"When I first saw Louie, he ran right up to me like nothing had happened. It was pretty much the happiest day of my life and probably the best birthday present I'll ever get," said Austin, a senior at Watsonville High School. Louie was found tied to the fence outside the Watsonville shelter early one morning, according to animal services coordinator Tricia Geisreiter. "When our staff arrived at 7 a.m., there was Louie," Geisreiter said. "He had a loose collar on. We're lucky he didn't slip out of it." Though not all animals are microchipped, shelters routinely scan incoming animals for a chip. Louie had a chip, and it revealed that Louie had a family: the Vojvodas, who live in Watsonville. "We called them, and they were here an hour later," Geisreiter said.
"It was pretty darn special," Geisreiter said. Natalie Vojvoda, Austin's mother, was stunned to learn that Louie was at animal services. "I said, 'Is this a joke? He's been missing for two years! Are you sure you have my dog?'"
Vojvoda said they'd had Louie since he was a tiny puppy. In late 2008, Louie went missing. "We'd been busy coming in and out of the house. There were deer outside and Louie was eagerly watching through the sliding glass doors," she said. "He loved to chase deer. When we turned around, he was running down the hill. That was the last we saw him." She said they put up fliers, contacted shelters and newspapers and left posts on Craigslist. "We looked everywhere," she said. "We checked roadsides. We thought maybe he'd been eaten. We were broken-hearted for two years." Austin said after a year, he lost any hope of seeing Louie again. "He was my best friend," Austin said. Vojvoda said the loss of Louie was also hard for her dad, and for her husband Kirt's dad. "The grandfathers were really devastated," she said. This year, they considered getting another dog for Austin's birthday. "But we just weren't ready to replace Louie," Vojvoda said. "A few days later, he was home."
Louie appears happy to be home with his human family and canine sister Lola, a 6-year-old Chihuahua who belongs to Austin's sister Mackenzie, 14. "Lola and Louie are so happy to be reunited," Vojvoda said. "We have a video of him kissing Lola." Austin doesn't want to leave Louie's side and plans to bring Louie with him to college in San Diego. "He'll probably move down south with me," Austin said. His older brother, Drew, is in San Diego, and the family plans to meet Drew in Santa Barbara this weekend for a reunion with Louie.
Vojvoda said Louie is the same as when he left. "He's very lovable," she said. And he still knows his name, according to Austin. The Vojvodas are very grateful to whomever brought Louie to the shelter. Louie's whereabouts during the past two years are unknown, but he was in good shape when he arrived at the animal shelter. "Thank you," Austin said. "We are so appreciative. "Every dog should be microchipped."
Almost any animal can be microchipped. The average microchip is the size of a grain of rice. They can be implanted by a veterinarian and are typically injected under the skin between an animal's shoulder blades. Chips contain a unique identifier number. Owners enter their contact information in the chip maker's database, where it is matched to the ID number. Database entries can only be updated or removed by the owner. Scanners used by vets and animal shelters can detect the microchips, and the ID number and database information can then be used to find a lost animal's owner.
Note from Christina and Lexi: Please get your babies microchipped. It is very inexpensive and could get your baby back home to you if he/she goes missing.