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Neighbors help reunite 'ghost dog,' owner
By Barbara Bailey | Warrenville Resident
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Published: 11/17/2008 3:29 PM

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The following is an unedited essay written by Warrenville resident Barbara Bailey, who helped reunite Michelle Garza with her lost pet.

Please microchip your pets. A Microchip Identification System is a safe, simple and permanent form of pet identification designed to quickly identify lost pets and reunite them with their owners. Over 10 million pets become lost each year. One out of every three pets is lost during its lifetime, and only one in ten lost pets are found. A Microchip Identification System is a proven way to successfully recover your pet if it should become lost.

In the fall of 2005, my dogs started running toward our back fence barking. I followed them to see what was there - it was a tan and black dog, who looked like a German Shepherd mix. The dog started wagging its tail and ran along the back fence with my two dogs. My dogs seemed to accept this strange dog and I was able to toss it a few treats, which he greedily took. He was not wearing any collar or tags, and he was a male dog. Knowing most of the dogs in the neighborhood, and not recognizing him, I went back inside to call the Warrenville Police Department to let them know that there was a loose dog beyond my back fence. They said someone would come out - but minutes later, the dog took off.

This seemed to be the pattern of the dog for next couple of years - I and our neighbors, the Milnamow and Sider families, would see him early in the morning before we went to work, and then later in the afternoon. I called the police department, but the dog was so fast that he kept eluding them. We kept on thinking that he belonged to someone - that his owners had let him out in the morning to roam, and then let him back in the house at night. He was a healthy-looking dog, too. This dog continued showing up at various times and we gave him food and water when we could. We began to look forward to seeing him each day.

Other people in the Warrenville community had also seen this dog and were giving him treats. One family even put out food at the edge of a small forest, across the street from where they lived, hoping to nourish the dog. Soon, we started seeing this dog in other parts of Warrenville when we were in our cars - near the post office, near the VFW, on Curtis Street, on River Road, etc. He was seen in nice weather and in stormy weather. He was seen eating out of garbage cans, yet he would never approach us when we called him - he always ran in the opposite direction. At this point, we began to suspect that he was lost.

Our next door neighbor's daughter, Claire Milnamow, decided to call him "Bob." Bob would not exactly respond to this name, but now he hesitated when we called him. He took treats very gently out of our hands, and he knew his commands - sit, stay, down.

On November 7, 2008, Bob again showed up beyond our backyard fence. When I took some food to him, we noticed that he developed an abscess on his jaw. On November 8, Bob came back for more food. I called Animal Control Officer Joshua Perry and he came to our house right away. My husband and I let Bob into the yard and fed him treats every five feet until he reached our fenced area near our back door.

With the help of Steve Bailey, Corporal Carl Abraham and Officer Jon Muchowski, ACO Josh Perry was finally able to catch Bob and then transported him to Arboretum View Animal Hospital in Lisle, IL, where he was evaluated and his abscess was treated. He was given a kennel with a bed to sleep in and he settled in nicely. Officer Perry and the staff at Arboretum View Animal Hospital scanned his neck and found a microchip! Officer Perry went back to the police department and put a call into the number listed on the microchip.

Michelle Garza returned Officer Josh Perry's call on the morning of November 10. She was absolutely hysterical, laughing and crying, that her dog was found. She agreed to come up to Warrenville right away to be escorted to Arboretum View with Officer Perry.

When Michelle arrived at Arboretum View Animal Hospital to see if indeed, her lost dog, Czar, had been found, the staff had her sit in a chair while they went to get Czar from his kennel. Officer Perry told Michelle that if the dog did not come to name "Czar" then she was to call him "Bob." Czar came out, looked at Michelle and ran across the room and flew into her lap, putting his paws around her neck and whining softly….everybody at Arboretum View that day had tears in their eyes. What a happy ending!!!!!!!!

It turns out that Michelle and Czar were on their way from the northwest suburbs to Wilmington (where they currently live) in November, 2005, when she made a stop at the Old Navy store on Rt. 59 in Naperville. Unbeknownst to Michelle, her car's back window was rolled down, and Czar wanted to follow her into the store. Czar went into the wrong store and got lost. Michelle was frantic! "I came out of Old Navy and there was pandemonium everywhere - someone said that a dog was running around the strip mall!" Michelle camped out every night for a week in the parking lot of Old Navy, hoping her dog would come back. She called the Naperville Police Department to report her lost dog, posted fliers in a 40 mile radius, called all the animal shelters in the area and had her family and friends looking for Czar. She was just devastated, but did not give up hope that Czar would be found.

In Michelle's words, "I want to give you, your neighbors, and the City of Warrenville a huge thank you for looking out for Czar when he was lost. I am so grateful that he was in a community such as yours. I feel like your neighborhood really kept him going - and I couldn't be more thankful. I had so many fears when he went missing, and they never went away until I saw him again at Arboretum View. It was absolutely the best day of my life and I can't even begin to explain the way I feel. Not a day went by that he wasn't on my mind - now the only tears I have are out of joy!! My family and friends were overjoyed when they found out the good news.

Czar met his new little sister last night - she is a five-month-old Beagle/Golden Retriever mix. I just got her in October, and she was an orphan that showed up in my uncle's yard in Indiana. I always said I would never be able to have a dog again, but this little girl needed to be loved. I felt very bad, because while she was going through her training, I kept on thinking of my baby, Czar. Anyways, the introduction went well - she loves him already - and she now has such a great role model to look up to. Czar also has another sister - my older cat, Oreo. Oreo had such a hard time adjusting to being without Czar after he went missing. When she saw him standing in out living room on Monday, her eyes got real big and he was staring back at her. Czar started his low-whining cry, as when he saw me. They truly missed each other. Of course, I started crying again too. Thank you for being so happy for us and thanks again, Warrenville, for being in his life when I could not."

Officer Josh Perry states, "If it were not for the people of Warrenville, we would not have been able to rescue Czar and get him to his owner. This is just one example of how the Warrenville Police Department appreciates the community getting involved."