By Janis Fontaine Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 20, 2012
For Diebo, nothing was more fun that slipping out an open door. The little Boston terrier would look over his shoulder at Lizzette Cabrera, lips curled into a smile that practically said: "Betcha can't catch me!"
|Lizzette Cabrera's 7-year-old Boston terrier Diebo disappeared from her home 6 years ago, but thanks to the dog's microchip he was discovered at the home of an animal hoarder and returned to her.|
But the fun and games ended when Diebo disappeared from his Lake Worth yard six years ago after scooting out an open door.
Cabrera and her three daughters were heartbroken. They searched and put up fliers and searched some more. They cried. They prayed. They checked shelters. Weeks went by, then years, and still, no Diebo.
Then, a few weeks ago, Cabrera's phone rang. She didn't recognize the number so she let it go to voice mail. It was Sgt. Michele Fox from Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control.
"She said, 'We think we have your dog, Diebo.' We were all crying," Cabrera said. "My daughter thought I was playing a joke on her."
As soon as Cabrera saw Diebo's two tiny bottom teeth, she was certain he was her dog, but it took Diebo a few minutes to recognize Cabrera. After all, it had been more than 40 years in dog years since he'd seen her.
When he remembered, the little terrier slammed into her, knocking her to the ground where he covered her face with tiny kisses.
Diebo had been rescued by PBCACC in mid-March from a woman officials are calling an animal hoarder. The 67-year-old woman had eight dogs living in a garbage-filled house on Plumosa Street in West Palm Beach.
Dianne Sauve, the director of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, says the animals were kept tied up day and night on short leashes, but had been well-fed.
Diebo, now 7, seems relatively unfazed by his six-year absence. No one knows how long he'd been at that house, or where else he might have been.
But Diebo could have been euthanized if he hadn't had a microchip - a tiny transmitter implanted under the skin of dogs and cats which, when scanned, links that animal to a human.
About the size of a large grain of rice, microchips are "the absolute ticket home" for a lost dog or cat, Sauve said. "Tags and collars can fall off. A microchip is permanently embedded, and shelters are required to scan animals that come in for a microchip before they do anything else."
But a microchip is only as good as the information the pet guardian provides, and Cabrera is one of those efficient people who is good at keeping up with paperwork. When she filled out the microchipping forms six years ago, she included five phone numbers; every phone number she had.
By the time Diebo was found, Cabrera and her family had moved from Lake Worth to Orlando and back to West Palm Beach. She and her husband had divorced. She had a new job in accounts payable at a not-for-profit mental health clinic. So much had changed, but one thing remained the same: Cabrera's cellphone number.
It took persistence on the part of Fox to keep dialing all those numbers, but it's just as rewarding to reunite a dog and owner as it is to be reunited. Only about a third of the dogs that come in to ACC are reunited with their owners, Sauve said. For cats, it's even fewer.
Animal Care and Control does keep its own microchip database, and no animal leaves ACC without a microchip, but only for the purpose of bringing pet and parent back together.
"The microchip is absolutely the best thing," Sauve said. "I wouldn't have a pet without one."
Cabrera's story had a happy if delayed ending.
Cabrera says, "I would like to remind everyone who owns and loves their pet about the importance of microchipping and keeping the phone numbers and home address accurate and up to date. Had I not kept the same phone number, they would have never found me."
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