The Columbus Dispatch
Holiday miracle: Family reunited with dog Bailey after four years
A lost dog. A distraught family. Distant hope.
For almost four years, Gracie Crabtree wondered what had happened to Bailey, the brown Labrador retriever her parents gave her when she was 14.
With soulful eyes, a love of children and playing, Bailey lived her first three years on the 14-acre family farm about 20 minutes south of Waverly in Pike County.
Bailey loved the comforts of home where she was pampered, but she'd never turn down a chance to run free on special occasions. She'd kick up dust, wander in the fields and annoy the horses and cattle.
Then one day, she disappeared. “She was about 3, and she come up missing,” said Tom Hall, Crabtree's dad. “We just thought someone had took her.”
The family posted signs, contacted local officials and went out searching — for days, weeks and months — until reality set in.
“After so long, it was hard to imagine that she would come back. It had been so long,” Crabtree, now 21, said from her home not far from her parents near Pike Lake State Park.
The next part of the story gets better. But it also might be harder to believe.
Call it a Christmas miracle. Or the blessing of microchip technology.
You see, Crabtree's dad never really did give up.
As he was trolling Facebook recently, he glanced at a post from Pike Pet Pals. The nonprofit animal rescue group was seeking a foster home for a lab that had been found along a highway.
A volunteer spotted the animal that had been seen around town, including hanging out at a local bar where it would be thrown food. The volunteer “yelled to her, she turned, ran to his van and hopped in,” according to a Pike Pet Pals Facebook post written by Julie Mercer, the group's president.
Mercer said Bailey had diarrhea, “a lot of missing hair, a hot spot on her back and was very underweight.”
Still, Hall looked at the photo, and he had a hunch.
“We just took the chance and sent the chip number in, and they said, ‘This is your dog,'” he recalled.
Actually the chip was registered to the breeder, who then contacted the dog pound with Hall's name. Hall had already thrown away Bailey's papers.
Hall drove to the Pike County Animal Dog Pound Tuesday night. Bailey was in
“After so long, it was hard to imagine that she would come back. It had been so long. I think it’s an overall miracle.” Gracie Crabtree
a kennel, but turned quickly when Hall came in.
“She run right to me. She started playing and wagging her tail and kind of whining and crying and lovin' on me,” he said.
“We didn't know if she got killed or what, and kind of gave up ... It was a tough thing to do.”
Crabtree, who lives nearby and who has since taken in a stray — a rat terrier named Rip — didn't want to wake Bailey, so she waited until Wednesday morning to visit.
“She ran straight up to me. After so long, it was hard to imagine that she would come back. It had been so long. I think it's an overall miracle,” said Crabtree, who is studying to become a radiological technician.
Just days before Christmas she couldn't ask for a better gift.
“I definitely was not expecting anything like this at all.”
The dog pound, a rallying center for the county's animal rights activists, is jokingly referred to as The Hotel. And Mercer, who helped treat Bailey, said “I thought maybe she just felt safe here. Little did we know just why she felt that way.”
When Mercer contacted the family to verify ownership, she warned them that the sweet lab might be different.
“She had probably been living out of puddles, discarded trash and whatever people threw down for her. I wanted them to know what they would see when they arrived,” Mercer recalled in a Facebook post.
The reunion, Mercer said, was amazing: “She was looking (at) and smelling him then it was like….ooohhhhh heyyyyyyyyy !!!!! I know you !!!!! And then it was on! She was jumping, crying, running around the room and grabbing toys. I don't think she really knew quite what to do. It was such a great feeling to see a dog so happy to be reunited with her owner,” Mercer wrote on Facebook.
“Fate was on her side. She was in the road at the right time, met the right person, to contact another person to find the microchip,” Mercer wrote.
“She is home for the holidays. I could not have asked for more. Sleep well, sweet Bailey. You are finally home.” firstname.lastname@example.org @Deannarciso