By Linda Chion Kenney
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Jerry Rodriguez,with his wife, Karen, and daughter, Nicole, has a tearful reunion with Max. This picture was taken moments after Rodriguez came home May 29 to see his dog safe at home after Max went missing for three nights, lost in the neighborhood.
When the call came, Karen Rodriguez rushed out of her Brandon home and drove three blocks to meet the good Samaritan who called her husband on a cell phone and said she thought she had found the Rodriguez family dog.
“I don’t even remember what the woman looks like, I was crying so hard,” Rodriguez said. “And when I told her husband about the reward money, he said, ‘No, ma’am, you just take that money and get the dog to the vet.”
Max, the four-year-old standard Chihuahua, who likes to sleep tucked between a pillow and its pillowcase, was found May 29 behind Mann Middle School, stuck behind a chain-link fence that separated ground from retention pond.
Turns out it was a dog named Coco, acquired by her family eight years ago from a rescue organization for Australian Shepherds, who discovered Max “all huddled up in a little ball” under tall blades of grass, according to Coco’s owner, Kathleen Gridley.
“We almost didn’t walk down there today,” Gridley said in an interview the day Max was found. “It was hot and I gave Coco some water and I said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ "
The route took them to the end of Larson Avenue, off Parsons Avenue, behind Mann Middle School, to a fenced-in retention pond. There, Coco typically would sit in the grass and watch the ducks.
But on this day, Gridley said, “she just keyed in along the fence and followed it to the end where we saw [Max] rolled up into a ball."
“I think [Coco] realized [Max] shouldn’t have been there and that he needed a little taking care of,” Gridley said. "Coco and I sat down and they touched noses. We sat with him and I called my husband to run down to the corner and get the phone number."
That would be the phone number printed on flyers that the Rodriguez family hung around town, asking for help in finding Max.
When Rodriguez found Max, sans collar and having never been micro-chipped, wagging his tale furiously at her, she burst into tears. Even now, back at home, the emotions take over.
“He looks real good and we’re just thrilled beyond words,” Rodriguez said.
Missing since May 25, Max is home with Rodriguez and her husband, Jerry, and their daughter, Nicole, a ninth-grader at Foundation Christian High School, who reportedly fell in love with Max when she first saw him.
The family got Max from the same woman who had provided them with Midnight, the family’s other pet, an eight-year-old long-haired Chihuahua mix.
“It was a fluke conversation with them, that we were looking for a companion for Midnight, and they said they had one,” Rodriguez said.
Apparently, it was a fluke, too, that Max would venture out alone, let alone go missing for days.
“Because we had not seen any evidence of him being hit by a car, we felt like someone had taken him in, and that maybe we would get him back,” Rodriguez said. "Unfortunately, he did not have his collar on him. And we didn’t microchip him because it didn’t help us when we had a dog stolen 10 years ago. And he never goes out on a leash because he only goes out in the backyard and never unsupervised.”
So it was odd when Rodriguez and her husband first noticed that Max had not been in the room with them, under feet somewhere, sitting on the couch next to somebody, as the night unfolded May 25.
“We couldn’t find him in the house anywhere,” Karen Rodriguez said. “He wouldn’t go outside without us. He wouldn’t even do his business without us. Jerry, I think, slept one hour that night. He walked and walked and he drove and drove throughout the neighborhood, calling him, and looking out for Max.”
An announcement was posted on Brandon Patch and on Facebook. Notice was placed on Craigslist and in the Tampa Tribune. Flyers were photocopied and distributed throughout the neighborhood and signs were tacked at Petsmart, Petco, and other pet stores, as well as at area veterinarians.
The Rodriguez family took a trip to Hillsborough County Animal Services on Falkenburg Road on May 27, wondering if Max had been taken to the shelter.
“A lot of prayers went out, I’m telling you,” Karen Rodriguez said. “A lot of prayers.”
“Oh, it’s such a relief,” Rodriguez said. “When you commit to having a pet you make a lifelong commitment to that pet and they become a lifelong member of your family. And when they’re not there and you don’t have a clue where they are? It’s very unnerving. There’s no words to describe it. I am just so happy inside and so at peace that he is back home with us.”
Rodriguez said Max and Midnight both will be wearing collars from now on and microchip implants for pet identification are a possibility.
But one thing she most definitely is going to do, and she recommends that every pet owner take heed as well:
“When you think you’re going to go out, even for just a second, make sure that door is closed tight,” Rodriguez said. “It only takes a second for a pet to dash outside.”
Video at http://brandon.patch.com/articles/lost-dog-found-by-rescue-dog-returns-home-to-joyful-family-video#photo-6313975