Christmas came a little early this year for one Indiana man and his long lost Shih Tzu.
Their story begins in 2002, when the man, identified only by his first name, Mike, purchased Bandit when the Shih Tzu pup was so small he could fit in the palm of Mike’s hand.
But in 2007, everything changed when Bandit escaped from Mike’s home during a lightning storm. What happened next is every dog owner’s worst nightmare: as Bandit ran through the neighborhood, one of Mike’s friends witnessed a man pull up alongside the little dog and scoop him into a car. As the unknown man drove away, Mike’s friend managed to take down the person’s license plate. Though Mike made numerous pleas to man who had taken his dog, the dognapper refused to even respond. Mike couldn’t believe it; somebody had just stolen his best friend.
Desperate, Mike spent months plastering every surface with flyers, hoping as he hung each one that somehow Bandit would come back home. As weeks turned into months, and months became long years without any sign of Bandit, Mike had all but given up hope.
Bandit’s whereabouts since he was taken by the dognapper in 2007 are unknown. But, as if by some miracle, Mike and Bandit’s story would not end in tragedy—and all because of a little microchip.
In late November, 2012 New Castle Animal Control took in a stray Shih Tzu. The little dog, now 10 years old, was scheduled to be put down at the shelter, but instead animal control personnel contacted Indiana no-kill animal welfare organization reTails and asked them to help.
When the Shih Tzu came into the reTails adoption center, staff scanned the pup, whom they were calling Harpo, for a microchip. What they found shocked everyone in the room. Harpo had been fitted with a “Home Again” microchip, his name was really Bandit, and his owner, Mike, was said to live nearby. Based on past experience, however, the staff knew it was too soon to get excited.
“Although we always hope the chip information will lead to a recovery, it often doesn’t,” the reTails site explains. “People forget to chance their registration information when they move.”
Still the staff member decided to try the number attached to Bandit’s microchip registration. To her utter surprise, she heard a voice on the other line soon after the first ring. It was Bandit’s owner.
“He stifled a small gasp and I could hear the quiver in his voice” a reTails representative wrote of calling Mike on the group’s website. “He said he was missing a dog, who he identified, and had been missing the dog for five years!”
Overjoyed, Mike raced to the reTails adoption center, arriving in less than ten minutes, the group said. Staff gathered in the lobby of the adoption center in anticipation of what was certain to be a moving reunion.
Sure enough, everyone in the room was brought to tears as Mike greeted his best friend Bandit for the first time in five years. The happy meeting was captured on video.
“This is my little buddy,” Mike says in the video as he cradles the little dog that he thought he’d never see again. “I’ve been missing him for five years.”
“This is my best friend,” he added, tearing up.