AR-News: 1,260 miles and 15 months later, family pet is found

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Sat Jul 3 13:26:37 EDT 2004

1,260 miles and 15 months later, family pet is found


KENT -- The last time Peggy Russell saw her family dog, Dharma, the black 
lab mix was playing in the back yard. But when Russell came home that night, 
the lock to the yard had been cut, and Dharma was gone.

Her family desperately searched the streets and canyons near their San Diego 
home. They made daily visits to the animal shelters. They posted fliers and 
eyed every big black dog they saw.

But two weeks ago -- 15 months after she disappeared -- Dharma showed up at 
the front counter of the King County Animal Services' shelter in Kent, some 
1,260 miles away. Someone found her wandering in Federal Way, with a leash 
attached to her collar. A microchip in her back made it possible for local 
authorities to contact the Russell family.

"I'm thrilled," said Russell, a 47-year-old nurse and paralegal. "My son is 
over the moon. My husband can't stop laughing." Yesterday, after getting a 
health certificate, Dharma was scheduled to board a flight and go home.

"I have no idea how she got from here to there," Russell said. "I keep 
thinking, what am I going to say to her? 'Where have you been? Who's been 
taking care of you? What have you been doing for 15 months?' "

Karen DePew, a stay-at-home mom in Federal Way, was driving her 15-year-old 
daughter, Lauren, home around 11:30 p.m. when they saw Dharma running down 
Dash Point Road near their house.

"We're thinking, 'Oh my gosh, this is odd.' We opened the door, and the dog 
jumps in the car," DePew said. After searching the neighborhood for an 
owner, DePew brought the dog home. The thin dog reeked and had fleas and a 
rash -- but she was affectionate and well-behaved.

DePew had her own dog and left Dharma in her unfenced front yard. She 
figured the stray lived in the neighborhood and would walk home on her own.

But Dharma was there the next morning. DePew and her daughter fed and bathed 
her and searched for "lost dog" signs in the neighborhood. They took her to 
the vet, who didn't find the microchip, but urged DePew to take her to the 

In the three days at DePew's home, Dharma often accompanied Lauren to the 
school bus stop, walked back to the house and waited for the girl's return.

"We knew it was a good dog," DePew said. "You could tell somebody had worked 
with it." She brought the dog to the shelter on June 18, thinking she would 
adopt her if no one came forward. But the microchip was discovered in the 
dog's back, revealing Russell as the owner.

"This obviously shows the value of pet identification," said Al Dams, an 
administrator for King County Animal Services, which saw 12,700 animals at 
its Kent and Bellevue shelters last year. Of those, 1,800 were reunited with 
owners, 4,450 were adopted, 5,940 were euthanized and 500 were dead on 

For Dharma's homecoming, the shelter bathed and groomed her, took her to the 
vet and drove her to the airport. Russell said she can't thank the staff -- 
and DePew -- enough.

"I'm really grateful, obviously," Russell said. "Just last week, I thought, 
'I wonder where she is?' "

P-I reporter Vanessa Ho can be reached at 206-448-8003 or 
vanessaho at

So many gods, so many creeds,so many paths that wind and wind, while just 
the art of being kind is all this sad world needs.
-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1805-1919)

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