A dog that disappeared three years ago was reunited with its stunned owner after an animal control officer found the dog's embedded microchip and retrieved the owner's information.
Bella, a shepherd-pit bull mix began the final leg of her journey back home after she surprised a man who was working inside a small Riverside market, according to John Welsh of the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.
The dog was startled, excited and damaged some merchandise in the store, so the man called the Department of Animal Services. When Officer Gary Pahls arrived, he calmed the dog, placed a leash around her and checked for a microchip, according to Welsh.
Using his hand-held scanner, Pahls located the chip and retrieved the owner's information. He called the number on the chip but that telephone number would not receive any incoming calls or allow him to leave a message.
Because the address was just a short distance away, Pahls drove the dog to the home. He rang the bell and shocked the pet owner with the news, according to Welsh.
"I'm here about your dog," Pahls told the surprised woman. She told him, "That dog is dead. She's been missing three years," according to Welsh. Pahls told her the dog was sitting in his truck.
When the woman saw Bella for the first time in three years, she put her hands on her mouth and began crying, according to Welsh. The woman composed herself and then told the officer she never thought she would see Bella again.
The owners, Jesus and Patricia Rodallegas, lost the dog just after Patricia gave birth to her now-3-year-old daughter, Aleena, Welsh said. Her husband, Jesus, is serving in the U.S. Army in Guam.
Animal Services Deputy Director Frank Corvino, who supervises the Field Services Division, called the reunion another success story for the micro-chipped pet.
"We live for these types of reunions," Corvino said. "We also think this story gives us the chance to remind pet owners to keep their phone numbers associated with microchip current so that way we can reach the pet owner that much faster."