A happy ‘tail’: Northern Virginia family reunites with lost dog

Back in July, a Northern Virginia family lost their dog Dante in Manassas. After months of searching, they lost hope of ever finding him. Little did they know that the universe would eventually reunite them with their pooch — who wasn’t ready to find a new forever home.

It wasn’t a lack of searching that stalled the reuniting of this family, it was that Dante was found 20 miles from where he went missing.

Ruth Martinez said they had gotten Dante as the family was going through a difficult time. Her daughter had been diagnosed with lymphoma and would have to go through chemotherapy. Dante, according to Martinez, helped her daughter to not feel alone when the family was at work.

One day, Martinez said, Dante got excited while seeing another animal during a walk and got loose. The family couldn’t catch up with him.

“I became more worried as the days passed and we didn’t know about him and we gave him up for lost,” Martinez said.

In late August, without a collar or a microchip, Dante showed up at a Fairfax County Animal Shelter. Reasa Currier, director of the Fairfax County Department of Animal Sheltering said staffers didn’t have much to go on as they tried to find his family.

“Our staff immediately went about trying to find his people through lost pet reports and on message boards. We looked at Nextdoor, Craigslist, and we just couldn’t find anyone looking for a dog that matched Dante’s description,” Currier said.

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE: A photo of Dante. (Courtesy Fairfax Co. Animal Shelter)

So sadly, Dante was put up for adoption, but he wasn’t giving those puppy dog eyes to any prospective families.

“He had a couple families come and meet him and there truly was just no connection, he was not engaged with meeting new people,” Currier said.

Sad and withdrawn is how staff at the shelter described a homesick Dante.

Also disappointed: his family, according to Currier. They had been searching all over Manassas for him, with no luck.

“They finally started giving up hope that they would ever be reunited with Dante,” Currier said.

Martinez said losing Dante left her daughter in tears and after the family moved from Manassas to Fairfax County. She told her daughter they would look for other pets.

“I had the idea of seeing if I could find him there, but I had lost hope,” Martinez said

Then as fate would have it, they made the decision to go to a shelter. That’s when they saw a picture on a board of adoptable animals — one dog in particular caught their eye.

“One of the children said ‘that looks just like Dante’,” Currier said.

So Dante was brought from his kennel and Currier said his reaction to seeing the family left no doubt in their minds, the family this pup had been waiting for had been found.

“It was a different dog, I mean he was so exuberant, jumping up and down, and tail wagging, he had a big smile on his face,” Currier said.

Currier said it was a truly special moment, seeing this dog and his family find one another again.

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE: Dante is reunited with his family outside of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. (Courtesy Fairfax County Animal Shelter)

“For all of the staff and volunteers and members of the community that were able to witness that moment, it was really special to see that reunion happen,” Currier said.

Currier also said this can serve as a cautionary tale for other families, about the importance of having a registered microchip in your dog, in case they become lost.

“It’s such a simple thing to do and it can really mean being able to find your pet in an efficient way because animal shelters, veterinary practices, even pet stores have microchip scanners,” Currier said.

She said it is also good to make sure your pet always has a collar with contact information that is up-to-date.

While Dante had a family looking for him, many animals in Fairfax County shelters do not. To help get them into forever homes, this Veterans Day weekend, county shelters are waiving adoption fees for active duty military members and veterans.

“We have birds, rabbits, guinea, pigs, hamsters, dogs, cats, and even a lizard so, no matter what your interest is, and what kind of companion you were looking for, we have someone waiting and looking for their home,” Currier said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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