another local rescue organization.

NBC News

Andrea was overjoyed when she heard the news about Miguel, but Shayla wasn’t satisfied with finding just one of the two pooches. And so, loading up her car once more, Shayla headed for Paradise.

KOMO

The roads were barely navigable as Shayla made her way through the once-vibrant town, a graveyard of charred homes and vehicles peering out at her from beneath the ashes of burnt treetops. Forget dogs for a second: with so much destruction, was it possible anything could’ve survived out here?

WXXV 25

Upon reaching Andrea’s burned-down property, however, Shayla got her answer. As she surveyed the scorched earth, Shayla noticed movement in the pile of rubble that was once the hundred-year-old home. She approached, her heart beating wildly…

Salem-Winston Journal

It was Madison! Apparently, the faithful guard dog had returned after the fire had been extinguished and was now sitting watch of his former home! But even with the dog alive and well, there was still one challenge that Shayla would have to face.

ABC News

Being that Madison was no lover of strangers, the wary dog immediately took off when Shayla approached him (some guard dog!). Shayla knew, if she wasn’t able to catch Madison, the dog would surely perish from a lack of food and water. Shayla needed a plan.

Patch

So after leaving some fresh water and a bowl of food out for Madison, Shayla returned to Andrea to share the good news and relay her difficulty in catching him. The pair was stumped over the predicament but devised the perfect method for luring the protective pup back home.

ABC News

Using an article of Andrea’s clothing, Shayla used the smell to calm Madison and draw her back to the property. And when the guard dog returned, he found his owners and brother waiting there for him!

The Independent

The tearful reunion was marked by excited licks and yelps from Madison, who was then fed a hefty bag of his favorite treat — Wheat Thins. Even in the face of catastrophe, Madison stayed loyal to his family and protected the home at all costs.

Daily Mail

In all the destruction, this loyalty was not lost on Andrea. “You are the best dog,” she told Madison through joyful tears. “The best.”

KTIC Radio

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